NCP lawmakers bulldoze Medical Education Bill through House panelWhen Dr Govinda KC and the government reached a nine-point deal on July 26, after which the orthopaedic surgeon called off his 27-day-long 15th hunger strike, it was largely expected that the Medical Education Bill would get through Parliament as per the agreement.
When Dr Govinda KC and the government reached a nine-point deal on July 26, after which the orthopaedic surgeon called off his 27-day-long 15th hunger strike, it was largely expected that the Medical Education Bill would get through Parliament as per the agreement.
The deal had it that the government would address all his demands.
But thereafter, there was hardly any progress.
On September 26, a sub-committee under the parliamentary Education and Health Committee was formed to finalise the bill. A day after, the budget session of the House ended.
The 11-member sub-committee then invited Dr KC for talks. However, Dr KC stood firm and refused to discuss further, saying an agreement has already been reached with the government to take the bill forward “in its present form”.
However, the sub-committee, which was supposed to finalise the bill, tweaked some provisions in such a way that they were against Dr KC’s demands. The sub-committee on Monday submitted the bill with changed provisions to the Education and Health Committee, which endorsed it on Wednesday despite reservations from lawmakers of the main opposition.
Committee Chairperson Jaipuri Gharti, who had earlier assured Dr KC that the bill would be endorsed as per his demands, made a volte-face on Wednesday.
The bill was put to vote in the House panel where the governing Nepal Communist Party controls a two-thirds majority. Only 18 members—14 from the NCP and four from the Nepali Congress—were present at Wednesday’s meeting of the House committee, which has 23 members. With the changed provisions, medical colleges that have already received the Letter of Intent (LoI) would get affiliation to run MBBS classes, something Dr KC has opposed.
“The government had signed a deal with Dr KC [in July] only to make him call off his hunger strike. It has failed to honour the agreement; it’s a shameful act on the part of the government,” NC lawmaker Gagan Thapa, who is a member both in the committee and sub-committee, told the Post. “The KP Oli government had the best chance to introduce major reforms in the medical education sector.”
Dr KC had staged his 15th hunger strike demanding that the Medical Education Bill be endorsed by incorporating all the recommendations of a panel formed under Kedar Bhakta Mathema, former vice-chancellor of Tribhuvan University.
Two weeks after Dr KC and the government reached a nine-point deal, Prime Minister KP Oli on August 11 had assured the orthopaedic surgeon that the bill would be endorsed as per the agreement.
But NCP lawmakers in the sub-committee blatantly ignored the agreement and changed some provisions paving the way for medical colleges with LoI to get affiliation. Provisions to run all the medical colleges as not-for-profit entities and phasing out Auxiliary Health Worker
and Nurse Midwife courses under the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) within five years have also been changed.
Dr KC has objected to these amendments.
An amendment to the provision of not letting Tribhuvan University and Kathmandu University, which have already reached the limit of affiliation to five medical colleges each, grant affiliation to new medical colleges directly benefits Jhapa-based B&C Medical College Teaching Hospital and Research Centre and Kathmandu-based Manmohan Memorial Medical College and Teaching Hospital. Both these institutions are run by those people who have the backing of NCP leaders. The executive committee of B&C Hospital has “close relations” with PM Oli and NCP Co-chairman Dahal. NCP leaders have invested in Manmohan college.
With the amendment to the provision, Manmohan college, which has not been able to run MBBS classes because of a moratorium on new medical colleges in the Valley for 10 years, can get affiliation outside the Valley.
“The NCP lawmakers did everything they could to ensure affiliation to B&C and Manmohan,” said NC’s Thapa. “Manmohan can now establish its building outside of Thankot, which will be just outside the Valley, and run its medical classes.”
Dr KC, however, said he was not objecting to affiliation to these colleges. “I have no problem with B&C and Manmohan getting affiliation. The problem is TU and KU should not grant affiliation to them because they have already exceeded the limit of five colleges each,” said Dr KC.
With an amendment to the bill, the Auxiliary Health Worker and Nurse Midwife courses under the CTEVT will never be phased out. Dr KC says this move largely benefits Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokhrel, for at his behest some technical colleges have been granted affiliation under the CTEVT.
Dr KC says some NCP leaders are making a pitch for new private medical colleges instead of running government medical colleges in their constituencies. “There must be some vested interest,” said Dr KC, adding that he is for government medical colleges in Ilam, Taplejung, Panchthar and Tehrathum which are the constituencies of Subas Nembang, Yogesh Bhattarai and Jhala Nath Khanal.
Nembang had played a crucial role in reaching the nine-point deal with Dr KC back in July. Bhattarai, a member in both committee and sub-committee, is said to have been instrumental in tweaking the provisions in the bill.
Just as the House committee endorsed the bill on Wednesday, Dr KC, who is currently in Ilam, announced his 16th hunger strike, something he had warned on Monday itself.
“I have already been cheated multiple times. This time I had hoped that the bill would get endorsed by Parliament in accordance to my demands in letter and spirit,” Dr KC told the Post on Tuesday.
With the House committee endorsing the bill, it can be tabled in Parliament anytime soon. But NC lawmakers on Wednesday said that they would obstruct House proceedings to block the bill.
“Nepali Congress will not allow the bill to get through Parliament,” Thapa told the Post.
As the demands were neglected by the government and the bill has been formed against the agreement, Dr KC has already started his 16th hunger strike in Ilam from Wednesday evening.