KATHMANDU, July 10: Dr Govinda KC, senior orthopedic surgeon and professor at the Institute of Medicine (IOM), has turned down Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's proposal for talks with him on the phone.
Dr Mukti Ram Shrestha, president of the Nepal Medical Association (NMA), said that PM Oli's aide Anish Dahal informed them on Monday about the PM's proposal for talks with Dr KC, who is on the 10th day of his latest fast-unto-death . "But I am yet to receive a response from Dr KC," he said.
Dr KC, who first started staging hunger strikes in July 2012 to press for reform in medical education, launched his 15th fast-unto-death from June 30 in Jumla, demanding that the government work for the ordinary people instead of the medical mafia.
However, Dr KC refused to talk with PM Oli on the phone, saying that he has already stated his concerns clearly in his seven-point demand presented on the first day of the fast-unto-death, according to NMA officials.
Dr KC's seven-point demands include bringing the Medical Education Act without changes, immediate publication of the report of the medical probe commission led by Gauri Bahadur Karki, taking of action against the culprits, implementation of the report prepared by the employees standards determination committee, revoking the ban on staging protests and demonstrations at Maitighar Mandala, and formulation of law to discourage threats against doctors and health workers.
Following a 72-hour ultimatum to PM Oli for addressing Dr KC's demands, Oli consulted NMA officials on Monday and sought talks with Dr KC on the telephone. NMA, the professional organization of medical doctors and dentists, visited PM Oli at the latter's residence at Baluwatar on Sunday and submitted a memorandum to him.
NMA has announced a halt to all the medical services in hospitals except emergency if Dr KC's demands are not addressed within 72 hours.
Lawmakers divided over Dr KC's demands
Meanwhile, lawmakers of the ruling and opposition political parties were divided in the House on Monday over the issues raised by Dr Govinda KC who is on his 15th fast-unto-death in Karnali.
Ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmakers criticized medical sector reform crusader Dr KC "for staging a hunger strike during a communist government at the backing of the main opposition NC." On the other hand, opposition NC lawmakers came down heavily on the government for being apathetic to "the genuine demands of Dr KC."
Taking part in the deliberations on a motion of public importance registered by NC lawmakers demanding to save Dr KC's life and address his demands, lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties resorted to trading barbs against each other.
Supporting the motion in the meeting of the House of Representatives, NC lawmaker Gagan Thapa urged Prime Minister KP Oli to immediately address the issues raised by Dr KC "by giving up the arrogance of having a two-thirds majority in parliament."
Recalling how former King Gyanendra's arrogance led to his downfall, Thapa advised Prime Minister Oli to address KC's demands outright. He also said that the path taken by Dr KC is quite genuine and democratic.
Similarly, NC lawmaker Minendra Rijal lashed out at the government saying that the path chosen by the government is undemocratic. Tabling the motion in the meeting, NC lawmaker Dilendra Prasad Badu accused the government of favoring certain interest groups ignoring the demands of Dr KC.
Meanwhile, NCP lawmakers Yogesh Bhattarai, Khagraj Adhikari, Ganga Chaudhary accused the NC of using Dr KC. “The opposition has been trying emotional blackmail against the government, utilizing Dr KC to save its poor politics. I demand to save the life of Dr KC but the demands he has been raising should be discussed openly,” said Bhattarai.
Stating that Nepal already has around 20 medical colleges, he demanded a parliamentary probe committee to investigate whether they had received affiliation meeting the criteria.
Responding to the lawmakers' concern, Minister for Education and Technology, Giriraj Mani Pokhrel said that the government is for talks between all the stakeholders prior to endorsing the National Medical Education Bill.
“We want consensus with opposition NC on the medical education bill which has been registered at parliament. But we should end the tradition of changing everything through sit-ins. There is nothing that cannot be addressed but we need to seek solutions outside of hunger strikes,” he said.