By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC
Every experience in life has three sides — that is the good, the bad and the ugly and the Coronavirus is no exception. Well, one can ask what is the good side of a virus like Corona?
Let us take China where thousands have been self-quarantined by the State. A Chinese Pastor wrote to his brother in Istanbul the following: The air is getting fresher, the haze is gone. The sun is getting brighter and the sky blue. There are less and less people on the roads. Very few cars on the roads and so traffic snarls is history. Family lives are getting better, warmer, cordial and people’s hearts have become more and more calm.
People who have not read for years have picked up books at home. Parents and children who had no communications with each other, couples who did not talk to each other for years have opened up the conversation box. Children have understood the importance of the so-called boring home food, the effort the home-maker puts in to make clean wholesome food day in and day out.
Last but not the least the realisation that nature is supreme and can put us in our place whenever it decides to do so. People have started to realise that there is so much more to life than just work, work and work.
It is true that nature does give this jolt once in a while. Of course, man will find a solution for this virus too in a short time and this virus too will become history. But in a year’s time another form of virus will come which will again make us go back to the drawing board.
It is also a fact that those who are on a self-quarantine, are realising the importance of so-called boring home food. Whenever my wife used to clean the spinach and other leafy vegetables 3 to 4 times, I used to wonder and sometime chide her too on this.
But now I have realised the importance of this extreme form of hygiene, routinely practiced at home. Every time I came from an outing she would insist that I wash my hands with soap. And I have skipped it many times but on hearing the importance of this simple cleaning method over and over again in the TV with all the top doctors recommending it, I have realised how important this simple cleaning technique is.
With nothing else to do and bored of the TV, I have started to read, a habit which I had discarded for some time. The only hope is that these habits continue even after the virus is gone.
Let us now come to the bad side of the virus. All the countries including the worst affected China, South Korea, Italy, US etc., will have to rework their budgets. No one really knows how many months this virus will continue and its effect on the economy. The worst hit is tourism industry and its subsidiary like the airlines and hotels. Even after the virus is finally gone, the fear factor will keep many a potential tourist at home. Business, medical and religious tourism will start early but leisure tourism will take a hit for some time to come.
Thankfully, India is not that much dependent on foreign tourists and have domestic tourists to fall back on. Comparatively, Coronavirus attack on India has been limited so far and it is expected that it will pass over fast. But since India is dependent mainly on European tourists from France, Italy and UK to a large extent forming the bulk, the foreign tourist inflow will be severely affected not only for this year, but for the next year too.
The hotel and airline industry will offer very attractive discounts and rebates to get in the domestic tourists to start travel all over again. But how many industries survive, how many perish, how many are not able to repay the loans, become a basket npa case etc. All these will come to the fore only after the virus is gone and the economy starts limping back to revive itself.
Now let us come to the ugly side of the virus:
A mask sold in Mumbai for 2,000 rupees !
Spurious hand gels sold in the market.
The greed of a man to make a fast buck on somebody’s misery is loathsome.
Rumour-mongering is another disease one has to be careful of. Recently two youngsters have been arrested for putting a fake news of Corona on the net.
WhatsApp and other social media are a double edged sword. They are useful but some elements use this media to spread fear and mistrust.
Recently some rumours were floated informing the public that eating non-vegetarian food increased the chances of Coronavirus. Lo, what happened. The prices of poultry crashed causing heavy damage to the industry as a whole. And add to it the Bird Flu now.
However much the Government of the day put up laws to deal with such elements, it is the self-discipline of the persons which can control this ugly side.
To conclude, every crisis has a good, bad and ugly side. It is important that we learn from every crisis, highlight the good, learn from the bad and move on.