North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Should India have two time zones? National timekeeper adds new arguments


Mains Paper 1: Geography | Geographical features & their location

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Latitude and longitudes, IST system

Mains level: Demand of two time zones being raised by northeast India and weight behind it


Debate over 2 time zones

  1. Over the years, various citizens and political leaders have debated whether India should have two separate time zones
  2. The demand is based on the huge difference in daylight times between the country’s longitudinal extremes, and the costs associated with following the same time zone
  3. Opposition to the idea is based on impracticability — particularly the risk of railway accidents, given the need to reset times at every crossing from one time zone into another

New research suggests 2 time zones

  1. Now, a proposal for two time zones has come from India’s national timekeeper itself
  2. Scientists at the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research’s National Physical Laboratory (CSIR-NPL), which maintains Indian Standard Time, have published a research article describing the necessity of two time zones, with the new one an hour ahead of the existing time zone

Why have 2 time zones?

  1. India extends from 68°7’E to 97°25’E, with the spread of 29° representing almost two hours from the geographic perspective
  2. This has led to the argument that early sunrise in the easternmost parts — the Northeast — causes the loss of many daylight hours by the time offices or educational institutions open and that early sunset, for its part, leads to higher consumption of electricity
  3. Research identifies where the two time zones can be demarcated from each other — at the “chicken neck” that connects the Northeast to the rest of India, an area that is spatially narrow and reduces the possibility of railway accidents
  4. As the railway signals have not yet been fully automated in the country, the border between the two time zones should have a very narrow spatial-width with the minimum number of train stations so that the train timings while crossing the border can be managed manually without any untoward incidents
  5. The article also puts a figure to the country’s potential savings in energy consumption — 20 million kWh a year — if it does follow two time zones
  6. Synchronising office hours — as well as biological activities — to sunrise and sunset timings is important

The new system of time zones

  1. The research paper proposes to call the two time zones IST-I (UTC + 5.30 h) and IST-II (UTC + 6.30 h)
  2. The proposed line of demarcation is at 89°52’E, the narrow border between Assam and West Bengal
  3. States west of the line would continue to follow IST (to be called IST-I). States east of the line — Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Andaman & Nicobar Islands —would follow IST-II

Global & Indian standard time

  1. The geographic “zero line” runs through Greenwich, London
  2. It identifies GMT, now known as Universal Coordinated Time (UTC), which is maintained by the Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in France
  3. Indian Standard Time, maintained by CSIR-NPL, is based on a line of longitude that runs through Mirzapur in UP
  4. At 82°33’E, the line is 82.5° east of Greenwich, or 5.5 hours (5 hours 30 minutes) ahead of UCT
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