An Indian Space Rocket to Mars

In two days from now, on 5th November 2013, when people in the United Kingdom will be sending fireworks and rockets into the evening sky and when millions of Hindus will be treating themselves to fireworks displays, including the sending of rockets into the sky to celebrate the festival of Diwali, the Republic of India will be aiming a rocket at the planet Mars.  So far Russia (when it was part of the Soviet Union) the USA, Japan China and the European Union have all tried to explore Mars with unmanned devices. The USA has been the most successful; its probe is still orbiting Mars.

India is spending far less on its Mars mission than other Mars explorers have spend but is still meeting criticism about having a space programme at all. Some think that with all the problems in India, of poverty, ill health and corruption the Indians must have better things upon which to spend their hard earned taxes. Some point to the large amounts of “aid” that India receives from the world. The UK sends £280 million a year, which India has described a a “peanut” in comparison to the £70 billion a year it spends on development programmes. The UK will stop send “aid” to India in 2015. After all,, the UK points out, there is no UK space programme to explore Mars.

I think that there are two points to make about this “aid” – I have used the inverted commas deliberately. Much of the aid “spent” on India by the UK ends up in the hands of UK companies and enterprises  who supply UK goods and services out the the UK’s aid budget. This is the normal process of foreign aid; the nation that supplies the aid supplies its own manufactured equipment which is bought with the aid, and no doubt no bought at bargain basement prices.

The second point to make about the aid is an issue of justice. A hundred years ago India was part of the British Empire, a state of affairs which lasted until 1947. in 1913 the population of India was merely 300 million souls, including the nations that are now known as Pakistan and Bangladesh. Those 300 millions were controlled and managed by a hundred thousand British. Laws were enacted which sucked any prosperity and value out of the Indian economy and into the British economy. In fact the exploitation of India by the British was thought by some whom are now revered as a crime against humanity.

It certainly was; the colonial administrators lives like princes in palaces, enjoying servants who would relieve them of most of their worldly tasks. They administered justice based on beliefs that are unconscionable. Gandhi wrote “Englishmen will never see the truth as long as they permit their vision to be blinded by arrogant assumption of superiority or ignorant assumptions of infallibility”.

So it is merely just and fitting that the United Kingdom, having benefited from its exploitation of India for more than two hundred years, keeping the Mill owners rich and the mill workers employed, should pay something back, whether it is by means of so called economic aid or by providing a home and some means of economic improvements to a small number of Indians and others from the sub continent who settle in the United Kingdom.

In the historical context, an Indian space rocket to Mars is an interesting development and perhaps a sign that the former colony will soon outgrow and outshine its former colonial master. I wish India well in its space project.