Mahabir Pun (pictured) used to pen love letters during his school days. He remembers a stanza from Bhupi Sherchan’s famous poem: ‘A country can’t move ahead unless some are willing to 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 (NIC) come true.
“Sacrificing life for one’s country isn’t relevant anymore. We need donations for development, not martyrdom,” says Pun.
After waiting three years for government help to build the NIC, he has now turned to the public for donations and is happy with the response. “Let’s not talk about the government anymore. With the help of the people, the innovation centre will start working from this year.”
He started the donation campaign nearly six months ago with a target of raising Rs 500 million. He also wants to build a 10MW hydropower plant to supply energy to the centre as well as sell power to the grid for its long-term sustainability.
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?
Pun’s reply: “We need an innovation centre because scientists are being treated as civil servants with 10-5 office hours. A country will not prosper unless it invests in science and technology.”
Registered as a 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’s temporary office is at the Nepal Connection Café in Thamel and 20 of 700 internationally-placed Nepali scientists are involved. 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, Nepalis in Nepal and outside the country can donate at least Rs 50 and $50 respectively. He has also put up all the medals he has been awarded for sale online.
The 10 MW hydropower project will take 5 years to complete, and will make an annual income of Rs 330 million. Pun also has an alternative model of Public Private Partnership (PPP), in which 70 per cent of the shares will be owned by the Centre.