February 12, 2023 10:01 PM NPT
By: Sara Pahari
KATHMANDU, Feb 12: If you have spotted a bunch of security personnel shutting down a major road, and prohibiting pedestrians from crossing the street, chances are you’re about to encounter an official government motorcade, a convoy that conveys the message of VVIP culture in Nepal. When the motorcade moves, everything shuts down in its path. And if the motorcade, fortunately, is the president’s, clocks tick slower. While it may be considered a matter of safety of the president or other dignitaries, VVIP convoys hit hard on the general public.
There are several incidents of the president's convoy choking traffic within the en route areas. On February 11, President Bidya Devi Bhandari was escorted to Shital Niwas from the federal parliament building in New Baneshwar where she addressed a joint session of parliament. There were unusually long traffic jams that are ‘usual’ during presidential convoys.
Dr Janith Singh who was on his way to the National Trauma Center from Bir Hospital was beaten black and blue with sticks by security personnel for walking during the motorcade of President Bidya Devi Bhandari. After being hit with batons while walking on the road during the presidential escort on Friday, Dr Singh, who is a surgeon at the National Trauma Center, was seriously injured. He was injured in the head due to the beating.
According to Director of the Trauma Center Dr Rudra Marasini, Dr Singh had shown his identity card saying that he was a doctor and was on duty. “However, the security personnel snatched away his ID card and hit him with sticks instead. He is seriously injured,” said Dr Marasini.
Police Spokesperson DIG Posh Raj Pokharel defended the role of police saying that the doctor was the first to start physical assault as the police personnel stopped them while performing their duty.
“As the argument heated, there was a situation in which the doctor had to be arrested,” said DIG Pokharel, adding that the police resorted to physical action after the doctor kicked them.
In response to the police assault against Dr Singh, doctors working at various hospitals in Kathmandu took to the streets and staged a protest. Doctors as well as other health workers from various hospitals including Bir Hospital, Trauma Center, Civil Hospital participated in the demonstration held at Maitighar Mandala. They were also joined by human rights activists.
The agitating health workers carried placards that read various slogans such as ‘Down with uniform-wearing goons’, ‘Stop violence against health workers’, ‘People cannot be hurt in the name of VVIP’, ‘VVIPs are not needed’ and ‘Citizens cannot be beaten’.
On Friday, the National Medical Association (NMA) announced a halt to all services of the hospitals, except for emergency service as a protest against police assaults on a doctor at the National Trauma Center.
The Ministry of Health and Population then urged NMA to withdraw its protest and resume regular services. Joint Spokesperson at the Ministry of Health and Population Samir Kumar Adhikari issued a statement on Saturday night calling all health workers to become more sensitive to the issues of the health and withdraw their agitation in view of the health care of chronically ill patients, who come to the hospital for treatment.
On behalf of the government, Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, Dr Ganesh Pandey, led the talk’s team, while NMA President Dr Lochan Karki led the talks team on behalf of the agitating doctors.
A six-point agreement between the Nepal Medical Association (NMA) and the government was made after which the health workers suspended the protest program..
During the discussion, it was agreed to complete the investigation within a week and punish the guilty, the government to arrange for the treatment of the injured doctor, effective implementation of the security system of the health workers and health institutions and the suspension of the protest by the medical association.
While the criticism keeps shifting from the government to local administration and police, such escorts wreak havoc on the life of the general public, which is why they keep asking whether it is ‘misuse of power or genuine security threat?’