By Priyanka Saurabh
The question has been repeated in every session of Parliament since 2002; “Is there a proposal to create two time zones in India and what are the steps taken to implement it?” The question was first raised in March 2002, effectively resolved in August of that year. That year a ‘high-level committee set up by the Department of Science and Technology had studied the issue and concluded that multiple zones could cause ‘difficulties’ that “airlines, railways, radio, television” and telephone services”. So, it was best to continue with the unified timing.
India extends for about 3000 km from east to west. There is a longitude of about 28 degrees between the eastern and western ends of the country resulting in a difference of about two hours between the western and eastern points. Indian Standard Time (calculated from 82.5′ E longitude in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh), does not affect most Indians, except those who live in the north-eastern region where the sun rises around 4 a.m. in summer and it becomes dark in winter before 4 pm. Therefore, the Northeast region has long complained about the impact of a single time zone on their lives and their economies.
Recently the National Physical Laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-NPL), which maintains Indian Standard Time (IST), published research suggesting two time zones and two ISTs in India: Most of India for IST-I and IST-II for the North-Eastern Region – separated by a gap of one hour. The demand for the two time zones grew because north-eastern India and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, due to their geography, see sunrise and sunset earlier than the rest of the country.
But the clocks did not account for this and official working hours were the same everywhere, leading to the loss of valuable working hours in the morning and unnecessary power consumption in the evening hours in these areas. Based on five time zones in India and 11 in Russia, there was talk of implementing many time zones in India. But the Expert Committee, not endorsing multiple time zones, recommended that the working hours in the eastern states be extended by one hour, so that morning hours could be “profitably used” and that the relevant authorities in this regard should only administrative instructions will be included.
But the advantages of the two time zones are in their place; we cannot ignore them; this will lead to greater efficiency amongst the workforce and in energy consumption. A reduction in energy consumption will significantly reduce India’s carbon footprint, thereby boosting India’s resolve to fight climate change. Having two different time zones according to natural cycles has economic benefits as people will be able to work better and plan better. Several social policy objectives can be achieved such as reducing road accidents and improving women’s safety.
On the other hand, if we look at the problem of having two time zones, then having two time zones will increase the chances of train accidents. Railway signals are not fully automated, and many routes have single tracks. Resetting the clocks with each crossing of the time zone. Having two time zones reduces the overlap between office hours. Critical sectors such as banks, industries, and multinationals will face difficulties adjusting to the new time zones. There will be difficulty in marking the dividing line between the two zones. The two time zones can have adverse political consequences as India, apart from being divided based on religion, caste, race, language, etc., will now be divided along the lines of time zones.
The need of the hour is to initiate the process of consultation to take a fresh look at all aspects concerning the Indian time zone. Some researchers’ proposals to set the IST ahead by half an hour can be scrutinized and debated. This would mean that moving the IST from 82.5°E to 90°E, which would be at a longitude along the West Bengal-Assam border, would in some way help in meeting the demand of Assam and the inconveniences related to North-Western India. will help to avoid possible complaints about If proper management of human labour and a large amount of electricity can be saved by the arrangement of separate standard time, then there is a need to consider this.
(The author is a research scholar, poet, freelance journalist, and columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)