Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development
Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
One India and two time zones
It has been a long demand that India should have at least two times zones. The insistence on observing IST vis-à-vis Northeast India’s needs ignores its social and economic impact. Hence there is a need to arrive at a scientifically sound and well-thought out decision keeping all stakeholders in mind.
In a two paragraph order delivered by Chief Justice Ajit Singh, the Gauhati High Court has dismissed a public interest litigation filed by Rita Mozumder seeking a direction from the Central government to notify a separate time zone for the Northeast.
The court cites a high-level committee study, constituted by the Ministry of Science and Technology, thatrecognised the difficulties faced by a single time zone in eastern India but concluded that Indian Standard Time (IST) should nonetheless be retained.
The issues raised by the petition demanded more than a cursory order dismissing the petition given the importance of the issue.
Legislators, activists, industrialists and ordinary citizens from the Northeast have often complained about the effect of IST on their lives, and pursued the issue of having a separate time zone with the Central government, without much success.
Idea of a standard time zone:
The idea of a standard time zone has become so integral to our lives that we often take it for granted and assume it to be a part of natural phenomena.
We tend to forget the complex contestations — including legal ones — that go into its making.
The creation of a time zone signals the victory of time over space with geographical areas being brought under a single time zone rather than relying on local solar time.
It entails a denial of local time — or a separation of time from space — a very significant fact if you consider what it means to the experience of social and economic lives.
In the case of India, the time difference between the westernmost part of India and the easternmost point is approximately two hours, the effect of which is that the sun rises and sets much earlier than it does in the rest of the country.
The journalist, writer and academic Sanjoy Hazarika describes the Northeast as being stuck in “trapped in a time zone that makes neither common sense nor social and economic sense”.
There is a strong case
In the Northeast, the sun rises as early as four in the morning and in winter it sets by four in the evening.
By the time government offices or educational institutions open, many daylight hours are already lost.
In winter this problem gets even more accentuated and the ecological costs are a disaster with much more electricity having to be consumed. Profs. D.P. Sengupta, and Dilip Ahuja of the National Institute of Advanced Studies claim that advancing IST by half an hour would result in saving 2.7 billion units of electricity every year.
None of the other proposals such as the introduction of daylight saving time in India has met with any approval and it is felt that having two time zones would be unsuitable.
There is of course a strong political dimension to granting a separate time zone in the Northeast given the region’s long history of self-determination movements.
The unstated assumption is that the grant of a different time zone is only the first temporal step towards conceding spatial autonomy.
This appears to be a short-sighted perspective.
If socioeconomic development is indeed one of the formulae to combat insurgency, might it not be worthwhile to consider the disastrous impact that IST has on productivity and efficiency in the region?
A few years ago, then Assam Chief Minister TarunGogoi, frustrated with the decision of the Centre not to have a separate Northeast time, unilaterally decided that Assam would follow ChaiBagaan time.
Bagaantime or tea time is a reference to an informal practice followed in tea gardens in Assam which is an hour ahead of IST.
It alerts us to the fact that there is indeed a long history of the application of different time zones in India.
We find evidence of this in the Constituent Assembly debates.
On December 28, 1948, responding to an amendment proposed by Naziruddin Ahmad, Dr. Ambedkar asked him what system of timing he had in mind: “Is it the Greenwich time, the Standard time, Bombay time or Calcutta time?”
Ambedkar’s reference to “Bombay time” and “Calcutta time” reminds us of an interesting aberration in the history of IST.
It was instituted in 1905 but after it had been adopted, Bombay traders found it difficult to convert to IST.
Because the conversion to IST was sought to be effected at a time when there was considerable public resentment over the Tilak sedition trial, the government found little support for this shift among the people in Bombay.
Bombay Time was maintained right up to 1955 with Bombay following its own time zone which was 38 minutes ahead of the rest of the country.
Our use of time
While the court may have been reticent to intervene in what it saw primarily as an executive prerogative, it also passed an opportunity to examine a fascinating dimension of temporal justice that Indian courts have not had an opportunity to address, but other jurisdictions have had to contend with.
Responding to the various objections raised about a separate time zone, journalist, writer and academic Sanjoy Hazarika raises critical questions and asks us to consider why it is that the development index leans considerably in favour of western India as opposed to the east, and what impact differential time may have on it.
This is a question that has a significant impact on the interpretation of ‘life’ in Article 21 of the Constitution.
Even if the Gauhati High Court were unwilling to issue a substantive order, it certainly had the discretion to ask for a study on the legal impact of a single time zone on the fundamental rights of people.
This is perhaps a question that the Law Commission may find worthy of investigating further.
In the meantime, we will have to be content with the tweaking of local orders changing office timings etc.
And, most of east India will continue to feel the vagaries of IST an inconvenience while the further you go to the Northeast, it will be experienced as the caprice of the state.
The idea of two different time zones has not only geographical dimension but a crucial socio=economic dimension to it. Seeing only as a political tool will be narrow and denial of the much important rights of life. North-east especially being an area facing severe stress of development and other deficiencies the government and policy makers should be more open to the idea.
Connecting the dots:
Evaluate the need of establishing two different time zones for India which has been a long time demand. Also elaborate on the socio-economic dimensions associated with the same.
TOPIC:General Studies 3
Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism
‘Lone wolves’ terrorist attacks and countering them
In news: Recently, London battled a ‘terror attack’ near its Parliament which killed five people, including the assailant. It is highly unlikely that 9/11 kind of attacks may now occur and more of ‘lone wolves’ attacks shall have to be encountered by the world.
The London terror attack
This incident was different from a conventional terror strike, but bore similarity to attacks on European cities in recent years, claimed by ISIS.
Britain has one of the best counter-terror police and intelligence agencies in Europe.Since 2005 London bombings, it has remained wildly cautious and foiled 13 terror plots. It also has one of the strictest gun control laws, and its borders, unlike countries in the European Union, are not open.
Still, the Westminster attack shows how a “lone wolf” without any conventional weapons could bring terror even to the most guarded zones.
Identifying the lone wolves
Lone wolf attacks in the United States, Europe, Africa and Asia have been carried out either by an individual or by a couple of terrorists with access to explosives, light weapons and ammunition.
They tend to strike at place associated with their personal frustration, like a school, mall etc. which are reflection of their larger disillusionment or anger with society, which is fuelled by a radical ideology that encourages the use of violence.
If the terror plots are planned by networks that use modern communication systems and amass weapons, the chances of detecting them are higher.But after rise of ISIS, its radicalised followers, mostly youth, stay off the intelligence radar, wait, and use even commonly used public goods as weapons to kill.
IS has anefficient machinery for online radicalisation.Though shutting down online platforms used by terrorists has become a key focus area of security agencies, it isn’t easy given the nature of internet.
Thus preventing online radicalisation and stopping lone-wolf attacks are quite difficult. The intelligence agencies have to continuously keep tab on them potential suspects, and monitor online communications.
Challenges at home
The greatest challenge comes from the increasingly indoctrinated Muslim youth across the world. There seems to be no end to the process of conversion of an innocent mind into a toxic variety in various countries like UK, France, Germany etc.
The considerable traffic to Iraq and Syria to join the IS is reflects the lack of success in keeping the youth, especially Muslims, insulated from poisonous inputs.
It is relevant to India too. No psychiatrist is able to fathom this lure of young minds towards taking up a dubious cause such as that of the IS.
India has had few examples of its citizens being influenced by the extremists ideology.
Those who have returned to their own countries from the IS fold — mainly because of the physical hardship in the battlefields of Syria and Iraq — are reported to be attached to the cause of establishing caliphate where they live.
Thus, intelligence agencies have to always keep track of these returnees and disabling them from indulging in any anti-national act at home.
Challenges to undertake such attacks in India
Access to high-end and automated weaponary is difficult in India as in western nations. Without it, carrying out lone-wolf attack is not suitable.
Indians have not displayed the psychological willingness to undertake high risk attacks. There haven’t been fidayeen attacks taken by Indians in the country. Past attacks have been either by Tamil guerrillas or by Pakistan sponsored terrorism.
Over the time, deployment of private security at high value targets like malls, hotels and schools has been upgraded, which acts as a deterrent to an individual aiming to target them.
The absence of past examples of lone wolf attacks in India inculcates the fear of the unknown in the minds of potential volunteers.
Though many countries, including India and UK have not gone extent of imposing severe travel restrictions to and from some Islamic countries, like Trump administration has, there is a possibility that there may be a rethink on existing regulations with a view to containing terrorism.
However, the question will always remain if such regulations will become the antidote to terrorism.
Constant vigilantism on movement of potential threats should be enhanced by intelligence agencies.
Spread of tolerance, respect of multi-culture and multi-diverse existent has to be propagated to deter any extremist tendencies from creating tensions and panic.
The governments should always be fearless and undeterred to deal with the terror attacks by learning from past incidents and act in a way that makes future attacks more and more difficult, within the limits imposed by available options. Counter terrorism have to be now a cooperative venture for many years to come. Maintaining friendly relations with most countries by India will invite more focus on development and governance issues and cooperation in sharing security concerns pertaining to both states. More and more international cooperation could sharpen the fight against terror.
Connecting the dots:
Do you think conventional terror attacks are a passe? What are the steps to be taken to restrict terrorism activities outside country borders?
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