No more cheatingCitizens must keep seeking answers and accountability from the government.
That Dr Govinda KC has ended his 19th fast unto death on the 28th day has come as a relief to a significant section of the Nepali population, not because his demands might be fulfilled, but because his life has been saved. More than just a doctor who has been fighting to reform Nepal's medical sector, the 63-year-old orthopaedic surgeon has remained one of the few torchbearers of social justice, a Nepali Gandhian figure of sorts.
But governments like no Gandhis. With only the weapon of adamant inquisitiveness by their side, Gandhis of various avatars put governments in a moral dilemma. Governments like direct confrontation, which makes it easier for them to use corporeal violence. But how do you fight a man of slight build who has in his sheath only the weapon of honest questions and seeks reform, not revenge, from the government?
The KP Oli government waited until the last minute to see that the people themselves begin asking Dr KC to end the hunger strike considering his deteriorating health. Its strategy was to wear him down by its silence. And when it became clear that neither Dr KC nor the people can be silenced anymore, it finally resigned and helped end the limbo that had begun from remote Jumla district on September 14.
On Saturday midnight, the government agreed to address most of Dr KC's demands related to medical education. It has agreed to begin MBBS and other courses at the Karnali Academy of Health Sciences in Jumla from the next academic session, and to begin medical education at the Geta Medical College in Kailali in Sudurpashchim Province, and at the Rapti Academy of Health Sciences in Dang in Lumbini Province by February 2024.
The government has also agreed to expedite the construction of the infrastructure to set up a government medical college in Bardibas, Mahottari in Province 2 with a target to start an MBBS course by February 2024. It has also agreed to begin the construction of government medical colleges in Doti or Dadeldhura, Udaypur and Ilam or Panchthar within this year, and expedite the construction of the Ram Raja Prasad Singh Academy of Health Sciences in Saptari from Province 2.
The agreement looks solid on paper. But there is a caveat. Before celebrating the achievements made by the signing of the deal, we must ask ourselves whether we believe the agreement will be followed in the days to come. The government is more than likely to try discrediting Dr KC and sidelining the agreements just to satisfy its ego. If it has not been clear enough as yet, this is a government of crony capitalists that serves only its cronies. By way of adding insult to injury, the Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the dilapidated foundations of the Nepali medical infrastructure even as the government reaches new heights of irresponsibility each passing day.
As the country continues to fail to provide basic healthcare facilities to its citizens, Dr KC's demands are right on point. In fact, despite the desperate attempts to vilify him, no critic of Dr KC could come up with a valid critique of his demands. If Dr KC is cheated once again, it is the people who are cheated of their fundamental rights. It is, therefore, the duty of the people to keep seeking answers and accountability from the government continuously so that they are not cheated once again. Otherwise, we're doomed to be back to the same old cycle again—a dishonest government, a dejected people, and an old doctor sitting for yet another fast unto death.