India is about to get its second time zone as Assam, one of the country’s northeastern states, has decided to set its clocks an hour ahead of Indian Standard Time, or IST, which is followed by the rest of the subcontinent.
After following IST for 66 years, during which it has repeatedly requested for a different time zone, Assam is all set to get one that will help the state make the most of daylight, and save on energy and productivity. While the state’s tea gardens already follow a local time schedule -- popularly known as "garden time" -- to account for the fact that the sun rises earlier in the region than in the rest of the country, preparations are now underway for Assam to officially advance its clocks by an hour.
“Such a time zone already exists in tea gardens,” Tarun Gogoi, Assam’s chief minister, was quoted by NDTV as saying. “People will become more energetic and we will save on energy consumption too.”
In Assam’s tea gardens, working hours start at 8 in the morning, a practice which has been followed since colonial times. However, in government offices, working hours start from 10 a.m., and the state wants to advance it by at least 60 minutes in an effort to increase productivity and reduce energy consumption.
IST is five-and-a-half hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, but, according to experts, there is a two-hour time difference between sunrise in India's northeastern region and in the western part of the country, which are roughly 2,000 miles apart at its widest.
Here's a comparison for perspective. Tinsukia, on Assam's eastern tip, lies about 1,400 miles east of the nation's capital New Delhi, with which it currently shares a time zone. Bangkok in Thailand, which is 1.5 hours ahead of IST, is almost the same distance, heading south from Tinsukia.
Jahnu Barua, a prominent film-maker who has campaigned for a separate time zone for the northeast for more than two decades, said: “India is a vast country; the difference between eastern border and western border is two hours. We are wasting too much productivity,” according to local media reports.
According to Dilip Ahuja, a scientist and author of a 2012 research paper commissioned by the Union ministry of power, the entire country should move 30 minutes ahead in order to save on daylight.
According to an estimate, India’s northeast region experienced a productivity loss of 25 years and 10 months because of the lack of a different time zone other than IST, and if the trend continues, the region could lag 54 years behind in productivity over the next 100 years, media reports said.
However, the move may not be without its share of initial setbacks. Assam’s decision to move its clocks an hour ahead of IST could lead to problems for the country’s airlines, railways and communications services, all of which operate on IST.
However, Kapil Kaul, South Asia CEO of Capa, an aviation consulting firm, said that different time zones should be manageable if adopted properly.
“Separate time zone would not have a major impact on airlines, except they will have to adapt to arrival and departure timings,” Kaul told Mint, a business newspaper. “In the U.S., there is a time difference between West coast and East coast, but it does not create big problems for airlines.”