Illusion of leaders about Dr KC
A file photo of Dr Govinda KC (Setopati files/Narayan Maharjan)
The fast unto death of Dr Govinda KC is into the 16th day today. He has been on a fast unto death for over 100 days on 11 occasions for reforms in medical education and access of the common Nepalis to health service.
The gist of his demands is simple. Students should get to study medicine on the basis of qualification. The government should determine the fee the qualified students should pay to study medicine, and medical colleges should be stopped from charging higher. Private medical colleges should have adequate qualified teachers and requisite physical infrastructure. Such medical colleges should have enough patients to train the students.
Quality of medical education, in other words, should be better to ensure that the common Nepalis get good treatment. The patients should never be nervous about how good the doctors are when they are fighting for their life. They should have full confidence in the doctors if they need to have their body operated upon.
There is also another side to Dr KC's demands. All the medical colleges have been established in and around Kathmandu Valley and other big cities with a primary motive of profit after privatization of medical education. Impoverished Nepalis from far-flung and remote areas have been deprived of quality health service. Opening of new medical colleges in the Valley and the major cities, therefore, should be stopped now. Opening of medical colleges in the regions where they are needed should be encouraged, and the government itself should open one in each province.
Any rational Nepali, with no vested interest in medical education, can and has been saying that Dr KC's demands are reasonable and must be fulfilled.
But why do the leaders, who have been elected to formulate laws, do not understand or pretend to not understand that? Why does Dr KC have to fast on 11 occasions?
The answer to these questions is also equally simple. Leaders of some of the parties themselves are involved in the profiteering business of medical education. Other promoters of these medical colleges have direct access to the bedroom of top leaders because they have made monetary investment on politics and political parties in the past. The leaders know that their money will be needed even in the future. Dr KC's demands and the bill registered at the parliament for reform of medical education have been stuck precisely due to that.
Let us now look at how interest of the top leaders of the three major parties is connected to this. CPN-UML is the party with the largest interest in this profiteering business. Manmohan Memorial Institute of Health Sciences has been opened in Kathmandu with direct investment of many lawmakers, and over 2,000 leaders and cadres of the party.
This is a private and profit-oriented institution. Manmohan Adhikari led a simple and clean life, did politics in the name of impoverished and voiceless people, and did clean politics of integrity for establishment of an egalitarian society. Opening a profit-oriented institution in his name posthumously and without his prior consent is an immoral act in itself. It is baffling that no leader and cadre have any reservation about that.
We don't believe Adhikari would have agreed to open a profit-oriented hospital in his name if UML leaders and cadres had asked him when he was alive. Rajendra Pandey can open such hospital in his own name, and can even open in the name of KP Oli or Madhav Nepal if they give permission. But to open such a profit-oriented hospital in the name of a deceased communist leader is an unpardonable crime.
The interest of UML leaders in Manmohan Hospital has been a huge obstacle to reform of medical education today. The interest of UML leaders and cadres in medical colleges is growing in the past few months.
Promoter of National Medical College of Birgunj Basaruddin Ansari has recently joined UML from CPN (Maoist Center). UML has already proposed him as mayoral candidate from Birgunj. He bought an under-construction apartment complex in Ghattekulo, Kathmandu and has been trying to turn it into a medical college for a few years.
Maoist Center had the burden of getting that dream realized until recently. Maoist Center Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal had inaugurated the hospital without any doctor and patient a few years back. It does not have any patient or doctor, or even adequate physical infrastructure even now. But Ansari has not yet given up on that dream of opening a medical college.
The burden of that dream is now on UML's shoulders.
That does not mean that Maoist Center no longer has any interest attached to medical colleges. The party is trying its utmost to give permission to B&C Hospital opened in Birtamode, Jhapa to operate a medical college. Dahal had issued written instruction to the Kathmandu University and Nepal Medical Council to provide affiliation to the hospital to operate a medical college when he was prime minister despite the written agreement of the government with Dr KC to not provide affiliation for any medical college before the new Medical Education Act comes into force.
Promoter of B&C Durga Prasai is close to Dahal. Locals say he attained prosperity during the period of Maoist insurgency.
Nepali Congress (NC) is also not unstained. Promoters of medical colleges have close relation with NC leaders. Suresh Kumar Kanoudiya, who was given the mayoral ticket for Nepalgunj, is promoter of Nepalgunj Medical College.
Promoter of Universal Medical College of Bhairahawa Khuma Aryal was in the NC list for proportional representation (PR) electoral system for the first Constituent Assembly. The party was forced to remove around half a dozen businessmen including Aryal from the list following widespread condemnation of the effort to make them CA member by taking money. The name of Aryal, who had already paid donation to the party, was also removed from the list.
The doors of a few leaders of some groups in NC are always open to promoters of Nobel Medical College of Biratnagar or Chitwan Medical College. These leaders always speak for those promoters.
An ugly picture of how top leaders of the major parties are still in favor of the profiteering promoters of medical college when Dr KC is into his 11th fast unto death was once again evident last Sunday.
PM Sher Bahadur Deuba had called a meeting of top leaders of the major parties to discuss about how to address Dr KC's demands. The practice of PMs trying to show inclination to end Dr KC's fast due to fear of the stigma that may come if Dr KC were to suffer any untoward eventuality during their premiership is not new.
UML Chairman Oli did not just speak of Dr KC's fast in a demeaning manner that day but also spoke against the agreement the government had signed with Dr KC when he was PM. Oli government had submitted the currently stuck bill about medical education to the parliament after the eighth fast unto death of Dr KC. The decision about Bir Hospital buying Manmohan Hospital and operating it was also taken during his reign.
But Oli fumed against those agreements during the Sunday's meeting. "Can anyone who refuses to sell one's property be forced to sell? Can parliamentary supremacy be undermined if any individual fasts?" he fulminated.
Manmohan Memorial Institute of Health Sciences is free to sell or not sell its property. Nobody has stopped it even from operating the hospital. There are many hospitals in the Kathmandu Valley--Norvic Hospital B&B Hospital and Om Hospital to name a few--that are operated without a medical college. Manmohan Hospital can be operated similarly. But UML cannot insist to be allowed to operate a medical college in Kathmandu.
Dr KC's health is getting critical even as the leaders remain hostage to their vested interest.
We are with Dr KC in this fight because his demands are focused on easy access of common Nepalis to quality health service, and end of irregularities in the medical sector. He has been continuously waging a selfless and devoted war against that. Reform of medical education sector would not even have been on the table, and profiteers would have been ruling the roost if not for him.
The leaders may be in illusion that they represent the health-related interest of common Nepalis as elected representatives. That illusion of Oli was reflected in the meeting on Sunday.
We don't feel that the general people are also in such an illusion. The leaders have not left any room for the people to have such illusion. The leaders continue to fly abroad when they or any member of their family fall ill on the one hand while they are reluctant to fulfill the demands of Dr KC who is in his 11th fast unto death on the other.
The people also compare the life style of Dr KC and the leaders. Dr KC's life is totally dedicated to the people who have to go to government hospitals for treatment, and patients from far-flung and remote places. He can either be found treating patients at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH) or at some remote places or places hit by natural disasters. He is unmarried and does not own any house.
Do the people not understand that there can be no other interest of this benevolent doctor than the health of common Nepalis? Do they not know the marriage of the leaders' interest with that of the profiteering businessmen? We do not think the common people are in any doubt that Dr KC represents the interest to safeguard the health of commoners and not the leaders.
As far as the practical aspects of Dr KC's demands or the issues included in the bill about medical education are concerned, they can be discussed. The high level commission led by Kedar Bhakta Mathema for reform of medical education, and the commission led by Dr Bhagawan Koirala to draft the bill for medical education have put the issue in writing.
The discussion can move forward on the basis of those reports, and practical solution can be sought. The leaders who seem to have illusion that the issue of reform can be overshadowed with relentless vilification of Dr KC may have to pay dearly for that illusion. The leaders, therefore, must resolve the issue to make sure that KC does not have to start the 12th fast unto death before it is too late.