While they may be going hammer and tong on most issues, MPs from the North-East region seems to have hit common ground on the demand for a separate time zone for the region that is linked to mainland India by a 22-km wide corridor often referred to as the ‘chicken’s neck’.
Support is already gathering momentum in the Northeast MPs Forum—comprising 39 MPs from the North-East from both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha—representatives of which are getting more and more vocal in the demand for a separate time zone.
The East-West spread of India extends for about 28 longitudinal degrees accounting for about 2 hours as a result of which the sun rises two hours earlier in the extreme eastern part of the country than its western tip.
“While informal consultations are already on, we will give it a formal form in February when all NE MPs will meet to chart out a future course of action,” said Biren Baishya, general secretary, NE MPs forum.
“Undoubtedly there has been a lot of misinformation on this issue. A certain section has been propagating that it would promote separatist tendencies in the region while on the contrary, it will only serve to improve the region’s work culture,” said the Asom Gana Parishad MP from Assam.
Said Ramen Deka, BJP MP from the region: “A separate time zone for the NE region is a must. It will result in much more productive activity.”
Khagen Das, CPI (Marxist) MP from Tripura, said: “There is no question of party politics on this. The demand is thoroughly justified.”
Said Sansuma Khunggur Bwiswmuthiary, a MP from the Bodoland Peoples Front(BPF): “A separate time zone for the North East is a must. The government must immediately act to implement the same.”
Recently, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi had announced that the clock would be reset an hour ahead of IST in Assam to save energy and increase productivity.
The proposal is yet to be communicated to the Union home ministry which would then forward it to the department of science and technology.
On July 25, a team of Assam MLAs had submitted a memorandum to PM Manmohan Singh seeking a separate time zone for the NE region.
The issue is one of the points in the agenda of demands framed by the pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom which is in talks with the Centre to chart out a solution to the decades-long militancy problem in Assam.
A separate time zone has been a long-standing demand of eminent personalities hailing from the region that has been spearheaded by eminent filmmaker Jahnu Barua.
Barua has also worked out a model to calculate the monetary loss incurred in the Northeast because of following the IST. According to his calculations, every year, there is a loss of at least Rs.
94,900 crore in the region because of redundant power consumption.
Interestingly, in 2009-10, the Union home ministry had also proposed a separate time zone for the NE.