Opinion

How two time zones can help the economy

Rajesh Mehta | Updated on: Jun 17, 2022
Time zones’ economic benefits

Time zones’ economic benefits | Photo Credit: Akhilesh

Especially for the Eastern and N-E States, this can result in massive savings in power usage and other economic benefits 

The US spans 4,800 km from East to West and is divided into six time zones. In contrast, India stretches over 3,000 km from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh but has only one time zone.

While there is a debate in the US about whether they should switch from six time zones to two, India, on the other hand, has been talking about moving from one time zone to two for long. China also has one time zone.

India is geographically the second largest country without multiple time zones.

Before Independence, India used Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras Time.

Adopting two time zones for India is something the government should think about seriously.

The North-East States have been vocal about two time zones and if the Bill is passed in Parliament, it will undoubtedly boost India's economy in the long run.

India uses a single time zone because it serves its strategic and political purposes, but it’s time to change seeing its economic needs.

Single time: Pros and cons

The proponents of a single time zone contend that India is not as large as China, which maintains a single time zone (the country actually spreads across five time zones).

Furthermore, implementing two time zones in India will cause havoc, not just in long-distance railway timetables but also in the way business is conducted. A single shared experience, no matter where you are in India, unites the country.

That is a powerful concept, but it is also slightly flawed because it does not take advantage of light.

Two-time zones: Pros and cons

India has long debated the feasibility of two time zones. In fact, tea gardens in Assam have long set their clocks one hour ahead of the IST, creating their own informal time zone. There are also economic benefits to having two time zones; people will be able to work and plan more effectively.

According to a study by the National Institute of Advanced Studies, two time zones will help India save 2.7 billion units of electricity a year. This is because most offices and schools in the eastern part of the country stay open well past sunset.

Conserving electricity is critical for the Indian economy, which is suffering from a crippling power deficit. The International Energy Agency estimates that nearly 24 million Indians do not have access to electricity. According to CSIR-NPL, India might save ₹1,000 crore per year if it can conserve electricity by implementing two time zones.

The impact of time zones on international business has been a little-known but significant issue. Historically, economic patterns and partners have had an impact on the time zones of nations. According to research, countries with more than one time zone, such as the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada, have gained economically from commerce across time zones. They were able to concentrate on their strengths and shortcomings, resulting in the best outcomes. Therefore, their work and sleep schedules operate on separate time zones. Changing the time zone allowed employees to develop healthier eating, sleeping, and working habits, which had positive outcomes.

Since the political authority controls time zones, the majority of the advantages or disadvantages perceived by residents regarding their countries' time zones were more political or social than economic in nature. By taking advantage of these opportunities and converting the time zone differences, India can see some economic benefits.

The government rejected a similar idea in 2002, noting its complexity. Due to the necessity of resetting the clock at every time zone boundary crossing, some experts believed that there was a possibility of train accidents.

Last year, however, India's official timekeepers proposed two time zones, one for the majority of the country and another for eight States, including seven in the North-East region and the Andaman and Nicobar islands. There would be an hour’s difference between the two time zones.

In February the issue was again voiced in Parliament, with MP Deepinder Hooda, calling for a Bill on the reorganisation of time zone. But the government stated, “A separate time zone would lead to North-Easterners seeing themselves as separate from the rest of the country and provoke secessionist demands.”

India's decision to adopt a single time zone after Independence was a conscious one. A significant portion of our population was illiterate at the time, and two time zones would have led to a lot of complications. But with the impressive strides made in improving in literacy rates, this is no longer the case.

India can benefit economically if it switches to hourly time zone changes.

Mehta is a consultant and columnist working on market entry, innovation and public policy; Manhas is a Director of Research, Indo-Pacific Consortium at Raisina House, New Delhi. Views expressed are personal

Published on June 17, 2022
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