Politicians and profiteersFulfilling Dr KC’s demands would adversely affect financial interests of political leaders
Dr Govinda KC has gone on hunger strike for the 11th time, but his demands are the same as they have always been. Despite repeated protests that he has staged, the support he has received from broad sections of society, and the fact that the government formed the Mathema Commission to look into his concerns, nothing constructive has been accomplished. The reason is simple: Fulfilling Dr KC’s demands would adversely affect the financial interests of powerful political leaders, most of whom are in the CPN-UML.
The major demand this time is endorsement of the Health Profession Education (HPE) bill in a form that is in line with the recommendations of the Mathema Commission. Currently tabled in Parliament, this bill has not been passed as key CPN-UML leaders are strongly opposed to some of its provisions. In particular, there is opposition to Clause 12 of the bill, which prohibits the establishment of new medical colleges in Kathmandu for 10 years and requires that medical facilities should have at least 300 beds in order to qualify as a medical school. These are eminently sensible provisions. After all there is a glut of medical schools in the Valley, and a severe lack outside of it. Furthermore, it makes sense to require hospitals to have basic facilities before they are turned into medical training centres.
The lawmakers of the CPN-UML have not even tried to argue against Clause 12 of the bill on grounds of principle. It is clear that the main reason why they oppose it is because CPN-UML parliamentarians such as Rajendra Pandey and Bansidhar Mishra had invested in the Manmohan Memorial Academy of Health Sciences based in Kathmandu. Despite the government’s recent decision to acquire the Manmohan Academy, there has been no agreement over its valuation and acquisition is yet uncertain. Given this uncertainty, it stands to reason that CPN-UML parliamentarians would protect their investment and seek further returns. This can happen only if the Manmohan Academy is brought into operation. In other words, CPN-UML MPs oppose the bill solely because it prevents them from profiteering.
This should not be allowed to happen. Recent decades have seen a major proliferation of medical schools in the Kathmandu Valley. Many of them lack adequate facilities or personnel. Meanwhile, they charge exorbitant sums tostudents. Their sole purpose is to maximise their returns. These institutions present a grave risk to the quality of the health sector in Nepal. The current refusal by parliamentarians to pass the bill also demonstrates how political leaders are blatantly obstructing legislation in their narrow interests to the detriment of broader interests. Other parties need to prevent the CPN-UML from blocking the bill. In addition, the government needs to start thinking seriously about measures that can be taken to prevent conflicts of interest among politicians, including legal punishments that can be given toparliamentarians who seek to abuse thelegislature for their personal interests.