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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 2 hours 34 min ago

Young people review National Youth Policy

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 16:05

Choki Wangmo

Awareness on crop damage insurance and effective school agriculture programmes could encourage young people to take up agriculture as a means of livelihood and might be the way forward to address increasing youth unemployment issues in the country.

At the closing of a 9-day camp on Friday to review the National Youth Policy 2011 (NYP) in Thimphu, about 24 members of the Youth Initiative shared their views, experiences and recommendations included in the revised NYP.

Tshering Denkar, a college student, said that if Bhutan was to tackle high rate of youth unemployment, the government ought to create conducive environment for youth to engage in agribusiness.

“It would then encourage young people to take up farming as an acceptable form of self-employment,” Tshering Denkar said.

Young people lack interest in agriculture due to lack of skills and unpredictability of yield besides limited market, funds, and technology.

Karma Lhatsho Dorji, a participant, said that as a policy statement in NYP stated Bhutanese youth today were unaware of this rich cultural heritage and were being affected and influenced by the negative aspects of westernisation.”

The participants suggested expansion of media literacy programmes and providing funding to multimedia organisations and local film industry to promote Bhutanese culture. Closing generation gap was seen critically important.

The participants recommended the need to close generation gap between the old and the young by involving old people in storytelling activities.

Participants said that with changing technological and social scenarios, policy should address excess use of social media, cyber bullying and negative impact of television on youth. They also zoomed in on the need to address mental health issues among young people.

Statistical year Book of Bhutan 2019 reported 561 cases of depression in 2019 within a age range of 5-49, which according to youth, indicated the county’s lack of medical facilities to address the issue and recommended making the policy more inclusive.

The policy, they said, would also be able to address problems related to alcohol, substance abuse, non-communicable diseases, poor nutrition, menstrual health, abortion and suicide cases that are on the rise.

Recommendations put forward by the participants would be submitted to Department of Youth and Sports (DYS) and UNICEF through a national consultant, which will then be submitted to the Gross National Commission Secretariat for screening.

Funded by UNICEF, the programme was organised by Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy in collaboration with DYS.

The participants included school goers and job seekers, who were selected based on their motivation letters.

A camp for highland children

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 15:58

Chimi Dema | Punakha

Pema Jamtsho from Laya usually spends his winter vacations looking after horses in vacant paddy fields and temporary camps in Punakha valley.

Like many other residents of Laya who migrate to low-altitude areas during winter, Pema Jamtsho spends about three months in Punakha every winter with his grandparents.

But this winter, the 14-year-old was engaged in a camp of a different sort.

The grade Vll student of Laya Central School attended lessons of arts and crafts, music, entrepreneurship and weather and climate forecasting, among others during a five-day winter camp organised by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Khuruthang, Punakha.

“I learnt about climate change and its impact on the Himalayan mountains that are closer to our homeland through this camp,” Pema Jamtsho said. “In fact, I have felt the impact of climate change as our region is becoming warmer over the years.”

The camp, he said, had also introduced him to a few climate actions and adaptation strategies.

“I have become familiar to some Japanese words as well as and made new friends,” he said.

For another participant from the same school, Karma Choki, it was an opportunity for her to visit Punakha after five years.

Aspiring to join the police force one day, she said she enjoyed listening to sessions on human rights, children community, and their protection more than other issues.

The winter camp, which is mainly for highland children, brought together 40 students from classes VI to IX of Laya Central School and 16 youths from Khuruthang Youth Center.

The programme coordinator from JICA Bhutan Office, Noriko Komikawa said that highland schools remain closed much longer for winter breaks due to snowfall and severely low temperature compared to the schools in the lower lands.

These long winter breaks, according to her,  may affect highland children in obtaining academic knowledge and skills, physical fitness, aesthetic sensitivity and creativity.

“Therefore, the JICA office wanted to support the highland children and conducting such programmes is one of the ways to support them,” she said.

Noriko Komikawa also said that she personally felt it was an opportunity for the students to interact with foreigners.

JICA Bhutan office hosted the same event for 32 students from Lunana Primary School, last year.

Unlike last year, the organiser brought multi-stakeholder partnerships, involving more Bhutanese individuals and institutions that include Green Road, Construction Development Corporation Limited, Royal Bhutan Police and Bhutan Fablab, among others.

Representatives from international non-governmental organisations including WFP, UNICEF and UNDP also gave talks during the event.

The participants attended sessions on health and physical education, arts and crafts, music, martial arts,  customised lectures on the sustainable farming system, waste management, machinery and construction.

Given that supporting highlanders was one of the priority areas of Bhutan, JICA representative Kota Wakabayashi said that he hopes to continue contributing to this agenda in the future.

He also said that such interactions with the highland schoolchildren helped them learn the ground realities in the lives of highlanders.

The camp ended on January 24.

Banning licence not a good solution

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 15:56

In an effort to curb mushrooming of bars and access to alcohol, the economic affairs ministry imposed a ban on issuing bar licences.

That was about a decade ago in 2010. However, it was not a uniform ban. The ban didn’t apply to hotels and resorts.

The intent was good. Alcohol was recognised as a problem. Alcohol-related diseases were overwhelming our free health system, it has become a severe social problem and the economic burden was massive.

There had to be solutions to the problem. Restricting access was a good idea. Therefore, after recognising that there was one bar for every 177 Bhutanese, the government imposed a ban on issuing bar licences.

Did it work? Not at all!

The only impact of the ban was on the cost of leasing or hiring a bar licence. After the ban, bar licences were leased or hired at Nu 20,000 a month. That is equivalent to renting out a flat. Hiring licence became a lucrative business. Authorities cancelled bar licences if not renewed on time. This boozed those who owned a licence.

A retailer who forgot to renew the hired licence was asked Nu 300,000 in compensation. Now parliamentarians are saying that bar licences are illegally traded for as high as Nu 600,000.

The ban, even if the intentions were good, didn’t work. It is good that the present government is thinking of relaxing the rule. Alcohol is a lucrative business. If we cannot come with ideas to curb the sale of alcohol, just restricting it to a few is not wise.

Besides, the rule has not helped. It is an open secret that almost every shop sells alcohol-with or without licence. Some are what people call the “den” of officials who are supposed to be monitoring. Those in the business say without selling alcohol, there is no income.

The problem is not the licence, but our weakness for alcohol. There are studies and researches done. We even have a policy and alcohol issue is a recurring issue in the parliament. Yet, we are still looking for solutions.

Like many policies, we have failed in implementing regulations related to alcohol. Dry days, timings, restricting the sale to minors or even letting breweries are contradicting our own policies. We have welfare projects that brew cheap alcohol.

The revised tax on import of alcohol has created demand for locally produced alcohol. On one hand, we see government spending money on drafting policies, yet they go on approving new breweries. Those who have a taste for alcohol say our beers and wines are poison.

Alcohol will continue to be a problem. Many believe it is a tradition. It is not. It is just a bad habit that is root across society across all age groups. We need better solutions that banning licences.

Programme to eradicate avoidable blindness in full swing

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 15:55

Eye technician programme at the KGUMS to resume from next month

Dechen Tshomo

To eradicate avoidable blindness, 171,424 school children were screened for eye problems in the last eight months.

About 10,000 pediatric spectacles have been distributed with additional 4,000 glasses, which needed to be customised during the same period.

This programme is a part of the health ministry’s collaboration with Essilor International, a French-based international ophthalmic optics company that designs, manufactures and markets lenses to correct or protect eyesight.

Health minister Dechen Wangmo said with all the school children screened, the programme would reach out to the unreached population, through targeted programmes.

The partnership began with Essilor’s commitment to donate around 400,000 pairs of corrective eyewear and sunglasses, which were to be dispensed via existing healthcare programmes.

A letter of Intent was signed between the health ministry and Essilor and the Central Monastic Body to sustainably strengthen the country’s eye care programme and eradicate unprotected and uncorrected poor vision on December 7, 2018.

The partnership between Essilor and Bhutan, under the patronage of Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother Kesang Choeden Wangchuck was officially launched in May last year.

It was launched with the ultimate goal to make Bhutan the first country in the world to eradicate avoidable poor vision. This would be achieved through the distribution of free corrective eyewear and capacity building of health workers on basic diagnosis and treatment of uncorrected poor vision.

“To have achieved our target, almost 100 percent for screening school children, I would like to extend my gratitude to our programme, health workers across the country and our partners in believing in us,” the health minister said. “We are striving towards becoming the first country in the region to have eradicated avoidable blindness”

Cataract and refractive error are some of the leading causes of visual impairment in the country.

According to the Annual Health Bulletin 2019, about 796 patients with cataract were reported in 2018, about 202 more than the previous year. The number of cases excludes OPD cases from the national referral hospital and two military hospitals in Haa and Thimphu.

Similarly, 4,470 cases of disorders of refraction and accommodation (refractive error in the eye), an increase of 1,952 than the previous year (2017) were reported in the same year.

The minister said building the workforce is equally important. “Through this programme we have trained 200 health assistants on basic eye screening and care.”

“With the Kesang Choeden Wangchuck National Eye Hospital in the country, we are working towards providing state of the art eye services in country working with our partners, Himalayan Cataract foundation and Wen Giving Foundation.”

The eye technician programme at the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan (KGUMS) would be re-started soon to build human resources to cater to the growing demand. The programme closed a few years ago.

Primary Eye Care Programme under the Department of Medical Service is responsible for planning, coordinating and monitoring of eye care activities in the country.

Primary eye care services in the country were provided since 1987.

Government created more than 5300 jobs: labour minister

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 15:54

Thinley Namgay

Labour Minister Ugyen Dorji told the members of the National Assembly that MoLHR created more than 5,300 jobs in the last one and a half years.

This was in response to Bardo-Trong MP Gyembo Tshering’s concern about the issue of growing unemployment in the country. He said that the country’s unemployment rate had risen to 3.4 percent in 2018 from 2.1 percent in 2012.

“Youth unemployment rate was 7 percent in 2012 and reached 15.7 percent in 2018. The unemployment rate among university graduates is 65 percent. As per the report of the national statistical bureau and the RBP, the youth-related problems could be due to the unemployment,” he said.

Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji said that the youth unemployment problem was a national concern and government was working on solutions. “The ministry’s different activities had created more than 3,100 jobs.” He added that with taxation reforms the government would encourage small business through fiscal incentives

“That is expected to benefit 13,000 business people and could help create job opportunities. Tax reduction for the commercial entities from 30 percent to 25 percent is also intended to create jobs,” lyonpo said.

Further to that, for economic diversification, lyonpo said the government had allotted a budget of Nu 1.2 billion to develop the cottage and small industries. “Under this plan, the government will open three centres besides incubation centres and Fab Lab.”

He informed that MoLHR in collaboration with Prime Minister’s Office was working on youth facilitation centres to create a platform for the youth to decide whether to open new businesses, look for jobs or to participate in the training programmes after completing their studies.

Whetting the foreign direct investment policy and revamping TVET programme is also aimed at improving businesses and jobs creation.

In collaboration with relevant government agencies, MoLHR is working on creating jobs through Job Responsibility System. The ministry is also collaborating with the World Bank to study the relevance of the existing policy to help create the jobs in the country.

Lyonpo said that questions related to the unemployment would continue to be asked because of rapid socio-economic changes that the nation was experiencing. He added that solving the unemployment problem was not the responsibility of MoLHR alone.

Nanong-Shumar MP Lungten Namgyel asked the labour minister why the government delayed establishing the employment and Livelihood Corporation to solve youth unemployment.

“As per the research by the specialists, mindset change was necessary and we didn’t find important to start the corporation for the moment,” lyonpo said.

NA proposes enhanced measures to support women, children

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 15:52

Staff Reporter 

National Assembly’s Women Children and Youth Committee tabled six recommendations to improve gender equality in the country on January 24.

The committee’s chairperson and Member from Sangbaykha, Dorjee Wangmo,  presented the report on the SDG 5 – Gender Equality to the House today.

The committee recommended establishing a strong and effective legal and policy framework, strengthen gender-friendly wellbeing and child wellbeing, and promote job opportunities to reduce female unemployment.

The committee’s report stated that there is also a need to promote a multi-sectoral coordination mechanism to understand the issue of gender and child and promote corporation and ownership.

“Carry out more awareness and sensitization in programs, capacity building initiatives and mainstreaming gender and child issues in legislation, policies, plans and programme,” Dorji Wangmo said.

“Another recommendation is to promote or prioritise resources such as technical, financial and human resources for gender equality and child protection and wellbeing.”

The National Key Result Area 10 of the 12th Plan aims to promote gender equality by creating adequate support and enabling facilities for women and girls removing the barriers that limit their potential that has direct relevance with the Sustainable Development Goal 5.

According to the committee, one of the key challenges in achieving gender parity is in tertiary education where female enrollment continues to be lower with 85 girls for every 100 boys within Bhutan. “However, NCWC is targeting 90 girls for every 100 boys by the end of the 12th Plan.”

The committee also observed that women’s representation at a decision- making level is moderately lower than male counterparts in the Parliament with only 15.3 percent and similarly in local government with two gups,  mangmi 24, and tshogpa 136, 15 executives, and 23 specialists.

The labour force participation rate is significantly higher than males at 73.1 percent compared to 52.2 percent for female. “Female youth unemployment of 12.9 percent is also higher compared to male unemployment rate at 9.2 percent and it also revealed that women are engaged in lower-quality jobs,” the committee’s chairperson said.

“The gender-based violence against women also remains one of the obstacles to the realisation of gender equality and women’s empowerment.”

As per the Global Gender Gap Report 2018,  Bhutan is ranked at 122 out of 149 which is low.

The House asked the committee to discuss the recommendations including those new ones,  and frame appropriate recommendation and submit it to the House tomorrow.

Registration on for the Snowman Run

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 15:51

Thinley Namgay

Coinciding with the Royal Wedding Anniversary, Bhutan is preparing for the world’s toughest and most challenging ‘Snowman Run’ (SMR), which will take place later this year, on October 13.

Challenging the world’s fittest and most elite runners, the Snowman Run intends to help raise awareness on the impacts of climate change.

The marathon will take runners across the pristine landscape of Lunana-lakes, glaciers, majestic mountains, shrubs, isolated villages and the highest place within the Himalayan mountain range.

Country Representative of World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Dechen Dorji, said the idea for the run emanated from His Majesty’s visit to the highlands with a goal to protect the natural environment and preserve the unique age-old culture and tradition of the highland communities, adversely affected by climate change.

The run, which will start from Gasa, will challenge the runners to cover 300 kilometres in less than five days, taking them to elevation ranging from 2,850 metres to 5,470 metres before ending in Bumthang. Runners will cross 11 passes, glaciers and two national parks – Jigme Dorji National Park and Wangchuck Centennial National Park.

As of now, a total of Nu 10.643million was raised by the SMR team with support from Druk Holding and Investment, WWF, Royal Bhutan Helicopter Services Limited, TCB, and Bhutan Power Corporation Limited.

Two rounds of trial run were completed with the help of RBA.

The first trial run was conducted on October 14 to 19 from Sephu- Gasa in 2017. Jan Gisle from Finland and Dorji Tshewang from Bhutan have completed the run in four days whereas Liro Kakko from Finland took six days.

From October 19 to 27, 2018, Christian Gamsjaeger from Austia, Liro Kakko and Jan Gisle from Finland, Dorji Tshewang, Wangyel and Choda from Bhutan took part in the second trial run from Gasa to Dhur village.

The run is a timely initiative by Bhutan in accordance with the 2015 Cop 21 agreement in Paris, France, where the world leaders agreed to combat climate change by taking necessary actions and investments for a sustainable low carbon future.

His Majesty The King celebrates Daw Chunyipai Losar in Dewathang

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 15:48

His Majesty The King celebrated Daw Chunyipai Losar with the Royal Bhutan Army personnel and their families in Dewathang. 

Daw Chunyipai Losar is the first day on the 12th month of the Bhutanese Lunar calendar, and celebrated as the start of a new year in Eastern Bhutan.

His Majesty The King is on a tour of the south and east to inspect sites proposed for Gyalsung training centres. His Majesty is accompanied by HRH Gyaltshab Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, His Majesty’s representative for Eastern Bhutan.

Focus point

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 16:20

MoE confident to absorb extra 6,000 PP students

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 16:18

No study conducted for keeping previous PP admission age at six 

Yangchen C Rinzin 

All children who turn five years on or before February 5 will be eligible for admission this academic session.

Children who were refused admission for this academic session last year but meet the age criteria can approach schools for admission on February 4.

The official age for enrolment in grade PP so far was six years and above. However, the Cabinet recently decided that the admission age to be reduced to five years.

The Prime Minister’s Office wrote to the education ministry on January 8 telling the ministry to bring down the age limit for admission beginning this academic session.

The ministry’s notification issued on January 14 has asked both private and public primary schools to adjust and accommodate all the incoming eligible children. 

The government decided to bring down the admission age criteria to ensure that the age aligned with the National Service (Gyalsung) that would be instituted in 2022.

Despite hiccups and many raised eyebrows on the government’s decision, which many criticise as rushed and irrational, the ministry had to go ahead and change the admission age.

The ministry had once revoked admission of 890 underage PP students (below 5.5 years) last year. Prime minister had asked the ministry to reconsider the decision but the ministry stood by its decision. However, it was later reconsidered as one-time adjustment following the directives from the Prime Minister.

The ministry strictly maintained the admission age limit at six years based on the documents issued on November 13, 1985. But yet again it had to give in following the recent directives from the government.

In the past, the ministry had turned down hundreds of parents requesting schools to admit their children, who fell short by a few days to reach the official age. The ministry had always argued that age six was as per the international calculation to support a child’s physical, intellectual, language, emotional and social developments.

The ministry derived its reasoning taking into account children’s development stages and wellbeing based on the wealth of global research findings and practices. The ministry also did not heed to the National Assembly’s recommendation to review and determine the PP admission.

Such arguments, Education Minister Jai Bir Rai said were never backed by a literature study conducted independently by the ministry and were depended on international studies and 1985 document.

“There have been arguments and pressure whether to bring down the admission age but many parents have shown willingness that their children are ready for school by 5 years,” Lyonpo said.

“We were stuck on such arguments, however, coincidentally Gyalsung happened. We must ensure that our children are ready for Gyalsung by the time they turn 18 years.”

Lyonpo said the parents should not expect the ministry to make any adjustments and admit four and a half years old students. Before, when the admission age was six years, the ministry allowed schools to take in 5.5-year olds if seats were available.

Lowering the age means the ministry will have to forgo and relook into its education policy guidelines and instructions.

Lyonpo said, however, this would not require a change to the entire guidelines except the age component. “This we can review and change. We’re confident the change would be implemented efficiently despite some glitches.”

With more than 6,000 additional students on top of the already admitted 13,000 PP students, the ministry has asked the schools to send in the details of additional students and teachers required including the infrastructure.

Lyonpo told Kuensel that although it was not sure how many additional students would be enrolled, it was certain that half of the already admitted students would be enrolled, which means the ministry should ensure enough space was created.

“The burden of additional students is likely to be felt in the urban schools, but some schools in rural areas do not have enough students in class PP,” Lyonpo said.

“However, we’re working on the estimation and that a team would come up with an eco-smart building that would be fast and efficient to construct.”

Lyonpo said that additional budget would be worked out for supplementary budget release and more teachers would be recruited on a contract or as assistant teachers. The teacher-student ratio today is 1:24 in lower schools. The additional enrollment would contradict the education policy.

Lyonpo explained that is only an ideal ratio and that it is not compulsory to stick to 1:24. “We might have to change the ratio once we change from summative to formative assessment, which is in the plan. This is just a beginning and everything will become smooth gradually.”

The ministry another argument to not enrol children below six years earlier was that all the curriculum for class PP were designed for a six-year-old child. This would be taken care of once the assessment is transformed into formative, the minister said. “The government has already done away with the examination for class PP-III.”

Following the lowering of the admission age, the ministry will also have to relook into the ambitious target to increase enrollment rate by 32 percent in the ECCD (3-5 years) this financial year in the annual performance agreement and 65 percent by five years.

“We’ll anyway enrol students from 3-4 years in the ECCD because whether 3 or 5 years, we have to have ECCD centres. It won’t impact the target and instead would have better facilities with fewer children.”

Lyonpo Jai Bir Rai said that there will be no issue with the additional PP students except increasing classrooms and budget, which the government is confident it can provide.

Lyonchhen earlier told Kuensel that admission age at six years old was subjective and it depended on the child’s mentation process because what a six-year-old child could do in the 1980s or 1990s a three-year-old can do today.

“The cognitive [development] depends on the curriculum designed, not on the age of a child going to school. We’ve to implement by next academic session itself to ensure no child misses the Gyalsung programme.”

As of 2019, there are 11,852 students enrolled in PP education according to the annual education statistics 2019. This is a decrease of 1,829 students as compared to 2018 enrolment, which the report claimed it was due to the ministry’s initiative to encourage right children age enrolment in PP where children of 6 years and above are enrolled in PP.

RAA recommends judiciary to make progressive reforms

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 16:17

…to deliver justice and upholding the rule of law

Tshering Palden & Tashi Dema

Going by the Royal Audit Authority’s (RAA) review of judiciary system and practices, the judiciary needs to make significant reforms to deliver fair, just and equitable justices.

The report, issued in June 2019, which is still not accessible to the public, highlights numerous shortcomings that require remedial measures in both case management procedures and practices and legal and institutional framework.

RAA noted inconsistent case management practices in courts, as there is no standard to assess the performance of the courts, timeframe to dispose cases, fixed number of summon orders and rebuttals in trials.

There were also inconsistencies in the issuance of summon orders and bail amounts.

The hearing schedules in dzongkhags and drungkhags, according to the audit report, depends on the preferences and conveniences of the bench clerks, prosecuting agencies and the litigants, hampering the fairness and timely delivery of justice.

It also found unsystematic and ineffective scheduling of case hearings, as courts do not schedule hearings using hearing calendar. “The current practice of scheduling the hearings in trial courts is constantly associated with arbitrary changes based on preferences and convenience of the clerks leading to prolonged delays.”

There is no effective case registry system, as there are instance where courts entertained re-litigation of cases that are already decided or are pending before other courts. The practice violates section 127 and 115 of the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code (CCPC).

Without any mandate for courts to follow up on their judgement of civil cases unless an aggrieved party moves the court, there is no guarantee that all judgments of civil cases are effectively enforced.

RAA also found that there is no responsible institution to enforce civil case judgments.

It stated that the effectiveness of the court largely depends on how effectively their judgments are enforced but in the present judicial process, there are no mechanisms instituted to ensure effective implementation and ascertain the status of court judgments unless aggrieved party moves the court against defaulting party. “There is risk that some judgments passed are not implemented.”

There is no system instituted in the judiciary to assess and report on any inconsistencies in court decisions. Disparities in judgment between different levels of courts may invite unnecessary public criticism undermining the credibility of the judiciary.

RAA recommended the need for judiciary to institute a system to monitor, evaluate and report on any inconsistencies in judgements between different levels of court to inspire public confidence and enhance the credibility of the judiciary.

It was stated that although the appeal process mandates higher courts to clarify and interpret the law and correct the lower court’s errors, it doesn’t happen.

With relaxed appeal system, where litigants need not specify reasons for appeal and appellate courts accepting it irrespective of whether the case has legal basis or not, litigants to misuse the system for personal benefit. It also provides room for court officials to involve in undesirable practices.

Most of the appeal cases are monetary cases, as the right to appeal provides respite to the defaulting party but it affects the other party in getting justice on time.

In the administration, verification of current practice showed that 16 drangpons were not transferred from a place of posting even after three years although section 225 of the Judicial Service Act mandates it. About 59 bench clerks remained in the same place of posting for more than five years although BCSR stated they should be transferred within four to five years.

“Prolonged stay of judicial personnel in a particular place may result in unwarranted developments and transfer of experience and knowledge may not be feasible,” RAA stated.

There were no proper basis for sitting fees paid to the members of Royal Judicial Service Council and the rules and regulations for the payment of sitting fees was framed and adopted by the Supreme Court without consultation with the finance ministry.

RAA pointed out that judiciary doesn’t have a system instituted to declare conflict of interest by sitting drangpons until they declare it themselves although section 73 of the CCPC 2011 requires a case to be assigned to a drangpon who may not have or reasonably construed to not have a conflict of interest in a case. “In absence of transparent system of declaration of conflict of interest instituted, there is no assurance of general compliance of this import requirement by all drangpons.”

There were also no requirements for bench clerks to declare their conflict of interest in a case although they play a vital role in the case and its proceedings.

Audit also reported discrepancies in data maintenance, as the case information system and case management system used by judiciary were found unreliable. It stated that 58 percent of the data content was incorrect, incomplete and duplicate.

Meanwhile, there is hope for lawyers working in government organisations to become drangpon rabjams if the judiciary takes RAA recommendations of seriously.

The audit report stated that section 74 of the Judicial Service Act provides an option for the judiciary to appoint drangpons or drungkhag courts or drangpon rabjams from persons having served as registrar of a court for four or more years in succession or seven or more years as an advocate in succession. “Section 62 (F) of the Act requires drangpon rabjams to be in position level P1.”

But RAA observed that drangpon rabjams are appointed only from among persons having served as a registrar of a court and not fulfilling the requirements under section 62. “Although there was a position gap in appointment of drangpon rabjams, judiciary did not consider appointing from persons having served as an advocate.”

It recommended judiciary to appoint drangpon rabjams from government lawyers and other law practitioners recognised by the Bar Council, as the judiciary could not realise the position structure of judicial service personnel.

Are we talking too loud?

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 16:16

Where Bhutan is doing pretty damn poorly is visible. Where it needs to go in the 21st century is becoming unclear by the day. We are still talking too much and doing too less.

Bhutan could focus elsewhere for better gains than modern technologies such as IT and robotics and much more that is being talked about today. Data consumption and usage, more importantly, will be a serious challenge for Bhutan because there has not been equivalent investment in this sector.

We can dream and we can talk. We can even convince our friends and relations to think the way we do. But for what end if the nation is not prepared for this significant leap? IT education, the bedrock of all these phenomenal opportunities for growth, is today at best receiving only a lukewarm response. The thing with the technology is that we could often be the last users before something new comes up to nullify our efforts.

Speed of change. That’s the key. Bhutan has no advantage there. But that does not make us poor. What is actually making us poor is our inability to sell our best products. Bhutan can never be a military power and that is not even what the nation wants to be. Bhutan can never be an economic power, which we only dream of but can in fact achieve if we were to go rogue like many nations that are triggering disbalance the power play in the world today.

Bhutan has a national ethos which, unfortunately, many so-called advanced countries and economies do not have. We have never succumbed to and, will not ever, to the immediate gains that will ultimately prove dangerous to not just world the economy but the life of earth itself. No one has got modern economy quite right and that’s where Bhutan could step in.

Bhutan has what the larger world needs desperately today. Hawks will always be there because they are governed by their self-interests. The world must defeat them.

The world politics is in sad state of affairs. For Bhutan that’s nothing new. But we can do a lot more. If selling climate and culture is difficult, we aren’t doing enough. If we are not investing in our art and architecture, we aren’t doing anything. Talking too loud is so useless. How are we positioning ourselves better in this chaotic world today? In other words, how are we engaging with the world beyond? How far are we looking?

Of separation of power and tussle between the legislature and judiciary

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 16:15

During the deliberation on the amendment of Civil and Criminal Procedure Code (CCPC) in the National Council, a member raised concerns about the judiciary amending the laws made by the parliament and the need to include a provision to control such powers.  This was followed by a Kuensel article “Contradicting Supreme Court Orders confuse courts”, which discussed on a standing order and many legal experts raised concerns of such orders.

This standing order was issued on November 26, 2019, instructing all the courts to implement the earlier standing order issued on June 17, 2015, which declared S.199.8A unconstitutional making every criminal offence a bailable.

In Bhutan, though Article 1(13) of the Constitution makes it  clear: “Separation of the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary” except as permitted by the Constitution. The separation of power adopted by numerous constitutions centuries ago mainly “as the system of checks and balances among the three arms of the government”.

Article 1(11) our constitution appoints the Supreme Court as the guardian and the final interpreter of the Constitution. This is an enormous authority the Supreme Court enjoys. However, reading this Article with Article 21 (8) and (10) does seem to limit the scope of authority of the Supreme Court.

For example, under Article 21 (8), Supreme Court can interpret the Constitution when there is a question of law or fact referred by His Majesty and under article 21(10), the Supreme Court can issue declaration, writs, orders, directions only based on circumstances of each case.

This indicates that there must be a case in order to exercise authorities under Article 21(10). Similarly, to interpret the provision on fundamental rights, it can be done only when a person aggrieved by action of the state is challenged. Thus, it is unclear, if current practice of Supreme Court issuing merely a standing order to amend or repeal parliamentary acts is within the framework of separation of powers.

Contrarily, Article 10 (1) explicitly states: “there shall be a Parliament of Bhutan in which all legislative powers under this Constitution were vested”. Therefore, legislative authority is an exclusive domain of the parliament. This can be inferred even from Article 1 (1) which states that, “Bhutan is a sovereign and sovereign power belongs to people of Bhutan” and parliamentarian are representatives of the people and not the judiciary.

When the principle of Separation of Power was propounded by a French Philosopher Montesquieu to fight against tyranny of the leaders who hold on absolute powers, he suggested that there is should absolutely no encroachment of each other. But with changing of times and shift in governance system towards people centric democracy, absolute separation of power is impossible and some overlap authorities into each other’s boundaries are inevitable.

Therefore, it is not uncommon for any legal system across the world that courts, in particular appellate courts, does amend lot of parliamentary acts through its decisions when a case has been filed before the court. But amendment of laws through issuance of standing order are often seen very rare in any democracy set up as it is often seen as direct infringement on the parliamentary domain.

Therefore, our judiciary must exercise due care when it requires to enter into domain of legislature to protect public confidence in the judiciary. Any form of power tussle between the judiciary and parliament is unhealthy for a democracy.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.

Toebisa gup and tshogpa accused of misusing contribution

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 16:13

Gup refutes the allegations claiming it an administrative lapse

Chimi Dema | Punakha

Punakha dzongkhag’s internal audit is investigating Toebisa gup and Dochula-Menchuna tshogpa for allegedly embezzling contributions made for a fire victim of Begana chiwog.

The complaint was initially lodged to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the commission asked the dzongkhag administration to investigate and report.

It was learnt that the gewog collected some money from gewog residents and business people of Thinleygang after a woman, Pem, from Begana lost her two-storey traditional house on November 3, 2018, but she never received it.

Pem said she was not aware the gewog officials collected the money for her.

She said she remains grateful to the gewog officials for the help they rendered when she lost her house. “I was in the field, preparing for winter crop when a friend staying at the other side of our village saw thick smokes from my house. I rushed home but couldn’t save anything.”

According to Pem, villagers and gewog officials helped her in containing the fire, making temporary shed and providing rations, utensils and clothes. “Some neighbors also helped in cultivating my winter crops.”

She also received her house insurance of Nu 200,000 and semso from Gyalpoi Zimpon’s office. She didn’t know gewog officials collected money from shopowners in Thinleygang and villagers from other chiwogs until recently.

“I never expected monetary contribution and didn’t even bother about it after I heard it,” Pem said.

Shop owners in Thinleygang said gewog officials collected Nu 500 each from them as a semso to the fire victim. “We were also called for a meeting by the gewog officials before making the contribution,” a shop owner said. “Now we hear the money never reached the victim.”

There are about 14 shops in the Thinleygang town today.

Meanwhile, the dzongkhag internal audit said they do not see misuse of the cash as of now but an administrative issue.

He, however, said it would be confirmed once the investigation is completed. “We are waiting for our team to return from Gujarat, India, to conduct a thorough investigation.”

Gup’s version

Gup Namgay Tenzin also claimed that it was an administrative lapse and not misuse of the cash.

He agreed that about Nu 12,000 was donated by shopowners and villagers from five chiwogs as a semso to the fire victim.

However, the money was kept with the tshogpa because they wanted to buy things for the victim and give instead of cash, as villagers supported in kind including rations. “We thought we will buy utensil and other necessary things.”

He claimed he was engaged in training and other official works in the meantime and forgot about the money. “The tshogpa also thought the budget was taken care of by other tshogpas.”

Gup Namgay Tenzin said the Dochula-Menchuna tshogpa, who was assigned as in-charge of painting the gewog office roof used the fund when he was out of station. “The gewog did not receive gewog development grant during that time and the initial allocated budget of Nu 22,000 wasn’t enough. The tshogpa unknowingly used the contribution, which was found in a cupboard.”

He said both he and the tshogpa were reminded of the money when the issue surfaced recently after people lodged the complaint to the ACC. “As the money was utilised for maintenance of gewog infrastructure, we decided to reimburse the cash from the gewog budget.”

He also claimed people complained because the local government election was nearing.

According to the gewog administrative officer, discussion to reimbursing the cash was held during the last gewog tshogde. “But we don’t know when to restitute the money.”

Nikachu HEP construction almost half complete

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 16:12

Nim Dorji  | Trongsa

The 118MW Nikachu Hydroelectric project marked a significant milestone when it completed excavation of the head-race tunnel from both ends of the first and second phase on January 23.  

The 12-km tunnel is a critical part of the project, HCC’s fifth hydroelectric project in Bhutan.

Guests and officials witnessed the event, also known as tunnel day-lighting moment, in Trongsa. Hindustan Construction Company is executing the works on contracted from Tangsibji Hydro Energy, a 100 per cent subsidiary of Druk Green Power Corporation. 

DGPC managing director Dasho Chhewang Rinzin said that with rigorous planning and constant monitoring the project team was able to achieve the feat despite challenging working conditions. “The excavation works for diversion tunnel at the dam began on August 2, 2016, followed by Adit-III and Adit-II. We have achieved almost twice the overall physical progress compared to last year.” 

The project faced multiple challenges such as poor rock strata, extremely cold conditions and high water-ingress during tunnel excavation. 

Tangsibji Hydro Energy Managing Director, Sujan Rai said that with the breakthrough in the HRT construction the resource allocation to the other sites of the project has become possible.

He said that the concrete lining of phase two and three of the tunnel will begin immediately.

Rest of the HRT faces breakthrough is planned to be completed by the end of 2020 provided there are no geological surprises.

Of the 12km HRT, only 3.28 km is left for the excavation and the concrete lining of 8km is expected to be completed within 2020. As of January, 49 percent of the project is completed. The work at the powerhouse and dam are also progressing well. 

A press release from the HCC stated that the civil work for the turbine foundation at the powerhouse has now been completed while work at the dam site is on in full swing. The erection of the project’s two turbines is expected to begin this month.

The project is worth Nu 11.96 billion. Of the total cost, 60.8 percent was from Asian Development Bank and 29.68 percent from Commercial Bank of India and 9.52 percent from DGPC.

One of the unique features of the Nikachhu project is that once it is complete the water from the tailrace tunnel will be connected to the Dam of MHPA, which will give additional power generation for MHPA during the lean season.

The project is expected to be operational by April 2021. Upon completion, Nikachhu project will export to the Power Trading Corporation of India.

NPL not a major economic crisis: Finance Minister  

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 16:11

…15 percent NPL not a major concern

Younten Tshedup

While the rate of non-performing loans (NPL) has been rising in the country, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that it is not a major economic crisis.

Responding to Nganglam MP Choida Jamtsho’s question on the deteriorating economic situation from the growing NPL yesterday, finance minister said that the current NPL stood at Nu 21.5 billion (B), which is about 15 percent.

The 15 percent NPL, Lyonpo said, should not worry the public. “Globally, NPL more than 20 percent is only considered worrisome.”

But the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) figures reveal that hotel and construction sector alone caters to 30 percent NPL of its portfolios.

Lyonpo said that as of June 2019, the eight financial institutions (FI) has lent about Nu 143B of which major share was in the housing, tourism and hospitality, and trade and commerce sectors, which has also the highest NPL currently.

“Our NPL is just 15 percent and there is no reason for us to worry at this time,” he said.

Lyonpo explained that in 2016 when the RMA replaced the base rate policy with minimum lending rate (MLR) policy, the number of loan applicants increased by about 17 percent.

“With the increased loan applicants, the number of defaulters also increased as a corresponding effect thereby increasing the NPL,” he said, adding that the competition among the FIs to attract more clients through different schemes could have also let to the increased NPL.

He, however, said that the government in collaboration with RMA and FIs has devised several strategies and plans to address the current NPL issues.

One of the main strategies was to promote loan specialisation by different financial institutions. Lyonpo explained that the new strategy would allow respective FIs to loan money to a particular sector.

Another strategy was to provide securitisation of loan by the two insurance companies. “Under this strategy, even if the person is not able to repay the loan, the insurance would cover for it.”

Meanwhile, responding to the Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi’s question on the fiscal and trade deficits, finance minister said that total budget deficit in the 12th Plan is Nu 29B and not Nu 40B as mentioned by the MP.

However, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering had earlier said that although the 12th Plan had a projected fiscal deficit of Nu 29B, it could touch Nu 40B should the government consider its various pledges.

MP Dorji Wangdi said the health ministry as informed by the health minister alone has a fiscal deficit of about Nu 12B in the 12th Plan. “If we add that to Nu 29B, the total deficit comes to about Nu 41B. Of the several pledges the government has made, the free WiFi alone would account for more than Nu 21B taking the total fiscal deficit to over Nu 62B.”

The increased budget outlay from the enlarged developmental activities combined with the decrease in the grant and aid from donors as a result of change in the economic status of the country by 2023, Dorji Wangdi said that the country’s economy would be in a major crisis.

The MP added that the country’s increasing trade deficit also posed a major threat to the country economy.

The minister said that in the past 15 months since the present government took over, the fiscal deficit has decreased to Nu 22B from Nu 29B. “The government’s tax reform initiative was a major step in addressing the current fiscal deficit.”

He said that with the introduction of innovative financing strategies and launching of the Bhutan Climate Fund including the promotion of public-private partnership schemes, it would further help address the fiscal deficit.

On the trade deficit, Lyonpo said that the government plans to decrease the trade deficit of Nu 30B as of 2018, which is around 16 percent of GDP to 13 percent in the current financial year. “Economic diversification and substituting imports by promoting cottage and small industries would also address the trade deficit.”

Water Flagship Programme on track: MoWHS report

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 16:09

Thinley Namgay

Officials from the human settlement (MoWHS) presented the progress status of the Water Flagship Programme (WFP) to prime minister on January 23.

Activities for the 15 dzongkhags and four thromdes are being planned.

Project Management Unit has adopted four strategies with an overall allotted budget of Nu 2,671.96 million. The strategies include declaration and protection of critical watersheds and wetlands, development of adequate and climate-resilient infrastructure for thromdes and dzongkhags (municipalities and rural areas), improvement of drinking water quality surveillance and the better implementation of water legislation and governance.

The maximum budget has been allotted for the second strategy owing to more activities.

Programme Manager Sonam Jamtsho said, “Under the first strategy, the consultation workshops with Sarpang and Gelephu thromde have been completed and  also the gewog level consultations on watershed management. Demonstration on assessment in the field has also been completed. Training workshop for field officials of Sarpang and Manas forest division have been conducted and initiated the incorporation of watershed assessment for 10 dzongkhags. ”

Sonam Jamtsho said that in the second strategy, the sensitisation tour to local governments in 11 dzongkhags and four thromdes were carried out to identify irrigation schemes, areas with critical water scarcity and possibility of exploration of groundwater.

Officials said the expression of interest to recruit three consultants was floated from December 2 to January 13 which includes the introduction of climate-resilient water treatment technologies in partnership with University of Applied Sciences, Dresden, Germany, identification of urban water projects for Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan financing, and discussions on exploration of groundwater resources with the Department of Geology and Mines.

Expert mission from Water Management International (France) to carryout assessment of non-revenue water for Thimphu and Phuentsholing thromdes, identifying rural water supply schemes for financing through Green Climate Fund in partnership with Food and Agriculture Organisation, and preparatory work for loan financing from ADB for urban projects are ongoing, as per the officials.

Bidding document for procurement of equipment for water quality testing under preparation has been included in the third strategy.

The official said that the Chukha, Mongar, Pemagatshel and Samtse were identified for the preliminary assessment of groundwater.

They said they would receive technical assistance from World Bank for the rapid assessment of institutional setup for creation of water agency. “We initiated the collection of data and preliminary assessment of water tariff guideline. Regarding the integration of irrigation, schemes were identified for possible integration for seven dzongkhags.”

Lack of accurate data on water sources, quality of planning and design, urgent need for water resources mapping, and need to assess ground water resources in critical areas were some of the key observations from the sensitisation tour.

Concerns about the sustainability of infrastructures after the completion of the flagship programme, resource gap and availability of experts are identified as challenges.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering informed the officials that the WFP would be an independent body in the future and instructed the officials to collect water-related data from all the gewogs and villages and make better use of expertise and resources.

Jigtsam lhakhang in dire need of renovation

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 16:07

Neten Dorji | Trashiyangtse

Residents of more than 70 households in Jamkhar, Trashiyangtse, who use Jigtsam lhakhang to conduct their monthly rituals, are worried they would not have a common place to conduct rituals.

Without proper maintenance after the 2011 earthquake, the lhakhang is now on the verge of collapse. Major cracks have been developed on the walls.

Located more than 10kms from the gewog centre, the two-storey lhakhang caters two chiwogs in the village. Residents say the lhakhang is more than 200 years old and it was a private lhakhang before the owner handed it over to the community.

A lay monk, Pema, said if the government doesn’t support the lhakhang renovation, people would not be able to do it on their own. “The lhakhang will turn into ruins.”

He said it does not look good when a village doesn’t have a lhakhang in a religious country like Bhutan.

Laishum-Larjab tshogpa, Kota, said two chiwog tshogpas raised the issue to the gewog and dzongkhag several times but nothing has been done until now.

Residents also claim except for the lhakhang, all other lhakhangs in the gewog was renovated.

Another tshogpa, Ngotong, of Ninda-Paachu chiwog, said the gewog allocated a budget of Nu 7 million in 2012 but it was not approved by officials claiming the lhakhang doesn’t need renovation. “Officials would only know if they visit the lhakhang.”

Meanwhile, Jamkhar gup Karma Tshewang said that gewog administration is well aware of the issue and they expect the lhakhang to be renovated in 12th Plan, as they allocated Nu 300,000 for renovation works.

The gup said if Kholongchu hydro project starts, they would seek donation to reconstruct the lhakhang.

Ngultrum: History of Bhutan’s currency

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 16:05

In 1974, in a short and simple but traditional ceremony, the Ngulturm was formally launched in Thimphu as the legal tender of the country. Five years later, in 1979, the national currency was declared as the only legal tender money in Bhutan. 

On the morning of April 6, 1974, Her Royal Highness Ashi Sonam Chhoden Wangchuck released the first currency paper notes. The ceremony was held in Tashichhodzong in the presence of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and the Cabinet. The paper notes released were of one, five and ten denominations. 

Kuensel covered the historic occasion. According to the April 14 issue, “Rs. Nu 10 Lakhs worth of notes have been printed bearing the signature of HRH Ashi Sonam Chhoden Wangchuck as His Majesty’s representative in the Ministry of Finance.”  It further states: “All Bhutanese notes will be legal tender on par value with Indian notes which shall also remain legal tender.”

The Nu 10 note was printed in purple colour with undertones of orange and white. The note had the portrait of His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck printed on it. The back of the note had a sketch of the Simtokha Dzong.

Similarly, the Five Ngultrum note had a portrait but that of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The back of the note had a colour sketch of the Paro Dzong.  The note was printed in reddish brown with undertone of orange and green.

According to Kuensel, the size of both the five and ten corresponds to that of the Indian Rs 10 and Rs 5 notes.  The Nu 10 note was released to commemorate His Late Majesty and came into immediate circulation. The Nu 5 was to released only in June to commemorate the historic coronation of His Majesty Fourth Druk Gyalpo. 

The Nu One note did not have any portrait but had juxtaposed Dorji (Vajra) and a pair of Dragon. It was blue in colour and, like the Nu 10, came into immediate circulation.

According to Kuensel, the paper currency was designed by the master craftsman Khikhor Lopon and his counterpart PB Chitnis of the Indian Security Press. V Swaminathan executed the project under the direct supervision of HRH Ashi Sonam Chhoden Wangchuck.

The India Security Press printed these notes for the first and last time. Located in the state of Maharashtra, the government press was charged with the task of printing various Indian government documents, including postage stamps.

Like the Indian currency, the words, “I promise to pay the bearer the sum of  Ten Rupee,” was printed in the currency but only in Dzongkha. 

The first time was the Nu 5 notes circulated was in the Tashichhodzong during the Tendrel Phunsum Tshogpa ceremony. On June 2, it was offered to the various dignitaries that attended the ceremony.   Out of the 10 offerings the cash offering was the last signifying the end of the ceremony.

On June 2, 1974, the public including students who had gathered on the grounds of the Banquet hall were given cash gifts of Nu 15 each. 

On June 3, the Ngultrum was distributed for the second time to the people of Bhutan who had congregated in Changlimithang to celebrate the coronation.

The tradition of distributing money to the people known as changgyaps during important and national occasion continues to this day. For many who flocked to the coronation, receiving of the money was their highlight.

According to the Annual Report (1972-73) of the Ministry of Finance, the Government of India gave our government a grant of Rs 45 lakhs. The money was used to prepare for the coronation. In the Receipt Payment of the year, Rs 15,78,151 was reflected as preliminary expense for the coronation of His Majesty. It is likely that the amount of 10 Lakhs or at least 22 percent of the fund was used from this grant to print the currency. 

The first time the Ngultrum appeared in a government document was in 1974. In the Plan Progress Report-April 1, 1974 to December 31, 1974, prepared by the Ministry of Development states: “The total plan outlay for the first three years of the plan was Nu 1,866.07 lakhs. A further expenditure of Nu 564.92 lakh was incurred during the first nine months of the fourth year.” In the 41 page report, Ngultrum is used at least 11 times.

The second lot of paper currency was printed and released in 1978. The Dzongkha version of the word “Ngultrum” was misspelt “Ngulkram.” This was the result of Dzongkha typewriter that did not have the alphabet, “Tah.” 

Five years after the Ngultrum was formally released, in 1979, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo announced it as the only legal tender money in the country. 

On 3 January 1979, a meeting was called as follow up of the Gelephug meeting. The Minutes of the Meeting were handed out and discussed in details. 

The neatly typed four-page report in foolscap paper has this important announcement. According to the Minutes, “His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo has been pleased to command that from May 1979, coinciding with the birthday of His Majesty, the Late King, Ngultrum will be introduced as the only legal tender money in Bhutan.” 

His Majesty stated that “the use of our currency will enable us to have effective control over the monetary policy and help us to indicate our trade deficit more clearly making the people aware of the need to produce goods for domestic consumption and for export.”

History

There are at least three theories of the etymology of Ngultrum.  The first is that the word Ngultrum is dngul-tam. Dngul means silver and tam means distribution. In Dr John Ardussi’s thesis, “Bhutan before the British, a Historical Study,” he states, “the question of currency values and types circulating in Bhutan during the 18th century is little known from the native literature. The dngul-tam may have been a local silver coin of moderately high value. In the 18th century, prize horses were given to princes of Cooch Bihar as gifts. These horse were worth 130 dngul-tam.” 

Dr Wolfgang Betsch, a numismatist, thinks that “Ngultrum” is a combination of two words: Ngul or Silver and Trum which means Tangka. The term “Tangka” refers to a Tibetan silver coin that has been coined since the mid 1600s.

The third popular theory of the origin of the etymology of Ngultrum is that it is derived from Taka. Also known as the Tanka or Tangka, it was one of the major historical currencies of Asia, particularly in the  Indian subcontinent and Tibet and became a currency of the Silk Road.  It was inscribed in numerous languages across different regions, including in Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Hindustani, Bengali, Nepali, Tibetan and Mandarin. The taka was traditionally equal to one silver rupee in Islamic Bengal. 

Tigchung

Before the Ngultrum was released, Tigchung coins were in circulation. For example, in 1966, during the 25th session of the National Assembly, it proposed minting of one crore of Tigchung in India. At the time, Tigtsa was not available in India so it had to be imported. “This would cost the government of Bhutan about 9 Lakhs in hard currency which was procured. The House also learnt that the country would be benefitted by Rs 36 lakhs after having the costs for the minting materials and the mint charges.”

Conclusion 

National currency is one of the symbols of an independent country. So far, there has been no national discourse on the etymology of the Ngultrum. In 1974, the Ngultrum replaced the Tigchungs and was formally launched as national currency. This ceremony was quiet, simple but traditional and held in the capital. 

Contributed by 

Tshering Tashi

Organic products certification underway 

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 16:03

Choki Wangmo 

Bhutan is expected to produce 2,435 metric tonnes (MT) of crops and vegetables under the national organic flagship programme (NOFP) by the end of this year.

With a total budget of Nu 1 billion, the programme will focus on the production of quinoa, buckwheat, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, asparagus, mushroom, beans, cauliflower, and chilli in the fiscal year 2019-2020 on 1,000 acres.

While presenting the update at the Prime Minister’s Office January 23, NOFP manager Kezang Tshomo said that organic buckwheat and vegetables were already in the market. Vegetables were sold to the local market and a portion of buckwheat was bought back as seeds.

“Under the flagship programme, certification is necessary. As soon as cultivation areas are identified, and cultivation starts, certification will also begin,” Kezang Tshomo said.

Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) is working on the accreditation process and is expected to implement it by June this year.

Under the International Organisation for Standardisation 17065, a prerequisite for certification bodies certifying products, processes and services, BAFRA will be accredited as the country’s organic agriculture produce certifying body.

“Quinoa and buckwheat will be BAFRA and Local Organic Assurance System certified by June,” Kezang Tshomo said. “We are exploring international organic certification opportunities in different regions as well,” she added.

The certification would enable Bhutan to explore international markets for organic products.

The programme was suggested to explore opportunities to set out a sales outlet through Bhutanese embassies in other countries and involving the export promotion division in the Department of Trade.

The locations for organic sales outlet in Paro and Thimphu were identified but are not operational as of today.

Currently, most of the organic produce in the country were sold to One Gewog One Product initiative and Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited. An official suggested that market opportunities in the school feeding programme should be explored too.

PMO said there should be a link between production, collection, aggregation and transportation of organic products to encourage growers. The producers were found to be discouraged due to the lack of an established market chain.

Meanwhile, 2MT of organic seed would be produced by the end of this year. By the end of the programme, 20MT of seed and 31,000MT of organic products are expected to hit the market. The programme registered local seed growers for organic seed production.

“Sowing is not yet complete due to seasonal variations but quinoa and buckwheat seeding has started in the south,” Kezang Tshomo said.

To reduce imported chemical fertilisers by 50 percent, the organic manure production plant is under construction in Pasakha while upscaling activities of vermicompost unit in Samtse and organic manure production unit in Glelephu have started.

But the programme’s progress is impeded by lack of expertise and laboratories, among others.

NOFP’s Annual Performance Agreement was signed last August between the Prime Minister and the agriculture minister to bring in socio-economic development through sustainable production of safe and nutritious foods. It is also expected to increase revenue and GDP while engaging youth and farmers.

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