The Indian Standard Time Needs A Time Check

Note: This post can be read by an average person in 13 minutes and 37 seconds, and it is probably riddled with typos and needs you to be fascinated by timezones, please don’t bother if you don’t like em’ timezone.

Background

The Indian Standard time, which is obviously observed in India and well, not so strangely enough in Sri Lanka, where they call it the Sri-Lanka Standard Time has an offset of UTC+05:30.

The IST does not follow Daylight Savings Time, which is also often abbreviated to DST, or any other seasonal adjustments, which is still debatable because most countries which fall or near the equator usually don’t follow DST as of now.

Although, as the western side of the world has seen that DST has caused over the years a heap load of annoyances, including iPhone alarm issues and numerous issues before digital was a thing, If you are still wondering what DST is, the most simplest definition I found of it is: “DST is usually used to advance time by an hour during the summers to get one extra hour of daylight time.”

History

India had no official timezone till 1906, we had 3 Prediencies, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, and 3 local times for the 3 cities, depending on where they fell on the longtitude. The 3 timezones, thus created were followed by all the states or cities around and near it.

Calcutta, was set at UTC+05.54, making it +00:24 of the current IST.
Madras was set at UTC+05:21 making it -00:09 of the current IST.
Bombay was at UTC+04:51, making it -01:19 of the current IST.
Bagan Time was at around UTC+06:30, making it +1:00 of the current IST.

The British also had established a Port Blair Mean Time, and The Railway Mean Time, which was mainly done due to the confusions caused to the railways, by the three different timezones they had, in 1870, the British set the Railway Mean Time, same as the Madras time, mainly because they saw that the longitude of Madras was midway between Calcutta and Bombay.

A difference of 01:03 existed pre-1947, between Bombay & Calcutta being 1650+ kms apart, now, however they share the same timezone. Isn’t it funny?

John Goldingham was the first astronomer of the Madras Observatory, and setup the Madras Time in 1802. The British set up both Bombay & Calcutta time during the 1884 International Meridian Conference in D.C. However, everybody always knew that India needed an official timezone, so by 1905 since (again) Madras was midway in terms of longitude, of both Bombay & Calcutta, it was almost sure that the official timezone of India will be close or infact the Madras Time.

Indian Standard Time

The British established the central median running through Allahabad at 82.5° E and on January 1, 1906, IST was the official timezone of India, except there was a little issue happening around that time because both Bombay & Calcutta maintained their own timezone till 1948 & 1955, respectively.

I still don’t know why Calcutta didn’t move to IST and stuck to their own local timezone, but if you find something do let me know, but I know that Bombay stuck to their own timezone because of a bunch of reasons.

The Bombay Problem

One of the main reasons for Bombay to maintain Bombay Time was that during the conversion from the local time to IST, Lokmanya Tilak, was put on trial in a bombing case and a parsi lawyer, named Pherozeshah Mehta was pretty pissed off and well, he argued against the change in time and the public was pretty angry too, so the Bombay Municipal Corporation decided to shelf the conversion and maintained Bombay Time.

But wait, didn’t the British leave by 1947, so why was Bombay Time maintained till 1955? Well, because Bombay is Bombay and screw you, that’s why! To be honest, when I say Bombay and the rest of western India had one timezone, I lie, because Bombay actually had 3 timezones at the same time, Bombay Time which was established by the British, officially was followed from Sion to Mahim, The Railway Mean Time which was the Madras Time, was followed by the railways, telegraphs and the suburbs of Bombay and there was a Port Signal Time, which was followed by the Eastern side of the city, the naval bases and the dockyards and that was based out of an observatory in Colaba, which was set to GMT+05:00.

Imagine having 3 timezones in one city. At a point, Bombay just didn’t know where to be and what time to be there at, since every area had a different timezone. History tells us that even the Governor of Bombay from 1880 to 1885 couldn’t keep track of the different timezones prevailing in the city and missed his train, a couple of times.

All of this was brought forward by an Australian scholar, named James Cosmas Masselos who travelled to Bombay in the early 1960’s and figured out that whenever people were late for meetings, people would blame their tardiness on “Bombay Time”, which note, was -00:79 as compared to the IST, and since IST had just been official in Bombay for just around 5 years, Bombay Time was still a term, people threw around.

So, Masselos decided to look into this in the archives of the East India Company and the Government of The Presidency of Bombay, and realised that there were 3 different timezones at the same time. His research was, to quote a Mid-Day article, “Originally presented in a conference held by the Maharashtra Studies Association in 1991 and published as ‘Bombay Time’ in 2000 as part of an anthology of essays titled Intersection: Socio-Cultural Trends in Maharashtra, revealed “the battle of the clocks” that raged in Bombay from the 1870s.”

Bombay was a mess back in the day, if a clock tower which was installed and maintained by the Bombay Municipal Corporation told the time as 12:00, it was in Bombay Time, and thus The Railway Mean Time was 12:30 which meant, if you wanted to get on a train, you had to leave 30 minutes earlier in reference to Bombay Time.

The Bombay Time was set based on the location of the sun, which as mentioned before was used from Sion - Mahim, this was explained by Shekhar Krishnan, a post-doctoral research fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore in the same Mid-Day article (See Reference #6), however as pointed out earlier, Suburbs in Bombay and the telegraph systems also used The Railway Mean Time (Madras Time).

There’s a quote from Masselos i Mid-Day, that I think is very true about Bombay even today:

“Bombay people thought they were special, and they still do. There was a degree of rivalry, not just between nations, but also between cities and presidencies. Bombay didn’t want to follow Madras’ time.”

Also, let’s not forget The Port Signal Time, which was to be followed by international and domestic ships and the naval ports, dockyards on the eastern shore of Bombay city.

There is no concrete reason as to why the Bombay Municipal Corporation gave in to the IST in 1955 and not maintain Bombay Time, at least not in the books, but most articles I have read, talk about how during the 1950’s the island Bombay city and Bombay suburbs were joined into one region, and thus they couldn’t keep up anymore and just decided to give in and follow the entire country (Which the Suburbs of Bombay was already doing) which is a saddening end to one of the most rebellious municipalities of the colonial times and even the independent India, clearly.

They say the main reason however was also the growing importance of telegraphs, which needed more accuracy in time than ever before. Thus, technology made the necessity in committing to a timezone and sticking to it, with 100% accuracy.

The Bagan Time

Bagan Time was the timezone which made the British money and the IST actually kinda ruined it, when you look at it, in the Northeast region of India, where the Bagan Time was followed by everybody in the region, from the planters of tea and merchants to everyone related to the tea-planation business. Work started at 05:30-06:00 and ended at 17:00. However, Bagan Time is still followed by the planters and gardens in the Northeast region, thanks to the Plantations Labour Act of 1951, which allow governments to set local times for particular areas, but the rest of the region has to follow IST, which causes nothing but disruption and a wastage of daylight.

The Present Situation

Let’s talk about more in depth about the present though, India is huge, like really huge, like 2933 kilometers from the east to the west huge, which means that we can have 2+ timezones, we have the scope, we had 3 before but we chose to have one. Why? Everybody has their own reasons, some say economics, some say unity, others say stupidity. Yes, people critique timezones, get over it.

We currently calculate our time in Phulpur in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, located at 25°33′N 82°06′E. in the IANA or the tzdata or the tz database, we show up as Asia/Kolkata (and sometimes as Asia/Kolkata and/or Asia/Mumbai and/or Asia/Madras)

Fun-fact: Phulpur is not just famous for IST though, it was the same city district that Nehru had stood for the elections and won, giving us the first Prime Minister of Independent India. The other fun fact is that Phulpur doesn’t come under UP in terms of the State Assembly, it has it’s own Parliamentary constituency.

Fun-fact: We have used DST as an independent country, 3 times. First time during the India-China War, 1962 and the India-Pakistan War of both 1965 & 1971. DST during war is not called DST, it is called War Time, which sounds pretty cool to be honest, but it’s not because war is not good.

The Planning Comission in 2006, spoke about having 2 time zones and having DST, however as economics gets difficult when there are different timezones in a country + DST (which I will prove is bullshit and that the economics of a country actually get better if they follow the CORRECT timezone or timezones in our case), the idea was rejected by the government then and has been many times before.

Many such proposals have been made, and critics have been talking about this for years if not decades, but the country has not changed it’s stance on dividing the timezones in India.

Thus, in a report from 2007, three smart dudes made a suggestion of UTC+06:00, which essentially entails a year long DST. In the report, they spoke about how India should adjust to UTC+06:00, speaking about the benefits, mainly a nearly 16% savings in energy in terms of electricity load, among other things. But 16% reduction in electricity would be huge, specially as most places in the country still don’t get electricity 24x7, still the government didn’t take it up.

The Planning Commission in 2006, and many suggestions before that have spoken in length about setting the clock back by an hour in fall in the north and the clock forward by an hour in fall in the south. But every-time anybody said anything, it was rejected and mostly we did it by citing China and their single timezone as an example, the problem is that China should actually be 5 timezones, but was converted into a single timezone due to communist propaganda in the 1940’s with the strings of creating unity attached to it.

Also, unofficially in China, which is at UTC+08:00 it really isn’t followed in the western provincnes, where they follow their own timezone which is -02:00 of UTC+8:00. So like what kind of an example are we looking up to? Does China need more timezones? Heck, yes! Are they gonna get em’? Probably not.

But we aren’t China, we don’t need to find unity in diversity when it comes to time, political landscapes have changed throughout and telling me that the sun will rise in Calcutta an hour earlier than it will rise in Bombay is pretty darn’ stupid, because it not only affects the economics (which will actually get better if we have two+ timezones, specially in the North-Eastern region of India) but it also affects sleep cycles and health of an individual and their work-ethic, people work best in sunlight. It’s a known fact, do we really need the state to tell us what time is the right time for our bodies? Probably not.

Yes, we will miss a few flights and yes we will screw up some meetings but in the long run, we need a definitive of two timezones. Let’s take a look at the United States, a country which expands at around 4,800 kilometres from the east to the west and follows like 999 timezones + DST. You want to talk about great economies of scale not following different timezones, again?

Let’s go back to Bagan Time for a bit, Kapil Sibal in 2014 actually had a suggestion to divide India into different timezones, obviously that was shot down by the parliament, but since the worst affected region out of all this one-timezone problem is the Northeast of India, it makes sense for them to hate the IST with a vengeance, and they do. Again, yes, people critique timezones, get over it.

Bagan Time, or Garden Time, made sure the British could get their workers to be the most productive, however now, even when the sun still rises in NorthEast at around IST 04:00-05:00 during certain seasons, offices and schools don’t open until 08:00-10:30, which means they just wasted at-least 3 hours of daylight, for absolutely no reason.

People there are done with their breakfasts at 06:00 and ready but they can’t do anything about it because the state has been dictated to follow the IST. Since 2014 the resurgence in wanting their own different timezone in the NorthEast region of India has come about, to be honest some of them are even ok with the UTC+0:30 suggestion of the 2007 report by the 3 smart dudes. In 2016, there was talk of the state ministry taking this up with the central government, however obviously nothing has happened yet. But I will be one of the most happiest people when they do in fact stop wasting electricity, man hours and thus not getting the best possible outcome economically speaking from a region.

So what are people saying now? Well some say we need 3 timezones not just 2! East, Central and West. East starting the earliest, Central starting second and the West starting the last. We need those timezones because we want to maximise output (Here is me, disproving the BS regarding how it’ll hamper economics if we switch to multiple timezones by using just one term ‘maximising output’)

We need our timezones because that is how the humans are supposed to function, our reliability on time, has become more than a reference tool, it has become a sort of calculator, which is bad because that is not what is supposed to happen, our bodies are not meant to adjust to time, the time is supposed to adjust to us.

There is a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt that trains will crash and flights will crash and people will die when and if India does switch to a different timezones by “notable and respected” scientists, who clearly need to paint their faces orange to be recognised. We are moving towards a “Digital India” and if we can’t manage different timezones, well then, shame on us.

We really need a couple of timezones, and we will get them, one day, because progress is linked to time and time is just a reference point for us, humans and it should be suitable to us, humans and not just have a political or any other kind of an agenda behind it.

The idea is simple, hire the best experts of the field, who understand the intricate details of planning this, because yes, it is difficult to implement and get people on board, the illiteracy, the tardiness, the laziness of our people need to be checked before something so important as time is messed with. Maybe have an open perspective? Maybe for once the British were right? Maybe we may need to understand the benefits of switching to different timezones? Saving electricity is obviously just one of them, read the report by the three dudes (See Reference #1) and try understanding it and that maybe UNITY IN DIVERSITY does not necessarily mean unity in timezones, maybe?

References:

  1. Three Dudes & Their 2007 PDF Report
  2. Separate Time Zones Across India Will Increase our Productivity
  3. Indian Standard Time
  4. Assam moves an hour ahead of IST, revives time-zone debate
  5. One India, two time zones
  6. Did you know Bombay followed three time standards all at once in the past?
  7. Northeast Wants Its Own Time Zone. Will Assam’s New Government Help?
  8. One Country, Two Timezones
 
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