After overseas employment agencies, there are now reports of education consultancy firms exploiting students who wish to pursue higher studies abroad.
For a society that takes pride in empowering its children with education, this is a sad development.
The plight of 23 students who were duped to study in Malaysia came to light only after some students decided to return home and shared their story. The education ministry has now requested the foreign ministry’s assistance to repatriate the 18 students who are in Malaysia on expired visa.
It is not that the ministry was unaware of this case. It was. The issue has been going on for a year and the ministry’s complacency to respond to the risks the 23 students were facing is disturbing. In such a case, we can hardly blame the students and parents for being naïve and trusting.
As education gets commercialised and people literate, we appear to have become a society that sees business opportunities in the desperation of the unemployed and high school students wanting to complete graduation. We have no qualms about exploiting children whose parents have sought loans to educate or send them overseas to work. The rising cases of drug abuse among our youth are not enough to get our law enforcers crack down on access and trafficking of controlled substances.
We must ask why we have become so indifferent to these issues. We have a problem when we laud the rescue efforts of the government when one of its ministry’s lapses allowed such instances to occur in the first place.
The problem doesn’t end with the firm owner absconding and the ministry suspending licences. It instead calls for stern actions because it concerns the lives of the youth and their education, our future. The government must act and fix accountability. It should review and strengthen its monitoring services, create awareness and fix the lapses that led to such situations.
There are more than 30 education consultancy firms registered with the department of adult and higher education today. They must be consulted as well in addressing the challenges of sending students abroad. Records show that there are more than 2,000 tertiary students abroad on self-funding. An additional 936 are on scholarships.
Bhutan has always valued education and the sector continues to receive a large share of the annual budget. Our leaders, teachers and parents work hard to ensure that our children in schools get the best education. Why do we then falter and become complacent with their education when these children are on the threshold of their academic lives?
For a small and dependent country like ours, education is the most important thing we could give our children. We must not tolerate firms that chose to exploit the country of its future.
The Parliament’s recent decision to endorse the Fiscal Incentives 2017 as a money bill has raked up several ambiguities for the government.
At the post-session press conference on June 20, the National Council’s spokesperson and deputy chairperson, Tshering Dorji, said the government should collect taxes that were forgone without the Parliament’s approval. Most beneficiaries of the tax holidays are private businesses.
Tshering Dorji said the Council is confident that the government will not come up with excuses to not collect the taxes. “It is the responsibility of any government to get back the taxes that were granted without following the law,” the spokesperson said.
Article 14(1) of the Constitution states, “Taxes, fees and other forms of levies shall not be imposed or altered except by law.”
According to the Supreme Court verdict on the first constitutional case, it is not only the tax incentives that the present government granted that should be collected. The government should also collect taxes that the former government gave from 2013 to the December 31, 2015.
This is because the former government granted fiscal incentives in 2013without the Parliament’s approval although the Supreme Court verdict in 2011, had ruled that fiscal incentives should be passed through parliament.
The present government gave continuity to the same fiscal incentives from January 1, 2016 to May 8, 2017. The government argues that it did not feel the need to pass them through the Parliament, since the former government had not done so.
The value of tax incentives granted by the two governments is expected to run into billions of Ngultrums.
During the recent parliament session, Speaker Jigme Zangpo said the Supreme Court would provide a directive for resolving the issues sorrounding the fiscal incentives. However, the Speaker told Kuensel yesterday “There is no ambiguity as the fiscal incentives have been passed as a money bill.”
Chairperson of Assembly’s legislative committee, Ritu Raj Chhetri, said the Assembly couldn’t seek the judiciary’s interpretation on constitutional matters. He said the responsibility to recover the taxes falls on the government.
“The Parliament has streamlined the procedure for passing fiscal incentives. The ball is now in the executive’s court,” he said.
The Fiscal Incentives 2016 was renamed as Fiscal Incentives Bill 2017 after the Assembly agreed to treat fiscal incentives as a money bill. Accordingly, the fiscal incentives will be effective retrospectively from May 8, 2017 the date the bill was introduced in the House.
This makes the fiscal incentives granted before May 8, 2017 and after the Supreme Court verdict unconstitutional and may have to be recollected.
Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) president Phub Zam said fiscal incentives benefit everyone, especially the private sector and are necessary for economic development.
“The private sector is not the law maker and it should not be made to suffer the consequences due to delay in the submission of the fiscal incentives bill,” the BCCI president said. “I hope the impasse will be resolved soon as it is hampering businesses.”
Meanwhile, the Council has rebuffed the National Assembly’s stand that the former cannot reject a money bill. The Assembly recently objected NC’s rejection of the fiscal incentives bill in totality, stating that the bill lacked objectives.
“We did not commit any breach of law by rejecting the fiscal incentives. We have passed about 30 money bills. We are fully aware of the rules,” Deputy Chairperson Tshering Dorji said.
Assembly members are firm that the House of Review has no say over a money bill and that the Council’s rejection of fiscal incentives was not in line with the Constitution.
“While we know that we don’t have the supremacy over money bills, the Council can legally deliberate and vote on them,” he said. “So a money bill can be passed or rejected by NC,” he said.
However, some Council members are unhappy that the Assembly did not deliberate on the objections they had forwarded to the lower house. “Instead of deliberating on our objections, they wasted time by questioning the legality of our rejection of the fiscal incentives,” a Council member said.
The government has continued to maintain and argue that it’s the prerogative of the government to grant fiscal incentives to the private sector.
The government has cited Chapter 2, Section 3(2) of the Sales Tax, Customs and Excise Act 2000, which states, “On the satisfaction and in public interest, the Ministry of Finance may exempt a person from the payment of Bhutan Sales Tax.” Chapter 3 Section 5(2) of the Act states: “On the satisfaction and in the public interest, the ministry may exempt a person from the payment of customs duty.”
Following the Supreme Court verdict, the Sales Tax, Customs and Excise Act 2000 was amended in 2012, but Chapter 2, Section 3(2) and Chapter 3 Section 5(2) were retained.
The government has also cited Part II, Chapter 3, Section 9 of the Income Tax Act 2001, which states that on satisfaction and in the public interest, the ministry may grant exemption and tax holidays to certain businesses.
The Supreme Court verdict stated that it is the prerogative of the government to declare and grant fiscal incentives or to propose taxes to meet expenses of the government. “However, the exercise of the power to alter the rate of taxes by the government alone under the ultra-vires provisions of the Sales Tax, Customs and Excise Act 2000 under the implied authority to impose indirect taxes or by any other branch of government amounts to usurpation of power not granted by the Constitution,” the verdict ruled.
The verdict also ruled that imposing and altering of taxes must be decided by the elected representatives of the people in its entirety and not only by a sub-group represented by the executive. “According to the constitutional provisions it must be approved and passed by Parliament.”
The education secretary has written to the foreign secretary yesterday seeking the ministry’s support to repatriate 18 Bhutanese students who are stuck in Malaysia on expired visa. Seven of them are females.
An official from the Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE) said the education ministry wrote the letter to the foreign ministry after the special passes for the students expired on June 7.
The students are among the 23 who had applied for student visa and enrollment at Victoria International College, Kuala Lumpur Campus in Malaysia, through Drupthop Education Consultancy & Placement Firm (ECPF) in 2016.
Each student paid Nu 280,000 (about USD 4,307) as tuition fee and student visa fee.
A copy of the secretary’s letter has also been sent to the Royal Bhutan Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand for further perusal. When Kuensel contacted Ambassador Tshewang C. Dorji on the course of action to be pursued by the Embassy, he said he hasn’t received any directives from the ministry.
Drupthop ECPF proprietor Chhimi Rinzin had taken students to Malaysia on tourist visa in December 2016. The letter stated that the students were never informed that they were on tourist visa. When they arrived in Malaysia, they were asked to attend classes at the Victoria International College without formal admission and a valid visa.
The students who returned home could not attend the month long class because they didn’t have student visa and their passports were not with them. “We were staying idle in the apartment doing nothing,” one of the five who returned home, Doley Tshering said.
When their tourist visa expired in January this year, Chhimi Rinzin asked them to go to New Delhi, India to process for student visa promising that it would take about five days. After two months of their stay in New Delhi, they were informed that their visa has been processed and were asked to travel to Malaysia through Kolkata. While five students returned home, 18 of them went to Malaysia only to find out that their visas had not been granted.
The letter stated that Chhimi Rinzin arranged for Ravi, her agent in Malaysia, to get the students out of the airport. They were made to stay in an apartment without any progress in their visa process. By the first week of May, Ravi arranged to stamp special passes for which Chhimi was asked to pay additional 3,200 Malaysian Ringgit (about Nu 51,000). He had taken all the passports and indicated that it shall be released only upon payment he made to stamp the special passes.
Some parents reported the case to the DAHE. An agreement was drawn between the parents and Chhimi Rinzin on May 16 where she agreed to bring back the students by May 25 and bear all expenses incurred thereof. However, on the same evening, she called Ravi and asked him to arrange work for the students. “This was a turning point of her stand after which we could not contact her despite all our efforts,” the letter signed by the education secretary Karma Yeshey stated. “She failed to abide by the agreement.”
Meanwhile, Chhimi also executed another agreement with the parents of five students who returned home. The parties signed the agreement on April 6 in presence of officials from the Quality Assurance and Accreditation Division, representing the Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE) as witness.
As per the agreement, Chhimi Rinzin would refund the money by May 31 and handover the academic transcripts safely to the parents/ guardians/students at the earliest. The aggrieved parents also agreed to waive off the interest component of the actual principal amount deposited into the firm account in 2016 if the firm refunds their money by May 31.
However, she reportedly disappeared after she failed to comply with the third internal agreement.
“Given the current scenario, their safety and security are at risk,” the letter stated. “While the students do not seem to be aware of their future and the department has exhausted all means to resolve the issue at the ministerial level, the ministry would like to seek your support for their safe return at the earliest.”
Meanwhile, students in Malaysia are hopeful that they may get training visa as their firm started sending payment for the visa. Few students want to return home. “Chhimi’s husband is going to finalise tomorrow about the full payment for those who wish to stay in Malaysia,” a student said. “Until now the agent has been providing us cash for food and lodge.”
DAHE yesterday issued a notification suspending the licences of three education firms including Drupthop ECPF.
More than 40 principals, vice-principals and senior instructors of technical training institutes (TTI), Institutes of Zorig Chusums (IZC) institutes, and representatives from private training institutes and industries are attending the two-day TVET symposium in Thimphu.
The Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) professional services division of the labour ministry organised the symposium with the theme “Celebrating History of TVET in Bhutan – Towards TVET for Sustainable Development”.
Some pioneer TVET educationists, leaders of the TVET educationists and practitioners shared the history of TVET system in Bhutan and success stories to uplift the image of TVET.
Speakers highlighted that the disregard for vocational work still exists today, including the mismatch of jobs in the market.
One of the panelists, Anup Mahat from TTI in Khuruthang, said that there has been a lot of talk about the issue, yet nobody has worked towards improving the technical education and standardisation of the facility and trainers. “This should have taken place a long time back and the goodness in TVET is still missing.”
The concerns about how vocational jobs are still looked down upon as a blue-collar job were shared. The panel discussed how the people with vocational skills work in dissimilar fields leading to mismatch in the employment area.
Managing Director of Bhutan Power Corporation, Gem Tshering, who was one of the speakers, said: “If we are skilled to work in a certain field, there is no shame to work instead of working at office with minimal knowledge about the job.”
Another panelist, Tandin Dorji, said that Bhutan started TVET in 1965 and that there is a need to keep apace with changing time.
“When technologies are changing fast, how can we train the trainees with machines that was installed in 1965,” he asked. “This is where the mismatch of job is happening today.”
Head of Department of Bhutan Calcium and Carbide Limited (BCCL), Passang Sherpa, said that bonus and increment would help improve employee’s efficiency and to make jobs attractive.
The participants pointed out that despite having Bhutanese skilled workers, there is still large number of foreign nationals working in the country.
The chief executive officer of Construction Development Corporation Limited, Phuntsho Gyeltshen, said that the problem of minimum turn up of Bhutanese in such area of work couldn’t be solved immediately. “For every tender we provide, we have a requirement to have at least 30 percent of the Bhutanese workers for the project. Through such activities, employment opportunities are also made available.”
The symposium, which will end today, is aimed at educating leaders and managers of TVET institutions and organisations on TVET practice to prepare better TVET leaders in future. It is also expected to update and the current TVET system by sharing best TVET practices in the region.
There are 99 registered TVET providers operating in Bhutan including private, public, NGOs and corporations.
Yangchen C Rinzin
Additional reporting by Phurpa Lhamo
Despite challenges and little returns, the Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCBL) has operationalised 119 farm shops across the country today.
The corporation opened 31 new farm shops in the country this year.
With works ongoing for the remaining 86 shops, the corporation aims to take farm shops to all 205 gewogs by the end of this year.
FCBL officials said that of the 86 remaining shops, about 35 will be opened in July and August this year.
Chief executive officer (CEO), Karma Nidup, said FCBL would establish the shops in all 205 gewogs by the end of this year in collaboration with agriculture ministry, dzongkhag and gewog administration.
He said that the farm shops are helping the rural communities, especially the far-flung communities such as Sakteng, Laya, and Lunana. “Farm shops benefit the rural communities, help stabilise the price, encourage farm production and generate employment.”
Karma Nidup said that the farm shops have also worked as reserves during emergencies.
However, going by the figures the corporation officials shared, the government may have to provide more financial support.
FCBL has spent about Nu 56.14 million (M) until December 2016. The agriculture ministry has supported with about Nu 6.69M worth of equipment and the infrastructure. The government provided staff through guaranteed employment program of the labour ministry.
In terms of supplies, as of December 2016, FCBL supplied stock worth Nu 115.32M out of which food grains worth Nu 70.42M was supplied to the farm shops.
Meanwhile, the food corporation faces several challenges in commencing and operating the farm shops across the country. “The biggest challenge is fund shortage,” an official said.
Officials said that with limited FCBL budget that had to be diverted for farm shop operation, FCBL has requested the government for Nu 200M overdraft (OD) facility.
Poor road connectivity to farm shops is another challenge, which leads to the delay in reaching rations.
Officials said a shortage of storage space during monsoon when the roads are cut off makes it difficult to keep stock. “Due to the huge amount of stock value in the farm shops, FCBL is also losing opportunities in other potential markets,” an official said. “In addition, frequent stock replenishment also escalates the overhead costs.”
FCBL has also been facing difficulty in sharing and receiving timely information as most farm shops are located in the remote parts of the country and lack proper mobile network connectivity and Internet services.
Officials said that after operating for two years now, the FCBL management has resolved some of the challenges.
By December 2016, there were about 87 farm shops in operation. Only 15 shops generated some modest income amounting to Nu 0.821M, while the remaining 72 farm shops suffered losses amounting to Nu 4.63M.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
Ministry officials say locals are not interested to learn the skills
Two years after the labour ministry approved employment for a non-Bhutanese barber in Trashigang, not a single Bhutanese has been trained.
The ministry, on the recommendation of the regional office in Trashigang, has approved the employment a non-Bhutanese barber as a master trainer at a hair saloon in the dzongkhag in 2015.
The approval, according to the ministry was accorded as a master trainer because the proprietor of Ugyen Samdrupling Saloon, Sangay Wangmo, had approached the ministry with a proposal to train Bhutanese barbers at the saloon.
In the recommendation letter of August 5, 2015, the regional office requested the chief labour officer to approve one foreign worker to encourage Bhutanese job seekers in the dzongkhag.
The letter stated that the proprietor of the saloon agreed to train a minimum of two Bhutanese job seekers if she is approved to employ a foreign worker.
However, no Bhutanese have been trained at the saloon so far and the non-Bhutanese master trainer has been operating the saloon on his own for almost two years.
The letter also stated that as the employment of a barber fell in the ‘closed category’ of the ministry, the office couldn’t meet the demand of the proprietor.
The ministry in its response to the employment of a non-Bhutanese labourer stated that any master trainer does not fall under the category of ‘closed occupation category’ and therefore the ministry approved a non-Bhutanese with the condition that he train Bhutanese on-the-job.
Although the only condition for the approval of the barber to train Bhutanese jobseekers by the master trainer was not met during the one-year contract, the ministry has extended the contract of the non-Bhutanese barber.
This, according to the ministry, was done because there were no interests from local jobseekers to learn hairdressing skills. “After the saloon owner requested for an extension of the work permit for the non-Bhutanese barber, the ministry studied the needs of the market and special circumstances of the employer to which the ministry had to allow a further stay of the non-Bhutanese barber for another year,” stated the ministry.
The renewal of the contract term has raised questions over labour regulations.
According to a handbook on recruitment and employment of foreign workers of the ministry, occupation such as accountant, typist, messenger, tailor, waiter or waitress, cobbler, baker and hairdresser among others are closed to foreign workers since June 1, 2004.
The ministry also stated that under special circumstances, some foreign workers are employed in ‘closed occupation’ category.
It stated that non-availability of Bhutanese job seekers with required skills taking up employment is one of the special circumstances.
The proprietor of the saloon, Sangay Wangmo, said it is difficult to find interested Bhutanese who would take up hairdressing. “With the help of the ministry, I have been looking for interested Bhutanese to work at the saloon but so far we couldn’t find one.”
She said that she got the approval for employing a master trainer at her saloon after requesting personally to the labour minister. “I was also supposed to learn from the trainer but I couldn’t because I have to look after my kids.”
She said that the saloon is her only source of income. “ I’m still looking for interested Bhutanese jobseekers.”
With the ultrasound facility at Jomotshangkha hospital in Samdrupjongkhar now functional, people do not have to travel to Udalguri, India or Samdrupjongkhar.
Although the hospital received the ultrasound and x-ray machine a year ago, it was left unused because there was no technician to operate it.
The medical officer, Dr Narayan Rizal, said that after the technician arrived at the beginning of this year, the machine had defects. “Experts came and detected the defects and now the ultrasound machine is functional.”
He said that ultrasound services started since April this year and it has benefited lots of people, especially expecting mothers.
The medical officer said having the services in Jomotsangkha helped since patients usually go to Udalguri, India, to do ultrasound and x-ray. “People do not have to go there anymore.”
He said ultrasound can help diagnose chronic kidney disease and pathology, thereby reducing referrals. “I can now consult with a specialist and treat patients here.”
Tashi from Jomotshangkha said it is difficult when patients are referred to India since they have to stand in a queue and also pay money. “Having ultrasound and x-ray would benefit us.”
Meanwhile, Dr Narayan said they are waiting for some components of the x-ray machine. “The x-ray machine is expected to be functional from July this year.”
He said the officials are corresponding with ministry officials and they might procure x-ray components from other hospitals.
He also said the hospital now needs an electrocardiography (ECG) to detect the heart conditions and beats. “We appraised concerned authorities and officials at the ministry and they are looking at it.”
Kelzang Wangchuk | Jomotshangkha
The renovation of the national football stadium in Changlimithang, which is scheduled to complete in March this year, is expected to complete only by next month.
Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) project manager, Kinley Tshering, said that additional works caused the delay.
He said the project had to carry out repair works on the other part of the sitting gallery which had sunk in. “The gallery couldn’t be fitted with plastic chairs unless it was levelled and this took more time.”
He also said organising international football matches, important celebrations and other mega events at the stadium also hampered their work progress.
“We were not able to work for 10 to 15 days,” Kinley Tshering said. “So the work completion was delayed.”
Although the tenure of the contract passed the deadline, the time period of the project was extended in respect of several disruptions and to ensure quality.
The project manager said restructuring works are 90 percent complete. The project is putting final touches on the bottom part of the gallery including locker rooms, conference halls, room for anti-doping test, and restrooms for the players.
He said placing the plastic chairs is the only major remaining work. “There was some delay in importing the nuts and bolts of the chairs.”
Kinley Tshering said they received the required materials and the installing of chairs will be done soon.
“We are pressurising contractors to finish the work by July,” Kinley Tshering said.
The committee found out that the rooms were not used adequately. “The rooms available will be outsourced to private individuals who will be using it for sports shop galleries,” the manager said. “This is basically to generate revenue.”
Meanwhile, the arena now wears a new look with colourful outdoor plastic chairs being fitted on the concrete gallery.
The committee plans to add a similar curve gallery to give the stadium a complete international standard appearance. However, officials say the plan would entirely depend on the availability of fund.
The new 35 million project is funded by the government of India.
The term of the incumbent gaydrungs or gewog clerks ends in March 2019.
Home minister Dawa Gyaltshen informed the dzongdags on the first day of the 23rd annual dzongdag conference in Thimphu yesterday. He said the government has decided to extend their terms by two more years until 2019. He said that their terms ended in 2016.
“But the government extended their terms by another two years considering their contributions to the gewog administrations,” lyonpo said.
The status of gaydrungs’ post came up for discussion yesterday after Samdrupjongkhar dzongdag Tharchin Lhendup asked the ministry if it was necessary for gaydrungs to sign contracts.
The issue on gaydrungs arose after the Royal Civil Service Commission’s OD exercise pointed out that their posts were not required. No rules or laws cover the gaydrungs and even if they serve their entire life, their remuneration would not increase beyond Nu 13,000 excluding allowances.
Department of Local Government (DLG) director general Lungten Dorji said that henceforth, all gaydrungs have to sign a contract agreement with the dzongkhag administration when they are recruited. They can upgrade their qualification and apply for other posts in the gewog administrations, he said. The gedrungs were urged to participate in other vacant posts in the local government.
“There is no way we can keep them permanently,” Lungten Dorji said. The extension in their term has no financial implications, as their remunerations do not change.
The new batch of gaydrungs would have to have passed at least class XII and be trained in computer operations for three months. They would be recruited as administrative assistant on a two-year contract.
“If they don’t perform or if there is no need for a gaydrung, then we don’t have to recruit,” the minister said.
The minister urged dzongdags to inform the gaydrungs and act accordingly. “If you fail in terminating their service and pay their salary, there would be audit problems,” the minister said.
Gaydrungs started serving in gewogs since 1960s. They were exempted from customary labour contributions and were compensated in various ways. Their main duties then were to collect taxes and draft correspondences for gups. That changed over time, along with their benefits and salaries. According to the DLG, there are 20 graduates working as gaydrungs.
The DLG presented an update on the resolutions of the 22nd conference last year. Of the 86, 17 issues could not be resolved because they involved numerous ministries and agencies.
Of the 23, 18 are still in Malaysia with expired visa
After an education consultancy firm failed to deliver the promised student visa and allegedly duped 23 students, parents of 18 students who are stuck in Malaysia on expired visa are expected to meet education ministry officials today for their help to bring their children home.
The students are among the 23 who had applied for student visa and enrollment at Victoria International College, Kuala Lampur Campus in Malaysia, through Drupthop Education Consultancy & Placement Firm (Drupthop ECPF) in 2016.
Of the 23, five students who managed to come home sought help from the court and police to get a refund of the money they paid Drupthop ECPF. Each student paid Nu 280,000 as tuition fee and student visa fee.
On June 8, five students jointly submitted a petition at the Thimphu dzongkhag court requesting the court to help them recover Nu 1.360 million (M) from the proprietor of Drupthop ECPF, Chhimi Rinzin, after she reportedly went missing. The amount was paid to Chhimi Rinzin as tuition fees for a three-year Bachelors and two-year diploma in hospitality management.
The court however informed them that it was no use filing a case if they did not know the defendant’s whereabouts. “Court officials told us that we can file our case only if we produce the defendant before the court,” one of the students, Doley Tshering, 24, said.
All students are from humble economic background who availed loans to pay the consultancy firm.
“We are in a dilemma because the proprietor Chhimi Rinzin is still at large,” an uncle of another student Lham Tenzin told Kuensel. “We even approached the chief of police who directed the city police to look into the matter,” he added. The city police then asked them to follow up the case with the ministry of education.
Chhimi Rinzin reportedly disappeared after she failed to comply with the third internal agreement executed between the Drupthop ECPF and aggrieved parents of five students. The parties signed the agreement on April 6, 2017 in presence of officials from the Quality Assurance and Accreditation Division, representing the Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE) as witness.
As per the agreement, Chhimi Rinzin would refund the money by May 31 and handover the academic transcripts safely to the parents/guardians/students at the earliest. The aggrieved parents also agreed to waive off the interest component of the actual principal amount deposited into the firm account in 2016 if the firm refunds their money by May 31.
“Since then we have been looking for her,” one of the aggrieved students’ relative said. “Drupthop ECPF’s Managing director Kuenley Tshering Dorji, who was actively involved in the consultancy, informed us that his employer is in Kolkata. But we learnt that she is in Paro,” he said.
He said that Kuenley Tshering assured us through WeChat that he would refund our money within a week as he is waiting for his money to be transferred.
Accompanied by Chhimi Rinzin and Kuenley Tshering Dorji, all 23 students travelled to New Delhi, India on December 22 last year to process for student visa in Malaysia.
Doley Tshering said the proprietor told them it would take only five days to process their visas but it took nine days. “Our passports were carried and processed by the duo at the airport,” he recalled. “We thought we were travelling to Malaysia on student visas.”
The students came to know that they were on tourist visas when their visas expired. Then, Chhimi Rinzin told them to fly back to New Delhi to obtain student visa, which may take only five days and to keep their luggage in Malaysia.
“We flew to Delhi in the first week of February this year but failed to get student visas even after waiting for almost two months there,” Doley Tshering said. They were kept in a hotel on the outskirts of Delhi for a room charge of Rs 1,000 a night. Each student paid Rs 450 while the firm paid Rs 550.
The students’ parents were unaware of the visa problem. When they learnt about it, they immediately approached the firm’s office in Changzamtok on March 14. There, they again executed another agreement where Chhimi Rinzin repeatedly assured all parents that the 23 students would be taken to Malaysia before March 30 on student visa.
The agreement also stated that if the firm failed to take the students back to Malaysia on the specified date, she has to pay the amount deposited by the parents along with interest as per the existing law. She was also supposed to bring all students home safely.
The firm also agreed to pay USD 300 to each student for March and adjust the expenses incurred in February from the tuition fees.
However, after the students in Delhi could not obtain their student visas, they travelled to Kolkata by train on April 1. Five of the 23 students decided to return home the next day. “We returned home because we knew that we would suffer further and the possibility of getting student visa was slim,” Doley Tshering said.
He said that the remaining 18 students managed to fly back to Malaysia with a month-long special permit after spending about two weeks in Kolkata. Their special permit visas reportedly expired on June 7.
Chief programme officer of DAHE, NB Raika, personally visited Malaysia to see the condition of 18 students after the department received a complaint from the students who returned home. He managed to meet only seven there. “Five of them were staying idle in an apartment without any work,” NB Raika said.
He said that the rest of the students got part time jobs although their special permit visas expired on June 7. “Of the seven students I met, six wanted to return home because they don’t feel safe there,” he said. “I advised them to return home as soon as possible to process student visa and go back to Malaysia. However, he has not heard from them since then.
A female student who is among the 18 still in Malaysia wrote in the Victoria parents WeChat group, “We have been homeless, sleeping on empty stomach and the only thing left for us is to go behind bars.”
Drupthop ECPF has also illegally deployed five Bhutanese women as housemaids to United Arab Emirates and Oman. A woman had already returned home and the Bhutan Embassy in Kuwait is working on sending the remaining four home.
Today, Bhutan has 37 Education Consultancies including Drupthop ECPF.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said the government has revoked few licenses of agencies involved in such practices, and the issue will be taken very seriously. “The government has directed the Bhutanese missions abroad to facilitate our students and workers who are facing difficulties returning home,” he said during an interaction with senior journalists on June 16.
The use of electronic government procurement (e-GP) system would be made compulsory starting January next year after piloting it for the next six months.
During the launch yesterday, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said the e-GP has no excuse to fail.
“It has to succeed. If it fails it’s because the government failed as it is the largest procurer,” he said.
He said that there are 4,200 civil works contractor, 1,500 suppliers and 380 consultants. While the contractors and suppliers say that they do not know how to use e-GP, he said that he also does not know of any contractor who fills the tender forms on their own, or any supplier who completes the formalities on their own.
“They are already hiring the services of engineers and others who know,” he said.
“When people can use facebook, they should be able to use e-GP,” he said, adding that from 690,000 mobile subscribers, 23.2GB data in the last 24 hours were used for google and mostly for YouTube. About 12.2GB were used for facebook.
“But use of e-payment is still at infancy,” he said.
“We have no choice but to stay abreast with IT,” he said. The e-GP, Lyonchhen said, will have to incorporate e-payment, e-signature and make it robust with all the security features in addition to training all the users during the course of next six months.
A Bangladeshi software firm, Dohatec New Media, has won the contract to develop the e-GP at a cost of Nu 10.7 million in partnership with local IT firm New Edge Technology. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank have provided the support.
The Chairman of Dohatech New media, Luna Shamsuddoha, said e-GP is huge achievement in digital space.
“Bhutan truly have efficient and robust system,” she said. But the key to success, she said, is the political commitment and ownership from higher level.
“Noncompliance like delays in contract award, ineffective contract process and bidding practices, if any, will disappear,” she said, adding that the system allows monitoring and bringing about a tool for efficiency. “This portal will be one of the most used system in Bhutan.”
In case of Bangladesh, she said political commitment right from the Prime Minister brought rapid growth over past 12 month. From its inception till 2015, only 26,102 tenders were awarded. But after direct intervention from the Prime Minister, 102, 168 tenders worth USD 11B were awarded.
“I am confident that the government of Bhutan under the leadership of Lyonchhen will move ahead,” she said, adding that Dohatec will provide technical backstopping round the clock until it achieves the desired outcome.
She said that the crucial element hereon is capacity building and that this should continue from the beginning until all agencies are on board. “Public awareness is also important to implement the e-GP in all the dzongkhags, gewogs and drungkhag.”
The new e-GP will allow all the users to submitted their tender documents from anywhere around world. Dohatec chairman said that the system is highly secured in government data center in Thimphu.
However, all bidder and procurement agencies have to register to participate in the bidding process. In a way, the government’s annual procurement plan and entire life cycle will be made to follow. The entire procurement process until the signing will be done online.
Bidders will be able to avail the service and download the tender documents free of cost round the clock. The system will also ensure that the procuring agencies will have to strictly comply by its timeline. Chairman said that this will enhance citizen’s trust in the government. The fact that the system generates data, she said, would ensure that government could draw a realistic plan in future.
Finance secretary Nim Dorji said that the government spends 70 percent of the annual budget on procurement of works and services.
He said that in the last few years, procurement system has moved from a simple to very sophisticated system that is innovative and on real time basis.
He said often annual budget is underutilised because of the time constraints within the procuring agencies. He said that the new system would ensure transparency, efficiency and reduce corruption.
The e-GP, he said, is designed to make optimum use of the available resources.
The website was launched yesterday.
A businessman, Penjore who lost a case over seized mortgaged properties to Bhutan National Bank (BNB), filed another case with the High Court citing his Constitutional rights last week.
The Supreme Court passed two verdicts on the case in favour of BNB, the second in November last year after Penjore appealed to His Majesty The King to command a review of the verdict.
Penjore argued that the present case is different. The businessman from Paro submitted to the High Court the alleged breaches of his rights by the Bumthang dzongkhag court and the bank.
Claiming Constitutional rights, Penjore asked the court to revisit the case from a different perspective.
Bumthang dzongkhag court passed a verdict in April last year after the bank lodged a loan default case against Penjore. The court ordered the bank to take over the property mortgaged with the bank if Penjore failed to pay the entire principle amount with interest to the bank. Subsequently the property, a three-star hotel, was floated for public auction.
The businessman is seeking the High Court to look at legal issues with the bank related to the loan he availed from it and compensate him for the losses he in the process.
Penjore submitted that the bank had not given him the entitled amount despite the loan agreement being valid up to September 30, 2028.
He claimed that the bank’s estimated cost of the hotel in Bumthang, for which he sought the loan, was Nu 34.386 million (M) and other mortgaged properties were worth more than the loan amount. He said he had signed an addendum to the loan agreement in September 2013 after clearing the due interests and installments. Despite that, the bank only gave him less than half the loan.
“The bank quoted a Royal Monetary Authority circular for their inability to continue giving the loan but that circular had nothing to do with my loan,” he said.
He submitted that the bank’s letter to the Druk Punjab National Bank, which could have given him a loan, had stopped it. He asked if the bank could do that and asked the court to penalise the bank.
“As the bank had stopped loans indefinitely, I could not do any business for the past three years for which I suffered loss,” he said. He asked the bank to compensate a total amount Nu 37.7M.
Since the bank did not issue a clearance letter, he could not avail loans from any other bank and thus suffered loss amount to Nu 62.4M, Penjore claimed in his letter to the High Court.
The Bhutan National Bank’s legal representative during a hearing at the Supreme Court last year submitted that the loans were held as he defaulted on numerous loans from the bank. He said they were only implementing the verdict of the Bumthang dzongkhag court.
One of the biggest challenges facing the country today is the rising youth unemployment. We have a population of about 141,000 in the age bracket of 15 to 24. As more and more young people graduate and enter job market, unemployment issue will only grow.
According to a government stat, about 18,000 young people enter job market every year; we are able to provide jobs for just about 6,000 jobseekers all in all. Of the 5,780 jobs identified last year out of civil service, armed forces and government corporations, only 3,593 were taken. Even as we are faced with more jobseekers than available jobs, why is there the shortage of takers?
With a small private sector, its absorption capacity is less. Where do we then look to create jobs for the increasing number of our young jobseekers? In the last four years, about 60,000 young people were placed in various jobs and training opportunities. Those that underwent training, even as they now have skills, are among the jobless today. Urging our young people to take advantage of available jobs is easy, but skills without job and income opportunities do little to help alleviate unemployment situation in the country.
There have been some notable interventions from the government, but much leaves to be desired. Direct employment can take in only so many employment seekers at a time; self-employment has a challenge of its own. When access to finance is difficult, self-employment cannot take off. That is where a majority of our young people are today.
The government’s overseas employment programme (OEP) made quite a stir recently. Royal Audit Authority’s employment generation and promotion initiative report has found that inadequacies, lapses and deficiencies concerning OEP. Further to that, only 2,535 job seekers were sent overseas between 2013 and 2016, the labour ministry has met only 7.8 percent of the 30,000 target it had set for OEP. According to the report, the labour ministry implemented OEP without setting a clear target. It has also been found that the ministry failed to put in place safety measures for the Bhutanese sent overseas through agents, resulting in issues like untimely and exploitative payments and excessive working hours.
Creation of employment opportunities ought to be sustainable. That is how unemployment problem is solved. When those who are employed overseas through OEP return, is there any guarantee that they will have jobs at home? Unemployment issue will not only linger on but will grow significantly.
For a country like Bhutan, this could have serious implications. It is not enough that we make do with short-term interventions. Time has come for us to look at long-term strategies to address unemployment issue in the country.
Lhak-Sam has opened a community based care house in Dhamsima in Ganeykha, Thimphu for people without home and families.
Lhak-Sam is a non-profit organisation, which was formed initially to help people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Bhutan.
The Zhung Dratsang’s Letshog Lopen, Sangay Dorji, accompanied by the lam and monks of Chezhi goenpa in Ganeykha consecrated the five-acre land and a care house yesterday.
Lhak-Sam’s executive director, Wangda Dorji said the care home would shelter key affected people including people living with HIV (PLHIV), Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersexual (LGBTI), and recovering addicts who are without home.
“The centre will be a place to practice love, compassion and kindness,” he said.
Lhak-Sam acquired the five-acre government land on user right and the organisation is in the process of designing and making proposal to expand the community based care centre.
“We are in the process of talking with the Japanese Embassy in India for Japan’s Grassroots Projects grant assistance for the construction of a bigger care centre,” Wangda Dorji said.
Wangda Dorji said Lhak-Sam would be able to accommodate only a few affected people in the small care house for now. Until a bigger centre comes up, the land will be used to grow flowers.
“We will have green houses where seasonal flowers will be planted. We can employ at least 20 people in the green house,” Wangda Dorji said. “The income from the sale of flowers will be used to sustain the care home and people at the centre.”
Once the centre is fully established, it will have meditation programmes, religious heads would be invited to talk on life, and other programmes to empower the affected people at the centre.
Lhak-Sam’s programme officer, Kezang Thinley, said that PLHIV will be provided treatment and care at the centre.
The care house was constructed with donation money amounting to Nu 600,000 that the Lhak-Sam had collected in the last two years.
If all goes as planned, the Department of Roads expects to connect and open to traffic the much-awaited Gyalpozhing-Nganglam highway by November 11 this year.
Project engineer Jigme Tenzin who is based at the Nganglam site, said that although November 11 is the target, it looks difficult given the unseen problems the project officials face everyday at the site.
Monsoon rains, absconding labourers, and frequent machine breakdown are hampering the work progress.
“One of the expatriate labourers died after he was hit by a boulder in April. Since then, many are reluctant to work at the site,” Jigme Tenzin said. “We had to manage with local labourers, which is not very easy to find.”
Jigme Tenzin added that about 14 Bhutanese labourers are working at the site. The project is expected to bring eight more expatriate labourers soon.
The project has completed the first formation cutting of the highway from Nganglam side, including the 700-metre stretch near the Kuri-Gongri confluence. The DoR in November 2014 took up the work after the contractor was terminated for breaching the contract.
From Mongar side, the project has completed constructing the road until the confluence. About 24km road has already been blacktopped.
The two roads, 43.4km from Nganglam and 33.42km from Gyalpozhing, will meet at the Kuri-Gongri confluence. A temporary bailey bridge with a capacity of 18-24MT would be constructed over Kuri-Gongri to join the roads.
Jigme Tenzin said work on the back cutting is in full swing to reduce the road’s high gradient level.
“Although the formation cutting is completed, we might require to cut another 100-metre to relocate the site of the bridge,” he said. “This is because the present location has high gradient level, which in the future could hamper heavy vehicles to ply on.”
He added that a survey has already been completed to see if the project will require changing the bridge’s location.
Work to construct the national highway began in 2006 from both the sides with an initial estimated budget of Nu. 1.02 billion. The Government of India is funding the work under Project Tied Assistance.
The highway will have 12 bridges, each varying from 40m to 50m in length. The construction of the double-lane highway has been on for the last eight years.
Yangchen C Rinzin
Thirty Bhutanese students studying in Darjeeling, West Bengal will be escorted to Phuentsholing tomorrow.
The students, all boys are studying in Saint Joseph school from grade III to XII. They wrote their last exam paper yesterday.
Following the news of 64 Bhutanese college students being safely brought to Phuentsholing, some parents who have their children enrolled in Saint Joseph school called Kuensel yesterday to complain that relevant agencies had done nothing in bringing the school students from Darjeeling.
One parent, Sangay Dorji said that Darjeeling is the place where the real tension was.
“I have my son and a nephew at Saint Joseph school,” he said, adding that many parents called him to inquire about their children. “The education ministry should know about all these.”
Sangay Dorji claimed that the escort for 64 students was organised by the college and parents without assistance from the government.
Another parent, who has a son studying in grade V, requesting anonymity, said parents are worried.
“We are waiting for government intervention,” he said. “Our children are still stuck there.”
He also said that the government was not involved in the planned escort on June 23, adding that the school was doing more.
Kuensel also contacted Father Shajimon Rector of the school.
“All the boys are doing fine,” he said. “They finished their exams today.”
Father Shajimon Rector said the boys would be escorted until the safest ground possible on June 23. They will be reached until Phuentsholing.
A Bhutanese Dzongkha teacher at the school will guide the students, the Father said, adding the police would escort. The Rector said Bhutanese officials are in touch with them and sought for help.
Superintendent of police (SP) in Phuentsholing, Wangchukla said they are continuously working to bring the students back home safely.
“We are closely working with the Department of Law and Order (DLO), drungkhag office, and the counterparts,” he said.
An education officer and police personnel will also go to Darjeeling to get the students home.
The DLO, drungkhag office, and police have been in constant touch with the district magistrates of both Darjeeling and Kalimpong since the beginning of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha crises. As students complete their exams, they will be evacuated phase wise depending on the completion of their examinations.
With the West Bengal government blocking networks, officials also faced multiple challenges to get in touch and trace information.
On June 21, a total of 64 college students and a Bhutanese employee from Kalimpong were safely brought to Phuentsholing.
Although the crisis is still going on, there is no need to worry about the boys, Father Shajimon Rector said.
Officials from the school planning and coordination division with the school education department, education ministry is aware of the students and the escort.
The division chief, Phuntsho Wangdi said they are in touch with the DLO and the school authority.
“The 30 students will be escorted along with the college students tomorrow,” he said.
On the parents’ complains, he said that the parents did not inform them. He said their office had requested parents to register with the division while admitting children in schools in Darjeeling during the previous Gorkha Janmukti Morcha problem in the hills.
“But only few did that,” Phuntsho Wangdi said. “Without registration, it would be difficult for the education ministry to trace students.”
Even today, not a single student is registered with the division, the chief said, explaining that this culture of registering exists only with government-funded college students.
Phuntsho Wangdi said they are still trying to find out if there are any students in other schools and colleges in Darjeeling.
An official from the Department of Adult and Higher Education said there are eight students in Saint Joseph College and nine students at GC College in Kalimpong. These college students will finish their exams on June 28 and June 24 respectively.
The DLO along with the Phuentsholing drungkhag administration and the Royal Bhutan Police in Phuentsholing are constantly working in bringing the students safe back home.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
The Royal Monetary Authority (RMA), which to date was providing only exchange of INR, launched three new services in Phuentsholing regional office yesterday.
Now, Bhutanese living in Phuentsholing and other southern belts, especially, Chukha could exchange fresh Ngultrum notes. Residents can exchange a limited quantity of fresh notes of all denominations from the RMA exchange counter. RMA officials said the exchange limit would be processed depending on the convenience and availability of fresh notes.
The other service that the counter would facilitate is the exchange of mutilated, soiled, and burnt Ngultrum notes.
RMA governor Dasho Penjore said Bhutanese community and neighbours across the border are holding such unusable Bhutanese Ngultrum notes.
“These notes can be exchanged,” he said. “It is RMA’s responsibility to collect it and refund.”
The refund, however, will be done as per the refund rule.
RMA counter will also facilitate sale of gold and silver commemorative coins and notes.
“We will keep the latest minted coins such as His Majesty the Fourth King’s 60th Birth Anniversary coins,” he said.
Gold and silver commemorative coins of the Royal Wedding and Coronation will also be sold at the counter.
“We have many coins depending on the commemoration we have had in the past,” Dasho Penjore said.
Through the services of Bhutan Post and RMA counters, interested Indian tourists from across the border could also buy the pure gold and silver commemorative coins that are significant to Bhutan, RMA governor said.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
Bhutan is the most peaceful country in South Asia according to the latest Global Peace Index report 2017.
Founder and Executive Chairman of the international think-tank Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), Steve Killelea, launched the report at the Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research in Thimphu yesterday.
Steve Killelea said Bhutan made steady progress to rank 13th out of 163 countries in GPI 2017, jumping 10 places in the past seven years.
The GPI has 23 indicators clubbed under three domains of ongoing conflict both international and local, internal safety and security, and levels of militarisation.
On the GPI, Bhutan is one of the more fascinating countries, he said.
The most interesting factor for Bhutan is although the country has a low or USD 500 per capita income, it has managed to create peace better than the top 20 countries in the GPI that have more than USD 10,000 per capita income per annum.
“There is something about Bhutan, because with small amount of resources it has got it is able to produce peace beyond any other nation in the world,” Steve Killelea said.
In the long term, Bhutan has to focus on the factors that actually create peaceful society like on levels of corruption, functioning of government and equitable distribution of resources so that there is conducive environment for peace.
The GPI report states that Bhutan experienced a slight deterioration in peace, despite improvements in the indicators measuring UN peacekeeping funding and the number of IDPs.
Bhutan’s economic impact of violence was cost equivalent to six per cent of the country’s 2016 GDP. The economic impact of violence decreased by six percent from 2015 to 2016.
South Asia hosts some countries as peaceful as Bhutan yet there are some of the least peaceful countries in the world such as Pakistan (152nd) and Afghanistan (162nd).
Sri Lanka is five places below Bhutan. Pakistan improved this year. Nepal and Afghanistan experience slight deterioration.
In Nepal, a high level of political instability is partly to blame for the slow progress in rebuilding efforts after the devastating earthquake of 2015. Afghanistan’s overall score deteriorated for the sixth successive year as overall hostility continued to increase.
The world became a more peaceful place in 2017 according to figures released yesterday. Since last year, 93 countries recorded higher levels of peace, while 68 deteriorated, resulting in an improvement in world peace.
The improvement was mainly driven by lower levels of state-sponsored terror – extra-judicial killings and torture – and the prior withdrawal of military forces from Afghanistan.
The report captures the impact of political polarisation in the US stemming from the divisive 2016 Presidential elections. Despite improvements in Canada, the growing intensity of internal conflict, increase in terrorism and higher perceptions of criminality saw the US fall 11 places to 114th. North America recorded the largest drop of any region.
Steve Killelea said, “While the true extent of the significant political polarity in the US will take years to be fully realised, its disruptive influence is already evident.”
The report also analyses the rise of populism through the lens of Positive Peace – a measure of the attitudes, structures and institutions that sustain peace. The sharp increase in support for populist parties in the past decade closely corresponds with deteriorations in Positive Peace, with some of the largest falls recorded in Italy, France and Spain.
Steve Killelea added: “The increasing role of populist parties in mainstream European politics is reflected against a backdrop of deteriorating Positive Peace, specifically in terms of persistent challenges to the free flow of information, levels of corruption and acceptance of the rights of others. Without addressing these underlying drivers of peace it will not be possible to build more peaceful societies.”
Iceland maintained its position as the world’s most peaceful country, a title it has held onto since 2008. New Zealand and Portugal replace Denmark and Austria in second and third position.
Steve Killelea said: “Although this year’s uptick is reassuring, the world is still mired with conflict in the Middle East, political turmoil in the US, refugee flows and terrorism in Europe. When combined with the increasing level of peace inequality, whereby the least peaceful countries are moving further apart from the most peaceful, the resulting scenario is one in which further improvements in peace are not guaranteed.”
After an eight-hours journey, 57 Bhutanese students studying in Government College (GC) and seven studying in Rockvale in Kalimpong, West Bengal were safely escorted to Phuentsholing at 9:30pm yesterday.
A Bhutanese woman working in Kalimpong was also brought back to the country along with the students.
There are still eight Bhutanese students in Kalimpong who are sitting exams.
An official from the drungkhag office along with Phuentsholing superintendent of police had started their journey from Phuentsholing early morning yesterday with police officials and counterparts from across the border. From Kalimpong, students were first taken to Silliguri and transferred to Phuentsholing.
Director of the Department of Law and Order (DLO), Tashi Penjore, along with officials from the drungkhag and Phuentsholing RBP, received the students.
Tashi Penjore said the escort was made possible with assistance from the Indian counterparts.
“We have been in touch with them on a daily basis,” he said, explaining the security for the escort was arranged as and when required.
The students who arrived yesterday had finished their examinations.
“Even if students were safe, they would have faced ration supply shortage,” the director said.
DLO director added: “His Majesty the King is really concerned about the safety of the students. We were commanded to help the students.”
A second-year student, Lhazin Dema, said she felt relieved.
“Situation was not very good there,” she said. Ration was the main problem. Students adjusted by requesting house owners and store owners.
Sonam, another college student, said they remained indoors most of the time.
Student president Namgay Dorji said managing ration, especially vegetables, was difficult.
“Now students know how peaceful our country is,” he said.
Meanwhile, there are seven students left in Darjeeling. All are at Saint Joseph College.
“Currently they are all safe,” Tashi Penjore said.
Darjeeling students will finish their examinations by June 30.
If the situation does not improve when the exams are over, the remaining students from both Darjeeling and Kalimpong will be escorted back home.
“As long as students do not come out, they will be safe,” Tashi Penjore said.
Officials from the DLO advised parents to carefully study the situation before sending their children back to school.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
The K-pop super concert organising company in Korea, Dynasty company Ltd has apologised to K-pop fans in Bhutan for the complications during the preparation of the event last week.
Five Korean pop artists, PSY, Chi-yeul Hwang, Lovelyz, Gfriend, and Boys Republic cancelled their visit to Bhutan for the super concert on June 17 because of unavoidable reasons, according to the head organiser, Kim Minkyeong.
Kim Minkyeong apologised to the K-pop fans in the country at the concert for not being able to bring the five K-pop artists to perform at the concert.
“Since the organising committee had problems with arranging a venue and short of fund from sponsors in a very short time, we were not able to bring artists to Bhutan as planned,” she said.
The organiser also mentioned that she learnt a lesson from this concert and committed that she will prepare for a K-pop concert by famous Korean artists in Bhutan in future.
The last moment cancellation of five K-pop artists including Park Jae-Sang, popularly known as PSY disappointed fans, mostly students, who had eagerly waited for the artists. But the five other K-pop bands – Double Eight, Badkiz, Seven O’clock, Steller, Classy and Fresh Boyz enthralled the audience at the Changlimithang stadium in Thimphu.
The organising committee will donate a total of 1,024 pieces of Taekwondo mats worth Nu 1.2 million, used to protect the artificial turf at the Changlimithang ground during the event, to Bhutan Taekwondo Federation.
About 16 dzongkhags will receive 64 pieces of mats each measuring 64 square metres.