Dr. Govinda K C is an orthopedic surgeon now famous across the country for his philanthropic activities, especially in rural areas lacking medical facilities. But he is better known in the capital and urban areas for intermittent fasts — now the tenth in the past five years–seeking corruption free medical education distributed equally in urban and rural areas, with a transparent fee structure.
Three days ago, on the tenth day of his ongoing fast, he lambasted Parliamentarians who unanimously voted to give themselves a massive hike in salary, allowances and other facilities. He said such an act exhibited a lack of sensibilities towards the suffering of the public.
That Dr. K C’s vitals are being monitored by the Institute of Medicines– where he used to treat patients and teach medical students in normal time — by fellow doctors supporting his demands, indicates that his health is deteriorating and causing concern. Along with his criticism of Parliament, he chose to make a special appeal to a former Deputy Prime Minister and Nepali Congress leader, Sujata Koirala, now in Singapore for treatment of her ‘breast cancer’ diagnosed last month. “I have all the sympathy for her and wish her recovery. But she must return the Rs 5 million that the government has given to her for treatment.”
Dr K C has got a large and aggressive public following some of them at times going to the extreme of branding those who are silent or who differ with him as allies of the ‘corrupt’. The passage of the bill in parliament hiking MPs salaries, and the Rs 5 million to Sujata Koirala by the government came as the latest provocation for him — Sujata Koirala is considered to be among the richer politicians in the country.
She is, however, only one in a long list of VVIPs already enjoying `foreign’ treatment at the the state’s discretion. President Bidhya Bhandari, her predecessor Ram Baran Yadav, former Prime Ministers Sushil Koirala and K P Oli, Maoist leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha , are other prominent politicians who have availed of state funds for their treatment abroad.
Last year, the government allocated nearly Rs 200 hundred million, ten times more than the amount earmarked, as financial aid to the needy for treatment but a bulk of it went to the VVIPs, or to the workers belonging to the political parties in power.
Koirala’s party colleague and current Health Minister Gagan Thapa said he is pressing for a law that places a ceiling of a maximum of Rs 1.5 million, preferably for treatment in Nepal’s government hospitals, and in the private ones as the second option. They will be extended the same financial assistance to go abroad provided the competent board of experts certified that their treatment was not possible in Nepal. However, that law, many think, may not get approval, as it comes in the way of the discretionary powers of successive governments.
However, with Parliamentarians raising their own salaries and allowances, and politicians getting special funds from the state, they continue to be the target of mass anger, including that of the anti-corruption stalwarts like Dr K C.