There he is. Everytime theres a story about a developing nation spending on something scientific, atleast one guy has to come up with this sameoldsameold bullshit.
There are problems in the developed world too - problems that could use money that the developed world wants to spend on the ISS or the LHC, to name a few "big science" examples. US doesn't even have universal health care for cryin out loud! Why don't they stop all their space funding and use that to provide universal health care first instead?
The idiots who whip out this argument think that powerty alleviation or slum improvements or food assistance programs somehow have to happen in a vacuum - "you must only do this, not that". You try and do many things - there is no "serialization" requirement.
The logic that every last cent of money must somehow be spent first on powerty alleviation before anything else is done is facetious - the same way you can't make a baby gestate fully in 1 months instead of 9 by "throwing" 9 women at the problem, you cannot "fix" the slums by just throwing money at it. Its a complex problem and it takes coherance in funding, social improvements, labor environment changes, etc to slowly feed on one another before the problem is resolved. The USians know that - they tried to fix their problem by throwing money at it in the form of "the projects" - all that was achieved was just a change of geography of the slums.
You really should go google for "tyranny of the O" - heres something to start you off: http://www.well.com/~bbear/collins.html#RTFToC10
I hope you don't "tyrannize" (is that a word? it should be
Oh, and a few nitpicks:
-- No, Half the population DOES NOT live in slums - Half the population does not live in cities even, theres no question of half the population living in slums. You KNOW how much their population IS, don't you? You are possibly thinking of Mumbai - surveys say half the population of Mumbai lives in slums, and it could quite possibly be true given what I have seen of that city, but Mumbai holds only about 1% of Indias population.
-- Majority of the population is functionally illiterate? Where did you get this? You must be thinking of the US
It is said that a major milestone in the development of a human young adults' brain is when he becomes capable of holding two seemingly contradictory thoughts in his head without going all "Angsty" about it.
I counter suggest that its high time you crossed that threshold "Smart Fellow".