With over 1.2 billion inhabitants, India is a densely populated country, and with such a rich history, it’s no surprise that India is full of contradictions and complexities.

We are very often asked why we work in India, given that it’s a country that can afford a space programme. We are passionate and confident about our reasons for choosing to focus our philanthropy in India, which is why we have written a succinct post that outlines our main arguments.

For a more in-depth exploration of this question, please read our previous article on this subject.


India’s Disproportionate Distribution of Wealth


  • Despite the fact that India has a large economy, their GDP is $264 trillion, their market-driven growth has not resulted in any significant reductions in poverty.
  • Although India’s economy is the 7th largest economy by GDP, it is still home to a third of the world’s poor. In fact, there are more impoverished people living in eight Indian states than there are in 26 of the poorest African countries combined.
  • The disparity between the highest earners and those living in poverty is immense, and economic growth is not improving this situation; instead, the disparity is widening.
  • Focusing on the wealth of the whole country distorts the reality of the situation of the 450 million people living in poverty in India.

How can India Justify Funding a Space Programme?


  • India currently spends only 0.09% of their annual GDP on ISRO.
  • The main goals of the ISRO are to provide accurate weather reports, to enable natural disaster warnings and to increase the availability of online education in remote areas.
  • Recently, the ISRO predicted a fierce cyclone that hit India’s east coast. A cyclone with a similar strength hit the very same spot in 1999 and killed over 10,000 people.
  • The eradication of poverty and the social development of a country are not mutually exclusive; they are two varying forms of social progress that will inevitably run alongside each other.


Comparisons of Economic Development in the UK and India


When we talk about foreign aid in India, we must consider the historical contexts that have led to both India’s and the UK’s current climate. This involves recognising the UK’s past actions when faced with high levels of poverty and disease, as well as considering the UK’s role in India’s changing economic history.

  • Between 1760 and 1840, millions of working-class Britons lived in overcrowded slums. As a result of poor sanitation and water contamination, the spread of fatal diseases was rife. These horrific conditions were widespread during a time when the United Kingdom was experiencing its greatest period of growth and economic development.
  • The Indian economy suffered greatly at the hands of the British Empire. At the beginning of the 18th century, India’s economy accounted for 23% of global wealth, but by the time British colonists left India, the Indian economy had collapsed dramatically to only 3%. 


The True Purpose of Aid


  • Aid should not be measured solely in monetary terms.
  • Good aid programmes can make humane existence possible for millions who have been denied it. NGOs work in places where they can truly make a difference to the lives of individual people by breaking cycles of poverty.
  • Who could suggest that the millions of people living in poverty in India are in a less desperate situation than those living in a country that is, overall, a poorer country?
  • India has immense potential for social transformation; it could achieve a 3000% increase in its current GDP if it attained the average labour productivity level of America.

Sanitation First places great value in working alongside the millions of people whose lives are worlds away from India’s extravagance and riches. We hope that this blog post has dispelled many of the common misconceptions and illusions about foreign aid in India.





Action aid. India. Available from: https://www.actionaid.org.uk/about-us/where-we-work/india?src=ppc&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIkNHD5r7A1wIVh5PtCh2wBgV_EAAYASAAEgJz-PD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

BBC, 2015. Viewpoint: Britain must pay reparations to India. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-33618621

Bidwai, P., 2012. Why India Needs Aid. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/feb/07/why-india-needs-aid

Bunting, M., 2011. Is India Ready to Refuse UK aid? Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/jan/10/uk-aid-india

Challa, K. K., 2013. ‘In Defence of Mangalyaan: Why even developing countries like India need Space Research Programmes’, Science Simplified. Available from: http://kkartlab.in/group/some-science/forum/topics/in-defence-of-mangalyaan-why-even-developing-countries-like-india

New Internationalist. World Development book case study: Does India Need aid? Available from: https://newint.org/books/reference/world-development/case-studies/india-need-foreign-development-aid/

Oxfam, 2011. Does India need aid and if so, what kind? Available from: https://oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/does-india-need-aid-and-if-so-what-kind/

Oxford Union, 2015. Dr Shashi Tharoor MP – Britain Does Owe Reparations. [Online] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7CW7S0zxv4

Sumner, A., 2011. India, Aid and Peanuts. Available from: http://www.globaldashboard.org/2011/01/06/aid-india-and-peanuts/

The Economist, 2013. How can Poor Countries afford Space Programmes?  Available from: https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/11/economist-explains-0

Tharoor, S., 2017. Inglorious Empire, What the British did to India. London: Hurst Publishers

Viswanathan, B., 2014 ‘Why is India not focused on eradicating poverty and instead spends money on space research and defence expansion?’, Quora. Available from: https://www.quora.com/Poverty/Why-is-India-not-focused-on-eradicating-poverty-and-instead-spends-money-on-space-research-and-defence-expansion/answer/Balaji-Viswanathan-2?share=1&srid=tcna

VOA News, 2010. Study: More Poor People in India than in 26 African Countries. [online] Available at: https://www.voanews.com/a/more-poor-people-in-india-than-in-26-african-countries-98420149/166026.html




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