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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 47, November 9, 2013

Mars Mission, Modi’s Manoeuvres

Tuesday 12 November 2013, by SC


It is yet another feather in the cap of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The successful launch of Mangalayaan—the country’s first probe mission to Mars—made every Indian proud. The ‘blast off’ from the first launch pad in Sriharikota on November 5 afternoon and the subsequent injection by PSLV-C25 of the Mars orbiter spacecraft into an Earth orbit resulted in India’s first Mars mission being pronounced a success. If all goes well and Mangalayaan is able to eventually reach Mars, India would become the first Asian nation to make it to the red planet and explore the Martian surface with the five instruments being carried by the 1350 kg craft.

As The Times of India has aptly pointed out,

There’s no denying the Mangalyaan launch exemplifies a creative blend of Indian scientific ingenuity and frugal engineering. That the launch was achieved within 15 months of government approval and on a shoestring budget of just Rs 450 crores bears testimony to the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO’s) ambition. It’s noteworthy that the Mars probe had to be launched using a modified PSLV launch vehicle instead of the highperforming GSLV rocket, which is yet to achieve a reliable launch record. This is not ideal. But it will highlight ISRO’s ability to make do with available technology if the mission succeeds.

In the midst of the murky goings-on around us with rival parties engaged in continuous mudslinging at each other in this election season as never before, the success of the ISRO brings a whiff of fresh air. Warm compliments to our space scientists who have once again given us an opportunity to highlight India’s standing as a scientific and technological power.

Meanwhile, as Narendra Modi goes on his ‘Operation PM’ campaign in the coming State Assembly elections slamming the Congress with singleminded determination and drawing response from sizeable sections of the public, and Congress leaders, notably Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, seek to blast the BJP propaganda while concentrating fire on Modi, something note-worthy has happened. In order to woo the minorities, particularly Muslims, Modi has stopped (temporarily one would imagine and as a tactical move) spouting Hindutva slogans and started relying on his ‘development agenda’. More importantly, he is resorting to symbolic gestures like free distribution of skull caps and burqas to the Muslims attending his public meetings as was witnessed in Jaipur and Bhopal recently. Will this gamble pay off?

As noted scholar Christophe Jaffrelot observes, either he (Modi) tries to woo the Muslim voters and risk losing some Hindu supporters, or “he follows the polarisation strategy to its logical conclusion”. The latter course, needless to underscore, poses a grave danger to our unity, our cohesion, our nationhood, not to speak of our composite culture.

November 8 S.C.

To mark N.C.’s birth centenary (November 3, 1913-November 3, 2013) two events took place in the Capital. On November 2, a panel discussion was organised by the Editors Guild of India and Nikhil Chakravartty Memorial Foundation in collaboration with the India International Centre on “Nikhil Chakravartty’s Journalism and Media Scene Today”. Eminent journalists participated in it. On November 4-5, a two-day conference on “Media Engagements in Contemporary World” was held under the aegis of the Centre for Media Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Editors Guild of India and Nikhil Chakravartty Memorial Foundation in collaboration with the India International Centre. Two distinguished Pakistani participants were to attend the conference but could not do so due to unavoidable reasons. They sent the following article and message which were read out at the meet. Prominent public figure of Bangladesh Dr Kamal Hossain, the former Foreign Minister of that country, however, participated in the conference alongwith a well-known a media personality, Badrul Ahsan, the Executive Editor of Daily Star (Dhaka), Dr Hossain’s paper, that he presented at the conference, is being published here after the contributions from Pakistan.

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