Assam tea gardens an hour `ahead` of India

If tea garden workers in Assam are already an hour into their job while the rest of India haven`t even started for the workplace, don`t be surprised because the day begins early in the gardens thanks to a British legacy.

Last Updated: Oct 06, 2010, 12:45 PM IST

Jorhat, Assam: If tea garden workers in Assam
are already an hour into their job in the morning of plucking
tea leaves and the rest of India haven`t even started for the
workplace, don`t be surprised because the day begins early in
the gardens thanks to a British legacy.

Tea gardens here follow a time zone, an hour in advance
than the Indian Standard Time, which was introduced during
British days keeping in mind the early sunrise in this part of
the country.

"Since the sun sets early in this part of India, so work
needs to be started early too. That was the main reason why
the British had an advanced timing system for the tea
industry," Dipanjol Deka, secretary of Tea Association of
India, said.

He explained that the British days were different from
today`s. There was no electricity, modern facilities or even
awareness regarding timing among tea garden workers. So, such
a system had also to be adopted so that people worked
expeditiously and efficiently.

And the system, he said, had served its purpose too by
increasing productivity of tea garden workers.

In India, the east-west distance of more than 2,000 km
covers over 28 degrees of longitude, resulting in the sun
rising and setting almost two hours earlier on India`s eastern
border than in the Rann of Kutch in the far west.

"We are losing daylight in the east. In other countries
with big geographical area, there are separate time zones. The
British had realised this. The separate time was also
practised in the oil industry, but later on the system was
abolished," senior faculty of Shillong IIM Sanjib Kakoty
observes.

Kakoty, while underling the economic impact of the
advance time in terms of manual labour, also stressed that it
helps in power saving as the work finishes during day time.

Generally, the tea labourers in the gardens have to work
for eight hours, excluding an hour of lunch break. While they
have to report for attendance at 6 a.m. (IST 5 a.m.), their
working time is generally between 9 a.m. (IST 8 a.m.) to 5
pm (IST 4 pm). It may vary slightly from garden to garden.

"Other activities of the labourers are also tuned to the
Bagan time," a tea garden executive said.

Though the government has consistently refused to split
the country into multiple time zones, provisions in labour
laws such as the Plantations Labour Act, 1951 do allow the
Central and State governments to define and set the local time
for a particular industrial area.

For most of India`s history, ruling kingdoms kept their
own local time, typically using the Hindu calendar in lunar
and solar units. However, modern India moved to an Indian
Standard Time (IST) for the entire country.

Noted film maker Jahnu Barua has been leading a campaign
for a separate time zone for the north east region to match
its productivity, progress and prosperity.

PTI