Mahabir Pun begins protest demanding government priority for innovationPun submitted a list of demands to the prime minister before launching his agitation.
Mahabir Pun, chairman of the National Innovation Centre, has started an agitation demanding that the government give priority to innovation and research in the country so as to create jobs and boost entrepreneurship in Nepal.
A day before he started his protest at Maitighar on Friday, Pun, who is a 2007 Magsaysay Award winner, had requested through his Facebook account to all interested participants to take part in the sit-in with him. He had also asked participants to bring along their innovations to demonstrate them to the public.
On Friday, a number of youths joined Pun in the protest at Maitighar Mandala and marched up to New Baneshwar, where they converged into a sit-in.
As Pun requested, many participants arrived there holding different banners and placards that read ‘social movement and sit-in for the promotion of research, innovation and startups’, ‘let youths participate in innovation,’ and ‘do not discourage new entrepreneurs’. Some participants also questioned the government’s intent.
For those who could not take part in Friday’s protest, Pun, through social media, appealed to them to fill an online form to show their solidarity with the protest.
In his brief conversation with the Post from the protest site, Pun said he had met leaders and top officials, including Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, and nearly half a dozen ministers in order to convince them to promote innovation in the country.
“I met many leaders ranging from the prime minister to the finance minister, and home minister, to the industry minister, but they just said they were positive about my demands,” said Pun. This compelled him to take to the streets.
Assurances and words of appreciation by the leaders didn’t satisfy Pun, who was given the Ramon Magsaysay Award for connecting villages of Myagdi district through wireless technology. He introduced e-learning and telemedicine in areas where there were no telephone services.
Although Pun has raised 11 demands with the government, he said he prioritises only four. First, he wants the federal and provincial governments to allocate one percent of their annual development budget to support talented and creative Nepalis involved in research, and the money should be made available for research work to be completed in a multi-year programme.
His second demand is about letting new entrepreneurs do research, and the government should give permission for licence, grants and easy loans required to start an enterprise and make policies for promoting indigenous products, through 'New Entrepreneur Development Committee”.
Pun has also called for the Parliament to formulate a “research, innovation, and innovation promotion and purchase law” to meet the needs of a multi-year programme.
Pun’s fourth demand with the government is to establish an ‘Applied Research and Innovation Department’ under the Ministry of Science to promote applied research with priority on private research centres, non-profit research centres and universities.
Asked how long his protest would continue, Pun said: “We won’t stop until our demands are met.”
At the end of Friday’s protest, using his social media account, Pun requested supporters to continue the protest even at night. “We will sleep on the streets, those who want to join should come along with a quilt, mattress and blankets,” read Pun's post.
Reacting to his statement posted on social media, many have expressed their willingness to support him. Author and civil society activist Sanjeev Uprety is one of them. “Let's support this civil movement led by Mahabir ji. Let's promote innovation and research within Nepal,” Uprety wrote on Twitter. A few, however, remain sceptical of Pun's success.
Uprety, who also is a leading member of Brihat Nagarik Andolan, an alliance formed by civil society members and people from various walks of life, said the alliance has decided to lend its full support to Pun.
“We have a very bad culture here. Our government gives priority to importing things but does not promote production and innovation in the country,” Uprety told the Post. “It does not give licence to those who want to manufacture vehicles within the country, nor does it promote other kinds of innovations.”
Uprety added: “We fully support Pun’s drive as such leadership helps democracy to take root.”