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Whose achievements? Whose ’Purusharth’?: critique of the appropriation of Indian labor and science involved in the Indian Mars Mission by Narendra Modi

by Amit Singh, 25 September 2014

print version of this article print version - 25 September 2014

This is indeed a great achievement of the whole Indian science establishment. But Mr Modi did not miss this chance and converted the whole thing into a show of cheap nationalism. He kept invoking the ’purusharth’ (manhood), presumably, of male scientists when his 2 inches wide eyes could have easily seen a large contingent of women scientists showing some big fingers to all the patriarchs. Instead Mr Modi, like sadakchaap (road loafer) self-help gurus who find immense pleasures in throwing a barrage of acronyms upon you and keep themselves busy in crass analogies, apparently helped the mummyji (MOM) of Mars to meet her daughter! He even compared the young scientists to men of army and all scientists to mythological rishis. They are neither of the two. The knowledge structure of the mythological rishis, whose historical analogues were the priests of the Indo-Aryan and the autochthonous tribes, was developed in a manner to take pride in their tribes and to be afraid of educating the people of lower strata. The modern education should be free of all these biases and the job of the modern science should be to tell truth to the power, as Norbert Weiner started saying lately in his remarkable career. It is another matter that in reality modern education and science have not performed satisfactorily on any of these scores. Moreover, Mr Modi should have realized that the success of the mission imparts a message of inculcating more scientific notions among the general populace, and this cannot happen without an end to the RSS-VHP-Bajrang Dal type of communal ruffian organizations, and without an end to all their attempts to either falsify history or promote psuedosciences like astrology, vedic maths etc.

Furthermore, where he was supposed to compare the cost of the mission ($83 million) to the cost of the Antilla house (> $1 billion) of one of the richest business tycoons of India, he took rather a cheap shot at the cost of ’Gravity’ film ($113 million). Moreover all these costs reflect the working conditions and wages of the workers. So the cheap mission means heavy exploitation of the Indian workers and many young scientists who work at fractions of the wages prevailing in the western countries. When will they, especially workers, receive the true value of their works? This points towards the hidden variables of the workers exploitation mechanics of the entire Indian labor scene. All the equipments involved in the mission must have come through the work of millions of workers; when will their skills receive the due appreciation in terms of secure jobs and good wages?

And then comes the relevance of this achievement where Mr Modi again failed to draw comparisons. In Pratidwandi (The Adversary), a film by Satyajit Ray, the protagonist is asked to name the most outstanding and significant event of the last decade, to which he replies: "The war in Vietnam Sir". Upon being asked why he thought so when his answer should have been the moon landing, he comes up with this brilliant reply: "Because the moon landing, you see! We weren’t entirely unprepared for the moon landing. We knew it had to come sometime, we knew about the great advancements in the space technology. So we knew it had to happen. I am not saying it was not a remarkable achievement but it was not unpredictable the fact that they did land on moon." A short clip of the interview can be seen here:

This sums up the great achievement of the mission. This is undoubtedly a significant achievement in so far it is used for developing scientific attitude, tackling the human suffering, or for getting involved in anti-imperialism activities. The minute it will be used for mindless wars, faux nationalism and showing aggression to people and other nations, it will turn into a monster. In our times the analogy to the Vietnam war is the attack on Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and the daily stream of attacks on the lives of workers, women and oppressed around the world. And the fact that they are resisting all the time in their own capabilities should be of a greater significance than sending the mummyji to orbit around the Mars.

Job Interview | Pratidwandi (1970) | Bengali Movie Scene | Satyajit Ray
Pratidwandi,is a 1970 Indian Bengali drama film directed by Satyajit Ray based on the novel by Sunil Gangopadhyay. This is a scene from the movie where the protagonist Sidhhartha attends an interview and as it was proceeding smoothly, the interviewers questioned him about the significant event of the then last decade. But Sidhhartha’s answer did not seem satisfying to the interviewers.