January 13, 2014 5:18:16 am
Instead of having two time zones, Indian Standard Time should be advanced by half an hour
With the Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s demand for a separate time zone for his state, the periodic interest in adjusting Indian Standard Time (IST) seems to have been rekindled. We have conducted extensive studies to analyse the benefits accruing to the country from the three different options available to adjust standard time. These are: One, dividing the country into two time zones; two, instituting Daylight Saving Time (DST); and three, advancing IST by half an hour, that is, changing IST to being six hours ahead of GMT instead of the present five and a half hours.
The main effect concerned the reduction in electricity consumption based on the analyses of several thousand load curves for the five Indian electric regions and 13 different states. A daily load curve shows minute to minute power demand for 24 hours. Contrary to popular belief, we found that dividing the country into two time zones (eastern and western) yielded minimum electricity saving (0.8 billion units) followed by using DST (0.9 bU). The studies showed that a half-hour advancement will yield an electricity saving of 2.7 bU every year, year after year.
These savings may appear insignificant when compared to the total electricity consumption of over 700 bU per year, but they acquire significance when we notice that advancing IST by half an hour would reduce the evening peak energy demand by 18 per cent, which the utilities find hard to meet.
Besides saving the least amount of energy, the proposal of dividing the country into time zones entails other problems that cannot be ignored. The most obvious consequence of partitioning the country into two time zones would be that travellers would have to adjust their watches or cellphones every time they crossed the zonal boundary. It is true that several developed countries have multiple time zones. In our country where, at many places, railway lines are single track and with manual controls, one major accident could wipe out the electricity benefits that we may derive from such a division.
With a time difference of one hour in the mornings and in the evenings, there would be nearly 25 per cent less overlap between office timings in the two zones. This could be important for banks, offices, industries and multinational companies which need to be constantly interconnected. This will be further detrimental to productivity and to the interests of the eastern region. There is already a sense of alienation between the relatively prosperous and industrialised western zone and the less developed eastern zone. The people in the Northeast sense a distance from the mainland and a separateness in clock time may accentuate it.
Having a separate time zone for the eastern region will provide no energy or other benefits to the rest of the country. Moreover, India will continue to be in off-set time zones, five and a half hours in the west and six and a half in the eastern region ahead of
GMT, still differing by fractions of hours instead of integers, as is the case in 97 per cent of the regions in the world.
So far as introducing DST is concerned, only countries away from the equator in both the north and the south stand to benefit from it. India is too close to the equator either to need or benefit from DST. Besides, DST will involve having to adjust the clock twice every year and the probability of railway or other accidents would again increase.
Advancing IST by half an hour would require the clock to be adjusted only once. Our analyses indicate that all states stand to gain from the adjustment. Some states in the north and north-west will have the sun rise when it is still dark in the winter. We recommend that school timings may be adjusted during winter months (or weeks) to avoid having to send children to school in the dark.
By adjusting IST, we will use sunlight for longer than at present. The extra daylight for half an hour in the evening for the whole country (which results in the energy saving) is likely to reduce traffic accidents, which peak during dusk. Although we are unable to quantify these benefits, there could also be an increase in outdoor and sporting activities, shopping and productivity.
We are firmly of the opinion that a one-time half-hour advancement of IST will be the most beneficial option for the entire country, not zonal division. By advancing IST by half an hour, we meet the demand from the east half-way. By advancing IST, the entire country reaps the benefits of DST and two time zones, but with none of the inconveniences or apprehensions expressed. In addition, the country stands to save more energy, especially in the evening, than it may otherwise.
D.P. Sengupta and Dilip R. Ahuja
The writers are with the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore
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