Talks between government, Dr KC’s team break down

We will sit for talks only if the govt assures us to incorporate what we recommended in the medical education bill - Dr KC’s representatives

Kathmandu, July 25

Representatives of Dr Govinda KC walked out of talks today after the government refused to make amendments to the National Medical Education Bill as demanded by the senior orthopaedic surgeon, who has been staging fast-unto-death for the last 26 days seeking reforms in medical education.

The team representing Dr KC had a vague premonition of a breakdown in talks today, as it felt it was being ‘snubbed’ by government officials during a recess of the meeting.

Today’s meeting was supposed to start at 9:00am at the office of Education Secretary Khaga Raj Baral, who is heading the government’s talks team. But it was postponed till 1:00pm.

“The meeting started as per the revised schedule. But as negotiations were under way, government representatives said they wanted to take a break and asked us to leave the room,” said Dr Abhishek Raj Singh, who is leading the talks team on behalf of Dr KC.

The break was supposed to last for an hour. “But even after an hour, the government representatives did not show any sign of resuming talks. We had to call them and wait for another half an hour before entering the meeting room,” Dr Singh said. “But we were compelled to leave the room within next 10 minutes, as government officials said amendments to the National Medical Education Bill could not be made as per the demands of Dr KC.”

Dr KC began his 15th hunger strike on June 30 after he found that the bill registered in the Parliament was lacking provisions of the National Medical Education Ordinance introduced by the former government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba. Dr KC had demanded that the government withdraw the bill from the Parliament and incorporate provisions of the ordinance in the bill.

But yesterday Dr KC’s talks team said the government could table the Bill in the Parliament and make amendments to it before getting it endorsed by lawmakers. The government had then asked representatives of Dr KC to specify what the bill needed to incorporate.

“We then came up with a 22-point list and e-mailed it to the government at 2:00am,” said Dr Singh. “The list was presumably shown this morning to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokharel and Subas Chandra Nembang, a senior leader of ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), who is overseeing the negotiations.” This was the reason why the meeting was postponed from 9:00am to 1:00pm today.

“We suspect Education Minister Pokharel is the culprit, because he was the only one, not the PM, who was against the demands of Dr KC,” said Surendra Bhandari, a senior advocate and a member of the talks team representing Dr KC.

Dr KC has demanded that a moratorium of 10 years be put on opening of new medical colleges in Kathmandu valley, each university be allowed to provide affiliation to a maximum of five medical colleges, and new medical colleges be allowed to launch operation only after they operate a hospital for a period of three years.

“We will sit for talks only if the government provides assurance that it will incorporate our recommendations in the medical education bill,” says a statement issued by Dr KC’s representatives.

The formal talks between the government and representatives of Dr KC had begun last evening. The first meeting held yesterday had ended on a positive note and hopes were high that negotiations would conclude today, paving the way for Dr KC to end his fast-unto-death. When asked what were the reasons for breakdown of talks, Education Secretary Khaga Raj Baral refused to comment.

“What happened today was unfortunate,” said Nembang. “But the government does not have the authority to make amendments to a bill registered in Parliament.”