After 66 years of following the Indian Standard Time, Assam has begun asking for a separate time zone again to help in saving daylight time and in increasing productivity and efficiency in the state.

Indian Standard Time is calculated on the basis of 82.58° E longitude in Mirzapur district in Uttar Pradesh, and it lies 5.30 hours ahead of GMT. This time is followed across all regions in the country.

However, the vast breadth of the country means that there is a time difference of almost two hours across its western and eastern ends.

Sun rises on the banks of Brahmaputra/ Reuters

There are almost 28 degrees of longitude between the country's eastern and western extremities, whereas on average a time zone corresponds to 15 degrees.

The location of Assam at the eastern end of the country means that it often has to face problems in the form of the loss of productive time. During the summer months, the sun usually rises around 4 am in the morning, almost 90 minutes prior to sunrise in the central parts of the country, and when work begins at 11 o' clock, it's often past midday.

Some of the tea-plantations in the state continue to operate on their own time, known as the 'tea-garden time' in order to increase efficiency. However, most have switched to the IST, resulting in the work starting at a time when the sun is at its peak.

Source: Reuters

Campaigners say that this has held back the development of the region, home to some of India's poorest states, hitting productivity and adding billions to the cost of lighting homes and offices.

Akhil Ranjan Dutta, a politics professor at Guwahati University in Assam, told NDTV that he only became aware of the problem when he moved from the countryside to the state capital for his studies.

He added,

"In the village, we used to go to bed at seven in the evening and rise at two or three in the morning, then I came to college and I couldn't change my habits. My friends would all laugh at me... You can't have a same time zone for a country like India which is so vast. This has to change."
Source: UNEPA/AFP

The lawmakers of the region, which lies closer to the time zone of Dhaka, had asked for a separate time zone in 2002 and 2006 too. However, the central government rejected these claims citing fear of chaos and mismanagement of railways at the time border. The topic has also acquired political sensitivity in an area which is prone to separatist tendencies.

The phenomenon of one country having multiple time zones is pretty common across the world, with France having 12 time zones spread across its territories and Russia and USA both having 11 each.

(With inputs from AFP)

(Feature image source: Pixabay)