Mahendra Kanwar


Mahendra Kunwar is the founder of the Himalayan Action Research Centre (HARC) which is an autonomous voluntary development organization, that aims to help the mountain people by working for their holistic, integrated and sustainable development based on the indigenous knowledge, cultural values, and local resources. It was established in 1988. HARC has been serving the cause of people-centered, people-managed, people-controlled and people-owned development process.


Dr. Tolia had been truly dedicated towards the well being of the people of the mountains. What is your opinion of him? What did he do differently?

Unlike other officers, who come into the sector for selfish reasons, Dr. Tolia instituted his journey as a servant of the government with an altruistic intention. He never hesitated from appreciating the good work of people who truly deserved
it. I had known him since 1991 and thus, cannot recall all my experiences with him. However, there is one thing that I will certainly remember of him forever and that is a sagacious comment which he once made that “If you enjoy your work, every day is a Sunday”. These are a couple of wise words by Dr. Tolia which will continue to stay with me always. Besides this, we all remember him as a brilliant man for all the commendable ventures he had selflessly undertaken.

Kindly share with us a little about the HARC. Where did the idea to develop this organisation come from?

I had made an important observation on my first encounter with the circumstances of the mountains that all these places that are located in geographically complex regions have a population that is scattered. It, hence, becomes quite challenging to execute developmental activities in these regions. I, thus, decided to apply the algorithm that I learnt from my teachers and parents while growing up that it is best to let one keep doing what s/he is good at to expect the best results. We constituted this organisation to ensure the working of the villagers en massé as artists who knew their art best. Our main focus was to provide the villagers with all the amenities that could allow them to become better in their respective fields rather than dislocating the already scattered troops to developed areas.

We have encountered several arguments on migration over time. We would like to know your take on that?

There are two reasons, I believe, that are responsible for the growing migration from the remote areas. First, that we have not planned our cities well enough and not created a population scale that could restrict the number of the residents of a city to a certain digit and thus, prevent further entries. We do not have any boundary that may mark the segregation of a city from a village. When villages can have a certain perimeter contouring their space, why not cities? Second, we have plenty of schools but not adequate job opportunities for the students who are going to one day pass out from the former. We have hospitals but not enough doctors to treat patients. What was the need to invest in these amenities when we do not have trained people to cater to the final needs?

Is it safe to pronounce social entrepreneurship a suitable career for the youngsters of today?

Today’s time is very different from the time that we had taken up social entrepreneurship. That was the time when people were not even aware of this social practice. Whereas today, social entrepreneurship has become a part of the education system. Students are exposed to this term way before they even need to know about it. I believe that it is a reasonable career option as the potential entrepreneurs of today are trained well enough to face the social challenges more convincingly hence, yielding better results.

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