The BJP is gradually spreading its base across the country. After coming to power at the Centre in 2014, the saffron party also formed its first government in Assam---the biggest state in the northeast---this year, ending a 15-year-rule by the Congress.
The BJP put in a lot of hard work this time to win Assam. Besides the two veteran leaders in Sarbananda Sonowal who became the chief minister of the state and Himanta Biswa Sarma, a former Congress strongman, the party's cause was also helped by the RSS's groundwork in the state. Since its decent show in the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the BJP strove hard for capturing power which it eventually did this year.
BJP has vowed to make difference to Assam; will it also address the time-zone issue?
The BJP has vowed to address important tasks in Assam, including improving the conditions of the tea workers and stop illegal migration from neighbouring Bangladesh. These are undoubtedly good causes. But the BJP has also to look into another significant aspect and that is: Setting up a new time zone for the northeast so that the region is not deprived of time and falls back for underutilising its rich potential.
Being in power at Centre and three NE states (by itself or in coalition), the BJP needs to act on this key issue
The BJP, being in power in both at the Centre and Assam (it is also supporting the ruling fronts in Arunachal and Nagaland), should find no problem in carrying out this important task. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, known for his hard-working ethic, is also expected to cater to this key need of that region for its fast development.
Tarun Gogoi, who was the chief minister of Assam between 2001 till Sonowal took it over from him, campaigned for the cause since a single time zone for the country which has a massive East-West stretch causes problems for those living in the eastern-most part of the country where sunrise occurs as early as 4.30 am.
Give N-E a separate time zone to make it more productive
This means by the time the entire economy becomes operational in the country, the north-east loses a crucial working period and virtually remains isolated. For the economy of a region which is geographically landlocked, the difference in time zone causes double paralysis. Nothing can be done about the geography but time-wise, the BJP can act to make a difference.
Currently, the northeast loses almost one-and-half-hour of sunlight because of a single time zone and ideally, the region should have a local time which will be ahead of the Indian Standard Time (IST) by at least 60 to 90 minutes.
Gogoi had campaigned for a separate time zone but what was the Congress doing all these years?
Gogoi campaigned for the separate time sone to make the north-east more economically productive, reviving the voice which faded after 2010 but it is difficult to understand why did the Congress never take this issue up despite heading the governments at the state and Centre for over a decade. The tea gardens of Assam follow their own timing which is an hour ahead from the rest of the country.
Couldn't this be done for the entire region all these years? Has even a pilot study been taken up in this regard?
Scientists and experts have explored three options in this issue. One is to create two time zones in India; the second is about starting a Daylight Saving Time between April and September and finally, moving the IST for the entire country ahead by 30 minutes.
A panel of 2002 had rejected the idea
An expert panel was set up by the ministry of science and technology in 2002 when the Atal Behari Vajpayee government was in power but it had shot down the ideas of DST and a separate time zone.
The panel felt that seasonal difference in daylight hours is marginal in countries that are located closer to the equator than the poles and thought a different time zone will create problems for various communication services.
Researchers at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bengaluru said on the other hand that by advancing the time by half an hour, India can save nearly three billion units of power every year.
These are all technical debates. To help north-east's socio-economic possibilities, it is an imperative for the Modi and Sonowal governments to coordinate and prepare a vision for a better future.