Pema Khandu, the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, which means the “land of the dawn-lit mountains” in Sanskrit, demanded a separate time zone for the Northeastern state to improve work efficiency and save electricity in the region.
“We get up as early as 4am… Several daylight hours are wasted as government offices open only at 10am and closes at 4pm,” the 37-year-old Khandu, who is the country’s youngest chief minister, told Hindustan Times.
In March, the Gauhati High Court dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a direction to the central government to have separate time zone for the Northeast, including Assam. The government informed the court that a high-level committee constituted by the ministry of science and technology, has already dealt with this issue.
Dismissing the PIL, the bench said: “It is within the domain of government of India to decide whether present system of a single and uniform standard time throughout the country should continue or not.”
In the past too, legislators, activists, industrialists and ordinary citizens from the Northeast demanded a separate time zone with the Central government, without much success.
Lawrence Liang, a professor of law at Ambedkar University, Delhi, wrote: “The time difference between the westernmost part of India and the easternmost point is approximately two hours, the effect of which is that the sun rises and sets much earlier than it does in the rest of the country.”
The journalist, writer and academic Sanjoy Hazarika describes the Northeast as being stuck in “trapped in a time zone that makes neither common sense nor social and economic sense”.
According to AFP, India has just one time zone for its 1.3 billion people, spread from points further east than Bangladesh to the western Arabian Sea.
The mainland United States, excluding Pacific territories and Alaska, observes four different time zones; mainland Australia has three and Russia has nine - although China uses just one.
In 2014, then Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi decided to go back in time to follow “chaibagaan (tea garden) time”. Assam followed the Indian Standard Time (IST) for 66 years. Bagaan time is a reference to an informal practice followed in tea gardens in Assam which is an hour ahead of IST.
According to the Hindustan Times report, Bengaluru-based the National Institute of Advanced Studies has claimed that such a move could save up to 2.7 billion units of electricity. A planning commission report in 2006 also suggested different time zones in India to improve efficiency.