Indian Polity Science and Technology

India and The Time Zone(s)

A proposal for two time zones has come from India’s national timekeeper itself.

Scientists at the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research’s National Physical Laboratory (CSIR-NPL) have now argued that IST should be done away with at the Chicken’s Neck. The National Physical Laboratory is the National Metrology Institute of India and a Premier Research Laboratory in the field of Physical Sciences and is one of the earliest national laboratories set up under the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research.

There is a request to change the temporal modalities of the Indian nation-state from its official time-keeper. India extends from 68°7’E to 97°25’E, with the spread of 29° representing almost two hours from the geographic perspective, the effect of which is that the sun rises and sets much earlier than it does in the rest of the country.

The research paper proposes to call the two time zones IST-I (UTC + 5.30 h) and IST-II (UTC + 6.30 h). The proposed line of demarcation is at 89°52’E, the narrow border between Assam and West Bengal.

Time Zone

WHY?

Over the years, various citizens and political leaders have debated whether India should have two separate time zones.  Having more than one time zone in a country is not a new or unheard of. Russia alone is divided into nine time zones.

  • The demand is based on the huge difference in daylight times between the country’s longitudinal extremes, and the costs associated with following the same time zone.
  • Northeast India would move an hour ahead, increasing the region’s productive, daylight hours and the country’s potential energy savings could amount to a whopping 20 million kWh a year.
  • As per biomedical research the physical and psychological benefits of aligning circadian (sleep) rhythms to the sun’s rising and setting.

CONCERNS:

  • If there weren’t concerns over the existence of two time zones, the issue would not have been unsolved even after so many years.
  • Railway signals are not fully automated and many routes have single tracks. This may lead to major Railway accidents.
  • There would be chaos at the border between the two zones.
  • Time zones may also have undesirable political consequences.
  • Sense of alienation between western zone and the eastern zone may increase, jeopardizing nation unity.
  • Nearly 25% less overlap between office timings in the two zones for banks, offices, industries and multinational companies etc. which need to be constantly interconnected.

Moreover, research shows that the energy saving from creating two time zones is not particularly large.

WAY FORWARD:

  • Advancing IST by half an hour to being six hours ahead of GMT, once and permanently may solve problem for everyone.
  • Debates and questions on the matter to be considered afresh.
  • Before moving forward with any change if recommended, hurdles for implementation needs to be kept in mind.

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