KATHMANDU, Sept 22: The government's announcement to decorate five physicians involved in treatment of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli with the second highest civilian award has courted controversy, with many asking whether such state honors was becoming means of appeasement for the political elite.
The government on Friday announced to decorate 634 individuals with various awards and medals for their valuable contribution to the country.
Five of them were doctors including four foreigners involved in treatment of PM Oli, who has been suffering from kidney-related ailment.
Anantharaman Vathsala, a senior consultant nephrologist and professor of medicine at the National University of Singapore, has been nominated for Suprasiddha Prabal Janasewashree, the second highest civilian honor. Vathsala was the lead physician involved in treatment of PM Oli during his month-long stay in Singapore in August.
Similarly, Dr Ananta Kumar, a uro-oncologist at Max Group of Hospitals in India; Dr Rajeev Kumar Sharma, an orthopedic surgeon with Delhi-based Institute of Adult Reconstruction, Sports Injury and Joint Replacement; Dr Harsha Dua, an oncologist with Apollo Hospital; and Divya Singh Shah, PM's personal physician have also been nominated for Suprasiddha Prabal Janasewashree.
A home ministry official said that the doctors' names were included upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister's Office.
Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota, who is also the government's spokesperson, said that the physicians, four of them foreign nationals, were awarded for their contribution to the country.
But critics say it was gross misuse of power and taxpayers money. Pointing to the exclusion of doctors serving the common people in the list, they said that the ruling class was using medals and decoration to 'repay personal favor'.
Shree Hari Aryal, former president of Transparency International, said that the government's favor remained him of the Panchayat era.
“Kings used to confer these awards to their servants in a similar manner. The characters might have change but it shows that the mentality remains the same,” said Aryal.
Many were baffled to see some doctors serving selflessly in remote corners of the country excluded from the list of recipients for the awards. It clearly shows the state's apathy in promoting the falling health care sector of the country, said critics.
Controversies have long become synonymous with the distribution of the state medals, awards, decoration and honors that the government confers to personalities every year.
Last year, President Bidya Devi Bhandari had decorated a controversial chief justice, a suspended police officer, a professor indicted for plagiarism, and an infamous business person with various medals. It was later revealed that several bureaucrats and other office bearers had recommended their own names or that of their relatives for the prestigious awards.
This year's award has also come in the spotlight for apparent exclusion of dissidents and voices critical of the ruling party and the government.
Some notable recipients of this year's award include Madan Mani Dixit and late Rabindra Prasad Adhikari, who were posthumously nominated for Mahaujjwal Rastradeep (first class), the highest civilian award. The award ceremony is expected to take place on the Republic Day.