KATHMANDU, July 17: At a time when the government is being widely criticized for not caring seriously about the demands of Dr Govinda KC, the crusading senior orthopedic surgeon and professor at the Institute of Medicine (IOM), it has formed a talks team, on the 17th day of his fast-unto-death.
Dr KC began his 15th hunger strike from June 30, in Jumla. His seven-point demand includes bringing the Medical Education Act without changes, immediate publication of the report of the medical probe commission led by Gauri Bahadur Karki and action against the culprits, revoking of the ban on staging protest activities at Maitighar, and formulation of law to discourage threats against doctors and health workers.
According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), the cabinet meeting held on Monday formed a three-member talks team headed by Khaga Raj Baral, secretary at MoEST. Joint-secretaries at the Ministry of Health and Population and the Ministry of Home Affairs are members of the team."As soon as the government calls us for talks, we will be ready because our team is always ready," said Dr Jivan Kshetry, campaigner of the Solidarity for Dr GKC Alliance. "Either the government team should visit Jumla for talks or the team representing Dr KC will gather in Kathmandu ," he added.Dr Ramesh Kant Adhikari, former dean of IOM, said it looks like the government authorities have not prioritized addressing Dr KC's demands.
"The government seems to be pro-business soctor rather than interested in sorting out problems in the interest of the poor," he said. "Commercialization of the health care sector is leading to a dreadful situation."Minister for Education, Science and technology Giriraj Mani Pokharel declared on Friday at a public function that force would be used for bringing Dr KC to Kathmandu from Jumla without addressing his demands. Pokharel has repeatedly spoken inconsistently about Dr KC's demands. He said the government cannot fulfill all the demands or call on him to end his hunger strike. However, Dr KC is firm in his agenda and has continued with his hunger strike in Jumla.
"The psychology of the government indicates that it is not serious about solving the problems prevalent in medical education," said Dr Adhikari. "Health sector is not meant for business involvement but the government's moves are unconvincing," he said. It claims to be working in coordination with one and all but it has failed to justify the changes in the Medical Education Bill. The government says one thing and does something else.
"Dr KC has demanded a Medical Education Act as per the report of the Mathema taskforce report. Instead of addressing Dr KC's demands, the bill being tabled in parliament to replace the Medical Education Ordinance has dropped major provisions in the ordinance in order to benefit businessmen and the medical mafia."We are completely unaware about the preparations of the government to address Dr KC's demands," said senior officials at MoEST, one of the main bodies responsible for addressing his demands.