Prime Minister Narendra Modi while applauding our scientists on the success of the ‘Mars Orbitor Mission’ (MOM) remarked, “Hollywood movie gravity costs more than our space mission.” What NASAs Maven could achieve, we did it in a tenth of its cost. Its heartening to see the success of Mangalyaan reflect in all the sections of our society via social media. This certainly reiterates the promising potential of India to become a global superpower, albeit a soft one. On this historic occasion one must really try to understand, what Mangalyaan means to the aam aadami of India?
ISRO, launching MOM last year sparked many controversies. Jean Dreze, prominent economist and supporter of NREGA termed it as, “a part of the Indian elites delusional quest for superpower status.”
London questioned its wisdom of sending 280 million pounds of British aid to India every year. With 40% of India’s Children malnourished and more than half of Indian population defecating in the open, fingers were pointed at this 450 core mission. One cannot help but wonder what exactly did we achieve today?
Near stagnant state of our agriculture along with absence of modern industries marred the gloom economic scenario on the eve of independence. It was in the pioneering scientific temper of Jawaharlal Nehru that soon India embarked on its path of growth and development. One must appreciate the fact that ‘developing scientific temper’ is listed among the fundamental duties of Indian citizens which are seldom known to many of us today. As a result, premier Indian Institute’s of Technology (IIT) were established to nurture this dream. Green revolution came to the aid of our farmers enabling us to become self reliant in food grain production. This was followed by the glorious example of White revolution. Heavy industries served as the base for our further growth and expansion. Technological developments in the health sector enabled us to fight against small pox and polio resulting into their total eradication. Indian generic drug makers have earned themselves a name for innovation and low cost medicines to the poor’s across the globe. IT revolution has made India, ‘back office of the world.’ It was to the initial efforts of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, Satish Dhavan and consistent passion by subsequent generation that we could achieve this milestone in space sciences and technology today.
What Mangalyaan means to an ordinary citizen need to be seen in a broader context. Technology is said to be a pre-requisite for a culture to transform into a civilization. One amongst the few longest surviving civilization in the world, we need to turn technology into a key to the future of prosperous India. Centuries of exclusion and backwardness of the rural and tribal areas need to be addressed through long distance education and heath care initiatives. With concerns of increasing population biotechnology must be the solution to concerns of food security. Technological advancement and job creation must go hand in hand to realize the gains of demographic dividend. More climate smart technologies and mitigation approaches will make this place a better world for future generations. At the same time technology is no panacea. Concerns over undesirable use of nuclear technology, chemical and biological weapons keeps everyone restless. Every new invention has its pros and cons.
Finally it is our humanistic spirit that must guide us to strive for a better tomorrow. More inclusive and sustainable use of technology must be the way forward.
Assistant Commandant at Sashastra Seema Bal – SSB