Even the most shameless criminals cannot publicly say that Dr KC’s demands are ill-intentioned, irrational and impossible to address.
The commencement of academic sessions at Geta Medical College, Dhangadhi and at Rapti Academy of Health Sciences, Dang, beginning preparations to establish government medical colleges and hospitals at Doti, Dadeldhura, Udayapur, Ilam and Panchthar, amendment of the current Medical Education Act as per his previous agreement with the government and making appointments at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital on seniority basis are the chief demands that Dr Govinda KC have during his ongoing 19th indefinite hunger strike. Even the most shameless criminals in the country are not expected to publicly announce that these demands are ill-intentioned, irrational and impossible to address.
Dr KC has visited many remote rural parts of the country and is familiar with health issues there. His demand to open and establish medical colleges and hospitals in remote parts of the east and the west cannot be called ill-intentioned. Nepal is a party to the universal human rights treaties under which the state has the obligations to guarantee health and education to the citizens. Agreeing in principle to begin academic sessions at medical colleges but never practically acting on it is the breach of the agreement.
Making haphazard appointments in the state-owned Institute of Medicine (IoM) on the basis of nepotism and favoritism is much worse than making appointments on the basis of experience and seniority. More scientific criteria could be specified to make appointments in health-related public academic institutions less controversial.
Furthermore, the ruling and opposition parties have never been able to challenge the rationale of Dr KC’s demands. Addressing his demands contributes to the proportional distribution of medical education and health services across the country. Since Dr KC does not seem to be inclined to accepting any appointment in state bodies, there seems to be no personal motive behind his series of hunger strikes from 2012 to now. During his eight years of struggle, he has gained a tremendous volume of moral support across the country.
A person who risks his own life for a public cause instinctively does not seek a promotion of his personal causes. His demands cannot be termed as irrational by any measure. Equally, his demands are pragmatically possible to be addressed within a short time-frame.
The government appears to have adopted a tactic to let Dr KC wane mentally and physically to get rid of him in the near future.
His demand to democratize medical education for at least middle class people can easily be fulfilled at one go. For this, leading political parties—if they are honest in their democratic faith—should formalize their political commitment to the affordability of medical education and then follow up for successful implementation. They need to de-mafia-ize medical education. Seeking incredibly huge financial sponsorship from private medical college owners during the election is a clear sign of mafia-ization of medical education. Equally puzzling is the fact that leading student unions have preferred to remain silent over this issue.
Dr KC, an unmarried man, has been on a public mission, abandoning lucrative opportunities at personal level, while many others have publicly showcased their moral integrity on sale. Before retirement from Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, he had been spending his salaries on treating ordinary citizens in rural areas. Upon retirement too, he has been continuing his mission as before.
It would be wrong and immoral to assume that media has made Dr KC a celebrity. Because of his moral courage and tireless fight for making medical education affordable for a greater number of middle class students, he has already become a celebrity. His painstaking nature and simple life style prove he is a genuine moral fighter for good governance in medical education. Drawing the moral value of his Satyagraha, genuine transformation-seeking institutions could incorporate Dr KC’s agenda and do justice to the Satyagrahi.
In a society where lustful and criminal cultures thrive under partisan patronage, citizens’ moral mindfulness is an extremely reliable and valuable tool to sensitize people. Citizens need to seek an atmosphere in which political parties, their subordinate organizations and state apparatuses could function democratically as prescribed by the nation’s constitution. Since parties have failed to deliver on their promises, there remains civic discontent to a greater extent. Dr KC’s moral struggle for some policy reform and good governance in medical education cannot be denounced at all.
However, his shortcomings related to his language and communication skills cannot be ruled out. He is not an orator—the type partisan fans expect to see. He is at times impulsive. His rigid method of fasting indefinitely is a sort of violence and torture against himself.
However, his pursuit for well-governed and affordable medical education cannot be questioned at all. Instead, there is a lot to question the parties why they never charted appropriate education policies and strategies with a view to transforming the country. Why is education sector ultra-commercialized? We need to ask these questions to Nepal Communist Party and Nepali Congress because they have been tirelessly propagating that they are for socialism in Nepal.
Because these parties never cared to live by their commitments, an individual like Dr KC, out of his proactive conscience, is compelled to take an initiative that appears to threaten his own life. It is the responsibility of political forces and their subordinate wings to organize themselves and debate the agenda of a medical education policy that promotes socialism. Why did they leave this issue to Dr KC?
That said, I believe Dr KC should not take up such a suicidal method to get his demands fulfilled. His advisers and followers could create a very powerful health policy research and advocacy institution—a mechanism of collective and well-organized nature—to carry out medical education research and to develop Nepal’s fundamental policy approach. They could then present their stance more institutionally, systematically and influentially across the country.
Dr KC and his solidarity team should form a strong national policy institution and begin to build tremendous pressures on parties and student organizations to push for social justice in health and education.