A section of social activists and scientists has questioned the need for India to spend Rs 450 crore on a Mars mission at a time when the country is faced with hunger and poverty.
Global Times, an English tabloid of the state-run People's Daily in China, queered the pitch further. "It (India) is not immune from critics at home and abroad, who wonder whether it's worthy for a country where… one third of the population is plagued by power shortages… to spend millions of dollars…for a few Mars pictures," the daily said on its website.
However, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) chairperson K Radhakrishnan strongly defended the spending, saying the country's space programmes are "people-centric".
The Mars mission, which was hailed by President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a milestone, will cost somewhere between Rs 450-500 crore to the exchequer.
Social activist Harsh Mander, former member of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council, said: "I believe that in a country where 230 million people sleep hungry every night, where basic healthcare, clean water and sanitation facilities are not available… it (the Mars mission) reflects a remarkable indifference to the dignity of the poor."
Former Isro chairman Madhavan Nair has described the mission as 'utter nonsense'. "National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has come out publicly… that there is no trace of life on Mars. There is a limit to fooling the people and fooling the nation," he had said on Monday.
Amitabha Ghosh, India-born scientist with Nasa, also made some critical remarks about the Mars mission.
"It will hardly be a novel accomplishment in the world of technology. Isro need not recreate what has already been done," he wrote in an article.
To the defence
Replying to a query by a foreign mediaperson on whether Isro was in a race with China, Radhakrishnan, said, "We are not in race with anyone. We are in race with ourselves. Isro's satellites are people-centric and application-centric.. I can proudly say space has brought many services to the country…In fact, this (Mars mission) is the right priority."
Senior scientist UR Rao, chairperson of the Governing Council of Physical Research Laboratory, said, "Why are Indians shouting about Rs 450-500 crore spent on this? It certainly is the biggest day for India. Indians do not have difficulty in spending Rs 5,000 crore in Diwali crackers in one day. For going all the way to Mars, just one-tenth of the money is being spent. So, why are they shouting?"
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