Health of Dr KC deteriorates but he refuses to be airlifted to KathmanduKC, who launched his 17th hunger strike in Dadeldhura on November 4, has expanded his scope of demands and some are political in nature.
Despite his worsening health condition, Dr Govinda KC, who has been on a fast-unto-death for the last one week in Dadeldhura, on Monday refused to be airlifted to Kathmandu.
A Nepal Army helicopter, which was sent to bring KC to Kathmandu, waited for about five hours at the district headquarters only to return without the doctor.
The Dadeldhura District Administration Office had called the chopper after doctors attending to KC said his health condition was deteriorating fast and that his treatment was beyond the capacity of the hospital, which is ill-equipped.
"We wanted to shift the doctor yesterday but he refused to go anywhere," Dr Jitendra Kandel, medical superintendent at Dadeldhura Hospital, told the Post over the phone. "We held an all-party meeting at the District Administration Office today and agreed to send him to Kathmandu. He refused again."
KC's blood pressure is reportedly fluctuating and ketones have been seen in the blood and urine, which means the body is burning fat for energy. Oxygen saturation, heart rate, glucose and potassium level are also on the lower side, according to doctors attending to him.
"We have also written a formal letter to the District Administration Office seeking help to send him to a well-equipped hospital," said Kandel. "We do not have any intensive care unit and other advanced services, which could be needed at any time."
On Monday, security personnel in huge numbers were deployed in and around the hospital. Supporters of KC staged demonstrations throughout the day in Dadeldhura Bazaar to exert pressure on the government to address his demands. The market place remained closed due to the protest.
KC, who had staged 16th hunger strike demanding reforms in the medical education sector in the past, launched his latest hunger strike on November 4 with a charter of seven-point demand.
KC's seven-point demand includes an amendment to Medical Education Act as per an agreement signed on July 26, 2018, ending the process of appointing office-bearers at universities on the basis of political affiliation and making provisions to appoint office-bearers in a fair and impartial manner as recommended by a Parashar Koirala-led committee. He has also demanded the return of extra fees charged by private medical colleges, legal action against operators of these private medical colleges for cheating students.
KC has also demanded that the Karnali Academy of Health Sciences be equipped with necessary infrastructure and human resources so that MBBS programme can be started at the earliest.
Apart from medical education-related demands, KC has also demanded that parties refrain from making political appointments in transitional justice bodies and that the govenrment amend the transitional justice act as demanded by the conflict victims.
KC’s earlier hunger strikes were focused on bringing about reforms in the medical education sector. But in recent times, KC has expanded his scope of demands. On some occasions, he went on fasts-unto-death demanding resignations of Lokman Singh Karki, then chief commissioner of Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority, and Gopal Parajuli, then sitting chief justice.
While KC has, by and large, received the support of the people from various walks of life, he has earned some detractors as well, who say the doctor at times makes such demands which cannot be fulfilled or may warrant a due and long legal process.
Sundar Mani Dixit, a medical doctor and civil society member, said most of the demands put forth by KC are political in nature, which cannot be addressed.
"In the initial stage, his demands were focused on reforms in the Institute of Medicine and Tribhuvan University,” said Dixit. "Now he has started raising political issues, challenging an elected government and parliament."
Nonetheless, KC has his supporters, who say he has been fighting for a good cause.
Dr Kedar Narsingh KC, former chairman of the Nepal Medical Association, said that all the demands put forth by the fasting doctor are genuine and that the government must address them immediately.
"These demands have been made on behalf of people and these demands harm no one," said Dr Kedar." The government should not make it a matter of ego. The incumbent government would be responsible if anything happens to Dr KC.”
Political parties and leaders also have at times taken the side or spoken against Dr KC’s fasts-unto-deaths, depending on which side of the aisle they are. The same parties and their leaders when not in the government have often supported KC only to object to his demands and fasts-unto-death when they are in power.
Ruling Nepal Communist Party spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha had even tendered his resignation when he was censured by the party leadership for showing solidarity with Dr KC on one occasion.
On Monday, Minister for Education Giriraj Mani Pokhrel even went on to say that “it’s not the time to stage a hunger strike when the whole country is united against Indian encroachment upon Kalapani.”
"Most of the problems related to the education sector have been resolved and the Medical Education Act is in the implementation phase," Minister Pokhrel told the Post over the phone. “The government, however, is concerned about KC’s health. I have already spoken with the health minister and minister for home affairs about the issue.”
DR Panta contributed reporting from Dadeldhura.