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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 14 min 10 sec ago

Selection of contract teachers based on merit: MoE

1 hour 44 min ago

Graduates question selection process

Chhimi Dema 

Graduates with a Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) in Dzongkha are questioning the selection process after only five of them were selected as National Contract Teacher (NCT).

The ministry floated vacancies for 237 teachers on a consolidated contract. Out of that, 124 vacancies were for Dzongkha language teachers. Only five out of the 38 graduates with PGDE in Dzongkha were selected. The results were declared on October 8.

A graduate said that he approached the Ministry of Education (MoE) to crosscheck his scores, but he was denied access to the scores, on the grounds that the results were confidential.

The MoE’s Human Resource Division, he said, told them that selections were based on interviews, and no points were awarded for prior training and experience. “If the selection was based solely on the interview, then our training and experience have no value,” he said.

The MoE’s announcement issued on August 3, stated that candidates with B.Ed., PGDE and teaching experience will be given additional weight as appropriate.

Another graduate said: “It is not that we have to get the job, but we are unhappy because the selection process is unclear.”

The graduates said that some of their friends who applied for positions as substitute teachers were selected for NCT.

Some of the selected are also sitting the Bhutan Civil Service Examination (BCSE), they said. “If they get selected, they might leave the position they secured.”

A graduate said that for quality education, experienced teachers are better, but some of the graduates selected by the MoE do not have any experience. “This hampers the quality of education, and graduates who are interested miss out on an opportunity.”

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Selection based on merit 

The MoE’s chief human resource officer, Dhendup Tshering, said that selections are based on fairness, transparency, objectives, and principles of merit.

“In the process of open competitive selection wherein there are many aspiring and potential candidates, there is no assurance that only those candidates with PGDE will get selected,” he said.

The candidates, he said, must prove to the panel members that they are not only qualified, but also competent to become a teacher.

Dhendup Tshering said that the selection process by the ministry is the same as BCSC, except that a written test is not conducted.

During the selection, 10 panel members were formed to interview 686 shortlisted applicants. Each panel had five members consisting of teachers and education officials with a teaching background.

Dhendup Tshering said that for uniform assessment,  those on the panel were briefed on the standard assessment format, containing marking criteria developed by the Royal Civil Service Commission.

The Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations 2018, chapter seven, states that two extreme marks awarded to the candidate by the panel members shall be eliminated, and the average of the remaining shall determine the final marks.

“The two extreme scores awarded to the candidates were considered as outliers,” Dhendup Tshering said.

Candidates with a Bachelors of Education and PGDE and teaching experience were given preference while shortlisting, he said, but the selection was based entirely on the performance of candidates in the selection interview.

He said the assessment had marks for certificates of merit and individual achievements based on documentary evidence.

“If those candidates with PGDE are given the advantage for selection by default, the whole system of meritocracy is disrupted, and even more, there is a risk of complacency,” he said.

Five candidates were selected as substitute teachers and NCT.

The candidates were allowed to apply for substitute teacher and NCT positions simultaneously, Dhendup Tshering said, as consideration for the duration of the contract and also noting that there is no assurance whether they will be selected for NCT, as it is based on open competition.

The contract term for a substitute teacher is three months and 14 months for NCT.

Dhendup Tshering said that the graduates were informed that the final result containing the consolidated score would be shared with the graduates, but not the score sheet with details from individual panel members.

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Fuel prices increase again

1 hour 47 min ago

Pema Lhamo and Samten Wangchuk | Interns

Price of fuel increased to an all-time high with petrol costing Nu 81.54 a litre, an increase of Nu 3.86 and diesel increasing to Nu 80.06 from Nu 75,02 a litre in Thimphu.

As of yesterday, remote Gasa recorded the highest fuel price hike, where the price of petrol increased to Nu 83.20 a litre and diesel increased to Nu 81.61 a litre. Gelephu recorded the lowest fuel price at Nu Nu 75.80 for a litre of petrol and Nu 76.11 for a litre of diesel.

Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited’s depot manager, Megnath Subedi, said fuel price fluctuates at midnight of every month. “The principal companies do not share the reasons price increase.”

He said since fuel is imported from the Middle East countries, it is understood that prices of fuel at the source increased.

Taxi drivers and private car owners waiting to refuel at the depot said they are unhappy with the price hike.

A taxi driver, Tshering Norbu, 39, from Trashigang, said he has been driving taxi for the last 15 years. “The price hike will impact taxi drivers like me, who have to depend on Road Safety and Transport Authority to increase taxi fare but keep paying more fuel price.”

He said he ordered an electric car two years ago although it was more expensive. Tshering had not yet received the electric taxi. “I think electric cars would be more convenient for taxi drivers like us.”

People availing taxi services are also worried about the fuel price hike.

Sonam Dorji, 23, who regularly uses taxi to go home, said taxi drivers are already charging different fares blaming the fuel price hike. “I am worried they will increase the fare now.”

He said price of essentials would also increase after the fuel price hike. “Common people are going to suffer.”

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Dzongkhag administration requests LG to increase internet speed in schools

1 hour 48 min ago

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

Tsirang dzongkhag administration requested local government officials to increase the internet speed in schools so that the Royal Soelra, CodeMonkey, can be implemented.

The request was made in the recent dzongkhag tshogdu held on October 14.

The dzongkhag’s senior information and communication technologies (ICT) officer, Tshering Dorji, said that with the current internet speed of one megabit per second (mbps) in schools, it is difficult to start the CodeMonkey programme.

His Majesty The King granted the Royal Soelra to the children of Bhutan in July this year so that students can learn coding.

The Ministry of Education (MoE) has released about 100,000 CodeMonkey codes for students in the dzongkhags as of last month.

However, Tshering Dorji said the programme cannot be implemented in most schools in the dzongkhag.

“I am requesting that local government (LG) members and the gewog administration increase the internet speed in the schools, since the gewog administration has the budget to do so,” he said. “The dzongkhag does not have the budget for it.”

According to the ICT officer, if the internet speed is increased to 3mbps, which might cost around Nu 4,000 a month, the programme can be successfully implemented and students will benefit. “From November to June, the gewog administrations have to pay Nu 32,400.”

He explained that one mbps, which costs Nu 1,350 per month, is sufficient only to send and receive emails.

The dzongkhag’s chief education officer, Rinchen Gyeltshen, said CodeMonkey is a gift from the throne that offers paid coding lessons through games. “The education sector tried to secure funds to increase the internet speed but it is difficult.’

He said it would be helpful if the gewog administration shares its WiFi facilities with schools located near the administration.

An official from the Department of Information Technology and Telecom said in an earlier interview that through the Digital Drukyul Flagship programme, the department is building fibre optics infrastructure to identified schools and other government offices to facilitate high-speed internet connectivity.

The target, he said, is to construct about 2,500kms of fibre optic links by the end of the year. “As of now, about 500km have been completed.”

Meanwhile, it was learnt that besides the problem of slow internet speed, many schools lack computers, ICT teachers, and ICT laboratories.

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Increase in vehicle theft cases in Punakha

1 hour 49 min ago

 Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

Almost a month after police in Punakha received a complaint against a woman for allegedly selling a vehicle she had hired, police are receiving similar cases on a daily basis.

As of yesterday, the police have registered 26 cases and retrieved 25 vehicles. Five suspects: four women and a man had been detained.

Police sources said the case first came to light on September 22 when a man from Shengana filed a written complaint, stating that a woman had sold his Bolero, which was taken on hire for Nu 250,000.

Registered as a ‘breach of trust’ case, the woman was questioned and later released on bail.

Police received three more similar complaints on October 8. The cases were, however, registered on October 11 after a further eight people lodged similar complaints.

A Bolero owner, Kado, whose vehicle was also sold, said he rented out his Bolero for Nu 35,000 a month to a woman, who claimed she was supplying vegetables to desuups. “I received payment during the initial months but then the woman refused to receive my calls or pay the monthly hiring charges.”

Police sources said all five suspects used the same modus operandi to hire the vehicles. “For light vehicles, the five suspects claimed the vehicle would be used for desuup duty,” an official said.

According to the officials, Punakha police located and retrieved 18 vehicles between October 11 and October 12 through the Check Post Management System (CPMS).

According to the traffic in-charge in Punakha, Sherab Yoezer, they have traced another three vehicles through the CPMS, and asked the drivers to report to the police station. “The vehicles were retrieved from Paro, Haa, Thimphu, and Dagana.”

He said most of the vehicle owners are based in Punakha and are from different gewogs. Four owners of light vehicles are monks in the Punakha dratshang.

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Who are the suspects?

The suspects, four women and a man, are based in Thimphu. Of the five, two are a couple and the other three women are married.

They are aged between 31 and 41 years old and are from Tashiyangtse, Zhemgang, Paro, Samtse and Punakha. All suspects claimed to be engaged in business.

Police sources said a 31-year-old female suspect had sold eight vehicles, a 39-year-old female suspect had sold nine vehicles, a 40-year-old female suspect had sold six vehicles, and the couple had sold two and had kept one with themselves.

According to sources, the 40-year-old woman had a prior conviction where she was sentenced to two years and six months in prison for forgery and deceptive practices in Thimphu.

It was also learnt that the male suspect has been named in an ongoing case of larceny by deception in Thimphu. “The wife was also convicted of a similar case in Paro,” a police source said.

Punakha’s officer-in-command, Lt. Colonel Chador Namgay, said all suspects had denied working together and denied committing the crime. “But the suspects had been each other’s witnesses when forging car rental agreements and sale deeds.”

He said that the bank accounts of all suspects have been frozen and will be investigated soon.

Meanwhile, it was learnt some vehicle ownerships have been changed two times.

A buyer said Road Safety and Transport Authority officials should have asked for the identity card copy of the old owner and the sale deed records, which were both provided by one of the suspects.

In one of the sale deeds forged by one of the suspects, details on the vehicle loans and vehicle registration details had been issued.

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Looking for alternatives 

1 hour 50 min ago

The price of fuel in the country has hit an all-time high with a litre of petrol priced at Nu 81.54 and diesel at Nu 80.06. It will have repercussions that reach beyond those who own vehicles or those who rely on vehicles for a livelihood.

The increase in fuel pricing comes at a difficult time. Inflation is already high, with the rising cost of essentials attributed to the increasing cost of transportation. The pandemic is impacting the country. It is the low- and middle-income group that is affected the most.

We have no control over the fuel prices. Fuel pricing is a result of what happens in the global fuel market. The outlook is not good, with experts predicting a crisis in the energy market. From crude oil to natural gas and electricity, generated from various sources, the energy market has become unstable globally.

What we do have control over is policies that could reduce the impact of global energy demand, uncertainties, and fluctuations. We have, for decades, emphasized alternatives. However, the clean and sustainable transport system that we have talked about for years is not translating into action.

The fuel price hike comes as a good reminder. It is time, for instance, to make authorities implement the electric vehicle project seriously. We need an efficient, clean, and sustainable transport system. We have to rely less on carbon-intensive fuels like petrol and diesel. There is an imbalance in the energy trade. We import more fossil fuels than we export electricity.

The electric vehicle project, which started seven years ago, has not made much progress yet. Many taxi drivers who ordered electric vehicles through Bhutan Sustainable Low Emission Urban Transport System are still waiting to drive their electric taxis.  We cannot keep blaming the Covid-19 pandemic for our inefficiency.

Improving the public transport system is another step towards providing a local solution so that owning a car is not a necessity for everyone. Owning a car has become a necessity because we lack alternatives. A reliable, affordable, and efficient public transport in the cities, between dzongkhags and gewogs, could be an alternative.

The demand for fuel will keep increasing. We have the highest number of vehicle ownership per 1,000 people in the SAARC region. With almost 20 new vehicles hitting our roads a day, even during a pandemic, the demand for fuel will only grow.

In Thimphu, the present city bus service, even with a lot of improvements, has not been able to cater to the increasing population. The plans to improve the reliability and efficiency of urban transport are there, but the plans take time to translate into action.

As a country championing the environment and the people’s wellbeing, using more energy-efficient modes of transport and improving transport choices for people would complement our claims.  As a landlocked country, our dependence on land transport will continue, but there are other means to curtail the dependence on fossil fuels. 

An efficient public transportation system fueled by clean energy could be a solution.

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A retired soldier is Bhutan’s only gold medalist in boxing

1 hour 50 min ago

Thinley Namgay    

As boxing gains popularity among Bhutanese youth, a retired soldier from Lhuentse recalls how he earned the country’s only gold medal in boxing without any professional coaching, equipment, and diet.

Tshering Dhendup, 67, from Lhuentse, won the gold medal in 1984 in an international boxing championship held in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Records maintained by the Bhutan Boxing Federation showed that Bhutanese won 54 medals in boxing in international championships, but so far it has only been Tshering Dhendup who brought home a gold medal.

“My interest and hard work helped me win the medals,” Tshering Dhendup said.

Before the gold medal, he also won a bronze medal in the 71kg weight category in the boxing championship in Nepal in the same year. Another soldier, Tandin from Paro, also won bronze there.

In the 1985 boxing championship in Bangladesh and the 1986 SAARC championship in  India,  Tshering Dhendup won bronze medals in the same weight category.

Tshering Dhendup served in the army for 30 years until his retirement in 2002.

He said he became a soldier aged 16 in 1972.

Tshering Dhendup

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He said boxing began in Bhutan towards the end of 1973 with an Indian coach.  “Boxing was then played only among army personnel. I had no idea about boxing until 1976.”

According to Tshering Dhendup, the first boxing match in Bhutan was held at Changlimithang in 1975 to celebrate the coronation of His Majesty The Fourth King.

“Boxers were trained at Lungtenphu. On the day of the match, we made a simple ring at Changlimithang and played the game,” he said. “Those involved in the boxing match did not have to attend their regular duties unless there was an emergency requirement.”

He said that Bhutan hosted its first international boxing tournament in Thimphu in 1978. It was against the Indian Army team. “Eleven boxers each from both the teams were involved in the 48-80 kg weight category.”

Tshering Dhendup said three Bhutanese soldiers played well in the tournament. “I knocked out my opponents twice in the first rounds. It was one of my best performances.”

He said the only boxing ring in the country at that time was at the Lungtenphu army camp. “During our time, active, capable, and robust soldiers were selected for boxing by the officials.”

Tshering Dhendup participated in his last boxing competition representing Shaba wing in 1988 and won the championship cup.

“Through this game, I had the opportunity to meet boxing legend Muhammad Ali,” he said, showing his photo with Muhammad Ali in Pakistan. “Muhammad Ali was the chief guest of the SAARC Games in Pakistan in the 1980s. “Dr Sonam from the national referral hospital made an appointment  with Muhammad Ali’s official for a photo session.”

Tshering’s boxing capability is known amongst young boxers.

On August 29 this year, Druk Thimphu Boxing Club awarded a certificate to him as the first boxing gold medalist of the country.

Tshering also said that his boxing career helped him to get a promotion in the army, besides living a healthy lifestyle.

“Today the quality of facilities and coaches has improved a lot and youth have good opportunities in boxing,” he said. “The youth have potential. To further improve boxing, the accommodation, diet, and mental wellbeing of the boxers are important.”

He also said boxers must be bold and disciplined.

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Alone and depressed in the busy urban centres

1 hour 51 min ago

Being brought to urban centres a possible cause of mental health issues among the elderly

Younten Tshedup  

Rural to urban migration is not only emptying villages, but is recognised as a potential cause of mental health issues, especially among the aging population.

Changes to one’s living environment, especially for the elderly, are known to have a psychological impact on people. It is identified as one of the many possible reasons for mental health issues among Bhutanese.

Sharing his experience during one of the mental health discussions earlier this month, senior psychiatrist, Dr Damber K Nirola said that many urban residents today are bringing their parents from the villages to live in places like Thimphu and Paro. “Old parents from the villages are called to babysit. They are housed in big buildings with over 10 households, but the irony is that the one doesn’t know his or her neighbour.”

Dr Nirola said that when old people remain shut inside closed rooms with no one to interact with, they can become depressed. “This is a new trend we are seeing at the hospitals today,” he said, adding that with increased life expectancy and a larger population of elderly people, cases of dementia are becoming more common.

Dementia is a condition where the ability to remember, think, and make decisions are impaired causing disruptions to everyday activities.   Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia.

“People suffering from this condition are not able to take care of their own needs. When such people are left all alone at home, you cannot expect them to feel mentally able. 

This is a big challenge and it will only continue to grow,” said Dr Nirola.

Two years ago, Sangay Khandu brought his mother to Thimphu from Chaskhar, Mongar. As a nurse at the national referral hospital, Sangay is frequently assigned to night shifts. “I’m always worried about her when I have to spend the night at the hospital. She has been asking me to send her back to the village.”

Sangay said that it is difficult for his mother to communicate and socialise with the neighbours. “Maybe it’s because of the different backgrounds they all come from, which has made socialising difficult. I’m planning to take her back to the village, but then she would still be alone there.”

76-year-old Pema from Martshala, Samdrupjongkhar came to visit her daughter in Thimphu in July 2019. Due to the pandemic, she could not return. “Except when my daughter is at home with me, I don’t enjoy staying here. I want to go back to my village, to my cattle and fields. I feel suffocated here,” she said.

Dr Nirola said that although the government has recently started observing October as the month of the older people, more focus needs to be given to the elderly. “I see some people hire helpers to be with the sick in the hospital because people have work responsibilities and don’t have time.”

With urbanisation and the demands of capitalism, many say the once vibrant social cohesion, community vitality, and care for the elderly are fast fading in the country.

“My late mother had seven children. She died of loneliness as all of us were working and had no time to stay with her,” said a senior executive. “My only regret is I had no time for my late mother. I was too busy with my work,” he said.

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Picture story

Mon, 10/18/2021 - 12:03

   Price Spike: In one of the highest increase in fuel price in recent times, the cost of a litre of petrol in Thimphu has increased to Nu 81.54 yesterday. A litre of petrol was sold at Nu  60 in the beginning of this year. On August 16, it increased to Nu 76.

Roadblock at Namling to remain longer

Mon, 10/18/2021 - 12:03

…landslides hamper clearing efforts

 Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

The Department of Roads (DoR) officials are currently unable to estimate when the roadblock at Namling on the Mongar-Bumthang highway can be cleared and the road opened to traffic, due to continuous soil and rockslides.

“The active mass sliding is hampering the progress of the work,” a DoR official said.

Initially, officials aimed to clear the blockage in about three days. Officials from the DoR’s regional office in Lingmethang, Mongar, said active mass slides have been triggered by a continuous downpour in the area that has slowed work from both sides of the highway.

However, officials said the DoR is exploring means to expedite the work.

A massive landslide occurred on the evening of October 14, taking out 300 metres of the road and blocking the road at Namling, about 2.5 kilometres from the national workforce labour camp area towards Mongar.

Commuters in hundreds of vehicles, including public transport buses, returned to Bumthang and Mongar, while some continued their journey, changing vehicles.

The Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) office also facilitated the one-time access of 15 public transport buses to and from Thimphu via Gyalpoizhing-Nganglam national highway through Panbang to Trongsa. 

The officials installed escorts and GPS in the vehicles, as they had to pass through the Covid-19 high-risk areas between Tshobaley in Nganglam and Ringdibi in Panbang.

Meanwhile, the RSTA has temporarily suspended public transport buses on the east-west highway until further notice.

Private vehicles need to seek approval from the Covid-19 taskforces of Nganglam and Panbang drungkhags and follow protocols if they wish to travel via this route.

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Rain and windstorm damages paddies in Trongsa

Mon, 10/18/2021 - 12:02

Nim Dorji | Trongsa

It’s paddy harvest season in Trongsa. Farmers have looked forward to having a bountiful harvest, but rain and a windstorm on October 16 damaged the crop in some areas, incurring a huge loss to the owners.

In Langthel gewog, Lingdi farm had paddy fields of almost 15 acres, but the windstorm damaged the crops in more than five acres of it.

One of the farm owners, Tharchen, said they were expecting a bountiful harvest, as they had managed to save the crop from wild animals.

“We would have harvested it in two weeks’ time if not for the damage,” he said. “I am worried that we won’t get even 30 percent of the harvest now.”

Lingdi farm was established with a loan of Nu 1M from National CSI Bank and Nu 700,000 from the project founder.

“We are worried about how to repay the loan,” Tharchen said.

He said that when they availed the loan from NCSI Bank, Nu 72,000 was deducted for insurance. “We thought it was for farm insurance, but upon inquiry, we were informed that the money was deducted for farm proponent’s insurance.”

Tharchen said they would not get crop compensation if the money was for the proponent’s insurance. “As the loan was for the farm, the funds should have been for farm insurance.”

He said that it is really discouraging to do agricultural work because of limited returns and natural disasters. 

“We have requested that the gewog agriculture department visit the farm.”

Similarly, in Nubi gewog, rain damaged the harvested crop.

Gagar tshogpa Kelzang Jurme said many households lost their paddy crop to the rain as it was lying in the fields. “If the rain continues for the next few days, all the harvest will be damaged.”

He said that villagers depend on agriculture and livestock. “Even cattle refuse to eat paddy straw damaged by rain. It will affect livestock production in winter.”

Nubi Gup Ugyen Tenzin said farmers who harvested the paddy and left it in the fields will have a damaged product. “We didn’t get any formal report of damage yet.”

According to the dzongkhag agriculture officials, they have not received any formal report of damage. “If we receive any reports, we will investigate,” an official said.

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Gasa Tshachhu flood caused damage Nu 4M

Mon, 10/18/2021 - 12:02

Phurpa Lhamo | Gasa

Property worth Nu 4 million (M) has been confirmed damaged or washed away by the swollen Mochhu on August 26 this year.

Gasa Tshachhu Manager Tandin Dorji said that a proposal seeking funds and technical support was submitted to the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, the Gross National Happiness Commission, and donors a few weeks ago.

The ponds, resting area, choeten, a room for persons with disabilities, and vegetable stalls were washed away in August this year. The source of the tshachu remains buried.

Tandin Dorji said that work to divert the river would begin this week, which was previously prevented by continuous rainfall and the swollen river. “Now the water levels have significantly subsided.”

Maintenance of an excavator which was stuck on the other side of the river is also underway.

“As soon as the maintenance work is done, diversion work will begin,” Tandin Dorji said.

The work will be executed with a budget from the dzongkhag.

Tandin Dorji said that designs and cost estimates will be worked out after studying the water source.

The tshachhu generated revenue of Nu 1.9M despite the pandemic in the 2019-2020 financial year. Between 2018-2019, the tshachhu generated Nu 2.2M.

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Efforts to improve milk quality in Gelephu underway

Mon, 10/18/2021 - 12:00

Nima | Gelephu

To ensure quality milk collection and enhance management practices, two chiller machines will be installed at Pelrithang and Zomlingthang in Gelephu gewog, Sarpang.

The work to install the chiller machines will begin early next year after the construction of an ice cream plant in the gewog is completed in February 2022.

Gelephu Gup Ugyen Wangchuk said that the gewog is preparing to set up an ice cream plant in lower Pelrithang, Gelephu.

“There were people who used to add water to the milk in the past. Now we have on-the-spot testing to ensure that quality milk reaches the collection point. We reduce the payment if the milk has a higher water content,” he said.

The gup said that the ice cream plant would also be able to take in surplus milk from nearby gewogs in the future. “We were struggling to sell milk. Livestock farming was not profitable without a secure market. The ice cream plant will benefit the farmers,” Ugyen Wangchuk said.

The gewog encouraged the group, Gelephu Omdetshen, which is the largest milk producer in the gewog, to ensure quality of milk to a certain standard as they prepare to supply milk to the plant. The group was established by 25 farmers in 2007 and currently has 133.

The chairperson of the group, Tenzin Norbu said that only 60 percent of milk collected is sold every day. “The remaining 40 percent, close to 300 litres, we have to make into byproducts and sell,” he said.

He added that the ice cream plant will help the group sell surplus milk on time.

“But we are not sure whether we’ll be able to maintain the quality of the milk. The fat percentage should be high. There is also no proper monitoring in place when the milk is collected. Quality might get compromised,” said Tenzin Norbu.

The chairperson said that the milk tests in the past could not determine the quality meant for the ice cream plant. “We might need training to prepare ourselves accordingly,” he said.

A microbial and composition quality test conducted in the gewog in 2019 when the gewog and dzongkhag were planning the ice cream plant showed poor results.

The screening for subclinical mastitis also showed significant mastitis prevalence in herds.

Supplying milk of poor quality for the production of dairy products will result in low quality products with a very short shelf life that would also pose a health risk, according to a report.

An official from the dzongkhag livestock sector said that farmers were encouraged to practice improved hygiene and sanitation while milking, and to avoid using plastic containers to store milk.

Dzongkhag livestock officer Dorji Wangchuk said milk contamination and the risk of milk spoiling were high when the sampling was done.

“The technical team recommended changes to the milking process and practising improved hygiene and sanitation. We have identified two places to set up chilling plants. This will help reduce the risk of contamination and spoilage,” he said.

He added that the livestock sector will be doing the milk quality assessment again, with support from the thromde veterinary laboratory, when the plant is fully set up.

The dzongkhag livestock sector supported the establishment of the ice cream plant, as the farmers have been finding it difficult to find a market, despite using the excess milk to produce cheese and butter.

The ice cream plant is expected to be ready by early next year. The construction of the structure cost Nu 7.63 million.

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For focused planning

Mon, 10/18/2021 - 12:00

Plans are based on dreams, on aspirations and vision, as in mental image of figuring out where we are and, by the same token, how far and fast we need to run to get somewhere, which in the language of development may be called “progress”. Without dreams, or plans, there is every chance that we could end up losing the excitement of the many possibilities. We’ve had it then.

Ever since Bhutan started to open up and decided to embark on the journey of “modernisation”, the country’s development has been guided by the five-year development planning system. It served us well. For a country that started “development” quite late in the last century and had to race full throttle to catch up with the rest of the world, a five-year planning system made sense; we could include both our short- and long-term vision.

But time has changed and with it our needs and priorities. Going by the history of our development, however, changes have occurred only in proportions, not in priorities themselves. Health, education and connectivity remain as important as they were in the first stages of the country’s development journey some 60 years ago.  And they will continue to be in the years and ages to come with increasing levels of sophistication in the society.

It is in this perspective that we should see and understand as to whether we should keep or do away with the five-year planning system. But more important, we should have a plan – whether it is a three-year, 10-year, or 15-year development plan. It would have been a different story if we had resources enough to fund and execute our own development projects and activities. Even then, we would need worthwhile plans to work and spend on.

 Sadly, however, a major chunk of development support comes from donor countries. That means without a clearly stated plan with sound objectives, funds will be hard to come by.

The current debate about keeping or doing away with the five-year planning system so is missing the point. The focus of the discourse has to be why there isn’t anything concrete yet about the 13th Plan. The government has just about two years to bow out and we still don’t have a clear sense of what five years after 2023 is going to look like.

The Gross National Happiness Commission’s mandate is to present and help the country achieve its development goals. At a time when the country should have at least a draft development plan ready as to what is coming after the present government’s term, squandering away time and resources in thinking whether to keep or do away with five-year planning is an effort painfully in vain.

By failing to prepare, we may be preparing to fail. As in Koyenikanian wisdom: “Opportunity does not waste time with those who are unprepared.”

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The ruined Dzong called Dzongsa 

Mon, 10/18/2021 - 11:59

History blurs with the mystery at a stunning cliff amongst the disappearing ruins of an ancient dzong located at Dzongsa commonly known as Jumsa, around 15 kilometres towards Tendu from Tashichhoeling (Sipsu) town in Samtse. The ruin is located about 80 meters away from the road. The name of the place, Jumsa, is a distorted derivation from Dzongsa. However, the roadside distance indicator gives back the original name to the place.

Some old maps indicate a dzong here, but one can afford to be sceptical until the unassuming ruin stands right in front of a visitor. Moreover, unlike the other famous towering ruined Dzongs, this ruin and the central tower is accelerating toward complete disappearance and can be easily mistaken for a heap of undergrowth locally known as amlisho, broom plant, and tithopati, Artemisia, during the rainy season. The remains of the random rubble masonry wall are further strangled by the roots of a tree that have flourished and tower over the ruins and it is only speculative to date the construction of the dzong. Some sources say that the Dzong was known as Damsang Dzong and it was built during Desi Tenzin Rabgye’s time but in the absence of any written records, it is difficult to get details on the history of the Dzong.

A closer visual survey of the ruins reveals stone wall foundations all around the five-meter-tall ruins which might have been the central tower of the dzong. Was it a complete dzong with courtyards and festivals or just a garrison or a place for tax collection in ancient times? No one knows for sure. Or was it a dzong connecting Sombe Dzong in Haa to Pedong and Kalimpong across the Jaldhaka River which was part of Bhutan before the 1865 Duar Wars?

The books on Ashley Eden who camped at Sipsu on his mission to Punakha don’t refer to any such structure.

The restoration of the dzong appeared in the manifesto of its first elected MP Durga Prasad Chettri during the 2008 elections and sadly it remained only on paper and the walls, and the ruins are waiting for local leaders, authorities, historians, and restoration experts to bring into the light the story of a dzong that once proudly stood at a visually thrilling cliff above the confluence of three rivers and above the Bindu barrage and the Jaldakha hydel project. Its restoration might give the Dzongsa Dzong and the ruins an appropriate place in the modern history of Bhutan and bring a sense of belonging and pride to the community and Dungkhang of Tashichoeling.

Only if the walls could speak, the stones in the disappearing Dzongsa Dzong ruins would have the original story to tell.

Contributed by  Dhrubaraj Sharma

QUT Design Lab 

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GNHC revisiting planning system 

Mon, 10/18/2021 - 11:58

… CS shares it’s time to tweak the planning system 

Yangchen C Rinzin 

While the drafting of the 13th Plan will begin in January 2022, the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) Secretariat has started revisiting the planning system of the five-year plans.

Revisiting the planning system, according to the GNHC, does not necessarily mean there will be no draft Plan or that they are doing away with the planning system.

GNHC officiating secretary, Rinchen Wangdi, said that there will be a draft 13th Plan, because to bring developments, there is a need for a plan to base it on. “We’ll be drafting the Plan as per the planning process, as it has been happening over the years,” he said. “It’s GNHC’s mandate to plan so, we’ll draft the Plan.”

However, he said, GNHC is revisiting the planning system to review to see should the current five-year plan continue or how best can they change or adopt a new planning system, including designing a strategic plan.

“Although we’ve just started revisiting the planning system, we’re yet to decide on whether we really need the five-year plan system or what the  shape and form the 13th Plan would  be,” Rinchen Wangdi said. “What government wants is to review the planning system, review in terms of operation.”

The first meeting to revisit the planning system took place on October 8 with the Prime Minister, who is also a chairperson of GNHC.

Rinchen Wangdi said that while Lyonchhen has shared on the need to review the planning system, formal communication and first briefing session on the revision have just begun.

  Apart from referring to various research or world’s best practices, GNHC is also exploring whether to have a three-year plan or short term plans like an annual plan, vision document or a strategic document.

“If at all there are changes, the review must ensure to look for the best plan towards innovative and effective planning system to match the 21st century needs,” Rinchen Wangdi said. “Maybe, this time, going forward we could review to see how best can we plan based on the 21st Century Economic Roadmap that would guide the plan like a vision document.”

Beginning in 1961, the Bhutanese economy was based on the concept of planning, carried through the five-year plans developed by the then Planning Commission.

GNHC is also working on the concept note for the 13th Plan. The commission will then develop the guideline and start the formulation of the Plan following consultations with various agencies including the local government.

“We’ve to ensure there is a continuity in planning. It is important because we need to mobilise resources and also for the donors who donate funds depending on our plans and targets,” a GNHC official said.

Earlier there were concerns that there would be a vacuum between the two Plan periods, after a government ends its term and the beginning of the successor’s term, hampering implementation even if the Plan periods were aligned with the government’s tenure.

The GNHC official said that once the draft plan is ready, it is left for the next government to endorse the Plan. The government of the day has the prerogative to change and align some of the activities with their pledges.

“The government is given room to change. The draft Plan is also shared with contesting political parties to give them an idea about the plans and accordingly they could pledge,” the official said. The GNHC also refers to the parties’ pledges.

Although the Opposition Party emphasised, in a press release, the need for a draft Plan by this time, theGNHC officials claimed that it was not late and that they were on track. The official said that the 13th Plan will be ready before the government’s tenure ends.


What other says?

Many said it was time the GNHC should change the planning system after consulting various stakeholders to gather their feedback and ideas.

Many civil servants agreed that whether it is a short or long term plan, a plan document is necessary.

“It’s up to the government if they want to change that is if they have a better idea. If it’s better than the current practice, we must go ahead with the change,” a civil servant said.

Another civil servant said that like civil service and education reforms, it was time to revisit the Bhutanese planning system.

Some said that there has to be an economic roadmap based on which, the GNHC should develop medium or short term plans preferably a three-year plan.

A few suggested that the GNHC could be a division under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) until an Economic Development Board under PMO is established.

An official from the local government said if the current planning is to stay then the right time to start drafting the plan would be after the local government election so that they would also have an idea of what are the plans at the local level.

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Around 60 participate in the 2021 Gyalsey Tennis Championship 

Mon, 10/18/2021 - 11:58

Thinley Namgay 

Tandin Wangchuk beat Tenzin Singye Dorji 2-1 to lift the 4th Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel National Open Tennis Championship trophy in the men’s singles category at the Changlimithang tennis ground in Thimphu yesterday.

Despite the strong opposition from Tenzin Singye Dorji, the 2019 South Asian Games bronze medallist, Tandin Wangchuk won the first set 7-5.

In the best-of-three match, Tandin Wangchuk cruised to an easy win in the second set, winning it 7-1. Both of them are national players.

A 27-year-old pilot with Druk Air, Tandin Wangchuk was awarded a cash prize of Nu 25,000. Tenzin Singye Dorji received Nu 15,000.

Tandin Wangchuk from Thimphu said that despite limited practice, he was able to perform well in the tournament. “I was glad that my opponent in the final was Tenzin Singye Dorji. He is a good player.”

He said parental support is one of the essential components to engage youth in tennis. “Parents must take the initiative. For instance, my parents encouraged me. Besides an interest in tennis from an early age, I also play football.”

A second-year student at Gedu College of Business Studies, Tenzin Singye Dorji, said that he took leave for a week to play in the tournament.

He said that he couldn’t play tennis for two years. “I came to the tournament without practice, but I did my best. I will work hard to make my mother proud.”

The other categories in the tournament that started on October 9 were women’s singles, veteran’s singles, and men’s lucky mixed doubles.

Sushila Rai won the women’s singles category and received a cash prize of Nu 18,000. It was the third consecutive win for Sushila Rai. The Executive Director of the Bhutan Cancer Society, Sonam Yangchen, who came second, got Nu 10,000.

In the veteran’s singles, Lieutenant (Lt) Colonel Sonam Gyeltshen of the Royal Bhutan Army beat Doshing Lepcha to grab the first prize of Nu 10,000.  Doshing Lepcha got Nu 7,000.

In the lucky doubles category, Lt Colonel Sonam Gyeltshen and Tenzin Singye Dorji defeated Birman Rai and Thinley Samdrup. The winners were awarded Nu 8,000 each, and runners-up got Nu 5,000 each.

Her Royal Highness Princess Dechan Yangzom Wangchuck awarded the prizes.

Around 60 participants between 16-65 years, mostly from Thimphu, participated in the tournament organised by the Bhutan Tennis Federation (BTF).

The tournament is an annual BTF event to celebrate the birth anniversary of His Royal Highness The Gyalsey.

BTF General Secretary, Tshering Namgay, said that the tournament was the first tournament organised by the federation after 18 months amid the pandemic. “The people from other dzongkhags were unable to take part, due to the ongoing pandemic.”

BTF’s Vice President Tshewang Jurmi said that the tennis competition has potential as a platform to address the growing youth-related issues by providing them with an opportunity to engage and exhibit their talents.

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Picture story

Mon, 10/18/2021 - 11:57

Nineteen civil servants from 12 ministries and constitutional offices concluded a six-day Sorig Zhiney and Luejong training yesterday. The training was organised by Department of Traditional Medicine Services in collaboration with Royal Civil Service Commission.

Focus point

Sat, 10/16/2021 - 16:06

Picture story

Sat, 10/16/2021 - 16:06

 The Mongar-Bumthang highway will remain closed to traffic for at least three days due to a huge roadblock at Namling. The continuous mass sliding has hampered the road clearing efforts.

Radiation treatment at JDWNRH not benefited patients

Sat, 10/16/2021 - 16:05

Investigations found poor outcome for patients with deep-seated tumours

Younten Tshedup  

An investigation carried out on the radiotherapy services at the Thimphu national referral hospital (JDWNRH) has found that the radiation treatment offered at the hospital has not benefited patients with deep-seated tumours, resulting in poor treatment outcome.

A preliminary clinical report written on the investigation looked into the effectiveness of the service. According to the report, it was noticed that patients with deep-seated Stage III rectal tumours who were sent for tumour downsizing in preparation for surgery were not obtaining the optimal response normally seen after radiation. This was first observed in 2019 in 12 rectal cancer patients almost one year after the introduction of the services.

Earlier this March, the hospital management was informed of the increasing mortality (death) among cervical cancer patients after the start of radiotherapy services at the hospital.

The issue 

Concerns regarding the quality of radiotherapy service at JDWNRH were first raised to Care Australia, an international aid organisation operating the radiotherapy services at JDWNRH, in February 2018. However, Care Australia made assurances at the time that the service was as per international standards.

Following the high mortality rate among cervical cancer patients, despite receiving radiotherapy treatments, the oncology department conducted a three-day mortality data analysis in June 2021. The inquiry found out that the existing radiotherapy machine needed upgrading.

Several other issues were found when the Ministry of Health and JDWNRH reviewed the service agreement between Care Australia and the hospital management on the introduction of radiotherapy services.

As per the investigative report, basic requirements for the establishment of new technology in the country were not followed. Section 8.4 of the National Health Policy 2011 states that no new health technology will be allowed until assessment and evaluation for its safety, efficacy, quality, indication, and cost effectiveness have been conducted by the health technology assessment panel.

It was also found that due process for executing any memorandum of understanding or agreement with external agencies in line with the Rule of Treaty Making Procedure 2016 was not conducted. They also lacked due diligence as per the Procurement Rules and Regulation.


A possible scam?

In principle, the approval to introduce radiation therapy service at JDWNRH was given in May 2016. Prior to the approval, a doctor from Care Australia made a comprehensive presentation on the modality of setting up the radiation therapy service at the hospital.

A team comprising senior officials from the Ministry of Health, JDWNRH, and Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan (KGUMSB) reviewed the service agreement. Following the review, the service agreement was signed on June 17, 2016 with no feedback from the board.


More issues      

The investigation found that the health technology assessment (HTA) was not conducted during the pre-installation phase as there were no records of it. Local technical experts found during a detailed analysis of the radiation therapy machine that the machine was producing only single photon energy with low energy, which caused suboptimal outcomes when treating deep-seated tumours.

It was also found that the machine did not produce the level of electron energies required for treating superficial cancers. The technical investigation found the need to upgrade the radiation therapy machine at JDWNRH.

Meanwhile, since August of this year, all cancer patients are now referred to India for radiation except for palliative patients. In a meeting held last month, chaired by the health minister, they decided to keep the radiation services on hold (both curative and palliative treatment).

It was learnt that a notification was issued to Care Australia on September 21 this year communicating the issues. JDWNRH received a response from the company on October 1. Kuensel was not given access to the report.

Meanwhile, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that a presentation on the issue was due last week but could not take place. 

Kuensel learnt that a preliminary report  of the investigation was presented to the health minister. The team from JDWNRH is expected to present the findings to the ministry’s high level committee which will deliberate and propose recommendations before submitting the report to the Cabinet.