How ill are our political leaders?

Published On: November 15, 2016 03:45 PM NPT By: Bishnu Prasad Aryal

KATHMANDU, Nov 15: The government's decision to provide Rs 5 million to Nepali Congress leader Sujata Koirala for the treatment of her breast cancer has drawn criticism from all walks of life. In the light of this, we have taken a look into the health status of Nepal's major political leaders and the funds doled out from state coffers for their treatment.

KP Sharma Oli, 65, former prime minister and chairman of the CPN-UML, suffers from kidney problems. Oli, who underwent a successful kidney transplant in 2007, keeps visiting hospitals outside the country as he falls sick from time to time. The government has already provided Rs 10.26 million for his treatment.
Another UML leader, Jhlanath Nath Khanal, 66, suffers from prostate complaints. The former PM has undergone treatment at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in the US. 

Former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, 63, has been taking medication for high blood pressure for a while now. He also suffers from chest and urinary complaints, according to his aide, Mohan Gautam.

The government provided  former president Ram Baran Yadav Rs 6 million for cancer treatment. Yadav, who is also a former health minister, was treated at Henry Ford Hospital in the US.

Like other politicians, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has diabetes and blood pressure-related problems. Dahal, who is also head of the CPN (Maoist Center), takes medicines on a regular basis. “He has no major health issues. However, we have to check his blood pressure and sugar level once a week,” said Dr. Yubaraj Sharma,  private physician to Dahal. So far, he has not received any government funds for treatment.

Sixty two-year-old Dahal was briefly admitted to Janamaitri Community Hospital, Balaju in 2008 after developing a fever. “He  plays badminton for around one hour regularly to maintain his health,” said Santu Darai, a Maoist leader who works closely with the PM.
Former prime minister and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba doesn't have any major health problem. Deuba neither goes to hospital for regular checkups nor takes medicine, according to his aide Keshav Joshi.

The government had provided Rs 10.91 million  to the late Sushil Koirala for the treatment of lung cancer.  In addition, the government has provided Rs 5 million to Chakra Bastola, 3.8 million to Narayankaji Shrestha, 3.2 million to Ramnath Dhakal, and 2.7 million to Govinda Raj Joshi. Former PM Tulsi Giri received Rs 2.5 million, former deputy speaker Purna Kumari Subedi Rs 2.5 million and the late Sahana Pradhan Rs 1.3 million. 

The list of politicians benefiting from state funds does not end there. Former state minister Mahendra Yadav received 0.788 million, Lokendra Bahadur Chand 0.50 million and Ram Sharan Mahat 0.28 million. 

And it is not just politicians. Influential individuals and bureaucrats also drain the state coffers.  The government provided Rs 8 million to then chief justice Ram Kumar Sah and Rs 10 million to Aaditya, the Google boy. 

The Health Ministry's recent proposal in the cabinet to limit state fund grants  for the treatment of VIPs to Rs 1.5 million remains undecided. 

Dr Karbir Nath Yogi, former PM Sushil Koirala's personal physician, frequently checks the health of former PM Lokendra Bahadur Chand, leader Mahantha Thakur and senior leaders of the Nepali Congress. “They face different health issues and I do not want to discuss the details,” said Dr Yogi.

The government has doled out more than Rs 71 million to nearly a dozen politicians in the name of medical expenses in the last decade or so. A report received by Republica shows that politicians, including former prime ministers, received a total of Rs 71.17 million from state coffers for medical treatment abroad, on the basis of cabinet decisions.

The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), the constitutional anti-graft body, is not allowed to investigate the decisions of the cabinet. Moreover, individuals receiving money in this fashion do not have to submit their expense details. 

Social sites like Facebook and Twitter are filled with angry messages from the public over the misuse of tax payer money by leaders who are believed to have millions stashed away in their personal bank accounts. Many are asking why the leaders have to go abroad for treatment when the country's top hospitals have VVIP medical lounges meant for them.

Dr Govinda KC, a senior doctor at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, said that these leaders have been misusing resources and bleeding the state coffers.

“They should get treatment in the country just as ordinary people as long as the services are available here. They should be restricted from going abroad through new provisions in the law,” said KC, who is currently staging his 10th hunger strike demanding reforms in the medical sector. “The hospitals should be modernized and equipped with all the facilities for the tretment of everyone."

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