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India’s Lunar Ambitions: Exploring the Moon
I must admit that it caught me by surprise. “It” being the news that India had just landed a space craft on the surface of the moon. So, my news feed was telling me that an Indian space craft named Chandrayaan-3 had just landed safely near the moon’s South Pole. Since we are in the hottest days of August, I was certain it was not an April Fool’s joke, but might it be some sort of improbable Fake News? But apparently not. There were the headlines, and there was the actual grainy black and white and grey footage of said space craft approaching the lunar surface. So maybe there was some truth in it after all. If someone were to find it strange that I was not aware of this newsworthy item, then we need to consider that there will also have been millions of Indian citizens who were equally unaware of it. It is possible to say this with assurance because even as the subcontinent has now succeeded in putting this space craft on the moon, many villages in rural India still lack electricity. So, while I can watch footage of the lunar landing, some in India do not even have access to a television. But even leaving aside the luxury of watching television, these people don’t even have any power to turn on an electric light. But then it even gets worse. Even if they had a light, it would not help them so very much because there are more than 281 million people in India who are illiterate. This is sad to relate well into the 21st. Century, but then the Indian government obviously has its priorities, and we can observe that the supply of basic services to rural areas has not been one of them. For example, there was an online discussion where the following social and living problems of ordinary Indian citizens were discussed. This was in the context of a contrast with all the money being spent on the space programme. While no one was saying that science was not important, one of the correspondents was adamant that as a priority, more resources needed to be put into the many problem areas in the town where she lived. And we should emphasise that on this occasion she was not from a remote rural community, but rather from a large built-up area in a town.