Indian project touches lives in Nepal
New Delhi sets aside Nepali Rs 800 mn for the scheme in its annual budget.india Updated: Apr 05, 2006 10:42 IST
At a time when ties between Nepal and India are strained, a development initiative launched by New Delhi in 2003 is reaching remote corners of the Himalayan kingdom, touching the lives of thousands of people and generating immense goodwill.
The government of former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee launched the Small Development Project scheme in 2003 to support education, infrastructure and health projects in Nepal.
New Delhi sets aside Nepali Rs 800 million ($11 million) for the scheme in its annual budget, with the money coming from the taxpayer.
"This economic cooperation between the people of India and Nepal has an 80-90 per cent success rate," says Kheya Bhattacharya, minister for economic cooperation at the Indian embassy in Kathmandu.
"The project has constructed about 50 schools in 27 districts, benefiting 75,000 students."
Under the project, the Shree Mahakaruna Sakyapa Vidyalaya asked for a building in the mountainous northern district of Mustang.
After the building was built, the school started admitting girls, as there was no school for them in the area.
Mustang, once part of an ancient Tibetan kingdom, has few schools and a majority of these are Buddhist monasteries that teach the scriptures.
However, the Mahakaruna Vidyalaya has now applied to the government for permission to teach the standard curriculum followed in schools across Nepal.
It will also get funds from the India-funded scheme to build a hostel for students and quarters for monks and teachers.
When the Small Development Project Scheme started three years ago, there were only four applications.
The next year, there were about 40 applications. This year, the number reached over 500.
Some of the projects have inspired the local community to come up with matching ones.
In Khanar Sunsari in eastern Nepal, when the fund built a school, it galvanised the local authorities and parents -- mostly labourers -- to construct a small health project under the new school by raising money themselves.
In Banke district in midwestern Nepal, the project helped set up the Mahendra Library, a community facility with over 15,000 books that is also a centre of cultural recreation for senior citizens.
The small projects -- 102 of them so far -- have touched the lives of more than 15 percent of Nepal's nearly 27 million people.
The feedback is overwhelming.
Last month, Indian Ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukherjee went to Dhanusha in southern Nepal to inaugurate a primary school built with the fund's help.
There was no proper road. So the children brought little buckets with them and placed them so that the envoy would have a smooth walk on the bumpy track.