Are some Indians hogging more than their fair share of sunlight?

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Much ado about the clock or does India really need a new ‘Indian Standard Time’?

It is only 4.30 pm, and darkness has already set in Nagaland. At the same time, the white sands of Rann of Kutch glistens as sun blazes down, signalling sundown is a long while away.

Spanning 2900 km and three time zones, but with all clocks attuned to one time, this is India’s clock story!

The Indian Standard Time (IST) was fixed in 1906 during the British era, and is five-and-a-half hours ahead of GMT. However, given the width of the country, if one went according to the clock, one would be waking up when the sun is already high up in the sky.

India did not always have only one time zone, as people in different parts of the country followed the Bombay Time, Madras Time, Calcutta Time and Port Blair time according to where they resided.

Indian Standard Time was adopted so that the whole country could have a common time zone, which is calculated based on the 82.30' E longitude which passes through the middle of the country. However, Bombay and Calcutta times continued to be followed even a few years after Independence.

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

There have been frequent demands from those in the north-east for a separate time zone, with Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu voicing his support for a separate time zone.

In March this year, the Guwahati High Court dismissed a public interest litigation seeking a separate time zone for North-East India. However, that has not kept the locals from keeping their own time! Tea gardens in Assam, follow a separate time known as the Chaibagaan or Bagan time ('Tea Garden Time'), which is an hour ahead of IST, though the IST remains the officially used time.

Faisal Farooqui, Founder and CEO of MouthShut.com, and convener of MoreSunlight.in, says there is a much simpler solution to the whole issue – by advancing the time of the entire country by half an hour. He says,

In fact, moving our clock ahead by 30 minutes will have tremendous economic, social, and health benefits. I have personally interacted and talked to many scientists who are unanimously in favour of this shift.
Faisal Farooqui

D.P. Sengupta, a former professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bengaluru, says, “Way back in 1978, my colleague Dilip R. Ahuja and I had written to The Indian Express on this issue. We studied extensively on the subject and felt that advancing the clock was the perfect solution. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency commissioned a study by us on quantifying energy savings through advancing IST… but nothing came of it.”

The advantages of advancing the clock.

  • There are many health benefits of being out in the sunlight for long periods. A late sunset will give people more daylight time (after work) and increase outdoor recreation.
  • Safety of women will improve, especially in eastern parts, since they will get more daytime to get back home.
  • Studies have shown that Rs 4,000 crore worth of electricity can be saved annually if people have an additional half hour of sunlight.

So, here is an evaluation of the various solutions.

Solution 1 (difficulty level – high)

Dividing the country into two time zones – east and west

There are several countries with multiple time zones like France, Russia, USA, Australia, Mexico, Indonesia, and Ecuador to name a few. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is conducting a study to assess the feasibility of having different time zones in the country.

Having more than one time zone will create some confusion – one example for that could be railway and airline schedules. Also, given that a significant number of our population is illiterate, it would be difficult to educate them on the different time zones.


Also read: The Batti project is bringing light to the remote villages of Arunachal Pradesh


Solution 2 (Difficulty level – medium)

Daylight Saving Time (DST)

“Daylight Saving Time” (DST) is practised in several European and American countries, wherein the time in summer is advanced by one hour and retracted during winter. This enables people to enjoy sunlight longer in summer, and avoid the inconveniences of late sunrises and early sunsets in winter.

DST was used briefly during the Sino-India war of 1962 and the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971 to reduce energy consumption.

This solution, though, will create annual chaos. In fact, many countries are recognising the problems associated with this and thinking of a permanent shift to DST.

Photo by Ales Krivec on Unsplash

Solution 3 (Difficulty level – low)

Advancing our time by half an hour once permanently

India can enjoy more sunlight by simply advancing the time by 30 minutes, or in other words, permanently moving IST to GMT at +6:00 hours. Says Faisal, “The implementation of this proposal cannot be simpler; on a certain pre-announced date, everybody in India will simply advance their watches and clocks by 30 minutes. The disruptions, if any, will not last even 24 hours.”

As to the ‘how’ of it, whether one should follow the parliamentary or judicial route, Faisal says,

Before November 2016, did we know how a country demonetises its currency? If the government is convinced, we can find a way to make it happen. Modiji believes it’s time for a new India. I would add that a new India needs a new Indian Standard Time!