Plan for a New Indian Time Zone Shows How Strange Time Zones Are

A new push for a second Indian time zone illustrates the strange political nature of how the world counts its time

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Utpal Baruah / Reuters

A worker plucks tea leaves at the Amchong tea estate in the northeastern Indian state of Assam on July 11, 2012

At 4:30 a.m. in the middle of summer, the Indian coastal metropolis of Mumbai is still blanketed in darkness. Hundreds of miles to the east, at that exact same moment, the sun is up above the terraced slopes of Assam, a northeastern Indian state. The time on the clock there? 4:30 a.m. also.

That’s set to change. Following a new edict by Assam’s Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, the state plans to shift its clock one hour ahead of the rest of India, officially embracing the “garden time” that has been used on Assam’s famed tea estates for decades. The adjustment, insists Gogoi, will boost his state’s productivity, granting its workforce more time in the daylight hours. “People will become more energetic and we will save on energy consumption,” he told reporters last week.

It’s unclear at present whether other states in India’s far-flung Northeast will follow suit, as well as if the move will gain official sanction from New Delhi. Already, there are fears that an abrupt changing of timetables will lead to disruptions in the country’s plane and railway services. Despite India’s continental vastness — its easternmost point is roughly on the same longitude as the Burmese capital — the country has clung to one time zone. It’s not alone in such a conspicuous arrangement: China, which rivals the U.S. in landmass, operates entirely on Beijing time. The ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, in China’s far west, is two and a half hours ahead of India on the clock despite lying farther west on the map than much of the subcontinent, including, indeed, Assam.

(MORE: India’s Northeast: How a Troubled Region May Be a Global Flash Point)

Countries like India and China, emerging out of empire and war in the mid-20th century, reckoned a single time zone would serve as a unifying force. Time may be a metaphysical concept, but it has real political effects. The historian Benedict Anderson, one of the leading theorists of modern nationalism, has suggested that the European nation-state emerged on the back of two popular inventions: the print newspaper and the clock. Nothing quite binds people together more than the certainty that there are others around them, living in the same moment, thinking the same thoughts.

Before the past century, though, time was literally all over the place. Individual localities made their own calculations on the position of the sun. Well into the 1800s, the time in New York City’s borough of Brooklyn could be half an hour ahead of that across the East River in Manhattan. The imperatives of railway networks and global shipping routes gradually spurred the need for a more standardized, universal system. At the International Meridian Conference in 1884, the world’s time standard was established from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, U.K. — in no small part then a reflection of the dominance and clout of the British Empire in the late 19th century. Greenwich Mean Time is still the global measuring stick, but not without its wrinkles and oddities.

First, there’s the confusing array of nations and territories that embrace daylight saving time and those that don’t. Then, there are the ways nations bend time to suit their own interests. In 2011, the Pacific island of Samoa erased a day off its calendar by jumping over to the other side of the International Date Line — rather than being the last country to ring in the New Year, it became the first, a move that also better aligned the tiny country closer to nations in Asia. The massive Soviet Union, on the other hand, sized up its immensity and figured it justified 11 distinct time zones of its own — a boasting, nationalist legacy that Russia has inherited. In 2010, Moscow trimmed the number of zones down to nine (some experts think just four would suffice), but considerable quirks remain: for example, though Russia’s Asiatic port of Vladivostok sits clearly to the west of Japan, the time there is two hours ahead of Tokyo.

Wherever time is tweaked around the world, the arguments are always roughly the same: the switch would boost efficiency and productivity. Back in India, a 2012 study by the National Institute of Advanced Studies suggests that if the entire country moved its clock half an hour ahead (GMT +6 hours, rather than +5:30), India would save 2 billion kilowatt-hours in electricity a year. But there’s an inertia about making the change, in part because of politics — no nation wants to lose its time stamp (see Nepal, at GMT +5:45) — as well as logistical headaches. Even if the Assamese bid doesn’t go through, the debate on its place on the world clock will doubtless roll on. For that, there’s plenty of time.

MORE: How Do Countries Determine Their Time Zones?

17 comments
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Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

The only modern comparison is Einstein. A self-awareness of that feels strange.

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

Musical Coordinate Plane: Step 1: Consider the Music staff to be a grid. Step 2: Each letter can be represented by Binary. FGABCDE Example: Note (N): A Assigned Number (AN): 1 Accompanying Binary Number (ABN): 1 N = B AN = 2 ABN = 10 (N, AN, ABN): (A, 1, 1), (B, 2, 10), (C, 3, 11) (D, 4, 100), (E, 5, 101), (F, 6, 110), (G, 7, 111). After middle notes staff notations: One staff above ledger: X = Number of A-G series above or below staff. Notes in middle staff would just be "N". (N+X, AN, ABN). Ex: High A or the first A above ledger line A would be: (1+A, 8, 1000). The next A would be: (2+A, 15, 1111). Notes below Middle Staff: X = Number of A-G series above or below staff. (N-X, AN, ABN) The first A below middle A would be: (A-1, 7, 111). Symbols could translate this in programming. Note Duration (ND): (N+-X, AN, ABN, ND) 1 = 64th Note 2 = 32nd Note 3 = 16th Note 4 = Eighth Note 5 = Quarter Note. 6 = Half Note 7 = Whole Note Middle D, quarter note would be: (D, 4, 100, 5) Rests (R): (N+-X, AN, ABN, ND) + R 1 = 64th Rest 2 = 32nd Rest 3 = 16th Rest 4 = Eighth Rest 5 = Quarter Rest 6 = Half Rest 7 = Whole Rest Accidental (A): (N+-X, AN, ABN, ND, A) + R 0 = No accidental 1 = Sharp 2 = Flat Accompanying notes for chord (AC): (N+-X, AN, ABN, ND, A) + R (AC) (N+-X, AN, ABN, ND, A) + R Ex: High C, 16th Note, then quarter rest (C+1, 10, 1010, 3) + 5 This is the initial representation of a note and a rest. Equation for Arpeggio in middle ledger: (F, A, C, A, F, G, A): (F, 6, 110, 3,0) + 0 (A, 1, 1, 4,0) + 0 (C, 3, 11, 5,0) + 0 (A, 1, 1, 4,0) + 0 (F, 6, 110, 3,0) + 0 (G, 7, 111, 5,0) + 0 (A, 1, 1, 6,0) + 0 Extended: Clef (C): (C) 1 = Bass Clef 2 = Treble Clef Key (K) (C, K) 1 = A 2 = B 3 = C 4 = D 5 = E 6 = F 7 = G Instrument (I): (C, K, I) 1. Flute 2. Piccolo 3. Oboe 4. Clarinet 5. Bassoon 6. Saxophone 7. French Horn 8. Trumpet 9. Trombone 10. Tuba 11. Euphonium 12. Timpani 13. Snare Drum 14. Tenor Drum 15. Bass Drum 16. Cymbals 17. Tam-Tam 18. Wood Block 19. Tambourine 20. Glockenspiel 21. Xylophone 22. Marimba 23. Harp 24. Violin 25. Viola 26. Cello 27. Bass 28. Piano Chair (Ch): (C, K, I, Ch) 1 = 1st Chair 2 = 2nd Chair 3 = 3rd Chair 4 = 4th Chair 5 = 5th Chair Equation for Arpeggio in middle ledger, Bass Clef, Key of C, French Horn, 1st Chair: (F, A, C, A, F, G, A): (1, 3, 7, 1) (F, 6, 110, 3) + 0 (A, 1, 1, 4) + 0 (C, 3, 11, 5) + 0 (A, 1, 1, 4) (F, 6, 110, 3) + 0 (G, 7, 111, 5) + 0 (A, 1, 1, 6) + 0 Underlying chord (UC): (UC) Number of Notes (NN): (UC) (NN) Duration (D): (UC) (NN, D) Repetitions (RT): (UC) (NN, D, RT) General Form For A Symphony: (C, K, I, Ch, A) (N+-X, AN, ABN, ND, A) + R (AC) (UC) (NN, D, RT) (N+-X, AN, ABN, A) + R

Moosa Mahsoom
Moosa Mahsoom

Great, so I might need to reset my clock....

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

The primary difference between reality and fiction is that fiction can be predictably written.

Filippo Toma
Filippo Toma

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Find engineers, technicians etc and tell them that while SOME of our technologies are true 21st century, SOME physical laws (conservation of energy etc) we have been THOUGHT are mainly from around the 18st and IMPOSED by a MASON named Isaac Newton then rejected by Max Planck already in the early 20th century. MILLIONS know the story of LEONARDO DA VINCI'S ABJURATION of PERPETUAL MOTION, IMPOSED by what's now THE VATICAN(war, oil and debt industry are among the principal investments of the IOR, the vatican bank) but very few deduct the real meaning of it. So far we've been told that PERPETUAL MOTION is impossible. While this may be true only for ideal perpetual motion - as far as we are concerned everything will eventually stop(....) - it is false for PRACTICAL USE. Whit an initial investment of few thousand dollars (circa 5000$ for a 10kw system covering electric heating too) each house WILL have CLEAN/FREE-ENERGY for DECADES. 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Not only we spend 1/3 of our working life for something virtually free (while the 3rd/4th world dies when free energy would solve almost all problems, including ensuring clean water to anyone - a fully healthy planet would ensure a stable economy everywhere - ), we are also forced to be DEPENDENT from a FRAGILE GRID which means WE ARE FORCED TO THE RISK OF BLACK-OUTS, an ATTACK TO OUR SECURITY. PS: 1) An educated reaction from some of You: "THIS IS FAR TOO UNBELIEVABLE" and that's EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO FEEL ABOUT IT, and "DESIGNED" THE WHOLE PLOT right for that EXACT purpose. The latest "FASHION" of the WAR "WEST"/"ISLAM" simlpy follows the dot of extinguished cold-war&around and is STRONGLY RELEVANT also as MASS-DISTRACTION. 2) PLEASE NOTICE: I'M NOT SELLING YOU ANY BOOK OR DVD ETC, MOST OF THEM ARE A SHUNT OFF. 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AbrahamYeshuratnam
AbrahamYeshuratnam

Ishaan Tharoor is wrong in saying that GMT was established to show the 'dominance and clout of the British Empire.'The Empire has nothing to do with GMT.  Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) was adopted as the world’s time standard at the Washington Meridian Conference in 1884. This conference also established Universal Time, from which the international 24-hour time-zone system grew. This is why all time zones refer back to GMT on the prime meridian. The prime meridian at Greenwich, in the United Kingdom, has served as the reference line for GMT since the late 19th century. Astronomers use other measures of time, such as Terrestrial Dynamical Time (TDT), which is 32.184 seconds ahead of TAI. TDT, also known as Terrestrial Time (TT),

The Bible tells how God extended one full day for Joshua to carry on the battle.:

“And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it .”

 How can it be proved scientifically?  

There was sunlight in the middle of the night on February 6, 1993. . The apparent miracle was actually the product of a thin, 20-m plastic mirror mounted on the unmanned Russian spacecraft Progress, which from its 362-km-high perch, reflected light on a sleeping Europe .. The umbrella-like mirror, called Banner, did not quite turn night into day, but it did project a 4-km-wide beam that danced across the Continent for six minutes. The experiment could be the first step in providing extra daylight to sun-starved northern cities and extending planting and harvest periods. In the mid 1960s, NASA and the Department of Defense jointly proposed the deployment of a reflecting- mirror satellite to illuminate areas of Vietnam for night combat operations. Civilian uses for the project included the lighting of cities, especially in Polar Regions, rescue and recovery operations, navigation and radio astronomy. Because of opposition from astronomers, biologists and other scientists, NASA decided not to proceed with the project. The brightness of these reflecting satellites would be sufficient to influence flowering and growth in plants and the reproduction and migration of animals. Many such biological functions on earth are regulated by the length of a day, they could be altered significantly by satellite sun reflectors. So God would have allowed sun’s reflection at the time of Joshua’s battle.

the-one
the-one

why not just apply the change to the office schedule of the region, pull it up by an hour? ...if the issues are power consumption and productivity.

jiyaspeakin
jiyaspeakin

Even if it would save billions of electricity, it  is quite difficult to implement in India; with so much diversity (and the ongoing protest for dividing country into more regions), this could pose a big threat to the unity and integrity of the country