Letter to the Editor : Something good comes out of even worst things – Varghese Pamplani

 

The above article in the light of Coronavavirus by Shri Varghese Pamplanil was very timely and in the fitness of things. 

In this connection, I would like to share snippets of my perspective on the issue.

Many a time bad events / experiences in our lives open up new opportunities.  They also teach us life-changing lessons.

The dreaded Coronavirus, which the United Nations has declared a worldwide pandemic, has opened up for India at least two distinct opportunities:


(1) To spread Online Education

(2) To go in for Digital Economy

 

Because of the virus' potential to wreak untold havoc, the Government of India has issued Health Advisory to the states and the union territories to shut down the educational institutions in our country as a pre-emptive and temporary measure.  This has impacted completion of the curriculum and can be achieved by on-line education. Students can easily make up the theoretical portion for missed classes, if their institutions offer them on-line facilities. Even many practical classes can be done online through videography.

Presentation High School, a private all-girls school in California USA, where the doors will shut for the immediate future, the teachers are taking all of their classes online. Students will attend video classes using school-provided equipment, keeping their same schedule and completing all their assignments and tests online.  Even dance classes will continue in videochat. “They’ll be dancing in their bedrooms,” said Katherine Georgiev, the school’s principal.

As schools around the Bay Area rushed to shut down, forcing hundreds of thousands of students to stay home for weeks, the region is poised to experience a huge explosion in online learning.

For the schools offering online classes, the shutdown poses a huge test for the burgeoning online education industry.

However, “No one should have the delusion that this is going to be a full substitute for in-person schooling,” said Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, a popular free online teaching platform based in Mountain View. “But this is the moment that online education has to step up to the plate.”

Many Indian students, who went to study medicine in China and have been forced to come back, are doing their course on-line from their homes. I know of one such case in Dhapa, Tangra, Kolkata.

Even in the medical field on-line diagnosis and treatment can be done and this process is on the rise.

Regarding going in for Digital Economy, hard currency is one of the biggest carriers of disease. Coronavirus gives governments an opportunity to go digital to a greater extent. Digital economy will reduce the enormous expenses incurred on import of speciality paper for printing of notes. It will also drastically reduce the overall expenses on the currency mints.

India prints 15 billion pieces of currency annually, of which up to 12 billion are printed on foreign-made paper. The paper used for the currency is cotton-based, and has the advantage that it cannot be easily replicated, yet has the touch and feel of paper. The ink, on the other hand, is imported from a Swiss company SICPA which supplies most countries with ink for printing currency.

At present, besides the paper and the ink, even the printing machines are imported. While the paper is imported after floating global tenders from countries such as Germany and England, the printing machines are imported from Japan and Switzerland. Import costs of paper, ink and printing machines account for about 80% of the cost of printing the notes in India.

Coronavirus has given us an opportunity to explore ways and means of import substitution and `Made-in-India’ slogan more meaningful, especially by enhanced printing of currency notes in our country and reducing the import cost.

It has been a great eye-opener about the shortcomings and frailties of globalisation, in particular busting the myth of Super Powers. The tumbling of the arrogant Chinese super power on its face, is a case in point.

Amidst the pall of economic downturn virtually on all fronts and bloodbath on the share market, the only sector which looks promising and will be on a steady growth path, is Education, both off-line and online.  For, this is one sector which does not come under `conspicuous consumption' category. It is something our citizens both rich and poor, cannot do without.

Coronavirus is also teaching us a hard lesson on understanding who our true friends and fair weather friends are.

 

  Isaac Gomes

PS: Even the dreaded Islamic State terrorist group is scared of the Coronavirus and is steering clear of Europe which has now become the epicenter of the virus! Having previously urged its supporters to attack European cities, the group is now advising members to "stay away from the land of the epidemic" lest they become infected. So even their staunch faith in Allah has hit rock bottom. (Source: The Telegraph Calcutta 16.03.2020)

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