British lawmakers are angry with the David Cameron-led government despite it making it clear that their aid is not used to fund India's space programme but is earmarked for specific purposes like tackling child malnutrition, providing malaria bed nets and secondary education for poor girls.
British Members of Parliament raised a hue and cry after India unveiled plans to launch a mission to Mars while receiving 280 million pounds a year in aid from Britain.
The 50 million pound project aims to put an unmanned spacecraft into orbit around the red planet next year.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the ambitious plan in his speech on the occasion of India's 66th Independence Day.
Critics on Monday night demanded an immediate end to British aid for India, which totals 1.6 billion pounds and is scheduled to continue until at least 2015, The Daily Express reports.
Tory MP Philip Davies said, "This is a perfect illustration of why it is absolutely ridiculous for us to be giving nearly 300 million pound a year in aid to India. If they can afford to have some high-tech mission to Mars, they can afford to look after their own people without British taxpayers having to put their hands in their pockets for money they have not got."
Euro MP Paul Nuttall, of the United Kingdom Independence Party, said, "It is utterly galling that our government begs for India to accept hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money in aid."
Anger has been growing since Cameron pledged to continue increasing the overseas aid budget despite cuts to virtually every other department. The British government announced earlier this year that Britain's aid programme to India would cease after 2015.
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said at the time, "I completely understand why people question the aid programme to India and we questioned it ourselves."
A DFID spokesperson said, "British aid is not used to fund India's space programme. Our development aid to India is earmarked for specific purposes like tackling child malnutrition, providing malaria bed nets and secondary education for Dalit girls."
Mitchell personally ensured that the programme was overhauled to reflect India's rising resources, and to ensure that it represents good value for money for the British taxpayers.