January 17, 2019 02:00 AM NPT
Dr Govinda KC’s fast-unto-death, his 16th, reaches ninth day on Thursday and his health condition is deteriorating. His pneumonia in right lungs is getting worse. Doctors attending to him have advised that he should be transferred to intensive care unit (ICU) immediately but Ilam District Hospital, where he is currently being treated, does not have this facility, nor are specialized doctors available there. Understandably, his immune system has become weak mainly because of repeated hunger strikes. So he is highly vulnerable to diseases, according to doctors attending him. As much as for his worsening health, the government should immediately reach out to him for dialogue because the main demands of Dr KC are related with the agreements this government signed with him while he was in his 15th hunger strike in July last year. None other than the Prime Minister K P Oli himself had taken the initiative for that back then.
On July 26, the government had signed a nine-point agreement with Dr KC, which included bringing Medical Education Act, taking action against 43 officials implicated by the report of former justice Gauri Bahadur Karki and opening government medical colleges in all seven provinces. Dr KC resumed strike after Education and Health Committee of parliament approved National Medical Education Bill without accommodating Dr KC’s major concerns. The bill does not include the Mathema report in its preamble nor does it mention any deadline for phasing out the CTEVT intermediate levels in medical education or opening a new medical university. Dr KC demands that Medical Education Bill, which is now in parliament, should be passed in line with the agreement reached with him. Yes, Dr KC also seems to deviate at times. In every strike, he seems to add to the list of the demands some complicated political issues as well but this is no excuse to the government not to heed his legitimate concerns related to public health and medical education.
There has to be a consensus between ruling and opposition parties regarding the reform agenda Dr KC has been raising. His agenda should not be politicized. Meanwhile, solidarity for Dr KC has been rising across the country. On Tuesday, above dozens of civil society members issued a joint appeal urging the government to implement the agreement reached with him. Likewise, people have started to come out in the street in his support in Ilam. Every time Dr KC sits for hunger strike, solutions have seemed remote. But with negotiations and proper discussions with stakeholders, the government of the day has found a way to address his key concerns. Only issue has been on implementation of the agreements. Prime Minister Oli and Health Minister Upendra Yadav should show sensitivity toward Dr KC’s health condition and medical education related issues with which every political party agrees, at least in principle. Admit it or not, Dr KC has become a symbol of relentless struggle for justice in Nepal. Political leaders should not forget the fact that it was him who spearheaded the movement against Lok Man Singh Karki’s wrongdoings. Dr KC deserves to be heeded. Don’t neglect him.