Calling Dr Govinda KC’s demands “impractical”, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has directed Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmakers to strongly defend the government’s stance that not all of the fasting surgeon’s concerns can be addressed.
PM Oli’s statement comes at a time when Dr KC, the crusader for reforms in the country’s medical education sector, has been staging a hunger strike in Jumla for the last ten days. Doctors looking after him say he is “not in a condition to speak”.
Some of Dr KC’s demands are that new medical colleges should not be established in Kathmandu Valley for the next 10 years and that a single university cannot give affiliation to more than five medical colleges. Addressing a meeting of the NCP Parliamentary Party here on Monday, PM Oli said it was impractical to block new medical colleges for 10 years in the Valley, according to PM Oli’s secretariat.
“We must first study how many colleges are necessary for a particular discipline. Then only can we determine the [number of] affiliations,” Oli was quoted as saying. He clarified that the Medical Education Bill was registered in Parliament in line with the government’s annual policies and programmes.
“We cannot stop hospitals that have built the infrastructure necessary for running a medical college and force Nepalis to go abroad to pursue medical degrees,” the PM said. Also the leader of the NCP Parliamentary Party, Oli accused the opposition Nepali Congress of looking for issues to attack the government.
“Having sent someone to Jumla for a hunger strike, some people are shouting at the streets of Kathmandu,” PM Oli said, in a veiled reference to NC members.
Meanwhile, referring to the surrender of Chhabilal Poudel, the main accused in the 2004 murder of Krishna Prasad Adhikari of Fujel, Gorkha, the prime minister said the remaining issues of the peace process would also be concluded soon.
Oli, fasting doc may talk on phone today
Prime Mini-ster KP Sharma Oli, who maintains a tough stance against the indefinite hunger strike of Dr Govinda KC, sent a message on Monday that he was willing to discuss issues with the agitating orthopaedic surgeon.
Nepal Medical Association Chairman Mukti Ram Shrestha said officials at the prime minister’s secretariat had informed him about the PM’s willingness to talk to Dr KC over telephone.
As the health condition of Dr KC deteriorated further on the 10th day of his hunger strike on Monday, one of the PM’s advisors said that Oli may talk to the campaigner on the phone on Tuesday.
Kundan Aryal, press advisor to the prime minister, however said Oli will talk to Dr KC only when he returns to Kathmandu by ending his hunger strike. “The PM is ready to talk to Dr KC about the quality of medical education but he is adamant on the issue of affiliation [to medical colleges],” said Aryal. Dr KC’s aide Kishor KC said the professor would end his protest only when his demands are addressed. Dr KC has refused to take essential medicines despite complications in his health condition. He has only been taking oxygen supplement and saline water.
Protest debated in House
The House of Representatives on Monday made Dr Govinda KC’s indefinite hunger strike the proposal of urgent public importance with the opposition pressing the government to hear his concerns. Dr KC is on a civic disobedience demanding a health education Act in line with the recommendations of the commission led by Kedar Bhakta Mathema, a former vice-chancellor of the Tribhuvan University.
The Mathema panel had suggested imposing a 10-year moratorium on new medical schools in Kathmandu Valley and requiring such schools to have a hospital operational for at least three years for running medical courses.
An ordinance that addressed these concerns expired on July 4. The government has registered a health education bill altering several of the provisions. Dr KC and the Nepali Congress read the move as a ploy to grant affiliations to the medical colleges run by members of the ruling party.
Opposing the move, NC lawmakers Dilendra Prasad Badu, Azhar Kamal Musalman and Parvati DC Chaudhary registered the proposal on Friday and had demanded discussion on it the same day. The proposal concerned issues related to the agitation of Dr KC, who has been on an indefinite hunger strike since Saturday in Jumla, and discussion of the Medical Education Bill.
The ruling party’s reluctance to discuss the matter prompted the NC to obstruct the House. The NC agreed to allow the House business after Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara promised discussion on the proposal. Presenting the proposal for discussion, Badu argued that Dr KC’s demands were genuine and that the government was trying to commercialise medical education to serve the interest of a few people. Some 15 lawmakers from different parties argued on the issue.
“I ask Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to give up his arrogance of two-thirds majority and address the genuine concerns of Dr KC,” said NC lawmaker Gagan Thapa. Other Congress MPs also slammed the government for not paying heed to the fasting surgeon’s worsening health condition.
Members of Parliament from the ruling party claimed that the NC, which did not address Dr KC’s concerns while in power, was doing politics in his name now. They charged the Congress with starting privatisation of the medical sector and leaving it unregulated.
“It’s a shame that the NC, which signed the highest number of agreements with Dr KC, is blaming us without doing anything about it,” said NCP lawmaker Khaga Raj Adhikari. “Dr KC has resorted to an illegitimate tactic by dictating his wishes to Parliament.”
Minister for Education, Science and Technology Giriraj Mani Pokharel stressed that the House should find a meeting point on the Health Education Act. He claimed that the bill envisions a powerful commission, as suggested by the Mathema commission, which could suggest on medical college affiliation.