The first time, the infrared thermometer, in the shape of a pistol was pointed at my head when I visited a bank with a friend in the Juhu area. It was the beginning of March, much before the lockdown was announced. I was rather surprised when the watchman at the entrance used this; I asked him ‘what is this for?’. He simply answered ‘It is for measuring your temperature, if you have a fever you will not be allowed to enter the bank; fortunately my temperature was normal. Looking at the way the situation of scare/fear/paranoid has developed, I will not be surprised if the instructions would be soon changed and the person having a slight fever will be sent straight to the hospital for checking corona! If the fever is detected, COVID-19 also can be one of the many possible reasons though the probability will be low.
These days, if you enter any government or private office, any bank or even some residential buildings, you are checked with this thermometer at the gate before you are let in. I wonder why this practice/event with such a low probability was introduced all over. The medical doctors know that a slight fever is a normal thing to happen due to a number of reasons; after a day or two, the body temperature becomes normal without taking any medicine. If one takes paracetamol, it becomes normal in a few hours. A few days back, the chairman of a neighbouring housing society phoned me that he plans to introduce this system at the two entrance gates of his society; he also inquired if we also have similar plans for our society. I told him that we have no such plans and if and when I have the need to visit his society, I will make sure that I take a paracetamol four hours before my visit. He got furious at me and tried to scare me by giving a lecture, on the consequences for not taking this important and necessary precaution, as if he is the most competent person on the subject. I told him, then he is too late for him to introduce this practice and in my opinion, ‘no one knows what is going to happen’.
On this Coronavirus episode, the decisions, at times contradictory, are being taken by the politicians and bureaucrats on the advice of medical doctors, scientists, statisticians, economists and others. This is the reason we see different circulars and office orders every 2/3 weeks. I am reminded of Feynman, the great scientist and Nobel Prize winner, I quote him—“We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no progress and there is no learning. There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt. People search for certainty. But there is no certainty. People are terrified — how can you live and not know? It is not odd at all. You only think you know, as a matter of fact most of your actions are based on incomplete knowledge and you really don’t know what it is all about, or what the purpose of the world is, or know a great deal of other things. It is possible to live and not know.” Surprisingly, all the experts in various fields became the COVID experts and now they have become the defence and warfare experts and have suddenly acquired the ability to decide about the ban of products from China.
I come back to these thermometers which are being used all over the country; the number by this time must be in tens of lacs. These are imported from China; recently some companies have started assembling these in India, with imported components from China. In addition to a large number of domestic/consumable products, this thermometer is one of the many products being imported from China on a large scale; the others include electronic components and instruments, computer hardware and peripherals, electrical goods, machinery, chemicals and pharmaceutical ingredients, automobile components and parts, plastics etc. This has happened in the past few decades under every government; the total value of the import from China is in billions of dollars. The reason is economics and the easy way out. Economics–because Chinese products are much cheaper than the ones from Europe, USA or from any other developed nation. The easy way out–if one can buy cheap in the international market, why to take the trouble and the effort to make in India; in the present global scenario, this is the definition of Atma Nirbhar, not only for India but for other nations too. If there is a denial regime, and the country is denied the purchase, like in the case of the Departments of Atomic Energy, Defence and Space, the country has to put in all the effort, time and money to achieve the goal, maybe a blessing in disguise. In China, the system is different, maybe due to different political system; the first one or two, equipment, machinery or instrument is imported and the team is formed and given the task of reverse engineering, mass production and supply to other countries at a cheaper rate.
In the past few days, a lot of ‘Hulla Gulla’ is being made in the media to ban Chinese products. On the TV, we see the burning of Chinese products. I even heard an audio clip from a retired Major asking all his colony residents, to throw away all Chinese products being used by them and take a pledge not to use these again; he also requests shopkeepers to stop selling Chinese products and put up the board that Chinese goods are banned; he also adds that this is the way to break the Chinese backbone economically, finally requesting his audio to be made viral. I also read, Quote “The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which represents 7 crore traders and 40,000 trade associations, has announced a boycott of 3,000 Chinese products” Unquote. Of course, all these products are consumer goods, toys, festive goods, fabrics, textiles, stationery, paper, food items, electrical, electronics, builder hardware etc. for which Indian substitutes and alternatives are easily available and Indian customers will also not mind because all those things are already made in India. Of course, they will have to pay a higher price; it will be further enhanced by the business community by adding opportunity cost. Even for the industrial capital goods and intermediate products, similar comments are being read and heard; it is easier said than done; ensuring uninterrupted alternate supplies may not be a feasible option.
Finally, I come back again to the infrared thermometer. It seems this thermometer and the mask is going to stay in the system for a very long time to come, though with a very small reduction in the probability of catching COVID 19, whose probability itself is low. This has created a major detrimental effect on our society. Earlier, if anyone used to have a cough, cold, fever, he/she would stay at a distance from relatives and friends and apologised for not coming nearer to avoid passing on the infection, this our norm Now, it is the reverse, if anyone has any such symptoms, the others run away to avoid catching the infection, selfish and non-sympathetic attitude has developed.