BJP opposes Indian time zone division

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 May, 2007, 12:00am

Indian nationalists are opposing moves to introduce separate time zones in India because they fear it will fuel the independence movement in the northeastern states.

The comments come after a proposal this month by India's Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy (PSCE), which asked the government to reconsider multiple time zones as an energy saving measure.

The sun sets on northeast India about 90 minutes earlier than it does in the west. But government offices must stay open until 6pm, which can be more than an hour after sunset.

'[In northeast India] the sun is up in many places at around 4.30am. But children going to government schools and people going to offices have to wait until 9 or 10 to leave home.

'It is a sheer waste of morning sunlight,' said Ajay Sharma, a government employee in the northeastern city of Guwahati.

'Lights have to be switched on for two hours in the offices in the evening. If there is a power cut, we have to close the offices early.'

India's single time zone stretches nearly 3,000km; in comparison the continental US at 5,200km wide has four zones.

But separate time zones carry an implication of separate identity, at least according to some politicians.

'In the [northeast] region many anti-national movements are going on,' said Tathagata Roy, a leader of the Hindu nationalist BJP.

'If they succeed to get a separate time zone, many could take it as a victory for their secessionist movements.'

Supporters of the scheme say that in addition to saving electricity in a nation where power shortages lead to routine blackouts, it would make workers more comfortable and improve efficiency.

'The human body is most active in the morning hours and by the time people attend their schools and offices, most of their energetic time is over,' said Vanlal Muana, a doctor in Manipur state.

'Bangladesh lies to the west of this region. But it is half an hour ahead of us.'