Govt’s olive branch fails to appease NC

Kathmandu, January 29

The Cabinet has rolled back its decision to abolish two hospitals named after late leaders of the Nepali Congress in a bid to appease the main opposition which is holding a massive nationwide protest next week to decry government excesses.

Although the NC has welcomed “corrective measures” taken by the government, it has said it will not cancel its protest scheduled for Monday to “pressure the government to admit other past mistakes and correct them”.

“The government has not officially informed us about its decision not to scrap GP Koirala National Centre for Respiratory Diseases in Tanahun and Sushil Koirala Prakhar Cancer Hospital in Banke. If it is true, it is a positive move,” NC Spokesperson Bishow Prakash Sharma told THT.

This decision, however, will not derail the massive protest that the NC is planning to hold in all 77 districts of the country, according to Sharma.

“We are even more emboldened now because the latest decision confirms that the government had made a mistake. This justifies our call for the protest programme,” said Sharma. “The protest scheduled for February 4 will exert additional pressure on the government to acknowledge more of its mistakes and correct them.”

The NC started to openly confront the government after a Cabinet meeting held in the first week of January failed to bring the two hospitals named after the two Koiralas under the purview of the federal government. The same Cabinet meeting, however, had brought nine other hospitals of similar nature under the federal government’s jurisdiction. This Cabinet move, according to health ministry officials, meant the two hospitals named after the Koiralas had been automatically scrapped.

The NC then officially decided to “raise a storm in the Parliament and in the streets” unless the decision was overturned. Since then, NC lawmakers have been obstructing the lower and upper House sessions. But on Friday, the ruling party bulldozed the controversial National Medical Education Bill through the House of Representatives despite NC’s opposition. The NC has since been accusing the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) of exuding arrogance on the back of support extended by two-thirds of lawmakers. It has also accused the House speaker of siding with the ruling party instead of providing space to the opposition to express its views.

“These are also mistakes, which must be corrected,” said Sharma. “Unless all the mistakes are corrected we’ll keep protesting.”

To make amends, the Cabinet yesterday offered an olive branch to the NC by rolling back its decision to scrap the two hospitals named after the Koiralas, a minister, who attended the meeting, told THT.

Immediately after the meeting, Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara talked to Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, NC Chief Whip Balkrishna Khand and Whip Pushpa Bhushal over phone to create favourable environment for conducting House sessions.

“This issue will be discussed during tomorrow’s Business Advisory Committee meeting,” Mahara said, expressing hope that the opposition “would not obstruct the House from now on”.

The two hospitals

  • In April 2010, the Ministry of Health and Population proposed to set up 100-bed GP Koirala National Centre for Respiratory Diseases in Dulegauda, Tanahun. The proposal was approved by the Cabinet in May. Subsequently, the government acquired 700-ropani land to build the hospital. Plans were also afoot to upgrade it to a 300-bed hospital and run medical and nursing college. The Indian government has pledged to extend support to this hospital
  • In February 2017, the Cabinet decided to open Sushil Koirala Prakhar Cancer Hospital in Khajura, Banke. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health and Population Upendra Yadav inaugurated the out-patient department of the hospital in June 2018