New York Times apologizes over India’s Mars Mission cartoon (and Rattan’s Rumble on this aspect)

P_OwRAsBWashington (IANS): The New York Times has apologised after publishing a cartoon on India’s Mars Mission following readers’ complaints that it mocked India.

The cartoon showed a farmer with a cow knocking at the door of a room marked Elite Space Club where two men are reading a newspaper on India’s feat, BBC reported.

The cartoon was carried Sep 28 with an article titled India’s Budget Mission to Mars.

After a “large number of readers” complained about the cartoon, Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor of the New York Times, wrote in a Facebook post: “The intent of the cartoonist, Heng Kim Song, was to highlight how space exploration is no longer the exclusive domain of rich, Western countries.”

“Mr Heng, who is based in Singapore, uses images and text – often in a provocative way – to make observations about international affairs. We apologise to readers who were offended by the choice of images in this cartoon.”

Rosenthal said Heng “was in no way trying to impugn India, its government or its citizens”.

Last month, India successfully put the Mangalyaan robotic probe into orbit around Mars.

The total cost of the Indian mission was put at 4.5 billion rupees (about $74 million), which makes it one of the most inexpensive interplanetary space missions ever.

Only the US, Russia and Europe have previously sent missions to Mars, and India succeeded in its first attempt – an achievement that eluded even the Americans and the Soviets.




In a piece titled “Indians rejoice all around the world as India’s mission to Mars succeeds on its very first attempt” in Rattan’s Rumble last month, I had pointed out:


THERE had been all those lowdown snide remarks from a section of the Western media that has always been known for its racism, blatant or subtle, about a poor country like India spending so much money on space probes when India successfully launched its first mission to Mars.  The cost of the Mars Obiter Mission was reported to be about US$72.9 million.

As I have written in the past, those journalists don’t write about how these Western countries grew so rich by exploiting their colonies and plundering their natural resources – and, in modern times, by controlling international institutions that skew rules and regulations in their favour – or, in the case of the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, of robbing the aboriginals of their lands and subjecting them to such terrible things!

If all this were about poverty, then why don’t countries such as the U.S. spend their space budgets on the poor in their country? There are tens of millions of people in the U.S. who can’t even afford basic health care – or even a decent meal every day, as I have pointed out in the past.

These countries talk of spin-offs from their space projects. That’s cool. So why can’t India have spin-offs, too?

The West has always tried to belittle India because they have not been able to control it as they had hoped when that country got its independence in 1947.

The Associated Press, in its report on the mission last November, noted: “India’s US$1-billion-a-year space program has helped develop satellite, communication and remote sensing technologies that are being used to measure coastal soil erosion, assess the extent of remote flooding and manage forest cover for wildlife sanctuaries. They are giving fishermen real-time data on where to find fish and helping to predict natural disasters such as a cyclone that barrelled into India’s eastern coast last month. Early warning information allowed Indian officials to evacuate nearly a million people from the massive storm’s path.”

India’s progress has given Indians living outside that country a new sense of pride.