Parliamentary sub-panel gives its nod to draft bill

Kathmandu, January 6

A sub-committee of the Parliamentary Education and Health Committee today endorsed the draft National Medical Education Bill with majority despite opposition from Nepali Congress lawmakers, who said the bill failed to accommodate agreements reached with Dr Govinda KC.

The government has signed a nine-point agreement with medical education reformist Dr KC, but some of the key points have been left out of the draft such as inclusion of Mathema Commission’s name in the preamble. Instead, the draft refers to commissions and committees formed by the government at different times.

The draft doesn’t allow opening of new medical colleges as per the recommendation of the proposed high-level Medical Education Commission led by the prime minister. However, it has provisions to allow institutions outside Kathmandu valley that have already acquired letters of intent and built necessary infrastructure to operate.

The agreement reached with Dr KC calls for phasing out short-term CTEVT courses within five years after the enactment of the bill. However, the draft bill states that a decision on this issue, including phasing out and/or upgrading certain CTEVT courses, will be taken as per the recommendation of a task force formed to study the matter.

Ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Chief Whip Dev Gurung had registered the agreement with Dr KC in the Parliament four months ago to accommodate the pact in the draft bill “as it is”.

After the sub-panel decided to pass the draft bill on the basis of majority, three Nepali Congress lawmakers decided to write a note of dissent.

Speaking in the sub-committee meeting, Minister of Education, Science and Technology Giriraj Mani Pokhrel said the government was positive about Dr KC’s demand regarding the preamble of the draft bill. “The government has agreed on this, but I don’t know about legal terminologies. The law ministry will finalise it,” he said.

NCP lawmaker Khaga Raj Adhikari claimed the bill was more progressive than what Dr KC wanted.

The draft bill states that the medical education sector should gradually turn non-profitable after 10 years, and could also come under the ownership of the government if the institutions wanted. But Pokhrel said it would not be easy for the government to run all the medical institutions. “Theoretically, the government wants to run medical institutions itself, but it is not economically viable,” he said.

NCP lawmakers said those who had already acquired letters of intent and built infrastructure to open medical institutions outside the valley should not be barred from doing so.

“If they are barred, huge investments will be at risk,” said NCP lawmaker Yogesh Bhattarai.

“On top of that, Dr KC is not against opening medical college outside the valley.”

However, NC lawmaker Gagan Thapa said the sub-committee should have incorporated the pact with Dr KC in toto.

“The government has signed an agreement with Dr KC and it should honour it,” he said.

The sub-panel will present the draft to the full panel tomorrow.

“The full committee will table the draft in the Parliament after sorting out contentious issues,” said Bhattarai.