Medical education bill withdrawn

Kathmandu, July 1

The government today withdrew the Medical Education Ordinance Replacement Bill from the Parliament after the main opposition Nepali Congress opposed the contents of the bill and the government’s move to suspend the parliamentary regulation to table the bill.

Following the NC’s protest, the House was initially suspended for half-an-hour and for the rest of the day later after the NC and the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) failed to reach consensus. In a meeting held after the first suspension of the House, the NC and the NCP (NCP) agreed to draft a new medical education bill on the basis of consensus, but they are still at odds over its contents.

A replacement bill for an ordinance should be endorsed by the Parliament within 60 days of the first House meeting, and the deadline for the medical education bill expires on Wednesday, after which it will be nullified automatically.

Which means the old law will come into force after Wednesday until a new bill is endorsed, according to a high-level political source. The ordinance was issued by the previous government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba to address Dr Govinda KC’s struggle for the first time. The same ordinance, after it expired, was endorsed by the incumbent government on April 26.

The government had registered the replacement bill yesterday and had planned to table it in the Parliament today by suspending the parliamentary regulations.

As per the regular business schedule of the House of Representatives for today, NCP Chief Whip Dev Gurung was supposed to present the proposal on suspending parliamentary regulations supported by Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal lawmaker Uma Shankar Argariya. After which, Minister for Education, Science and Technology Giriraj Mani Pokharel was scheduled to table the bill. However, it could not happen following the NC’s disagreement which led to the suspension of the House meeting until 11:00 am tomorrow.

NC leader Gagan Thapa, criticising the contents of the bill, said the move to table the bill by suspending regulation was wrong, and warned that the party would not allow the House to convene unless the bill was revised. “The bill promotes the private sector in education rather than the government,” Thapa, who is also former health minister, told mediapersons after the House meeting. In the bill that was supposed to be tabled today, the government has removed a provision (which was there in the ordinance) that bars opening new medical education institution in Kathmandu valley for the next 10 years. But, the new bill is vague on the issue.

As per the ordinance, a hospital should run in full phase for at least three years to acquire the status of medical education institution, a university cannot issue affiliation to more than five such institutions, and 75 per cent of the total students of a public education institution should get a full fee waiver. Also, if the quota for foreign students is not fulfilled, Nepali students should be allowed to enrol.

However, some of these provisions have been removed, while others are vague. The new bill has removed the provision whereby a representative of the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training will be a member of the Medical Education Commission. After the withdrawal of the bill from the Parliament, the education ministry said the overall education sector reform initiative, being undertaken on the basis of the ordinance, would be obstructed.

Holding a press meet Minister Pokharel said in line with the ordinance, work related to enforcing integrated entry exam, seat number determination, integrated education calendar, the course of study, the national board of medical specialities programme and accreditation, under the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli-led commission for monitoring medical education, had already begun.

Meanwhile, the NC has allowed suspension of the regulation for tabling the replacement bill on an ordinance related to transitional justice act. The bill will be tabled tomorrow.