How Two Time Zones Can Help India’s Economy

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  • 23 Feb 2023

You may often ask, “Why do you need different time zones? Wouldn’t it be confusing for people?”

It would, at least for a few months. It is also important to recognize the fact that large swathes of our population are uneducated and would find it difficult to follow different times.

“So, why even talk about having different time zones in the first place?”

Did you know that until 1948, India had three time zones — Calcutta Time, Bombay Time and Bagaan Time?

It worked perfectly well then.

Though the effects of time zones are little known, it has been found that countries who have similar business hours tend to do more business with each other. For instance, in a dynamic world, a simple work request raised in the US may take at least 12 hours to get solved because its back-offices may be in India or China. Such constraints can be detrimental for fast-paced companies.

The same principle was true in British India too. Tea and textile export was at its zenith under the British because the Santhal laborers in Bihar, the book-keepers in Bengal, the tea-growers in Assam and the farmers all the way in Scotland followed the Calcutta Time. In essence, the entire trade followed one time zone, which helped trade to flourish under the British rule.

If you look at India’s sunrise time alone, you’d realize there is almost a two-hour gap in the same country. For instance, while the sun may rise around 4am in Arunachal Pradesh in the summer, the same phenomenon may not occur before 6am in Gujarat. Essentially, the sun rises and sets two hours ahead of the IST in the Northeast.

Even Kolkata and Mumbai sunrise and sunset times vary by more than an hour. It means that people in Mumbai see more daylight, which subconsciously improves productivity.

Its especially absurd in the Northeast because while the sun rises by 4 in the morning, people have to wait until 10am — India’s standard business hours — to get to work. By the time they are done with work at 6pm, people in the Northeast are greeted with pitch black skies. They are left with very little time to socialize and thus have a poor healthy work-life balance — factors that can drag down productivity.

Further, in a bid to keep up with mainland India’s unified time, the Northeast are culpable of staying up longer than usual and sleeping less, which impacts productivity levels in the long run.

In fact, the Spanish face a similar problem. The country’s parliamentary report found that most people suffered from low productivity because they worked beyond the natural end of daylight hours. In effect, they stayed awake and slept less than other nationalities, making them feel jet lagged and sluggish at work.

Feasible Solution

India’s official timekeeper — National Physical Laboratory — has also supported the two time zone theory. It recently called for a different time zone in the Northeast and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It said it was technically feasible for India to have two time zones — IST-1 and IST-2 — separated by an hour.

Doing so will help India conserve 2.7 billion units of electricity per year, according to a study done by National Institute of Advanced Studies. That’s because most offices and schools are open well past sunset hours in the eastern part of the country.

Conserving electricity is critical for the Indian economy as it reels under debilitating power deficit. According to International Energy Agency, nearly 24 million Indians don’t have access to electricity.

In fact, some reports suggest that India could save Rs 1,000 crore every year if it is able to conserve electricity by introducing two time zones.

In short, having two time zones can be confusing in the beginning, but enhanced productivity levels and greater energy conservation would provide a huge fillip for the Indian economy.

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