To the moon

I didn’t think that I would be writing about India’s mission to the moon because – though it is impressive, and regardless of how uncaring you try to be, being in India, such an event is a welcome relief from the shit that politicians keep coming up with day in and day out; further, even those television channels that keep spinning horror stories around the Aurora Borealis and the Large Hadron Collider took a break from such nonsensical programming – it does not make any practical sense. Remote sensing, weather, DTH, communications, telemedicine – these ventures were practical ones and ISRO even managed to earn money from its programs. But, in my opinion, the moon mission is more about “see? we can do it too” than anything else. Maybe I am wrong, and ISRO being one of the few public sector ventures (the Konkan Railway and the Delhi Metro being two others) where the money forcibly extracted from the taxpayer is being plowed back into schemes that actually benefit him in some round about way, I might just give it the benefit of the doubt.

I am writing about it because of articles like this, and comments on such articles. Its a known phenomenon – attacking people who are trying to do something because they are doing it. Its happened with the Nano before, although that was a private venture; and regarding India’s defense expenditure; and about nuclear power. The reasons given are – India is a poor country where people live in abject poverty, so money should be spent on poverty alleviation instead of on defense, and space exploration etc. etc. About the Nano, they called it the “people’s polluter”. I don’t dispute the critics. But the question is this – is India the only country with poor people? Are there no poor people in America or Britain? Then shouldn’t the same principle apply to them? Rhetorical questions all.

There is criticism and there is “hitting out”. What we keep experiencing time and again is “hitting out”. And that is something I don’t appreciate at all. India is not a laissez-faire economy. Hopefully, it will become one some time in the future and such ventures will be handled by private enterprises. But till that time, while we have to keep criticizing big government and its bloated schemes – billions of dollars disappearing into some void, we should also give credit where it is due. ISRO deserves it in spite of their “Helium 3” argument.

I don’t agree with him entirely, but a commentator on the article I have linked to above says what I am trying to say-

As a scientist I find the tone of the article and the discussion rather mean-spirited. Is there any reason why a human mind cannot transcend difficulties and it’s supposedly wretched condition? No one has, for example, asked why Newton invented calculus during the plague epidemic when living conditions for most people in Europe and England were appalling. Should we be glad that he invented the calculus? Or would it have been better if he had spent time shoveling manure?

There is progress being made on all fronts in India. Not as quickly nor as efficiently. But there is progress. There is every reason to criticize India’s failings but there is just as much reason to celebrate a triumph. Let them celebrate this one because it requires precision engineering and rather good science to send a satellite to the moon. It fires the imagination of every Indian child, rich or poor. It has a multiplier effect that cannot be measured in dollars.

If you are a British national you should think about those who are unable to pay for medical care. Many Britons travel to India to receive treatment, including major surgeries. Indians can ask the same question, why subsidize health care for a rich country? But they don’t.

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