Poverty and Education are two issues that India is struggling with for decades. Many reasons have been listed for causing these problems in the country, including overpopulation, lack of awareness, gender inequality, corruption, and many more. However, new research suggests that a single time zone in the entire country also plays a role in contributing to these issues.
The distance between the westernmost point and the easternmost point in India is 2933 kilometres. This distance is more than the distance between some countries. For example, the distance between London, UK and Kiev, Ukraine is 2133 kilometres. However, the two cities are two time zones apart, but the whole of India follows the same time zone, despite the difference in the sunrise and sunset time.
According to a paper authored by Maulik Jagnani, a PhD in Applied Economics and Management candidate at Cornell University, a single time zone in India costs the country billions of dollars each year and robs the children of the chance at a proper education. The argument presented in the paper, states that children in the country wake up for school roughly around the same time every day. However, they sleep later at places where sunsets later. This is why the children in western India get less sleep which is then reflected in performance in education and eventually on reduced wages than in eastern India.
For each hour later that the sun sets in a given location relative to the second part of India, a child living in that first location will get 30 minutes less sleep. A child who lives somewhere where the sun sets at 7 pm, for example, will, on average, get 30 minutes less sleep than a child who lives somewhere where the sun sets at 6 pm.
Like always, the poorest children and families suffer the most, with “low socioeconomic status” households least able to assert a hard bedtime in regions with later sunsets. Children of these families may lose an extra seven minutes per night compared to other children living in the same part of India. This might be because it’s just harder for them to practice good sleep hygiene practices such as separate, indoor beds; mosquito nets; window shades; or adequate nutrition.
According to a rough calculation by the author, India might incur “annual human capital gains of over $4.2 billion” by introducing one more time zone. It will also give a better chance to the country’s poorest children to gain a proper education.
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