Assam MLAs repeat the demand for a separate time zone for the northeast

India's expanse justifies many time zones

India is the seventh largest country in the world, boasting a breadth of 2,933 kilometres west to east, covering over 28 degrees of longitude. Despite this vast territory, India has clung on to a single timezone. What some Assam MLAs' submission of a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — seeking a separate time zone for the seven northeastern states — reminds us is that there are strong arguments for multiple time zones in India.

The whole point of having different time zones is that everyone on earth wants it to be noon when the sun climbs to the highest point in the sky. This is what drives other gigantic nations like the US and Russia to adopt multiple time zones. Yet, independent India chose to collapse its vast longitudinal variations into a unified time zone centred on Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, because this was seen as a tool of building the nation at its birth. But now that we are a strong and confident nation, the idea of having multiple time zones to match our vastness no longer smacks of a separatist threat. If we can have new states such as Telangana, why not new time zones to embrace India's diversity?

Time zones should match natural cycles, exhorting citizens to rise at dawn, work through daylight, and seek rest after sunset. But over in the northeast, the Indian Standard Time is forcing citizens to report to work when much of their day is already over, long after neighbours in Myanmar and Bangladesh begin work. The wasting of daylight also means wasting of precious electric power, in short supply across the country. Thanks to a single time zone extending all the way from Dong in Arunachal Pradesh to the westernmost point on the Gujarat coast, economic loss is colossal. It is high time we revisited IST and multiplied it.


Will produce cacophony and chaos

Srijana Mitra Das

The northeast's demand for a separate time zone is totally pointless — and potentially harmful. Going by current state-based political showmanship, the cry for a separate time zone won't stop at the northeast. Who's to say hefty states like Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the former the size of Germany, the latter of the United Kingdom — won't demand their own time zones? And considering how there's a call to now carve Uttar Pradesh into four states, how many time zones will that mean? Hence, giving into any one separate time zone demand will only produce more.

In practical terms, this will increase the 'delay' coefficient in India, a country already notorious for its highly flexible sense of time. As babus take extended breaks and trains often run days late, 'Indian Standard Time' has become a recognised term for delays. Adding separate time zones will only add chaos, not clarity. In the context of vital government, security or financial information sent from point A to B, but lingering in the ether if the office at the other end has already shut, this is a chilling prospect.

Further, arguments about power or energy being saved with different time zones are also futile. If northeasterners are rising earlier now, they're presumably spending that extra time in productive activity, like office or school. The same electricity and energy would be used during the later hours people worked if the time zone were changed. Between calculating airy-fairy gains and losses dangling nebulously between time zones and daylight savings, we're diverting attention from far more pressing issues, daylight robbery to night-time rapes, surrounding us. We should emulate China — which encompasses four different time zones in width but runs strictly on one — and ensure that our time is uniformly a good one, not split into several cacophonic clocks.