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    COVID restrictions and importance of separate Time Zone for Northeast

    Amid the ongoing distress across the globe due to the COVID Pandemic and new thoughts are coming up as governments in the Northeast

    Guwahati: Amid the ongoing distress across the globe due to the COVID Pandemic and new thoughts are coming up as governments in the Northeast, like their counterparts across some “positive” countries, have already imposed COVID-19 safety protocols forcing the denizens to follow these norms strictly.

    As part of the safety protocols, the governments in the Northeast have already imposed various restrictions, including dusk to dawn curfew. Such a situation has forced many to raise an old demand— separate Time Zone for Northeast India.

    During this period, we have observed many changes in society, especially in time management. Since all the shops and other business establishments are to be closed much earlier these days, it’s been observed in the majority of the areas, especially those are in city/town, that shop owners open their shops much earlier than their regular timing in pre-COVID days only to minimise their loss due to the COVID restrictions. The same is the case with the customers. Like the shopkeepers, a large section of customers has also made it a habit of going shopping early in the morning.

    Gradually, it’s been observed in society that the normal habit of the majority of people is changing as far as timings are concerned. If we can continue with such habits in post-COVID situations, why can’t we demand once again a separate Time Zone for the people living in the Northeast?

    Usually, a major section of people in the Northeast get up as early as 4 – 4.30 am. Till the government offices, schools are open; they already lose close to 5 hours daily. If we lose almost five very important working hours per head even before the start of our daily routine on a regular basis, can anyone imagine the loss we the people in the Northeast suffer on a daily basis?

    Apart from this, if we look at the day-to-day activities of the people in so-called mainstream India, it’s observed that, usually, people in those areas get a quality time of longer duration to spend with their family members than those people living in the Northeast.

    At the end of the day after returning home from the office or daily works, unlike the people who reside in mainstream India, we in the Northeast usually don’t get enough quality time to spend in other activities, be it playing sports, mingling with friends, associate with social activities or fulfiling family responsibilities, etc. Because we have already wasted a major portion of the day’s time even before the start of our daily activities in the morning.

    Yes, to fulfil their aspirations or responsibilities, people in the Northeast usually extend their night schedules resulting in unnecessary extra consumption of electricity, causing extra loss and lost productivity. In such circumstances, it’s been a million-dollar question as to how the people in the Northeast will follow the proverb: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

    In its earlier report, the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore said that a separate Time Zone for the Northeast could help in saving 2.7 billion units of electricity every year. A separate Time Zone will definitely help Northeast citizens to better use their daylight hours.

    While advocating for a separate Time Zone for the Northeast, Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu has already demanded to advance clocks by half an hour to one hour, putting Northeast India in a GMT +6 time zone.

    Going back to history, we can recall that during the British rule, India was divided into the Bombay and Calcutta time zones.

    Due to the proper realisation of grown reality in this regard, probably, the tea gardens in Assam started “chaibagaan or bagaan time” (tea estate time) way back in the year 2014. The “chaibagaan or bagaan time” was nothing but an hour ahead of the regular IST. The concept came from the British regime as the latter used such timings for the tea estates, collieries and the oil industry.

    The Indian Standard Time (IST) applicable across the country is 5.30 hours ahead of the Coordinated Universal Time (UCT, 0.00), which is based on the imaginary longitude line that runs through Greenwich in the UK.

    Some say that the separate Time Zone for the Northeast may create some problems, including the demand for alienation of the entire region. Offices, banks and other things would find it difficult to operate. Railways may find it difficult to run their day-to-day activities if there exists two time zones in the country. But that doesn’t mean that the people of the Northeast will suffer heavily due to the issue. Something positive has to be sorted out to avoid these problems, some experts believe.

    Reacting to the common belief of railway collisions if we have two time zones, experts believe that if the train clocks are switched at Alipurduar Junction on the West Bengal and Assam border, such collisions can be avoided.

    Having more than one time zone in a country is not new or unheard of. Russia alone is divided into nine time zones. France has 12 time zones, while the US has 11 and Australia has eight. Like India, China too has only a single time zone.

    But, the Gauhati High Court has already dismissed public interest litigation (PIL) demanding a separate time zone for the Northeast.

    In October 2018, the CSIR-National Physical Laboratory (CSIR-NPL) and the National Measurement Institute (NMI) of India explored the possibility and also proposed an implementable solution on the whole issue.

    Rejecting the demand, the then Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan informed Lok Sabha on December 19, 2018, in a written reply, that such requests had been made on the ground that sunrise and sunset timings in these parts are much earlier than official working hours.

    The matter was examined by a High-Level Committee (HLC) comprising the secretary of the Department of Science and Technology and chief secretary of Tripura, the minister added. However, in response to the question, there was no mention of when the panel was formed.

    Demand for a separate Time Zone for the Northeast is a political issue. It’s up to the government how they take up the matter and go ahead.

    However, considering the importance of the situation, at least we the people of the region can start a healthy and democratic debate on the whole issue again. Rest is upto the authorities concerned to decide.

    Is there anyone listening?

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