Lone shining starIt is time others stepped in to assist Dr KC’s fight against corruption in medical education
Dr Govinda KC, who has long been fighting for reforms in the medical education sector, has once again gone on a hunger strike, his 10th in the last four years. This time KC is protesting the appointment of Dr KP Singh as dean of the Institute of Medicine (IoM), Nepal’s premier medical institution. KC argues that the appointment was political in nature, and Dr Jagadish Agrawal should instead be appointed dean on the basis of seniority.
The politicised appointments of deans have led to many problems at the IoM in recent years. The problem began in March 2010, when Dr Arun Sayami,
who was dean at the time, was dragged into controversy over claims of leaked question papers. The hospital was closed for 19 days after students and doctors launched a protest. Dr Sayami, nonetheless, was able to serve his full term.
But there have been six new deans since then. Two of them were forced to resign due to KC’s hunger strikes. The reason why the position of dean has attracted such great political attention is because the IoM has the mandate to issue affiliations to medical colleges, and politically appointed deans can enable private colleges that focus on profiteering to gain affiliations.
There is no doubt that Dr KC has made immense contributions to fighting corruption in Nepal’s medical education sector. It was due to his efforts that the Mathema Commission was established to look into malpractices in medical education, and the
government even agreed to temporarily stop granting affiliations to private medical colleges. Dr KC’s campaign also played a very important role in the
political parties’ decision to start the impeachment process against Lok Man Singh Karki, chief of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), who now remains suspended from his position.
It is, however, unfortunate that Dr KC has had to stage a hunger strike for the 10th time. There is widespread concern for his health. After all, it was only last month that he was on his previous hunger strike. Furthermore, a hunger strike should be a political tool of last resort, not a regular tactic of protest. It cannot be the solution to every political problem.
Over time, repeated hunger strikes lose their political effectiveness. By now it has been over six years since KC raised the issue of profiteering and corruption in the medical education sector. Over these years, he has garnered a substantial number of supporters. If his supporters are in favour of his latest demand, it is time for them to organise themselves and find ways to deal with the situation that do not harm KC’s wellbeing.
A lone individual should not be expected to take the responsibility for an entire sector—that too repeatedly. Other individuals and institutions now need to step forward to relieve Dr KC of the heavy moral burden he has taken upon himself and pressure the government to expedite an agreeable solution.