Manipal medical college reopens in Nepal with misgivings

February 7th, 2009 - 4:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Feb 7 (IANS) The Manipal College of Medical Sciences and the teaching hospital affiliated to it in Nepal’s Pokhara city reopened Friday following four days of closure forced by trade unions. The college authorities are hoping that the protestors will honour the new agreement.“Both the college and hospital reopened Friday though we are yet to sign the new agreement with the trade unions,” said college dean B.M. Nagpal.

“Since the last agreement the unionists signed with us did not have any sanctity, we want to ask the chief district officer whether the new deal is as per the government’s labour laws or if the government has any other policy,” he added.

The unrest has resulted in a hefty financial setback for the collaboration between the Manipal Group of India and the government of Nepal.

Two trade unions affiliated to the ruling Maoist party and the opposition Nepali Congress party closed down the hospital Monday and the college a day later, asking for a fresh hike in wages even though the organisation had agreed to a 20 percent hike in 2007 in a pact that was to have been valid till this July.

Caught between the two rival unions, the hospital was forced to announce a fresh hike of Nepali Rs.1,650 ($20) in wages across the board and accept the demand that the new wages be paid with retrospective effect from mid-December 2008.

“It puts an additional burden on us but we have to shoulder it as there’s no other way. However, if it continues every year, the burden is going to become too heavy to carry,” said Nagpal.

While the college has been facing disruptions periodically, Manipal’s other proposed ventures in the Himalayan republic are yet to take off due to the political turmoil and natural calamities.

The agreement between the Manipal Group and the Nepal government also includes starting an engineering college in Jaleshwor town in Mahottari district in the Terai plains and a hospital in Janakpur town in Dhanusha district, also in the Terai.

Though construction of the college had started, the work was washed away during floods and the group’s appeal to the government to build an embankment is yet to be heeded.

More than 70 percent work had been completed on the Janakpur hospital, which was to have started with 100 beds, but it is now in the doldrums due to the newly flared-up violence in the Terai.

On Saturday, the Terai remained closed as a result of a 48-hour shutdown called by an ethnic community to protest against the government’s reservation policy.

Recently, Jaleshwor was shut down for nearly a fortnight due to protests as locals feared the district administration was going to be shifted from the town to nearby Bardibas.

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