The oldest hospital in the country is sick. It has been so for a long-long time. Patients visiting Bir Hospital often come back scarred. One recounts how a medical intern badly botched a tooth extraction, numbing the left half of his face for the rest of his life. Another patient, who had visited a skin doctor at the hospital after contracting chickenpox, was summarily dismissed with a prescription for a skin ointment that had nothing to do with the disease, as he later learned. Then there are more serious allegations of how the doctors there perform ‘unnecessary’ surgeries; huge incisions are apparently made where a few small holes would have done. The reason thousands of patients keep flocking to Bir despite these horror stories is that they have no option. For the poor the private hospitals in Kathmandu are prohibitively expensive, especially if they have a major long-term illness. For many of them Bir or TUTH are their only options. But notwithstanding its centrality in our public health system, it would not be wrong to say that Bir is the worst run big public hospital in Nepal. Even the TUTH, itself forever beset with this or that problem, gets good patient ratings by comparison.
From time to time, I have dilemmas, trilemmas, decalemmas and even pentadecalemmas on what to write in this space. There are today many developing news stories that have the potential to provoke editorial comment.
I start by talking to people or scanning the media for a compelling topic. It must be relevant, timely, interesting and potent. Above all, for me, writing about it must be fun.
Building up on the successful visit of Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sushma Swaraj, Nepal should seek to enhance the country’s role as a land-bridge between India and China by proposing Trans-Himalayan Economic Corridors during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit.
China’s emergence as the “Factory of the World” based on its focus on exporting labor-intensive manufactures is well-known. Less known is the role that infrastructure played in this strategy. In the short run, infrastructure development boosts investment and economic growth. In the longer run, quality infrastructure boosts productivity of a country and enhances the competitiveness of its exports. A recent issue of The Economist cites a McKinsey Global Institute report that from 1992 to 2007 China spent 8.5 percent of its GDP on infrastructure, well over the developing country norm of 2-4 percent. During the period between 1992 and 2007 it built 35,000 km of highways at the cost of US $120 billion.
It is almost impossible to imagine modern world sans commercial advertisements. However, messages relayed in the form of ads through different media need to be closely analyzed by socio-legal experts and consumers.
Consider these: Nobody really knows the level of truth behind the assertion of various beauty soaps and creams claiming to reduce dark spots and bring a glow to your face. Similarly, noodle and cereal ads claim that the product makes the body, brain and bones sharper, stronger, healthier and what not. Many liquor ads depict ravishing ladies with a clear intention of provoking sexual desire among likely consumers. Call me dumb but I hardly find any connection between beautiful young girls displayed in most ads of higher secondary schools and the academic quality of such institutes. The issue is: how true are the messages being provided?
Talks with armed groups
A taskforce under the Constituent Assembly’s Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CPDCC) is currently busy in talks with various armed and underground outfits. The initial goal seems to be to enlist their views on constitution making. In this connection, ongoing talks with the armed outfits in eastern Nepal are reportedly going ‘positively’. This is a welcome development. For every effort should be made to secure the support of the broadest possible constituency on the new constitution. But the CA team, we hope, is first clear about its priority, which should be to make the forces outside the CA believe they will get a decent hearing if they cooperate. Concomitantly, the dialogue team must be aware of its limitations regarding how much the armed outfits operating in various hill and Tarai outposts can be accommodated. There are groups with genuine political demands no doubt. But many are clearly criminal in nature, involved in kidnappings and extortions under the political cover. Extremist forces like the JTMM under Jaya Krishna Goit, which will settle for nothing less than an ‘independent’ Madhesh, cannot be countenanced either.