EDITORIAL: Show seriousness

The government can still meet Dr KC’s remaining demands by making corrections in the bill at the National Assembly

Senior orthopaedic surgeon Dr Govinda KC’s fast-on-to-death hunger strike has entered its 19th day today. This is his 16th hunger strike over the National Medical Education Bill (NMEB), which was passed by the House of Representatives (HoR) on a majority basis on Friday amidst protests by the main opposition, the Nepali Congress. Dr KC and his team have accused the government of “bulldozing” the nine-point agreement reached with them on July 26. While the NMEB has incorporated most of his demands, Dr KC is insisting that the Kedar Bhakta Mathema Commission, which came up with a number of recommendations for reforms in medical education, should be mentioned in the preamble of the bill, that one university cannot grant affiliation to more than five medical colleges and that all medical courses lower than the proficiency level run by the CTEVT should be phased out within five years. These are broadly the three major issues Dr KC alleges the government has “breached” while tabling the bill in the full House. He and his team had been pressing the government to table the bill ditto of what had been stated in the National Medical Education Ordinance introduced by the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government before the general election in October 2017.

Even after the bill was passed by the House, Dr KC has continued with his hunger strike, now demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister. The National Medical Association (NMA), the umbrella body of medical doctors, has also threatened to halt all services except emergency across the country to “save Dr KC’s life”. The NMA has also asked the government to meet all of his demands in line with the agreement reached with him. If the NMA decides to go ahead with halting all health-related services, thousands of patients will have to bear the brunt of the strike. It, however, has said it will support only those issues concerned with medical education. In the meantime, hundreds of medical students, members of civil society and representatives of political parties have taken to the streets to show solidarity with Dr KC.

Nepal’s medical education was in a shambles before Dr KC launched his tireless crusade against anomalies seen in it six years ago. A number of notable reforms have been made in this sector because of his selfless and non-violent campaign against such anomalies. The NMEB is also the result of his crusade against malpractices seen in it. However, much needs to be done to make this sector fully non-profit and public service-oriented. As the bill has already been passed by the HoR amidst protests, the government needs to find a reconciliatory approach with Dr KC. In order to address his remaining demands, as mentioned above, the government still has room to make some corrections in the bill as per Dr KC’s expectations. Such amendments can be made in the National Assembly, where the bill has to be tabled for its approval within 60 days of its passage by the HoR. Undoubtedly Dr KC has no self-interest in the bill related to making reforms in the medical education. The government should show its utmost seriousness to meet his demands without having any prejudice against him. He is fighting for the well-being of the people who have been deprived of affordable health services.

Learn lessons

People tend to be wiser after an accident, and so it is with the Sabaila incident in Dhanusha in southeast Nepal. Six persons were killed and ten others injured when a low-hanging live wire touched a bus carrying members of a wedding party on Friday. The bus driver and the Nepal Electricity Authority have been shortlisted for the cause of the accident, with wise counsel from all sides as to what they should have done to prevent it. No amount of lamentation or argument over who is to blame for the incident will, however, bring back the dead. But we can learn lessons from the tragedy, that is, if those who should own responsibility for it feel a bit of remorse and are serious not to repeat such mistakes.

Unfortunately, we do not seem to learn anything from past mistakes, otherwise there would not be so many accidents occurring in quick succession on the roads, in the air and at home. Negligence is a major cause of accidents in Nepal, and this can be corrected only if the offenders find themselves unable to get off the hook easily for the offences they have committed. Will the Sabaila incident be different?