Respect Public Interests
The endorsement of the Medical Education Bill by the Education and Health Committee of the Legislature Parliament discarding the demands of Dr. Govinda KC, a relentless civic activist who has been putting his life in peril for ensuring equitable access to health services and medical education for the ordinary citizens, has invited severe criticism among the public. While there is no doubt that parliamentary supremacy is the pillar of democratic governance, it is equally important for the lawmakers not to make any policy decisions that adversely affect the public welfare.
Ignoring the sentiment of the earlier agreement reached with the present government, the committee’s decision has dashed the hope of the general public aspiring to see successful implementation of the accord reached between the government and Dr. KC during the end of the 15th hunger strike. This has not only posed question over the state’s credibility and accountability but also worsened its eroding image. With the consistent betrayal from the state, the agenda of medical education reform has remained in limbo.
The 9-point agreement signed in June last year explicitly states that no medical college will be established in Kathmandu for the next ten years. Furthermore, it bars any university from providing affiliation to more than five medical colleges. However, the recent bill includes a provision to grant affiliation to medical colleges outside the valley which have already obtained the Letter of Intent. Although lawmakers from NC dissented, the bill was adopted by majority lawmakers from NCP in the committee. While the House of Representative has every right to review the bill, it is highly unlikely that the parliamentarians of NCP who command a strong majority will even bother about this matter.
Undermining the importance of a medical commission, the current bill has included the provision of establishing medical university. Needless to say, the commission was one of the top priorities in the list of the demands for medical reform. Although scrapping CTEVT within five years was also agreed, the bill authorises the government to keep this institution as long as it requires. With the decision of the health ministry not to recruit anyone with Intermediate degree now onwards, the relevance of CTEVT has already become questionable. Yet, the desire to maintain this institution hints at some malafide intentions on the part of the policymakers.
It is really unfortunate that the political discussions have hovered around the interest of a handful of private hospital owners instead of the common man. Strong business lobby has emerged victorious leaving the agreement in tatters. Although health and education are the major priorities of the state in socialist countries, the case is different in the context of Nepal which the constitution defines as a socialism oriented nation. While the lip service of providing affordable education and health service to all Nepalis is in full swing, the actions are just the opposite.
With a relentless doctor available to stand up for the public cause of medical education reform, the state has taken things for granted. Worse, various allegations have been made against Dr. KC in the past for being the agent of some invisible force and creating a chaotic situation. Nevertheless, the unflinching commitment of the doctor to remove the medical maladies is unparalleled. Amid a distressing situation, the 16th round of hunger strike has begun against the political establishment that continues to ink the deal only to breach it time and again. Some additional demands have also been added in the doctor’s list this time- the most prominent one being the investigation of Nirmala’s rape and murder and putting the criminals behind bar.
The posture of the government in this case has exposed some bitter realities. First, the government seems to have taken the doctor’s strike as a ritual that needs no immediate response. Second, there is a sheer reluctance to make groundbreaking decision for the transformation of medical education. At a time when the government has been reiterating that it is committed to work relentlessly for national prosperity, the recent decision of the committee dominated by the PM party’s leaders ignites no hope. The political establishment seems to be in a constant pressure to protect the petty interests of a business class at the cost of the public welfare.
Third, the government is creating a lot of confusions among the people by breaking its promise. It is undesirable on the part of the government to not abide by its earlier vow. If the government couldn’t implement the demands, why did it make pledge to the same few months back?
The government still has the opportunity to restore its fading glory by sticking to the consented document and revise the medical bill in the larger public interest. If the government stays firm in overhauling the existing medical education system that has created a huge gap between the children of the rich and the poor family in the spirit of the June agreement, it will definitely receive accolades from the ordinary citizens.