East forced to adapt to mainstream India’s time

The issue of tweaking time has been niggling India for long. Particularly so, considering the geographical vastness of India spanning about 2,933 kilometers between its western and eastern points that have led to demands for two separate time zones for long. However, in view of security concerns, the Guwahati High Court even dismissed a Public Interest Litigation on March 6, 2017 seeking a directive to the Centre for a different time zone on the basis of a High Level Committee set up by the Ministry of Science & Technology.

The Committee had held the “eastern states in the country do face certain disadvantages by following standard time due to early sunrise/sunset in the region,” yet instead recommended advancing of working timings by one hour in the Eastern states.

A four-decade long research culminating from a study initially commissioned by Bureau of Energy Efficiency, Ministry of Power upon the request of Department of Economic Affairs and later supported by Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India led to the simple yet sound conclusion.

All that India needed to do to boost productivity, save energy and bring the North East into the mainstream fold was advance the Indian Standard Time by 30 minutes, concluded the study. The suggestion fetched the best possible solution for the nation in comparison to several others that fell short by varying degrees.

Researchers Professor Dilip Ahuja from National Institute of Advanced Studies and Professor D.P. Sen Gupta from the Indian Institute of Science, in agreement with most national security experts, jointly conclude that having two different time zones could lead to confusion, possibility of accidents and is “likely to misused as a political means to divide the country”.

However, merely advancing IST by 30 minutes will translate into a savings of energy of 2.7 billion units. And, that too by 2009 estimates which works out to nearly 3.5 billion units as on today. The move is also expected to will bring into mainstream the North-East, boost national productivity, reduce road accidents, enhance safety for women who will not have to travel in the dark and fetch a string of benefits to India.

The researchers have analysed India’s electricity load curve data across regions (Northern, Western, Eastern, North-Eastern and Southern) to calculate the savings in electricity consumption due to reduced lighting needs. The analysis has been revealed that electricity demand peaked in the evenings when people are back home from work. And, in order to meet this peak load demand, electricity supply companies have been struggling.

Now, the researchers maintain, by simply advancing the IST by 30 minutes, the peak load demand in the evening will be reduced by 17 per cent to 18 percent. Changing the IST from GMT + 5:30 to GMT + 6:00 is set to save India about 3.5 billion units annually, year-after-year which is about 0.3 percent to 0.4 percent of annual consumption.

“Although the percentage saving of energy units may seem negligible, it would result into voluminous savings in monetary terms and carbon emissions,” says Professor Sen Gupta. “As more households are electrified and there is less load-shedding with improved electricity supply, advancing IST will only add to the energy saving in the long-term also,” adds colleague Professor Ahuja.

The scientists soundly counter a recent recommendation by the National Physical Laboratory for India to implement two time zones for India or daylight savings twice a year as followed in Western countries. “Bringing in two time zones will create a divide between the eastern parts of India and the rest of the country and lead to confusion in travel schedules. But, our proposal to simply advance the clock will not force people to change their schedules or habits,” feels Professor Ahuja.

Now, five Asian countries who have implemented an one-time advancement in their clocks are China, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea. The two, despite making several presentations to various government departments and bodies between 2010 and 2014 and even getting letters of endorsement on their proposal are waiting for things to move.

“Governments and policy-makers have simply shrugged their shoulders and moved on. We need individual states on board as stakeholders,” said Sengupta on the decade-old premise.

Incidentally, leaders from the North East have been demanding for long for a separate time zone that would increase daylight savings and efficiency. An early sunrise means that by the time they start their day, almost half the day has passed. This also translates into an early sunset which requires extra use of lights in both homes, offices and in public places cramping productivity and escalating energy costs.

Arunachal Pradesh’s Chief Minister Pema Khandu even remarked on the issue, saying, “We get up as early as 4am…Several daylight hours are wasted as government offices open only at 10 am and close at 4 pm.” Also, despite India’s planning commission recommending the division of the country into two time zones in 2006, no action was taken. Why, in January 2014, the-then Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, had even independently decided Assam would follow ChaiBagaan time, or tea garden time, and ordered the state to set its clocks an hour ahead of the rest of the country.

All attempts until date have been unsuccessful. Judicial intervention has failed on the issue earlier and will continue to as the issue warrants executive action and political will.