Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Monday reiterated northeastern states’ decades old demand for a separate time zone. Leaders from the region argue that a separate time zone would increase daylight savings and efficiency.
One of the arguments that the states advance is that the early sunrise means that by the time they start their day, almost half the day has passed. This means an early sunset which requires extra use of lights in both homes, offices and public places.
“We get up as early as 4 am. Several daylight hours are wasted as government offices open only at 10 am and close at 4 pm,” Khandu said.
The demand for a separate time zone has been long standing and before the current CM, former chief minister Tarun Gogoi had also raised the same issue.
What is a time zone and its significance in India
Earth is divided into 360 vertical lines known as longitudes and a shift in every longitude gives a time difference of four minutes. Every 15 degree shift (longitudinal shift) results in a time difference of one hour. However in the event of a single time zone, like in India, with the country spread over areas wider than the one hour mark, some areas see early sunrise and sunset and the opposite extreme ends see them late. The longitudinal difference between India’s easternmost point Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh and the westernmost point int Gugariyana, Gujarat is is almost 30 degrees — a time difference of two hours.
What does the demand from the states mean?
The demand is essentially called daylight saving and Khandu has demanded that the northeastern states be allowed to advance their clocks by some time (0.5-1 hour approx) to save more daylight hours. The move will not mean that time will slow down. But, the perception is changed. For those living in northeastern states, a change in time would mean a delayed sunset. This will allow the citizens to make use of added daylight hours.
How early sunrise and early sunset affects life in the northeast
Imagine that you go out for a walk in Gujarat. Chances are that even in the winter months of December or January, the sun will not set before 6:30. However, at the same time, Arunachal Pradesh and nearby areas will get dark by 4:30 pm. Some find this troubling as their social lives take a hit too. It gets dark too early. People prefer to stay inside their homes rather than go out and socialise. Productive hours at offices, mainly government offices, are usually for only 7 hours. The location of the states in the timezone means that they eat breakfast late in the day, eat dinner earlier than most. Establishments like theatres, restaurants see increased business in the summer months when there is more daylight. People tend to stay out more rather than calling it a night. Daylight saving will thus give a fillip to the economic activity in the city as well.
Positives and negatives of daylight saving?
For the most part, it benefits the people of the region. If the demand is approved, the region is expected to be put on the timezone of GMT+6 hrs. India is currently five and a half hours ahead of the greenwich prime meridian. This is the same time zone as Bangladesh.
Worldwide, farmers have been the people most affected by the practice of initiating daylight saving and they have had the toughest time adapting to it. They have been, therefore, the biggest opposers as well in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Europe etc. Farmers have less time to get their wares to markets so it is an inconvenience. More so, cattle and animals have a tough time getting oriented with the new body clock requirements. Sleeping patterns change.
Coordinated tracking of time differences will be required and a huge logistical challenge will be posed to services like airlines, airports, railways, financial traders etc.
Historically tested convenience
When the British ruled India, India’s time zones were divided into Calcutta Time Zone and Bombay Time Zone. A separate chai bagan (tea garden) time zone was raised by Khandu. This time zone is ahead of the Indian Standard Time by an hour and it was present in the British colonial era as well.