Our experiences have shown that the private medical colleges will not help the govt when their services are needed the most

It is unfortunate that as many as 12 former vice-chancellors of various universities have come forward to condemn Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Minister for Education, Science and Technology Krishna Gopal Shrestha for coercing the Vice-chairman of the Medical Education Commission (MEC), Shrikrishna Giri, to grant affiliation to the controversial Jhapa-based private medical college, B&C Medical College, without fulfilling the set criteria. As per media reports, PM Oli and Shrestha called Giri at the PM's official residence at Baluwatar on Sunday and asked him to write a recommendation so that Kathmandu University (KU) could grant affiliation for operating the B&C Medical College. However, Giri, who was appointed to the post following the due process of law, did not give in to their pressure and even threatened to tender his resignation, rather than write the recommendation as desired by the PM and the education minister, both of whom are MEC's ex-officio chair and co-chair, respectively. The former vice-chancellors, in a joint statement, called upon both to maintain the "dignity of the MEC" and respect the "autonomy of universities". Giri is learnt to have told the PM and the education minister that B&C Medical College did not meet the minimum criteria set by the MEC formed under a law to ensure uniformity and quality medical education.

It is learnt that KU had recommended the MEC to grant affiliation to B&C Medical College on May 14 under pressure from both the PM and Shrestha.

Officials at the MEC said they could not grant affiliation to the college as it had not renewed its letter of intent for the last five years. Owner of B&C Medical College, Durga Prasain, who is said to be close to the PM and CPN-Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has been lobbying for long to get the affiliation for his college. Many businesspersons and high profile politicians have invested a huge amount of money in medical education due to the high profitability in this sector compared to others.

However, granting random affiliation to private medical colleges from universities has now been stopped after social activist and orthopaedic surgeon Dr Govinda KC launched a series of hunger strikes on different occasions demanding reforms in medical education, including the fee structure, physical facilities and the number of students to be enrolled based on the capacity of a given private medical college.

Another key demand of Dr KC was to establish at least one government-run teaching hospital in each of the seven provinces within five years. As per the agreement with him, the government has allocated budget for the establishment of three medical colleges in Sudoorpaschim, Lumbini and Province 2 for theis fiscal. The government's priority should be on setting up its own teaching hospitals to provide health services at an affordable cost to the people, instead of inviting the private sector in the service-oriented sectors, such as health and education. Our recent experiences, at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, have proven that the private medical colleges or hospitals will not cooperate with the government or provide affordable health services to the general people when their services are needed the most.

Exemplary work

Unlike the developed world, the Nepali government is unable to provide monetary support to its citizens during the time they have to stay indoors when lockdowns or prohibitory orders are in force.

While those working for the government continue to receive regular salaries, those working in the private sector and daily wage workers must fend for themselves.

It is at times like these that charity organisations and NGOs and business groups must be active to help those in need, especially with food. Unfortunately, there have been less of them this year during the prohibitory orders that have been clamped in nearly all of the country's districts.

It is thus commendable that a Sherpa guide, Ang Phurba, has used his savings to help his colleagues who have been left without work for the last two years as trekking routes have fallen silent due to the pandemic. He has been loading his truck with rice, lentils and cooking oil bought with his own money and delivering them to dozens of families in Kathmandu.

We need more of such individuals in society who will work for the welfare of their fellow beings without expecting any returns. Indeed, his exemplary work should inspire others.

A version of this article appears in the print on June 17, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.