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Shifting India’s Time-Zone By 30 Minutes Will Have Economic, Social, Health And Environmental Benefits: Faisal Farooqui
A vast country like India will always have a problem with a single time zone, hence the recurring demand for multiple time zones
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On March 13th of this year, Guwahati High Court dismissed a public interest litigation seeking a direction to the Central government to have a separate time zone for the North East India, including Assam. The North East has for long demanded a separate time zone to have more sunlight during daytime hours. In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, Faisal Farooqui, Founder, and CEO of Mouthshut.com outlines the social and economic problems of having a single time zone in a country like India, and advocates shifting of India's time zone by half an hour.
1) What are the problems faced by the north-eastern states with the current time zone?
Faisal: Our brothers and sisters living in the northern states and eastern parts of the country wake up as early as 4 AM in the summers and enjoy sunlight only for few hours in the winters as the Sun sets by four in the evening. For instance, in December, sunset in Kolkata is 4:54 PM while in Mumbai, on the same day, sunset is at 6:04 PM. In June, sunrise in Kolkata is 4:52 AM while in Mumbai, on the same day, the sun rises at 6:01 AM. By following the IST, the common man has to waste several hours of daylight before they start work. By the time government offices and educational institutions open, after 10 AM, half the daylight is lost in this region. In winter this leads to a larger environmental problem with more electricity being required to get through the day.
2) What are the advantages of shifting India’s time zone by half an hour?
Faisal: Sunlight is a natural phenomenon; we do not control the sunrise and sunset. A vast country like India will always have a problem with a single time zone, hence the recurring demand for multiple time zones. Once we shift to GMT+6:00, the Sun will rise a little later and people in the north and east will be able to get a little more sleep in summers. The Sun will also set late, and everyone will get extra 30 minutes of sunlight in the evening. In fact, moving our clock ahead by 30 minutes will have tremendous economic, social and health benefits.
Social scientists believe that a late sunset will reduce crimes since criminals prefer post sunset darkness than the morning hours. More activities during daytime mean safer roads, safer marketplaces, and safety for each individual in public places. Less dependence on streetlights and less consumption of electricity goes a long way in conserving energy and reducing pollution.
The idea of advancing India’s time by half an hour also keeps us away from the complicated process of Daylight Saving's Time (DST) followed in western countries. Unlike a routine disruption and confusion created by DST, advancing time by half an hour means that everyone in the country will simply advance their watches and clocks by thirty minutes. The other alternative that has been proposed in the Indian Legal system was to have multiple time zones, with a separate time zone for the North-east. As you well know, the Assam High Court ruled against this proposal. Having multiple time zones also creates unnecessary confusions that can be well avoided by simply advancing our time from +5:30 to +6:00 GMT. We can still maintain one Indian Standard Time while accommodating the sunlight requirement for a larger nation.
3) What will be the economic gains if the time-zone of India is shifted by half an hour?
Faisal: The research done by National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Banglore clearly indicates that there are visible economic benefits of advancing India’s time. One of the findings of the research suggests that advancing the IST by half an hour will save energy by upto three billion units every year. The energy demand in the evenings due to domestic lighting will be reduced by about 16 per cent. The scientists estimated a saving of about Rs 1,500 crore per annum for the nation. Added to this is the increased productivity of the general population. India is primarily an agrarian economy and utilising sunlight is essential for maximum productivity.
4) What will be the problems created by multiple time zones in India?
Faisal: Having more than one time zone will create unnecessary confusion – to illustrate with but one example; our railway schedules, signaling and track utilization will be a nightmare to manage. We are a continuous and a highly mobile country. Assuming we go back to the pre-independence system of two time zones dividing the country into east and west; it’ll be a nightmare to adjust to Western India time Zone or to Eastern India Time zone in our social and business interaction.
There is also a strong political implication that comes with having multiple time zones. Awarding the north-east a separate time zone, given the region’s long history of self determination movements, would indicate an unstated support towards their spatial independence.
5) What will be the health benefits of shifting India’s time-zone by half an hour?
Faisal: Health experts believe that a late sunset will give people more daylight time with their families (after work) and increase outdoor recreation. This will lead to a healthy lifestyle and more holistic health. Time for regular activities like cycling and walking would provide a better platform for improved health. Also, morning sunshine affects circadian rhythms indirectly aiding the sleep patterns. As India is largely an agricultural nation, more daylight can lead to better productivity. Even children will get more time to engage in outdoor co-curricular activities.
6) Why do Western countries conform to the Daylight Savings Time?
Faisal: DST, also referred to as Daylight Savings Time is a method of making the maximum use of sunlight in a country. In DST, a country moves its clock ahead by 1 hour for a given period of time. This is usually in the summer, to save on morning early sunrise when most people may still be in bed.
The concept of DST was first proposed in the 19th century to help workers reach factories and enjoy more sunlight, especially in the western countries and Europe.
DST involves shifting of clocks and watches back and forth twice a year. This is not a feasible solution for a vast country like India, where we still have millions of people working on farms and living in the villages.