Despite tall claims on the Act-East Policy, New Delhi is surprisingly silent on the demand for a separate time zone for the North East.
Or, is New Delhi trying to be like China on the issue of time zones? China too has only one time zone and people in the western-most province of Xinjiang often complain about close to mid-night sun set during summer months.
But, demand from the northeast on the time zone issue is definitely genuine, and has often been raised by some of the senior political leaders.
Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu, in June 2017, had raised the demand for a separate time zone in the North East. Khandu’s demand was based on the logic that due to early sunset in the region, several daylight hours are wasted every day.
Khandu had said far-east states like Arunachal Pradesh starts getting sunlight as early as 4 am, and waiting for six hours to open government offices at 10 am is nothing but wastage of valuable time. He also said lights need be turned on in offices in the evening, leading to excessive consumption of power.
Khandu, who is one of the youngest CMs in India, had said by advancing the clock by about one-and-half hours for Arunachal Pradesh and other states in the region, wastage of both time and energy can be avoided.
Earlier, former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi had also raised the issue, and had demanded for at least three time-zones in India. Gogoi had claimed during the British rule, India was divided into three time zones – Bombay time zone, Calcutta time zone and Bagan (tea garden) time zone.
Even today, tea gardens and the oil industry in Assam follow the timings of the British era. How can Kibithu and the Kutch be in the same time zone?
If New Delhi is trying to connect the time-zone issue with India’s national integration, the policy makers can probably take lessons from the US. And, they also need not forget that China hasn’t always had one time zone.
In 1912, after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, the newly empowered Republic of China had established five different time zones in the country, ranging from five and a half to eight and a half hours past Greenwich Mean Time. But in 1949, when the Communist Party took over, Mao Zedong decreed that all of China would be on Beijing time for the purposes of national unity.
Legendry Mao Zedong’s decree may be the reason for China’s single time-zone policy, but what exactly is India’s problem?