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Leading article: India has better uses for its money here on Earth


India's Prime Minister used the 65th anniversary of his country's independence to announce a mission to Mars. Either this is an empty boast that will never come to fruition – in which case it should be dismissed as the sort of cloud-cuckoo self-aggrandising that national days encourage. Or it is a genuine national project – in which case India's government might be strongly advised to look closer to home.

India may bask in the prestige that comes from being the world's biggest democracy with a growth rate to be envied, but it is less than a month since two-thirds of the population were left without power because of a failure of the national grid. Nor will a space programme do much to defuse criticism here of the £1.5bn India receives in UK government aid. If India regards conquering space as more urgent than helping its poorest people, then its priorities are seriously skewed.