There are tactful ways to bring erring institutions and businesses on track without having to resort to raids
The government on Sunday swung into action by raiding three medical colleges for money laundering investigation, an act that could, however, send a wrong message to potential investors. The Department of Money Laundering Investigation raided Nobel Medical College, Biratnagar, National Medical College, Birgunj, and Chitwan Medical College, Chitwan, based on a report of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and National Vigilance Centre. Nepal’s medical colleges have been in the news for quite some time, with students picketing the colleges every now and then, seeking refund of the extra fees collected from them. The government has repeatedly asked the medical colleges to return the extra money taken from the students, and only last week, Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokharel had warned that a fraud case would be filed against those medical colleges failing to do so within a fortnight. The medical colleges have, however, ignored the government’s warning and refused to abide by the government rules. It is common knowledge that medical colleges have investments or the blessings of bigwigs in the major political parties, and this is one of the reasons that emboldens them when dealing with the government.
The government has been trying to put a cap on the fee medical colleges can charge from students in a bid to prevent market forces from dictating the price as in a business venture. A Cabinet meeting last year had capped the fees for the MBBS undergraduate course at Rs 3.85 million in the Kathmandu Valley and Rs 4.24 million outside. However, colleges have been charging an extra Rs 0.5-2 million under different headings. For this fiscal, the fees for the MBBS course have even been jacked up to Rs 4.02 million for Nepali students in Kathmandu’s medical colleges and to Rs 4.44 million to colleges outside the capital. The medical colleges have, however, been demanding they be allowed to charge more and also admit more students in both the general medicine and dental faculties. The colleges are making hefty profits, even running into billions annually, all at the expense of the students, but they seem to want more.
As one delves deeper into the business of medical education, it becomes apparent that it is beset with serious problems, with business motive overriding quality education. The three medical colleges could have been spared the rod had it furnished the information demanded by the government in time instead of giving threats to shut down the colleges if need be. Medical colleges must abide by the Medical Education Act and the decision of the Cabinet. Much damage has already been done to their image, and they must work to improve on it so as not to be seen as extortionists. It has been learnt that the medical colleges collecting extra fees from the students would be punished as per the laws, and a fraud case is to be filed against them by mid-December. The government has every right to act as per the law, but in doing so let it not scare away potential investors who might be wanting to invest in Nepal. There are discreet ways to bring erring institutions and businesses on track without having to resort to raids.
Enforce the law
Consumption and sale of tobacco products are widespread even in city areas. Local vendors are seen openly selling tobacco items even in front of a hospital or school, restricted under the Tobacco Product (Control and Regulatory) Act, 2011. No one can sell and consume tobacco products at places, such as government offices, educational institutions, health facilities, parks, religious places, theaters and airports. The Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) has also signed an agreement with Healthy Cities, a global network of cities, to save lives by preventing non-communicable diseases.
However, the law has not been fully implemented by the concerned bodies. So KMC and other municipalities must act as per the rules of the law to control the sale and consumption of tobacco products, which are said to be the main cause of lung cancer. According to Tobacco Atlas, more than 27,100 Nepalis are killed by diseases due to consumption of tobacco items. More than 21,000 children and 3,046,000 adults consume tobacco products every day. We can at least discourage them from consuming tobacco items if we enforce the law. Tobacco consumption is considered as one of the major causes of lung ailments.
A version of this article appears in print on November 19, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.