India gets its second time zone!

As an Indian, this news makes me proud. As a country that spans more than 15 degrees of Longitude, the states receiving the short end of the stick needed this

After 66 years of being on the Indian Standard Time or IST, Assam has decided to follow garden time or a daylight-saving schedule British tea planters introduced more than 150 years ago.

Preparations are underway in the north-eastern state to advance clocks an hour ahead of the standard time followed across the country.

“Such a time zone already exists in tea gardens . People will become more energetic and we will save on energy consumption too,” state chief minister Tarun Gogoi said.

The government says the logic is simple: in Assam and other north-eastern states, sunrise happens as early as 5 am and it is pitch dark by 5 pm in the winters and a little later in the summers.

So sticking to IST means a loss of daylight hours and a decrease in productivity. For instance, a farmer in Assam is ready to work a good one hour before her or his counterpart in a state like Gujarat.

Robin Borthakur, former secretary of the Indian Tea Association, speaks of the tradition of advancing clocks at Assam’s tea gardens. “This concept started because day light breaks earlier than other parts of India. That is why the time was decided,” he says.

The IST is based on the local time at Uttar Pradesh’s Allahabad. But people like filmmaker Jahnu Baruah, who has campaigned for a different time zone for the north-east for long, says this just doesn’t hold good for them.

“I had being talking about this for almost 25 years. India is a vast country; the difference between eastern border and western border is two hours. We are wasting too much productivity. I have calculated the north-east itself we went behind in productivity by 25 years,” Mr Baruah says.

Assam’s move, which may need the central government’s go ahead, is also likely to rekindle an old debate about having different time zones across the country, or advancing India’s clocks to 6 hours instead of five-and-a-half hours according to the Greenwich Mean Time or GMT. Experts say this will take care of all time differences across the country.

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