PM assures the people that the road would be completed next year
The first question that the people of Naro gewog raised with the Prime Minister during his gewog visit on July 22 was when the gewog would be connected with a motorable road.
Naro is one of the remote gewogs in Thimphu dzongkhag. There is no shop or a farm road. The highlanders claim that the road’s construction was approved seven years ago.
Tenzin from Barshong, where the gewog centre is, said that the absence of a road affected the gewog’s development activities. Barshong is about a day’s walk from the nearest road end.
He said that everything becomes expensive by the time goods reach there.A resident requests the government to expedite progress on the GC road’s construction
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, while addressing the gathering of about 70 people, some of whom have travelled for three days from their pastureland to attend the meeting, said the government is aware of the concerns of the highlanders in Naro and Lingzhi gewogs. “We’re making all attempts to complete the road within the plan,” he said.
He also admitted that there has been delay because the gewog falls in the Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP), and the park didn’t approve the environment clearance.
Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said that the benefit of the road would go beyond Naro gewog, as highlanders and officials in Lingzhi drungkhag will also enjoy shorter walking time, and faster and cheaper transportation of goods.
He assured them that the road would reach the gewog centre by next year.
However, continuing the discussion outside the meeting hall, some highlanders remained skeptic given the steep terrain and poor geology plagued with frequent landslides.
“The road completion is going to be a huge challenge,” a villager said.
Of the 29km road from Dodeyna to the gewog centre, 17km formation cutting has been completed as of now.
The completion of the road would mean cheaper goods mainly groceries and rice for the communities and the dratshang in Barshong.
The Lingzhi drungkhag dratshang shifted to Barshong three years ago. Dratshang’s lam, Chencho, said, that the dratshang needs to transport food supplies including vegetables for the 30 monks. He said it has been a challenge. “The dratshang has limited space to store grains and vegetables.”
He said that like everyone there, they’re waiting for the road to complete. “It could save us the stipend we spend on transportation and improve the diet.”
Naro Gup Wangchuk said the main problem with the road is that it remains blocked frequently with landslides. “Even our horses cannot pass through the road,” he said.
The Department of Roads (DoR) is constructing the road with a budget of Nu 40 million (M). The department has deployed a machine to clear the roadblocks for now.
The gup said that he hopes the road would become stable with time.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister also inaugurated the RNR meeting hall, the traditional medicine-drying house, and the dratshang lam’s residence built with gewog development grant.
Naro was the 163rd gewog the Prime Minister visited as part of his gewog visit programme.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said it is important for people to know what the government should do and what their responsibilities are.
He said that the government had allocated Nu 18M for the gewog in the past four years of the 11th Plan. “This is about Nu 73,000 for each household annually.”
Naro gewog has a grade II basic health unit with a lone health worker. It has an extended classroom and classes from pre-primary to grade IV with seven students and two teachers, a power tiller, and is connected to Bhutan Telecom mobile network. The Internet connection is, however, limited to a few spots.
His Majesty The King granted 50 decimal land each to the gewog’s 49 households in 2011. Today, there are 69 households.
The Prime Minister said that while many have built homes, those who build in future must ensure quality and safety in fitting electric lines.
“Don’t compromise on the safety of your homes because you can save a little amount on the costs,” he said. He also asked if the residents want the government to show it in a pilot project for the rest to follow.
Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay also encouraged the highlanders to establish home stays for tourists and shops in the gewog once the road reaches the gewog centre.
Naro is one of the three gewogs in Lingzhi drungkhag. The residents are nomadic herders and sustain on livestock and collection of herbs.
The Prime Minister was accompanied by the minister in-charge of Thimphu dzongkhag and economic affairs minister Lekey Dorji, the north Thimphu Member of Parliament Tshering, Thimphu Dzongdag and dzongkhag tshogdu thrizin.
Tshering Palden, Naro
Although the government claims that it is yet to understand the impact of India’s shift to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime on Bhutan, the move is expected to impact Phuentsholing differently.
With zero tax on exports under this regime, import into Phuentsholing and rest of the places in the country is likely to increase. However, residents in this cross border area will get to see two different prices of the same commodities and have options to buy between Phuentsholing and Jaigaon.
Unlike the current situation, Phuentsholing is expected have more advantage and could even attract customers from across the border.
Talking to Kuensel, a consultant, Naman Siddharth of ImsTaxoservice, who is working closely with Association of Bhutanese Industries (ABI) and Bhutan Camber for Commerce and Industries said that Bhutanese consumers need to understand that prices of goods is going to drop.
There will be no taxes in whatever they buy, he said, adding that the Bhutanese consumers should always prefer buying from Bhutan.
One of the major changes Phuentsholing and Jaigaon are expected to see is on the household (electronics) appliances.
Prior to the GST, the average VAT rate on most of the household appliances was charged between 11-12.5 percent in most of the Indian states. There was a 12.5 percent excise duty on household electronic appliances.
Considering the Central State Tax and other local taxes, an average of 25 percent to 26 percent tax was charged on such goods. Now, GST slab for the same is 28 percent but export is tax-free. This means, Phuentsholing will have a price edge of 28 percent over Jaigaon for the same electronics.
Since electronics have a market in the country’s growing construction sector, tables are likely to turn against traders across the border.
OHowever, Bhutanese traders will have to buy directly from the manufacturers to stay away from manipulations.
Cell phones, which attract hundreds of Bhutanese across the border today now come with a 12 percent GST. This means, Phuentsholing stores would have better to offer.
Naman Sidharth said that this is likely for Phuentsholing with the GST. “Market in Phuentsholing will boom,” he said.
Meanwhile, there is still confusion among Bhutanese consumers on whether they would be charged GST for buying from Jaigaon or not.
BCCI’s business representative in Phuentsholing, Lobzang Tshering, said, that until there are clear understandings and directives, he has nothing to say right now.
GST was initiated from July 1 this year. While there are no clear directives from both the governments, GST is expected to impact the domestic carbonated soft drinks manufacturer the most. Soft drinks manufacturers in India are exempted the 21 percent excise duty, which means they will have the advantage.
However, with raw materials getting cheaper, how much impact would our soft drinks manufactures have to bear is yet to be ascertained.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
Challenges related to young entrepreneurs, tourism and connectivity in the region among others, will be addressed in the 70th executive committee meeting of South Asian Association for Regional Corporation (SAARC) Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAARC CCI).
Foreign minister Damcho Dorji said that the expansion of trade and deeper integration in the region has been constrained by poor infrastructure, tariff and non-tariff barriers, administrative bottlenecks and lack of adequate investment. He said that 35 percent of the population of South Asia consist of youth but lack opportunities and finance, which restrict their potential.
For the next two days, the meeting will discuss plans and programmes of SAARC Chamber Young Entrepreneurs Forum (SCYEF). The members of SAARC CCI will also discuss tourism, connectivity in the region and SAARC development fund.
Secretary General with SAARC, Amjad Husain B. Sial, said that SAARC CCI should create awareness on the benefit of trade under South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). “Several intergovernmental initiatives are already underway for the promotion of trade, harmonisation of standards, promotion of investments and for the improvement of connectivity in the region,” he said.
The three-day session began with the executive committee member of SAARC CCI Singye Namgyal Dorji, being appointed as the new chairman of SCYEF for a term of two years. Saurabh Jyoti from Nepal was the former chairperson of SCYEF.
The meeting organised by SAARC CCI in collaboration with Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) was inaugurated yesterday in Thimphu.
SAARC CCI was established in 1992 with an objective to promote active collaboration, mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, and technical and scientific fields.
Although drayangs are vulnerable to social mistreatments, sexual abuse and harassment, it has provided opportunity to many girls and women wanting to live an independent life, a two-day training workshop for drayangs employees and owners found.
Employees claimed that they understand how the society perceives them but said that they are helpless.
In the workshop organised by a non-governmental organisation RENEW last week, it was found that most employees are from divorced families, single mothers and school drop outs.
A RENEW official said that looking down on those independent women is a misconception that the society has constructed. “Working in a drayang is same as any other employment and the only difference is the working hours.”
RENEW’s director of the Community Outreach Department, Meenakshi Rai (Phd), urged drayang owners to work actively with stakeholders to build a safe working place. “Let us work together to make generations beyond proud of what we are doing today. Let us learn from the mistakes of the world and let’s not repeat it,” she said.
RENEW’s executive director, Tandin Wangmo, said that drayangs have the potential to promote the national dress and preserve traditional music and dances. “Let us come together to make drayangs a respected place. Let’s turn it into the place where a family can come together for a good time.”
She urged drayang owners to collaborate with stakeholders to make life easier for the employees.
Drayang owners said they always wanted to improve the working place and even initiated it. They, however, claim that they are confused with regulations imposed on them by different stakeholders.
Citing an example of placing contraceptives, drayang owners claim that the health ministry has been emphasising on the need to have it in place while Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) has been advising them otherwise.
They said that differences in the payment system and internal services of drayangs have created a gap among drayangs in the case of working environment and the reputations. While some drayangs pay on monthly basis, some base it on song requests they manage to get from customers.
They also claimed that it has been a challenge for them to clear people’s misconception of drayangs.
Meanwhile, drayang employees shared the incident of how girls are abused by customers, physically assaulted by wives of customers, sexually harassed and inappropriately touched by strangers often in their working place. They claim that they tolerate it, as they need the work.
Comprehensive systems to monitor tobacco use and prevention policies should be implemented region-wide.
This is one of the highlights of the latest WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, a press release from WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia states.
Regional director for WHO SEARO, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, in the press release, said gathering high-quality information on tobacco usage and policy implementation is critical for governments to promote health, save health care costs and identify tobacco industry interference in policymaking and implementation.
To support this, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said that the WHO SEARO is evaluating the implementation of tobacco control policies in all member countries. In doing so, it is looking beyond MPOWER to the broader Sustainable Development Agenda and its emphasis on universal health coverage.
MPOWER measures are intended to assist in the country-level implementation of effective interventions to reduce the demand for tobacco. It stands for Monitoring tobacco use and preventing policies; Protect people from tobacco smoke; Offer help to quit tobacco use; Warn about the dangers of tobacco; Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and Raise taxes on tobacco.
The report also found that life-saving tobacco control policies covered more people than ever before, including those in the SEAR.
The report documents how 63 percent of the world’s population is now covered by at least one comprehensive tobacco control measure mandated by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), from graphic warnings on tobacco packages to bans on tobacco advertising.
Substantial progress has been made in implementing the WHO FCTC since its adoption in 2003, the report states.
According to the report, the progress that has been made so far is encouraging. But while progress in implementing comprehensive tobacco control policies has been steady, it has also not been enough to end the tobacco epidemic.
Some 2.7 billion people still have no protection from the illness, disability, and death caused by tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure, or from associated economic, environmental and social harms.
“Even though tobacco use has declined in some countries and regions, population growth means the absolute number of tobacco users is not yet decreasing,” the report states.
Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said all countries in the region now have laws and regulations that require specific warnings on tobacco packages. “All countries have sought to curb tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. Some have done so comprehensively.”
Bhutan enacted its legislation on tobacco control in 2010.
Bhutan Narcotic Control Authority (BNCA), the national narcotics regulatory authority recently initiated a three-week inspection from July 10 to monitor public compliance to the provisions of tobacco and drug laws. As of July 14, the team intercepted 41 cases related to noncompliance tobacco control rules and collected a fine amount of Nu 36, 820.
The inspection is carried out jointly with the officials from departments of trade, customs and revenue, thromde, and police. This year, between January and February, BNCA with the help of dzongkhag officials carried out inspection in Wangdue, Bumthang, Phuentsholing, Gelephu, Trongsa, Trashigang, Samdrupjongkhar and Trashiyangtse.
Member countries across the region are adopting and acting on the six MPOWER strategies to support FCTC implementation, and are even going beyond them, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said.
She said taxation of tobacco products, for instance, can be simplified and increased. A number of countries in the region continue to go light on tobacco price mark-ups, while non-uniform or complex tax structures persist.
The report states that tobacco control is not a quick or easy process, with interference by the tobacco industry presenting barriers to be overcome. While setbacks can be expected, successes by countries that have overcome obstacles show how focusing on factors that prevent progress can help forge a better path forward and produce real gains.
It started with a teacher and her friend whitewashing a choeten (Stupa) in Lungtenzampa.
Today, with volunteers joining the cause of whitewashing choetens especially in remote areas, the group has whitewashed 130 choetens in Thimphu, Paro and Chukha.
The teacher of Loselling middle secondary school, Sangay Wangmo said the initiative started on November 11 last year when they whitewashed a choeten and dedicated it to the long life and wellbeing of the Kings, people and their families. “My friend and I took the help of scout volunteers and decided to complete whitewashing 108 choetens.”
The group completed whitewashing 11 choetens during the initial two months but had to stop due to financial constraints. However, they restarted their effort as a community-based scouts (CBS) initiative during the schools’ summer vacation, which helped them mobilise youth volunteers from across the country, mostly CBS. Soon volunteers from other working sectors also joined them.
Sangay Wangmo said the group is targeting choetens in remote places as some had been left unpainted for over 20 years.
The group moves from one place to another whitewashing and doing minor repairs on all the choetens in the vicinity. Volunteers are currently working in two groups, one in Thimphu, which Sangay Wangmo is leading and the other in Paro lead by the group’s coordinator Tandin Tshering. There are about 30-40 volunteers in each group.
Sangay Wangmo said that apart from the benefit it has on the community, such initiatives would instill the spirit of volunteerism especially among youth, develop physical as well as spiritual skills, engage youth meaningfully during their leisure time and would develop values of preservation and protections of choetens in them.
She said the youth portrays dedication, interest and willingness for such a cause especially with the encouragement and support given by the community.
A volunteer Phelpo said, “I volunteered thinking that although I cannot do big things own my own, this way I can at least help a bigger initiative in my own small way.”
Sangay Wangmo said the group does not face any problem in obtaining materials but faces difficulties in finding transportation and finding choetens. “Since most volunteers are visiting the place for the first time, it is difficult to know where the choetens are.”
To tackle the problem, the group hires a vehicle or arranges one, and seeks the help of the gup, tshogpa or a villager to locate a choeten.
The group gets their volunteers through word of mouth and social media forums such as Facebook and Wechat.
A volunteer, Amrita Rai said, “I heard of the initiative from a friend of mine, and my friends and I decided to come as a group.”
To motivate the volunteers, the group is also planning to award certificates of recognition after they complete whitewashing 108 choetens.
Sangay Wangmo said that their initial plan was to whitewash 108 choetens but the group will include all the choetens in the country in the second phase of the project that will be led by CBS.
The group gets funding in terms of materials like paint and brushes and money mainly from Japan, Australia and in-country donors.
Although it lost the match, Phuentsholing City FC scored its first goal of the championship yesterday in the ongoing National league against Transport United at the Changlingmithang stadium.
Phuentsholing City could not find a win after playing three matches in the ongoing national league. However, the club successfully registered its first goal in the 82nd minute when striker Ngawang Jamtsho found a chip shot past the goalkeeper, bringing down two defenders in the penalty area.
The match ended 3:1 in favor of Transport United.
Ngawang Jamtsho said he was excited as he could score an opener for the team. “The goal is of the team and it made us more confident. We are looking forward to performing better in the remaining matches,” he said.
Team manager and coach of Phuentsholing City, Tandin Penjor, said, that his squad couldn’t perform better in the league so far as the players did not get time to practice together. “The team performed better today because most of them played here before,” he said.
Phuenstholing City, which is taking part for the first time in a national league, was two goals down in first half. The team played against a much stronger and fast paced team based at Thimphu
Although the team left most of its starting players on the bench, Transport United dominated the first half. The team found an opener in 19 minutes and its newly signed foreign player, Ong Tshering Lepcha, scored his first goal in the 44th minute.
Transport United Coach, Ngawang Dhendup said, the team has learnt from mistakes it has made in Thimphu league. “The team’s coordination is improving and we have the maximum squad to replace the players in case of injury,” he said.
Phuentsholing City has three players included in the squad from the border areas. They are confident that the team’s performance would improve as they plan to practice more during the first three-week break of the league.
Ugyen Academy Football Club from Punakha is on the top of the league table with six points. The team defeated Phuentsholing City and Paro United winning both games. The leading goal scorer to date is Chuma Dorji Lepcha from Ugyen Academy Football Club with six goals in two matches.
Ugyen Academy Coach Kinley Dorji said he is confident about the squad as the team consists of young players. A coach from Switzerland is also coaching the team.
Ugyen Academy FC will play Thimphu FC tomorrow.
While the delay in commissioning of the hydropower projects is projected to distress the domestic revenue, the introduction of goods and services tax (GST) in India could have a direct implication on the country’s revenue from excise duty refund.
Excise duty is an inland tax on the sale, or production for sale, of specific goods or a tax on a good produced for sale, or sold, within a country.
The Indo-Bhutan trade agreement states that “each of the governments agrees to provide appropriate refund to be mutually decided annually in respect of excise duties on goods of its origin exported to the other.”
Although most of the commodities are subject to excise duty in India, there are specific exemptions issued by way of notifications by the Government of India (GoI) on goods of special interests like petroleum products, metallic waste products, food items, tools, spares and accessories, medicine and medical equipment among others. Further, since imports made by Hydro Power Projects in Bhutan are exempted from excise duty at source, no excise duty refund claims are made for imports made by these projects.
The excise duty refund from India forms about 10 percent of the national revenue to Bhutan. However, the government has been claiming the refund thus far and the benefit from refund could not be passed down to the consumers.
With GST, the excise duty is subsumed and all exports going out of India will not be slapped with GST.
This means there is no tax on imports Bhutan makes from India and traders and retailers would benefit directly, and consumers too.
For example, car dealers are slapped 14 percent excise duty, which is passed to the customers and the government claims the refund. Now with GST, this 14 percent will be zero and customers will reap the benefit fully. This is why prices of all goods imported from India are bound to drop.
The flipside is that the country’s revenue would be hit because the excise duty refund would decrease substantially. The only refund would pertain to petroleum products as the Indian government kept the petroleum product outside the scope of GST.
From another perspective, more excise duty refund has always translated to more imports. For instance in 2010, the country received Nu 2.03B excise duty refund from GoI. Following the import ban on certain goods after the rupee shortage hit the economy, the excise duty refund in 2012 dropped by Nu 282M and in 2013 the government claimed Nu 1.7B refund.
After the import ban was lifted, excise duty refund increased to Nu 1.94B in 2014 and almost reached Nu 3B in 2015. This was attributed to increased vehicle imports and consequently the petroleum products.
Import of high-speed diesel (HSD) and motor spirit (MS) petrol in 2015 increased by 4,551 kilolitres (KL) and 2,364KL compared to 2014. Also, import of vehicles increased from 2,919 in 2014 to 7,075 in 2015. The increase in import resulted in increased excise duty refund by Nu 348M during the period.
At the beginning of the 11th Plan, the domestic revenue in the planned period was projected at Nu 139 billion. However, another projection made in December 2015 during the mid – term review of the annual performance agreement revealed that the country could only generate about Nu 123B, resulting in a shortfall of Nu 16B.
This is attributed to the reprioritisation of the hydropower target since a majority of domestic revenue comes from export of electricity.
It is a constitutional requirement that domestic revenue should be able to cover the entire current expenditure of the country. But the case of sluggish revenue growth and rising expenditure could threaten meeting this constitutional mandate in the long-term.
The current expenditure in this fiscal year is projected to utilise 82 percent of the domestic revenue.
Bhutan could also face scarcity of external grants and aids as the country graduates from the list of LDC. The grant portion is expected to decline from Nu 68.5B to Nu 54.4B in the 12th Plan.
On the expenditure side, it was also revealed that the government had to undertake non-planned activities like the formation of new state enterprises.
While there are criticisms that tax exemptions would impact the revenue, tax revenue in the next planned period is projected to increase by 66 percent from Nu 165.5B from Nu 99.8B in the current Plan.
In 2015, the government had to forego almost Nu 5B from various exemptions and incentives. This comes to almost 20 percent of the total domestic revenue for the fiscal year 2014-15.
The government also had to forego Nu 676M from vehicle tax exemption, which is an increase of Nu 492M compared to the previous year. Tax exemption from hydropower projects amounted to Nu 618M.
In addition, the government had granted tax exemption to rural businesses, raised the personal income tax ceiling and continues to grant subsidies. While all these may have revenue implications, a finance ministry official said that improved tax administration and introduction of RAMIS would ensure less revenue leakage over the time.
The budget report has projected an increased tax revenue from Nu 21B in 2016-17 fiscal year to Nu 24B in 2017-18.
The country’s total domestic revenue in the period is projected to increase by 19 percent to Nu 34B. However, it must be noted that state owned enterprises are the largest contributors to the national revenue from its dividend and taxes, forming almost 50 percent.
As per the initial 12th Plan documents, domestic revenue in the 12th plan is projected to increase by more than 103 percent while the grant portion is expected to decrease by 20 percent, when compared to the 11th Plan.
Water quality tests along the Wanhchhu and Pachhu have found traces of E.Coli, a bacterium that lives in the digestive tracts of humans and animals. Although many of the types are considered generally harmless, some strains can cause bloody diarrhoea, urinary tract infection, severe anaemia, or kidney failure that can lead to death.
Clean Bhutan and the Waterkeeper Alliance, a fast-growing global movement bent on making waters swimmable, drinkable, and fishable, collected the samples from Dechen Zam, areas near Centenary Farmers’ Market and the centenary park, Dodena and Dechenchholing in Thimphu, and from Utpal, Nyme Zampa in Paro, besides other places.
The attempt to gather, and provide, reliable and accurate water quality information of our rivers is laudable. It is timely. Right contamination information will allow us to design and implement urgent and necessary health interventions and to carry out advisory initiatives well in advance. As the test results show, water in these rivers is not safe for swimming, drinking or washing.
Mindless dumping of human and animal waste contaminates streams and rivers with E.Coli. Most of the sewerage systems drain in the river. Pathogens can enter the water from leaking septic tanks, wastewater treatment discharge and animal waste.
Following the outbreak of typhoid in Thimphu recently, Thimphu Thromde issues a public notification that sounded more like a disclaimer. Although the municipal water is treated to the desired levels before supplying, it said, contamination cannot be ruled out in the distribution system and, in particular, at the service level. In a society like ours that is known for pathetic sewage architecture, threats from water-borne diseases are ever present. We need only look at our bad city roads to figure how bad our sewerage systems are. Spillover from broken pipes and manholes enter the conduits that bring drinking water to our homes. In most places in Thimphu, proper sewerage lines are lacking. And, very disturbingly so, most of our towns are growing with conspicuous absence of safe and strong waste channels. Health impacts from such culture and style of living will be expensive in the long run.
Faced with such exposures to vulnerabilities, the best we do is just employ measures to avoid cross-contamination: washing raw produce thoroughly before eating, although so laving them won’t necessarily get rid of E.Coli, and washing utensils with hot soapy water before and after they come into contact with fresh produce or raw meat.
We may have robust set of laws and standards concerning provision of clean and safe drinking water. Left on the shelves to gather dust, they are often rendered toothless. Like in the country that gave birth to Waterkeeper Alliance, we need to act to “restore our streams, rivers, lakes, and estuaries to swimmable, fishable and drinkable conditions.”
If you are travelling along the Samdrupjongkhar-Dewathang highway, you will see a group of women uprooting seedlings everyday.
The women are looking for teak seedlings, which they claim is the new business in town. They raise the seedlings for a year and sell it to foresters, who then supply it to villagers.
A Samdrupjongkhar resident, Paro Zangmo, 56, said she started planting teak seedlings two years ago. “It doesn’t require any work and the seedlings grow fast.”
She said she plants the saplings in her vegetable garden and fetches Nu 10,000 to 15,000 a year by selling it next year. “I sell about 1,000 to 1,500 saplings every year.”
With everyone into the business, they claim that they can get the saplings only along the highway.
Seldon, 52, from Kurtoe said although the business is attractive, it is difficult to raise the saplings since it gets damaged in heat and heavy downpour. She said she could only sell 500 saplings of the 2,000 seedlings she raised.
Forest officials buy the saplings from them on June 2, coinciding with the social forestry day. “I earn Nu 5,000 to 10,000 every year.”
Meanwhile, Mendrel Chezom, 50, is trying the business this year and has planted about 100 seedlings. “I am trying because everyone is saying it is worth,” she said adding that it’s difficult to get 50 to 60 saplings a day.
For Dorji Dema, 31, it has been two years since she started raising the saplings. “It is easy money for poor people like us.”
Although there is no dearth of market to sell the saplings, the women are worried that they would run out of seedlings. “Everyone goes to collect the saplings along the highway and I am worried it will run out,” Dorji Dema said.
Meanwhile, teak is one of the most sought after timbers in the country. It is also considered to be attractive, durable, light, and has good resistance to termite, fungus and weathering.
Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar
A complicated machine monitors his heavy breathing.
“Nu 7,000 went for rent and I was working a job which paid me just Nu 4,900,” says Passang Wangmo. Every minute of the tough phase is still fresh in her memory. It was 2012.
An accident caused a serious head injury to Sangay; he lost his hearing ability altogether. Life would never be the same again.
In the midst of helplessness, Sangay found hope in an organisation. Draktsho is a combination of two Bhutanese words, “Drak” meaning ‘cliff or high mountain’ and “Tsho”, meaning ‘sea or ocean’. Together the words describe the height and depth of the organisation, its goals and aspirations.
Pema would leave for work. That got Sangay worried. He felt pained and helpless.
Pema knew about Draktsho through her friend. Unsure what to expect, the couple talked about the possibility of help and kept the hope alive.
Sangay visited Draktsho the next day. He was asked to choose a field of interest for training and was immediately taken in. After four years of training at the Centre, Sangay is now a part of the production team and earns for his family.
Draktsho was established on October 2, 2001 with the blessings of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck, who is also the President of the Youth Development Fund (YDF).
Draktsho’s founder, Rigzin Padma Tshogyal, says that during her days as a volunteer at the referral hospital in Thimphu, she had observed many disabled children with communication ability left without education. She started giving flower-making classes for three years to eight students in a small garage. When more students started seeking her help, she started thinking big. She felt the need for an institute to help these groups of people in the society.
Draktsho Vocational Training Centre for Special Children and Youth is a non-profit organisation for people with all types of disability. Draktsho works to equip the disabled with vocational skills to enhance their opportunities for gainful employment. It also aims to build their self-esteem and self-reliance, making them more independent, confident, and contributing members of the society.
More than 200 students have enrolled in Thimphu and Tashigang Draktsho Centre. More than 40 students have availed of help through Drakstho to become part of the community through employment opportunities in other dzongkhags. There are 11 graduates working at the centre today. Drakstho also monitors the graduates working at other places. They are not forgotten or left in the lurch after they leave the centre.
Due to the lack of strong advocacy about education of children with disabilities, accessibility and services available for the education of children with disabilities remain largely unmet.
Programme Officer, Gaden Chophel, said, “Draktsho aims to provide vocational training to young people with disabilities falling within the age group of 15-20 years. But we also include those between the age group of 13 to 30 years.”
Today, Draktsho provides training on tailoring, embroidery, woodcarving, traditional art and painting, weaving, knitting, souvenir making, pre-vocational training and special education. The products from the trainees also make to the showroom for sale.
In Thimphu, the centre is open for five days a week from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm with transportation service for the students.
Drakstsho East, a branch office established at Rongthung, Tashigang in 2010, caters to the needs of similar students in the eastern part of the country. The branch at Tashigang provides boarding services.
Rigzin Padma Tshogyal said: “The good thing about Draktsho is that even if a person becomes old, or even if someone can’t master a training, we don’t ask them to leave. They can live here as long as they wish to because they like being here.”
The centre also gives opportunity to students to participate in the Special Olympics Pacific through Special Olympic Bhutan. Students perform cultural programmes too.
Financial support and lack of infrastructure has been some of the challenges facing the centre.
Draktsho plans to bring different levels of training for students depending upon individual’s capability to learn.
Rigzin Padma Tshogyal said: “If we can get funds in the future, we plan to have branch offices in other dzongkhangs as well.”
“Persons with disabilities in Bhutan will actively and equitably participate in socio-economic development of the country and live a fulfilling life.”
“To ensure young persons with disabilities in Bhutan are provided with quality opportunities for developinh skills for life and vocation, and for becoming self-reliant, making a living and leading a contented life by overcoming barriers created by gender or other difference.”
The centre’s main focus is to impart training in various vaocational skills, life skills and speaial education.
It provides children and youth with disabilities with opportunities, which allow them to grow in their aptitudes and determination and to realize their goals and dreams. Ultimately, the hope is to help them become happy, independent, and confident members of society.
Soya sauce 5ml
Garlic 1 bud
Rice paper 1 no
Cumin powder to taste
Star anise powder to taste
Cloves to taste
Garlic crouton 1 pcs
Boil the tomato and remove the skins
Blend it in a blender up to a consistency of a soup
Season it with salt, butter and the ginger-garlic puree
Sprinkle the cumin powder, star anise and the cloves on top of the puree
Add water to bring to a consistency of a soup
Take the cabbage and carrot
Season with salt and butter
Take the rice paper sheet and deep it in water to make it soft
Place it on a work table and place the cabbage and carrot mixture in the middle before rolling it.
Arrange the soup in a bowl on the platter
Arrange the rice-paper roll on the side and place garlic croutons in the bowl
Serve it chilled
I love rap music and it is my dream to be a rapper, but my parents are against my idea. They don’t understand music and want me to get a white collar job, have a nice car, and own a building etc. They even pull a face when I just pick up my guitar. I hate office work and am not interested in owning property. Music is my passion. I feel like I’m dying. What can I do?
Suffocating in Thimphu
Well, suffocating, it is good to live your dreams, but we also sometimes need to be practical. In this respect, you should really consider whether you can make a living in Bhutan as a rapper? You might get some income from the movie industry if your songs are in Dzongkha, but otherwise how will you survive? You need to remember that Bhutan’s population is very small and the number of people who appreciate rap music is even smaller. I’m not saying that you cannot do it, but I want you think things through clearly.
Obviously, there is a huge number of rap fans world-wide, but the number of rappers is also very large. If you want to break into the UK or US market, for example, you will not only have to be exceptionally good but also need to have contacts in the music industry. In India, the popularity of English rap and rock music is probably limited to Mumbai, Bangalore, Siliguri, and Shillong.
I have no right to tell you how to live, but I do want you to think about the situation with your eyes wide open. In reality, life is about compromise. So, yes, we should strive to reach our goals and not give up easily, but, at the same time, we also need to consider the practical aspects of our dreams. You are no longer a child. Think it through yourself. So basically, while I strongly suggest that you continue to compose rap songs, I also recommend that you seriously think about a second option with regard to your career.
This part is addressed to your parents: Life is not only about status and property. In reality, as parents you should encourage your son to explore his world. Having a passion for good literature and appreciating music should be applauded, not frowned upon. Rather than suppressing your son’s interest, encourage him to pursue music and help him to look into other genre as well as rap. Discuss life with him and pass on the wisdom of your ancestors. Aim to give him the foundations that will help him to develop into an all-rounded, caring and confident human being, not an identikit youth who is only suited for the job market and merely interested in reading about others’ lives on Facebook.
These days, there is a tendency to believe that success is determined by the size of our car, the number of shopping trips made to Bangkok, and whether or not we own a building. In reality, there is so much more to the world than material goods and status. Actually, this fanatical quest for material wealth and social standing is like a crazy man seeking water in a mirage. Not only does it fail to bring long-lasting satisfaction, but it actually increases our craving and levels of anxiety.
Of course, music and literature etc are also unreal like a mirage, but by broadening our experiences of life, we place ourselves in a better position to see the world and to make wise decisions. We also learn to discover the magic in small things, such as a poem, a piece of music or the sunlight streaming in the window. And, as these things are always available, our lives are more likely to be characterized by peace and contentment if we know how to appreciate them.
Basically, I strongly suggest that you encourage your son to explore his interest in music. This doesn’t mean that he should neglect his studies or future career but that he should also be allowed to expand his interests beyond text book knowledge. Don’t force him into a life that is defined merely by competition and based on fear, but instead encourage him to explore his world and to develop curiosity and wisdom.
In reality, if you genuinely believe that your son cannot survive in the world as a rapper, at least inspire him to pursue music as a hobby and take a personal interest in his songs. You may even learn to appreciate Eminem yourself – who knows?Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes. Email to email@example.com for any queries
Water samples collected at various locations from the rivers in Thimphu and Paro were found to contain bacteria E.Coli.
E.Coli is commonly found in the faeces of humans and other animals, indicating a possible presence of harmful, disease-causing organisms.
The samples were collected over the past four days from Dechen Zam, the Centenary Farmers’ Market area, the centenary park, Dodena and Dechenchholing in Thimphu, and from Utpal, Nyme Zampa, Paro Water Supply, and tap water at Sonam Trophel in Paro.
The samples were collected as part of the Wangchhu Waterkeeper water quality-monitoring programme that was launched on July 19 by Clean Bhutan and the Waterkeeper Alliance. The programme aims to provide reliable and accurate reporting of current and future water quality information of local rivers.
Clean Bhutan’s executive director, Nedup Tshering, said that the traces of E.Coli in these rivers indicate that the water is not safe for swimming, drinking or washing clothes and that people should not visit the river.
“This also indicates that E.Coli was found because of sewerage entering the river and their direct connection to human pathogens from faecal waste contamination,” he said. “This can be dangerous in the long run and people should stop throwing human waste directly into the river.”
Pathogens can enter the water from leaking septic tanks, wastewater treatment discharge and animal waste.
The programme, according to the Waterkeeper Alliance team, would help understand whether the local waterways are safe for human use and if fish and other aquatic life are thriving. The programme would also indicate the impact of human and natural activities on local rivers and stream and current water quality.
The water would be monitored based on selected physical, chemical and biological characteristics. The programme would also help determine temperature, acidity (pH), dissolved oxygen, and electrical conductance.
“Others, such as E. Coli, require water samples to be taken back to a laboratory, which is included in the water quality monitoring programme,” an official said.
Nedup Tshering said all water keepers were trained and Clean Bhutan would monitor the water quality every second week of the month for the next six to eight months.
“We would inform the government if the results are found alarming,” he said. “We would also inform if the water is safe.”
The relative degree of impact of the population centres appears to differ in each district.
Officials said the waterkeepers could advocate for protection of clean water based on an understanding of harmful or out of range water parameters through samples collected and results recorded. The parameters would be collected and recorded using YSI Pro DSS Water Quality Meters donated to Clean Bhutan.
An agreement was also signed with the Waterkeeper Alliance ensuring to strictly and constantly monitor the water quality. Clean Bhutan started checking the quality since 2015.The Global Waterkeeper Alliance is the largest and fastest growing non-profit organisation solely focused on clean water.
Yangchen C Rinzin
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has withdrawn a case from the 18 importers who were charged at the Phuentsholing drungkhag court for alleged tax evasion.
OAG wrote to the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) chairperson stating that the Case Screening Corpus (CSC) had determined that defendant Leki Tenzin, unlike other 17 importers, do not hold a trade license to import the alleged good, a bundle of copper wire stated to be used for making personal religious artifacts.
The letter also stated that although Leki Tenzin had used the same transport facility, the import of the alleged good was meant for personal use and not for business purposes that requires compliance under the trade rules and the Sales Tax, Customs and Excise Act, 2000.
OAG officials said the CSC also determined that charging Leki Tenzin like the 17 others holding trade licenses would violate Section 41 of the OAG Act, 2015, on public interest consideration.
“Hence, while 17 importers have been charged for tax evasion and are under active trial proceedings before the Phuentsholing drungkhag court, the proposed charge against Leki Tenzin has been dropped on the above cited grounds,” stated the Attorney General’s letter to the ACC chairperson. “However, if you perceive any presence of fact manipulations in our determination, kindly invoke section 128 of ACC Act.”
The commission charged Leki Tenzin, a goldsmith with the department of national properties (DNP) for importing his consignments worth Nu 9,690 undeclared and did knowingly and purposely evaded sales tax of Nu 4,845.
ACC’s findings revealed that Leki Tenzin along with 17 others based in Thimphu had not declared their consignments worth Nu 2.114 million at the Regional Revenue and Customs office’s entry gate in Phuentsholing, on November 21, 2014. The sales tax evaded by them stands at Nu 115,188.
The prosecutor registered the case with the drungkhag court on June 5 and requested the court to restitute Nu 0.968 million to the state inclusive of application fines and penalties from 17 importers for knowingly and purposely evading sales tax.
The consignments were transported by two truck drivers from Phuentsholing to Thimphu. The OAG has charged both drivers of the jumbo and DCM trucks for participation in an offence. Both trucks were seized by the commission and impounded with consignments of textiles in Phuentsholing.
ACC’s investigation revealed that the two drivers were not mere transporters for importers, but were agents with close relationships with inspectors and suppliers across the border and were capable of negotiating with inspectors to ‘mis-declare’ the consignments they transport.
Meanwhile, the commission has decided to return the two trucks to the rightful owners on the recommendation of the Attorney General (AG).
“Although the CSC has decided to leave the decision making privilege to ACC regarding the two DCM trucks seized during investigation, we would like to apprise you that, besides the seizure list thereof, those two trucks will not be required to adduce as evidence before the court to prove our charges nor relevant to restitution possibility that may entail in those respective cases,” AG Shera Lhundup stated in the letter. “Further, those DCM trucks are not owned by any of the alleged tax evaders.”
ACC commissioner Jamtsho said that two seized trucks are loaded with textiles. “So, we are looking for go down in Phuentsholing to keep the consignments,” he said.
The OAG also charged two regional revenue and customs’ inspectors for knowingly abusing their functions by omitting to assess and verify when one of the drivers declared consignments of importers at the entry gate in Phuentsholing.
The ACC began investigating after receiving an anonymous complaint alleging that a Jumbo truck and DCM were transporting goods from Phuentsholing to Thimphu without declaring taxes at the point of entry on November 21, 2014. During the course of investigation, the commission interrogated 29 individuals and two persons were detained and released on execution of bond.
The investigation established that the importers ordered their goods from Delhi, Siliguri and Jaigaon, India. The goods were sent by the suppliers and transported by the Jumbo-truck driver from Jaigaon to Thimphu.
Working during odd hours, inadequate monitoring from stakeholders, unfavourable internal legal provisions and improper pay scale are some of the challenges facing those working in drayangs.
This was shared during a recent workshop held for drayang employees, managers and proprietors. The workshop, organised by a non-governmental organisation, Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW), was a follow-up on the awareness and advocacy program conducted in the past by other stakeholders.
The two-day training and workshop, which started on July 20, was aimed at empowerment, facilitation of change, misconceptions of drayangs and developing networks.
Drayang employees participated on the first day and they said that the most vulnerable moment for women working during odd hours is when they go home after work. They said that the earliest they leave for home is 11pm.
The employees shared that many drayangs in capital operate beyond the permitted time of 11PM from Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and until midnight on Friday and Saturday.
It was pointed out that drayangs in the capital remain open for almost 24 hours. Many said that although the music is put off after 11pm, drayangs continue to serve as a bar for the remaining hours. Such practices mean additional work for the employees.
Employees also shared that the owners and managers deduct their payment if they leave before the drayangs close and if they come few minutes late. They also said that they do not get paid for working extra hours.
It was suggested that strict monitoring of closing time of entertainment hubs would reduce the risk of them being exposed to vulnerable situation like sexual abuse, ill treatment by the customers.
The participants cited an incident of their friends being sexually harassed when they leave home late. It was also pointed out that travelling home in late hours is expensive as taxis charge more during odd hours.
They said that arranging taxis or buses to reach them home would make it safe and less vulnerable to them.
Most participants also claimed that the owners and managers remained reluctant to support them in circumstances that required their interventions. They shared incidences of their customers’ wives accusing them of robbing their husband’s money and deception. “We were left on our own to defend,” a participant said.
Participants also said that during brawls in the drayangs, they wished there is an immediate response from police. “Police always arrived late, even when we call and request them,” a participant said.
A representative from the Royal Bhutan Police, who did not want to be named, said they have always been supportive. “The situation would be improved if other concerned stakeholders like Department of Trade (DoT), National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) and Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) would take the initiative to intervene in such situations.”
He also said that police as law enforcer has less role to intervene in such incidents as they do not have the authority to impose penalty on late night operation of drayangs and unlicensed bars. “The collective response from stakeholders, owners and employees would result in a better solution.”
The participants also highlighted that in some drayangs, the employees were not given a copy of the agreement they sign with the proprietor when they start working. “Such unfavourable internal legal provisions make out working environment binding and restricted, as we cannot leave work unless the owners allow,” a participant said. Employees are allowed to leave if they inform the proprietor a month in advance.
Participants shared incidences where they were made to pay a fine of Nu 30, 000 when they change drayangs with the consent of the owner.
However, drayang owners said that the penalty was imposed on the owners in such incidences as per the legal understanding they have signed among themselves.
Drayangs remain a destination for young girls from rural areas to seek employment. RENEW conducted the training workshop with employees and employers of drayangs located in Thimphu to expand community-based support system, which is aimed to facilitate co-ordination between the drayangs and various service providers.
A three-member committee from the employees of the drayangs was selected to present their issues and grievances for collective discussion with the owners and concerned stakeholders like BICMA, RBP, RENEW and trade and customs.
RENEW’s counsellors conducted a session on the importance of interpersonal communication skills. A demonstration on the need of communication skills and conveying the right message to the customers were held during the training.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has reportedly detained three officials of the Druk Punjab National Bank Ltd in Thimphu in connection with the alleged missing of more than Nu 10 million (M) from its automatic teller machines (ATM).
Kuensel learnt that the bank’s vault in-charge and chief cashier were detained since last Friday and the ATM in-charge on Tuesday, July 18. The commission has reportedly detained three officials for not cooperating with the investigators.
The Anti-Corruption Act 2011 empowers the commission to arrest and detain suspects without warrant upon reasonable suspicion of the person having committed or being about to commit an offence under the ACC Act.
The bank filed its complaint to the ACC on May 20 after they found cash shortage in the ATMs. The ATM in-charge was responsible to refurbish nine ATMs in Thimphu with adequate cash regularly for daily withdrawals and to keep the ATMs running.
A team led by the bank’s internal auditor and the branch manager with two other employees who were acquainted with the ATM system conducted an investigation.
In an earlier interview, the bank’s chief executive officer, DK Gupta, had said that as per the system, there should be two people to handle the ATMs. However, they did not share details of the second person deputed by the bank.
He had also said that the branch manager also manages the ATMs. The CEO said that there was nothing wrong with the accounts in the bank’s system. “It was only after physical verification that the bank knew some cash was missing,” DK Gupta had said. “We don’t know how he did it.”
However, sources say that the ACC has not yet ascertained the exact amount that is missing.
Meanwhile, the commission is also reportedly looking into the alleged misappropriation of Visa fees amounting to Nu 1.6M in the immigration office at the Paro International Airport. Sources say that the ACC is probing into the alleged misused of visa fees collected from tourists visiting Bhutan from 2012 to date.
ACC officials refused to comment on both the cases.
Although Bhutan has done well compared with the countries in the region in terms of childcare and development, the issue of child growth, diet and food security, and care during pregnancy remains a public health challenge. As UNICEF observed, progress has been neither even nor fair. It has been found that the poorest children are more than six times more likely to be stunted than the richest, are more than thrice as likely to die before their fifth birthday than children in the richest quintile. Children whose mothers have no formal education are 63 percent more likely to be stunted compared to children whose mothers have a secondary or higher education.
About one in five children under the age of five in Bhutan still remain stunted. According to a recently published national nutrition survey, 21.2 percent of children aged 0 to 59 months are stunted. Because stunting, or low height for age, is caused by long-term insufficient nutrient intake and frequent infections, effects are irreversible. It affects a child’s motor development, cognitive function and school performance. Undernutrition is also a problem which leads to wasting. Nearly half of all deaths in children under 5 are attributed to undernutrition.
There are gaps we need to close.
Health records are revealing. It has been found that the number of antenatal care visits is closely related to wealth. Among the richest quintile, 39 percent of women made eight or more visits compared with 17 percent in the poorest quintile. Wealth and education are the determining factors. Investing in children’s access to water, sanitation and hygiene enable them to be agents of behaviour change in families and communities. In Bhutan, poorest households’ (32 percent) access to improved sanitation is three times less compared with the richest households (95 percent).
Because reports from the health facilities and monitoring visits indicate that growth monitoring has not picked up as expected, the health ministry recently issued an executive order requiring all the health centres in the country to strictly monitor weight and height of all children under the age of five to reduce childhood acute wasting and stunting. If we have better data on the children’ vulnerability, we have the opportunity to design timely and appropriate interventions. Our challenge, in the face of lack of robust monitoring system in health facilities, is to advise parents, particularly in the rural areas, about the importance of giving nutritional food to children.
Growth monitoring should pick up because stunting and wasting is an economic burden for the country and widens inequality in the society. Shortage of food is not our problem. The problem is one of lack of nutritional food. If parents don’t come to health centres, health advisories should be taken to them. Reducing stunting and wasting cases will remain a challenge otherwise. Our health officials have some extra miles to tread.
Unlike in the past, there is no issue of clogged drains this summer in Phuentsholing town.
Until this year, Phuentsholing town area near the main gate used to be flooded with water every time it rained heavily.
This, according to the thromde officials, is because they recently cleaned the drains after more than 20 years.
Phuentsholing thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said it was the first cleaning of the drains after it was constructed.
He, however, said there are many areas in town where the drains will have to be renovated. “Once the urban design, which currently is under process, completes, these drains will also be renovated,” he said. “Until the design is complete, people will have to bear with the existing drainage system.”
A businessman in town, Bijoy Chhetri, said that the thromde took a good initiative by cleaning the drains.
A taxi driver, Yeshey Wangdi, also said that the drainage system was much better compared to previous years. “I did not see roads flooded with drain water this year.”
Thromde officials say proper drainage system in the extended town areas of Kabreytar and Dhamdara will be constructed this winter.
Meanwhile, the business settlements along the Amochhu embankments have also been safe despite heavy rainfall so far. The ongoing dredging work has helped in diverting the river from the settlement areas.
Three construction firms have continuously dredged the Amochhu embankments. A total of 2.4km stretch has been piled with stones and boulders.
Thromde officials and stakeholders, after a meeting, decided to keep these contractors on work. There is no investment made by the thromde.
Contractors invest on their own but they get to sell the leftover stones and boulders.
Thromde officials said that the dredging work was an ad hoc disaster management.
“It is a win-win situation for thromde and the contractors,” Uttar Kumar Rai said. “Everything is properly monitored.”
However, the thromde invested in constructing the 450 metres gabion walls to support the dredging works.
A businessman at the Amochhu embankment, Tenzin Dorji, said the dredging works have helped.
Phuentsholing was one of the most monsoon-hit places in 2015 and 2016.
Last year, the swollen Amochhu washed away land and the government had to spend more than Nu 2 million (M) in compensation.
Excluding the Amochhu flood, incessant rain caused thromde a loss of about Nu 35M in 2016 to repair damaged roads, walls, drains, and several other infrastructure.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
Four days after the flooding, work to clean the sand and debris that had collected around the Thruepang palace in Trongsa completed yesterday.
Officials from the dzongkhag administration, department of roads (DoR), Royal Bhutan Police, Forest, Desuups and officials from Tangsibji hydro Energy Limited and volunteers from other regional offices worked together in cleaning the flooded area.
Dzongkhag media focal person, dzongkhag Information Technology officer, Samuel Pradhan said officials worked until 7pm yesterday to complete the cleaning work.
Two fire fighting engines of Royal Bhutan police were deployed to flush the mud off the road and Thruepang parking area. The DoR contributed JCV, trucks and some 73 laborers along with staff.More than 200 officials were engaged in cleaning the debris