HPE Bill’s fate hangs in the balance

  • Chances of its endorsement today, the last day of Parliament, slim, as it is not on the agenda
- Manish Gautam, Kathmandu

Oct 14, 2017-Efforts made so far to streamline the medical education sector in the country have met with a major setback, if they have not gone down the chute, as Parliament held its last meeting on Friday without endorsing the Health Profession Education (HPE) Bill.

After the government plan to table the bill on Thursday was blocked by the CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre), it was expected that it would be tabled in Parliament on Friday.

Dr Govinda KC, who has been staging his 13th hunger strike for the last nine days demanding endorsement of the bill with a provision of putting a moratorium on establishing new medical colleges in Kathmandu Valley, on Thursday had called on Onasari Gharti Magar to use her “special powers” in the capacity of the House Speaker to get the bill endorsed.

With the incumbent Parliament having no business for Saturday, as lawmakers likely to attend the House just to bid goodbye to each other, the only way the government can push the bill is through ordinance.

But a minister ruled out that possibility. “It’s too early to talk about ordinance,” said Education Minister Gopal Man Shrestha. 

Endorsing the HPE Bill in line with the recommendations made by a team of experts is one of the demands of Dr KC. The original HPE Bill had the provision of banning new medical colleges in the Valley for the next 10 years. But a House committee had tweaked the bill, inserting a clause that favoured a handful of institutions backed by some UML and Maoist Centre members.

On Wednesday—the seventh day of Dr KC’s 13th hunger strike—the Ministry of Education agreed to amend the bill in line with Dr KC’s demand. 

“The CPN Maoist is in favour of B&C Medical College while the UML is trying to protect the investment at the Manmohan Medical College. The conflicts of interests [of their lawmakers] made it impossible to endorse the bill from Parliament,” said Nepali Congress leader and former health minister Gagan Thapa. The Jhapa-based B&C Medical College is promoted by Maoist Centre members while UML lawmakers have stakes in the Manmohan Memorial Institute of Health Sciences.

Had the bill been endorsed in line with Dr KC’s demand, these institutions would have been affected. 

UML Chief Whip Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal told the Post that his party would not agree to the amendments made to the bill without consulting his party. “Any changes that have been made now are not acceptable to us. We are for endorsing the bill that was forwarded by the parliamentary committee,” said Dhakal. 

Efforts by Speaker Gharti Magar to move the bill failed again on Friday as the UML and the Maoist Centre refused to budge. The Speaker held a meeting with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, UML Chairman KP Oli and chief whips of major parties on Friday. 

A Parliament meeting has been called for 3pm on Saturday. 

“We will try our best tomorrow [Saturday] to get the bill endorsed by Parliament,” said Minister Shrestha.

But Bharat Raj Gautam, spokesperson for Parliament, said he had no information about the HPE Bill being on the agenda for Saturday’s meeting. “All we know right now is that chief whips of the parties will speak [on Saturday] and thank the lawmakers,” said Gautam

Published: 14-10-2017 07:41

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