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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

UCMS Turmoil: big money poses existential threat to medicos

The situation in the Bhairahawa-based Universal College of Medical sciences appears to be evolving fast, and the rift between the students and the college administration appears to be further widening.

But make no mistakes: this is not a mere rift between a college management and its students. At closer look, this represents the larger rift between the students/employees and the teaching institution/employers and this has forced the medical fraternity to contemplate some existential issues.

Some years back, when the students/employees went on strike on any such colleges, there used to be some kind of settlement eventually without any long-lasting implications. More importantly, the people in administration used to more or less fulfill the demands of the agitators.

But now the times have changed. The colleges are more reluctant to make compromises and some of them have resorted to alternative ways to settle the disputes: from massively bribing the leaders of mother parties of the agitating employee bodies to pull the plug on the strike to a frank use of threat of violence to end the strikes forcibly.

To sum up, while the owners of hospitals/medical colleges are becoming more powerful and arrogant, the students/employees (including the doctors) are increasingly powerless and are expected to behave that way.

Now the predicament of the doctors/medical students: more than 90% of them will have to be educated and employed by one or the other private institution. Now, if the studying and working conditions keep deteriorating like this, a day will come when one will have to enroll in a medical college by paying exorbitantly high amount of money to study in a dismally under-equipped and understaffed condition and then be employed in horrible condition to make a living. The process is already underway in a troubling speed and this portends a very bleak future for the doctors.

While the gains of a victory for students at UCMS may be modest (the demands themselves are very modest to start with), a loss would have immense cost for whole medical fraternity in Nepal. This will set the precedent that no power challenging the big money of the owners of medical colleges will win in such a confrontation. With this, some of the medical colleges where goons are not used so far to terrorize the students/employees will be incentivized to do so and the working conditions for most of the doctors will take a turn for the worse.

This is why the fraternity needs to show solidarity with the agitating students at UCMS in any way possible. Going by the developments so far, the UCMS admin is bent on forcing the students to end the strike without fulfilling any of their demands and use of physical force is also likely. The fact that they resorted to closing academic activities and shutting down the hostels shows their resolve to let the matter linger rather than seek a prompt solution. If the stalemate gets prolonged further, the academic activities like examinations will be certainly jeopardized and that appears to be the intention of the administration.

Overall, there is no reason for the agitating students to be discouraged by the developments so far. Unity and resolve is only thing they (and the whole fraternity) have to fight the odds. If we do not timely resist the transformation of our places of study and work into shameless business enterprises with utter disregard for quality, ethics and decency, it will soon be too late as increasing use of money and muscle power outmaneuvers every sane thing in this country.

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