Imagine that the Indian Standard Time (IST) is advanced by half-an-hour to be six hours ahead of the Greenwich Mean Time or GMT.
“I can stick my neck out and say it is a win-win situation,” DP Sen Gupta, honorary professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) and one of the scientists who pitched this idea, told the Hindustan Times from Bangalore.
The likely effects: office goers will get an extra half-hour of evening daylight to commute home. Petty crime in the dusk may drop. Sixteen per cent of peak evening electricity will be saved.
But at 8 am in Silicon Valley, California, it will be 9 or 10 pm in India instead of 8.30 pm or 9.30 pm today. Global businesses operating out of India will overlap more with China and Japan than the US.
Children in Punjab will go to school in the dark due to later winter sunrises, unless schools change timings. And families in the north and west will switch on lights early morning for a few winter weeks. “Six hours would be an integral number. We belong to five per cent of the countries with fractional time differences (five and half hours),” Sen pointed out.
But the IST, the official time standard since Independence, will not be modified unless the Cabinet decides to. “I am aware of the proposal,” Union Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal told HT. “It’s for Cabinet to decide, it’s not a science and technology issue.”
The scientists are sending their paper to the Planning Commission. “We would be happy to make a presentation to them or a Parliamentary sub-committee,” said the NIAS professor Dilip Ahuja.
A Planning Commission report on energy last August said ‘saving daylight by introducing two time zones in the country can save a lot of energy.’ But the scientists reject this zonal division. “Where in India would we draw a demarcation line?” Gupta said. “Although a two-hour difference would justify two time zones it might encourage separatist tendencies, cause logistic difficulties, and increase the number of train accidents.”
India from the west to east has about 29º longitudinal difference, with a two-hour gap between the two extremities. The US, with 45º longitudinal difference, has four time zones. But China, with an east-west spread wide enough for five hourly time zones, follows time in its east as standard time.
Sen, Ahuja and V Agrawal at the Southern Regional Load Dispatch Centre, Bangalore, co-authored the paper in Current Science in August.