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“If South Asia has a viable public health icon after the passing of Edhi in Pakistan, this man is it,” says a Nepali friend.
Dr. Govinda KC is a man who is considered a saint in Nepal – a middle-class doctor who on his own expense offers medical help wherever there is a disaster: Haiti, the Kashmir earthquake in Pakistan, Bangladesh floods.
By all accounts an incredible human being, he is entering the third week of his hunger strike, a fast unto the death for reforms in the medical education sector. His demands: lower the cost of medical education and create a public health system that allows access of all to quality care, in the place of Nepal’s present highly privatised and centralised system.
The “medical mafia” in Nepal has time and again blocked these pro-poor reforms. The centre of this mafia is Lok Man Singh Karki,, Nepal’s anti-corruption tsar who runs a parallel state.
Dr KC has singled out Lok Man Singh Karki, as the primary culprit in the corruption of the medical sector and demands his impeachment.
Dr. KC’s health is deteriorating. He has gone on hunger strikes for his causes before and he knows what his limits are. Now, he gives himself three days after which he may not be able to hold on.
His situation is precarious and has electrified Nepal. There have been rallies in support of Dr Govinda KC across the country. A major one is planned for Kathmandu this Saturday.
Even in the midst of a political and constitutional crisis (major inter-party fighting, the disintegration of the government, the lack of implementation of the constitution), it is Dr KC’s satyagraha that has captured Nepal’s attention. His stand offers hope amidst the fear that Karki has managed to create. Dr KC is one person who refuses to be cowed. People are taking strength from that.
Despite all the people he has persecuted, all the departments and offices of the government that he has arm-twisted into doing his bidding, until today there was nobody in a 598-member parliament willing to table a motion against Karki.
Yesterday, that changed. Three well-respected young house members (MPs) have submitted a motion to discuss Dr. KC’s demand to impeach Karki. This discussion could lead to the formation of an 11-member committee that recommends impeachment.
Karki’s rise to power itself is an incredible story, about which there is complete ignorance beyond Nepal’s borders. A discredited retainer of the royal regime, himself incredibly corrupt he was found guilty by the Rayamajhi Commission of abuse of authority in the suppression of the Democracy Movement of 2006.
He then disappeared into India for two years and spent huge amounts of money buying himself allies. With the backing of elements in New Delhi, certain Nepalis with vested interests in 2013 exerted pressurised the Nepali government to install Karki as the head of the Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority.
There was a great outcry against this given Karki’s massive unpopularity and known corruption, but it went ahead. We see here the creation of an anti-corruption tzar who now controls politics as required. As in Brazil, Pakistan, and elsewhere, a populist understanding of corruption is being used to counter political opponents.
Karki is perfectly positioned to control Nepali politics for his own personal ambitions as well as to serve the purposes of those who seek to micromanage Nepal through the use of money and force.
With the deterioration of Dr. KC’s health, things are coming to a head.
I urge friends in the international media to take up this cause and help save Dr Govinda KC and democracy in Nepal.