Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
The Government of India recently rejected the demands of North East India to have different time zone compared to the remaining parts of the country. The demand for separate time zone for North East has been popping up at frequent intervals by various political leaders, organisations and intellectuals. Comparatively, Bangladesh and Myanmar are one hour ahead of Indian Standard Time (IST). USA has 9 time zones and there are 3 time zones in Australia. Indonesia has also 3 time zones, while Brazil has 4 time zones! Presently IST is taken from longitude passing through Allahabad and is set at UTC plus 5:30 Hrs.
Historically India had three time zones after independence in 1947. India established IST as the official time for the whole country; however, Kolkata and Mumbai retained their own local time (known as Kolkata Time and Bombay Time) until 1948 and 1955, respectively. Presently in Assam, tea gardens follow a separate time zone, known as the Chaibagaan time (Tea Garden Time), which is one hour ahead of IST.
The major reason quoted for demanding different time zone was loss of daylight hours and excess electricity usage. A different time zone would allow sunsets to take place later, allowing the citizens to better use their daylight hours. The other major reason was the effect on biological clocks of citizens. The longitudinal extremes of the country are assigned a single time zone which not only creates the loss of daylight hours but also creates problems relating to the biological clock.
India’s East to West distance stretches to almost 3000 km equivalent to almost 2 hours time difference. Therefore when it is 6 AM in Ahmedabad it is equivalent to 8 AM in Itanagar. In the Northeast, the sun rises as early as four in the morning and in winter it sets by four in the evening. By the time government offices or educational institutions open, many daylight hours are already lost. As per calculations, advancing IST by half an hour would result in saving 2.7 billion units of electricity every year.
Major reasons for refusal to grant different time zone includes chaos in Railway/Airline timings which may lead to accidents, difference in office/bank timings, may instigate separatism etc.
Why does the Central Government reject genuine and logical demands of North East India? Since the national anthem does not mention North East, there was a proposal to include Brahmaputra in the National Anthem; this demand was also rejected. The way to bypass this centrist authoritarianism is by enacting laws in the local assemblies of the states of North East India. Recently the Chief Ministers of Assam, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh have also issued statements supporting different time zones for North East India.
Due to different time zones, most people of North East are eating breakfast at almost Lunch Time! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)