Are Northeast Indians lagging behind in pursuit of separate time zone?

March 17: It is an evident fact that the sun rises half an hour earlier in Northeast India than in other parts of India and hence, the day begins earlier in the region that in other parts. However, though it may not sound very important, it may be noted that in the recent past, there has been a lot of debate and heated arguments over the fact that Northeast Indians are less efficient that people from other parts of India due to the fact that the same time zone is being followed all across the nation. Setting the clock back by half an hour or one hour helps better use of daylight in these countries, and helps them save energy. It has been argued that Northeast India needs a separate time zone for the same reason.

The difference in sunrise/sunset time between the eastern and western parts in India is about two hours. Since day breaks earlier in the east than the rest of the country, a different time zone could allow people there to start working sooner. This could lead to energy saving and productivity gains. In fact, tea gardens in Assam start work at 8am, continuing a practice started during the colonial rule. This timing is so widespread that it is nick-named “bagaan timing” or the tea garden time. In effect, tea gardens in Assam follow their own informal time zone.

In view of this, as per a Times of India Report, The Gauhati high court has dismissed a public interest litigation seeking that the Centre have a separate time zone for the northeastern states, including Assam. Petitioner, advocate Reeta Das Mazumdar, had appealed for a separate time zone for the region citing its geographical location. “As sunlight reaches the NE region earlier than other parts of the country and sets early as well, a separate time zone would have streamlined the day-to-day life of the people of the region,” the petitioner said.

The HC order stated, “Having regard to the fact that the matter has been dealt with at the highest level, the court finds no good grounds to take a contrary view. In any case, it is the Centre’s domain to decide whether the present system of a single and uniform standard time throughout the country should continue or not. The petition has no merit and is, accordingly, dismissed.”

This view of the HC is however debatable as it must be noted that change in working hours is important for proper utilization of daylight and conservation of energy. However, another argument may come in that working hours may be changed even while following the same time zone. Whatever may be the case, this is an issue that requires serious attention.

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