Wednesday, 6 November 2013

India – Space OR Backspace?

So, we finally launched the much awaited vehicle to Mars and became just the fourth nation in the world to do so. Well played ISRO, well played.

Image Courtesy: Google Images.

But as is usual in India, not everyone is happy about this achievement, among them being social activists, environmentalists and even some former scientists. They place forth several arguments as to why India’s mission to Mars was a waste of time and money. The first argument they make is that the primary aim of the mission is to search for traces of methane gas  on the red planet but the “Mangalyaan” supposedly carries no instruments that can substantially make sure if that is the case or not.

If true, I wonder how is it possible that rocket scientists, sending a multi-million dollar spacecraft to another planet forgot to put the most important piece of equipment on board.

The second argument they make is that with the amount of poverty and disease and illiteracy and unemployment in India, how could the government waste millions of dollars sending a rocket to a planet that has been deemed dead, devoid of life? Why not use that money for the development of rural areas and irrigation and poverty alleviation?

First of all, isn't there money already allocated to all departments according to necessity in the general budget of the country? Doesn't the nation have enough number of schemes to feed the poor and for disease research and development of roads and canals? How can these two things even be linked? And however, every year the amount of money being caught in scams around the country is probably ten to twenty times the amount spent on this particular mission. And secondly, as a matter of fact, only 0.34% of the country’s GDP is allocated to ISRO and out of that, this mission must have cost only another fraction, so this argument seems completely baseless.

The third argument was regarding the use of science to benefit the people of the country and not attempt to show off India’s prowess to the world.

This can be quite a tricky question but there is an answer for this too. Today, India wants to be a superpower, it desires to be included in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) but for that to happen, India first has to flex its muscles to show what it can achieve. It’s bad enough that it is not doing anything about its irritating neighbours, but by launching a Mars mission before China, India has proved a point and it has indeed raised its reputation in the matter of space technology development and application in the world.

So, it is up to the people to think how a Mars mission, while making no difference to the common man, still makes an impact on how the common man’s nation is looked upon by the world community.