Print Edition - 2018-02-19  |  SILVER LININGS

Leader of the masses

- Manish Gautam, Kathmandu

Feb 19, 2018-

The mass movement of 2006-07 was a turning point for popular student leader Gagan Thapa. His fiery speeches and political activism that challenged the king was instrumental in his rise as a leader of the masses. More importantly, Thapa’s direct association and involvement in social causes, speaking out when all decided to remain mum, and taking to the streets when others from the same political class didn’t, made him stand out as a youth leader in Nepal.

 

His fame grew further after he assumed the post of health minister in 2016. His tenure, albeit short, is still regarded as one of the most successful ones, considering the number of noble initiatives undertaken to make health services accessible to people from all walks of life and strengthen the healthcare system.  

Thapa became health minister on August 27, 2016 without any prior experience in a ministerial position. All eyes were on Thapa because of his sheer popularity as a youth leader. Thapa had also served as chairperson of the parliamentary Agriculture and Water Resources Committee, and had been hailed for issuing stringent directives to the government. 

When he took charge of the Health Ministry, the health sector was fraught with irregularities, and the health system was a mess. Nine months into the ministership, Thapa proved himself to be an efficient and visionary leader whose impact is still felt in the country’s health system. Some of his decisions, including free kidney transplantation, was a boon to poor patients. 

Thapa also worked to curb the arbitrary distribution of money from the state coffers for the medical treatment of politicians and influential people in foreign countries. Even after Thapa stopped being a minister, he constantly followed up on the programmes that he had to leave unfinished during his tenure. His strong commitment to building a strong health system was clearly apparent when he met with two succeeding health ministers and told them about the initiatives he had taken. He also gave them meticulously documented reports about his projects, and explained what needed to be done and fixed.  

Even before he was health minister, Thapa had dared to speak out against the infamous Lok Man Singh Karki when no political leader would utter a word about his misdeeds. He also maintained strong reservations during the economic blockade. 

“I constantly remind myself of my roots, and how I got to where I am now. I feel glad that so many youths in the country still look up to me despite their resentment towards politics,” says Thapa. “This also reminds me of my larger task to clean up politics.” 

— By Manish Gautam

Published: 19-02-2018 12:23

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