Majority in Assam prefer initial advancement of working hours
Guwahati, January 5
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he adoption of a separate local time zone for Assam, as proposed by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to save precious daylight working hours, has evoked a mixed response with a majority preferring initial advancement of the working hours.
They argued that adoption of a different time zone might be a long-drawn process.
“We welcome the chief minister’s proposal of a local time as we along with several others were campaigning for more daylight working hours as prevalent in the tea gardens till the early 1990s and which continue in the oil industry here even now”, North East Tea Association’s (NETA) Chairman Bidyanand Barkakoty told PTI.As a first step, the state government can advance the working schedules of all offices, financial institutions and organisations as this will go a long way in increasing productivity and lead to overall development of the state.
“The state government is in a position to change the working hours and should do it with immediate effect but adopting a separate time zone can be done only by the centre which the state government must continue to pursue,” he said.
The chief minister had said in an interaction with the media on January one that he was trying to introduce the local time which is an hour ahead of the Indian Standard Time (IST).
“The introduction of the local time would lead to energy saving and more work can be done,” Gogoi said.
The proposal was in accordance with the Centre’s establishment of a four-member committee under the Ministry of Science and Technology in 2001 to examine the need for multiple time zones and daylight saving.
Noted Assamese filmmaker Jahnu Baruah along with Barkakoty and other prominent citizens have been campaigning for a different time zone for several years and had even submitted a proposal to the centre in this regard “but nothing has materialised so far”.
The filmmaker said the chief minister’s assurance is welcome and “we hope it is soon realised. The basic idea of our proposal is to make the best use of daylight in eastern India where the sun rises and sets more than an hour earlier than in the west,” Barua said.
A major reason for the Northeast lagging behind is the loss of daylight hours and dependence on power which is scarce in the region, he said.
Even national and international cricket matches played in Guwahati have to start half an hour early so that they can be finished before the shadows creep in.
There is, however, another school of thought which points out that the need for a separate local time zone is unnecessary because it will lead to more confusion and alienate the region further from the rest of the country.
“A different time zone will create confusion related to train and flight schedules, online working with financial institutions and trading which will have an adverse impact on the economy,” a commerce student, Ankit Jain of the Guwahati Commerce College, points out.
Moreover, the Northeast is still considered different from the rest of the country and “a separate time zone may further alienate us”, a lawyer, Nabanita Barua, pointed out.
Barkakoty, however, countered that most developed countries have multiple time zones with USA having five separate time zones and a smooth transition can be made here as well.
In India, the east-west distance of more than 2,933 km covers over 28 degrees longitude, resulting in the sun rising and setting almost two hours earlier on India’s eastern border than in the Rann of Kutch in the far west.
Senior tea planter P C Barkakoty said the British had realised the east was losing daylight and introduced the tea garden or the ‘bagan time’ which was an hour earlier than the IST ‘’with all owners, executives and employees adjusting watches accordingly’’.
He pointed out that there was no confusion regarding the dual time was evident in the invitations sent out then wherein IST was mentioned in brackets against the time and people went accordingly.
After Independence, the Indian government had set up the IST, with the time at 82.5 degrees east longitude at Mirzapur near Allahabd in Uttar Pradesh as the official time for the whole country, although Kolkata and Mumbai retained their own local time, known as Calcutta time and Bombay time, until 1948 and 1955 respectively.
Daylight Saving Time (DST) was used briefly during the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971.
In the late 1980s, a team of researchers of National Institute of Advanced Studies at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore had proposed two to three multiple time zones to conserve energy.
The findings of the Committee, which was placed in Parliament in 2004 by the then Minister for Science and Technology Kapil Sibal did not recommend changes in the existing system stating the “Prime Meridian was chosen with reference to a central station and that the expanse of the Indian state was not large”.
The Centre may have refused multiple time zones but there are provisions in the Plantations Labour Act 1951 allowing central and state governments to define and set the local time for a particular industrial area.