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UK Politicians Criticize Aid to India, Call it ‘Sponsorship for Moon Launch’

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The United Kingdom government’s foreign aid worth £98 million to India has evoked fury among some English lawmakers, who are questioning the rationale behind the money granted to a country that’s getting ready for its second moon mission costing almost the same amount.

British lawmakers opposing the UK aid say that despite abject poverty and adverse health situations in India, the country is donating more than it receives in terms of foreign aid, which shows that it does not really require the help. Highlighting this contradiction, David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth, has termed UK’s aid as “sponsorship” for India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission.

“The Indians don’t want or need our money. In effect we are sponsoring an Indian Moon launch,” David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth, wrote in an article published by Express.co.uk.

Neither of the governments has said that the aid will be used in India’s lunar mission, but Davies has criticized the move, citing the paucity of money required for British social schemes. India’s ambitious second lunar mission, planned for January next year, carries a budget is of around Rs 800 crore (£97 million). Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also said in his Independence Day speech on Aug.15 that India will send a manned flight into space by 2022.

Other British politicians have also spoken against the £52 million to be transferred by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) to India this year. An additional £46 million will be transferred in 2019-20 as part of a controversial foreign aid budget which now costs £13.4 billion a year, according to the publication.

Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, West Yorkshire, also raised the same concern, saying that the UK government is spending money in a country that is self-reliant enough to get its own space program and also giving foreign aid to other countries.

“To be honest, the government needs looking at if its thinks that is an appropriate way of spending taxpayers’ money. It needs to get out of Whitehall and appreciate the public is not just sick and tired of this but angry too. It is completely unjustifiable and truly idiotic,” he said to Express.

Andrew Bridgen, Tory MP for North West Leicestershire, said: “It’s difficult to explain to the taxpayer that we are sending aid to a country that can afford its own space program. It’s a difficult sell in North-west Leicestershire or any constituency when the money involved is comparable.”

The planned aid of £98 million to India would help to “stimulate prosperity, generate jobs, develop skills and open up new markets for both countries,” the report cited the Department for International Development as saying.

“DFID ended traditional aid to India in 2015. The UK now provides the country with world-leading expertise and private investment which boost prosperity, create jobs and open up markets, while generating a return for the UK at the same time,” a DFID spokesperson was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times.

“This is firmly in our interests. Not a penny of British taxpayers’ aid money has gone on India’s space program.”

Britain’s foreign aid budget was £13.9 billion in 2017, which was £555 million more than the budget of the previous year, according to Sky News. This was in line with the legal commitment to invest 0.7 percent of GDP on foreign aid.