Share The Daylight with North East India

Share The Daylight with North East India

It was already twilight at 04:00 pm on one December afternoon when I got off a bus at Roing, Arunachal Pradesh. People were on their way back from work and restaurants were getting ready to serve dinner. Thats when I realized that there is nothing standard about the Indian Standard Time (IST). Thats when I realized that everyday life in the region followed the sun. I wondered – could we share the daylight with North East India?

For those who do not know, North East India comprises of eight states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura. The Himalayas and its waters define the region’s terrain, climate, rich biodiversity, and the peculiar indigenous lifestyles her people follow. That North East India is bound by Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet to the north, Bangladesh to the south and west, and Myanmar to the east hints at the eclectic mix of cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. This is where elements of Asia come together to do what they do best – cast a spell.

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Abhijeet Deshpande, author of Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey, lived the North Eastern life during his travels and witnessed the impact of a standard time zone on the region. He shares a perspective.

North East India is an Early Riser

Let us reconsider the above map, only this time with timezones marked on top. Bangladesh and Bhutan are IST+30 minutes, China is IST+150 minutes, Myanmar is IST+60 minutes, and Nepal is IST+15 minutes. Notice how the region of North East India is sandwiched between all these countries and their different time zones.

Now, picture this: Tinsukia, a town on Assam’s eastern border, currently shares a time zone with the nation’s capital New Delhi, roughly 2300 Km west. Whereas Bangkok, which is almost the same distance heading southeast from Tinsukia, is 1 hour 30 minutes ahead of IST. So when Thailand is about to wake up at 05:30 am, New Delhi is in a dreamland at 04:00 am and Manipur is hitting the snooze button. Look at the earliest and latest times (current IST = UTC+0530 Hrs) for sunrise and sunsets in four state capitals of India and notice how early (04:24 am) Imphal greets the sun.

State Capitals Earliest Sunrise Latest Sunrise Earliest Sunset Latest Sunset
Imphal 04:24 06:01 16:25 18:08
Begaluru 05:52 06:46 17:50 18:50
New Delhi 05:22 07:15 17:24 19:23
Ahmedabad 05:53 07:22 17:53 19:29

Data Source

North East India Follows the Sun

If you travel to the least explored North East India, be prepared to start and end your days sooner than usual. In many remote areas, restaurants or eateries offer breakfast and meals earlier than what you might be used to. How about lunch at 1030 am? Likewise, public transport services might start as early as 5 am to get people to their respective destinations before sun down. By 06:30 pm most of the shops shut down and guest houses request you to return to your room by then. By 09:00 pm, for all practical purposes, it is midnight. In urban areas, on the other hand, the fallout is limited. With a relatively active night life, you do have the option of dining out until later in the evening. However, the loss of productivity in other areas and the impact on social lives persists.

North East India has adapted itself to this reality, at times making autonomous choices. For instance, tea gardens, one of the region’s biggest revenue earners, follow a British legacy. Their clocks are an hour ahead of the Indian Standard Time.

Share the Daylight

Many people have highlighted the issue and even demanded a separate timezone for North East India. As the region’s security situation continues to normalize, and focus shifts to quality of life, such demands are likely to intensify. It is unclear whether current national capacity is adequate to implement multiple timezones. So, in the meanwhile, how about sharing the daylight while retaining a single harmonized timezone?

DP Sengupta and Dilip R Ahuja, researchers from the National Institute of Advanced Studies, have proposed advancing the standard time by 30 minutes to make IST as UTC+0600 Hrs. Clearly, this would increase daylight hours in the North East India by an hour (30 minutes each in the morning and evening). So, instead of an Imphal sunrise at 04:24 am, it would be at 04:54 am. See revised chart (proposed IST = UTC+0600 Hrs) below. Notice how other parts of India have no significant difference in daylight.

State Capitals Earliest Sunrise Latest Sunrise Earliest Sunset Latest Sunset
Imphal 04:54 06:31 16:55 18:38
Bengaluru 06:22 07:16 18:20 19:20
New Delhi 05:52 07:45 17:54 19:53
Ahmedabad 06:23 07:52 18:23 19:59

Data Source

A Harmonized Timezone

With potential benefits to North East India, questions remain on whether advancing IST by 30 minutes be suitable in the national context.

  • Would a UTC+0600 scenario result in substantial energy savings (due to nationwide daylight saving), and thus provide an economic justification for the move?
  • Would a UTC+0600 scenario offer a positive impact on trade and connectivity initiatives with Bangladesh and Nepal or on the proposed tourism initiative with Bhutan? (These countries are important partners for North East India)
  • Are there synergies that a UTC+0600 scenario might offer with India’s Act East policy?

Unless the response to these and more such related queries is counter-intuitive, there could be a case for sharing the daylight with North East India.

Think North East India

Planning to visit? Pick up a copy of Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey. It covers over two dozen places and attempts to answer the question – what is it like to travel in the region? Give it a read and make your own plans. Buy now!

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Have you been to or live in North East India? What are your thoughts on the idea of ‘Sharing the Daylight’? We would love to hear from you (please scroll below to leave a comment).

Credits: This piece is edited from its original version, written in response to a question, on Quora?

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