The waste of daylight hours strengthens the case for a separate time zone ahead of IST for the eastern States

Compared to the rest of India, the eastern States of West Bengal, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, the seven north-eastern States and Sikkim lag in almost all the measures of economic growth. Productivity in these States is low, infrastructure poor and employment opportunities meagre. Overall, the perception is that people of eastern India are lazy and unproductive.

Many factors play a part in the development of a region — its location, weather conditions, political leadership, availability of raw materials, etc. Eastern India is blessed with an abundance of mineral wealth — 93 per cent of India’s iron ore, 84 per cent of its coal, 100 per cent of its kyanite, 70 per cent of its mica, 20 per cent of its limestone, 10 per cent of its manganese, 80 per cent of its tea and about 15 per cent of its crude oil.

If this be so, why then are the States of eastern India less productive than the rest of India?

Since India has a single time zone, States located to the west of the Indian Standard Time line of longitude (82.5°E) have more daylight hours compared to States located to its east.

To calculate the time difference it is useful to know that 15° of longitude is equivalent to one hour.

Too far ahead

Mumbai’s longitude is 78°82’E, Delhi’s is 76°E and Kolkata’s is 88° 22’E. Hence, Kolkata lags Delhi and Mumbai by about 45 minutes. For cities in northeast India, the time difference with Mumbai or Delhi is even greater. Gangtok’s longitude is 88°0’E and, at the other end, Kohima’s is 94°20’E.

The sun rises and sets in all these States in northeast India at least an hour earlier than the rest of the country.

The seven States in northeast India have many political, ideological and ethnic differences. However, the one thing they all agree on is that the clock there must be advanced by one hour during summer and more during the winter months of October to February.

Plus points

Some advantages of advancing the clock would be:

1. Increased productivity: An early start would have more energetic people in the offices.

2. Reduced power consumption: Starting and closing an hour earlier would result in a saving an hour of electricity in offices.

In homes, shops and restaurants about two hours would be saved as people would wake up and go to bed earlier, thus using more of the available daylight hours. A conservative estimate shows that starting the day an hour earlier would result in a saving of about 550 MW of power in northeast India alone.

3. Curbing alcoholism: With five to six “available extra hours” after work and with little else to do most people fall prey to alcoholism.

Revisit decision

The Department of Science & Technology (DST) which examined the feasibility of setting up dual time for India in 2007 turned down a proposal to advance the clock in northeast India by an hour in as it felt it would cause acute administrative challenges.

It is time for the DST to revisit their 2007 decision. The DST should examine the possibility of introducing the new time zone not only for northeast India but for all of eastern India.

The international picture

Singapore is an example of a country that has kept their clock an hour ahead of the standard time longitude.

While Singapore’s longitude is 105°E they have kept their time on 120°E, keeping the country permanently one hour ahead.

This could be one of the reasons for the Singaporean’s greater productivity and prosperity of the island state.

China too follows the longitude of 120°E as their time zone, keeping almost the entire country to the west of their time meridian.

Bangladesh, which is to the west of the northeast States (Dhaka: longitude 90°25’E), keeps its time 30 minutes ahead of India.

In addition, Bangladesh advances its clocks by one hour during the winter months. Thus for five months of the year Bangladesh Standard Time is one-and-a-half hours ahead of India. Could it be this that is helping the country’s steady economic growth?

Since Independence, the States in eastern, especially north-eastern, India have fallen behind the rest of the country and the bedrock of the backwardness is the poor productivity of the people. There are many practical steps to change this and a separate time zone is one.

(R. Rajkhowa is senior executive with a consulting firm.)

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