Agri Forest Colony, Kohima
If you were to measure the distance between Arunachal Pradesh in the Eastern most region and Gujarat in the West, it is approximately about 2933 kms long. Accordingly, the Sun rises and sets much earlier by an hour or more in Arunachal than in Gujarat due to this factor. But oddly enough, the whole country shares only a single time zone regardless of the region and thus, this has created a lot of problems for people living in the Northeast region.
India follows the Indian Standard Time (IST) which is + 5:30hr ahead of the Coordinated Universal Time (UCT, 0.00), based on the imaginary longitudinal line that runs through Greenwich in the UK. The problem is that IST is properly applicable only up to West Bengal in the East due a number of geographical factors.
Businesses are shut much earlier in this region along with schools and offices due to the sun setting early by around 4:30-5pm. Not to mention, in winter higher consumption of electricity arises out of shorter days and a lot more longer nights.
In 2018, a paper published by scientists at theCSIR-National Physical Laboratory (CSIR-NPL), New Delhi, suggested the implementation of two times for the country, IST-I for the rest of India (UTC + 5:30hr) and IST-II for the 7 NE states including the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (UTC + 6:30hr), which if implemented, could save 20 million kwh of electricity consumption among other benefits. But this was rejected by the government due to sensitive reasons both political as well as cultural, thereby letting the whole region continue to lose out on valuable productive daylight hours.
One fear is that of train collisions, but again such collisions can be avoided according to the CSIR-NPL paper, “if the train clocks are switched at Alipurduar Junction on the West Bengal and Assam border.”
India had previously followed two time zones during the colonial period, the Bombay and the Calcutta time zones, for economic and administrative convenience but had switched to the current Indian Standard Time (IST) after 1947. But one peculiar aspect which many still do not know is that the tea plantations and the oil industry in Assam still use the ‘chaibgaan time’, implemented more than 150 years ago, inorder to maximize productivity.
Myanmar and Bangladesh which are geographically much closer to the NE region for the former and closer to the mainland for the latter, also runs an hour (Mynamar) and half-an-hour (Bangladesh) ahead of IST respectively.
It is not odd for countries to have two or more time zones frankly speaking, the US has altogether six time zones while Russia has eleven along with having a much extensive railway network than India to worry about.
If the political leaders at the Center are serious enough of emphasizing development and progress in the NE, it would do them good to allow a separate time zone for us thereby letting us catch up with the rest of the country ‘on time.’