Mahabir Pun (pictured above) used to pen love letters during his school days. Now he rewrites a verse from Bhupi Sherchan’s poem: ‘A country can’t move ahead unless some men die for their motherland.’
Now, Nepalis from around the world are helping to make telecommunication expert Mahabir Pun’s dream of a donation-based National Innovation Centre.
“Sacrificing life for one’s country isn’t relevant anymore. We need donations for development, not martyrdom,” says Pun.
After waiting three years for the government’s help to build National Innovation Centre (NIC) in 2013, he has now turned to the people for donation and is happy with the response it’s getting. “Let’s not talk about the government anymore. With the help of the people, the innovation centre will start working from this year.”
With the target of collecting Rs 500 million to build the centre, he started the donation campaign five and a half months ago but also faces challenge of producing 10MW hydropower to supply energy to the centre.
There are hundreds of experts working at the Ministry of Science and Technology, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, Nepal Agriculture Research Council and universities which were formed solely to work in the field of innovation and carry out scientific studies. So why do we need another similar organisation?
“The government has neither provided fund nor motivation for scientific innovation,” replied Pun who chairs the centre’s executive committee. “Scientists are being treated as civil servants with 10-5 office hours. That is also why we need innovation centre.”
An innovation centre is crucial to employ the human resource within the country for its technological advancement, Pun says, a country will not prosper unless the field of science and technology isn’t developed.
According to the World Bank, developed countries spend 2-4 per cent of their GDP for scientific innovation and technological advancement and developing countries expend at least 2 per cent.”We have been asking government to separate at least one per cent but no one listens,” Pun adds.
Registered as non-profit organisation, the centre’s executive committee also includes economist Rameshwor Khanal, hydropower expert Dambar Nepali, scientists Parmod Dhakal and Dinesh Bhuju and chartered accountant Hari Silwal. The centre aims to help Nepali researchers in product development to advance the country’s economic development.
The centre’s temporary office is at the Nepal Connection Café in Thamel and 20 out of 700 internationally well-placed Nepali scientists are involved.
The donation campaign for the innovation centre was the most challenging task in life for Pun, who himself is the recipient of the Magsaysay Award for his work in proving wireless internet in remote areas of Nepal.
“I had never asked anyone for money in my entire life but for the innovation centre, I couldn’t do without asking for donation,” said Pun.
In five and half months since the donation campaign, Rs 50 million has been collected from Nepalis around the world who have given amounts from Rs 100 to Rs 5.7 million each. Pun himself donated 27 ropanis of his ancestral land located in Pokhara worth Rs 30 million.
Pun hasn’t been able to invest as much of his time for the campaign as he has been working to connect Gorkha and other areas destroyed in the earthquake with wireless internet but is planning to tour the country in two weeks for the donation campaign.
Under the campaign, Nepalis in Nepal and outside the country can donate at least Rs 50 and $50 respectively. Eservice has agreed to transfer the money without commission and Deerwalk Foundation will add as much money donated through gofundme.com.
The 10 MW hydropower necessary to run the centre has been estimated to cost Rs 1.5 million of which 70 per cent will be a loan. The project which is said to take 5 years to complete will make an annual income of Rs 330 million. Pun also has an alternative model of Public Private Partnership (PPP), in which case 70 per cent of the shares will be owned by the centre.
Said Pun:“The innovation centre won’t be centralised in Kathmandu, we will expand its operation to all the provinces according to the need.”
Bacchu BK in Himal Khabarpatrika 12-18 February
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