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Updated: 1 hour 44 min ago

Picture story

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 16:01

Bhutan Football Federation is hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier match between Nepal and Kuwait at Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu tomorrow at 3pm. Asian Football Confederation approved Changlimithang Stadium as the venue since Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu is under renovation for the upcoming 13th South Asian Games in December. Kuwait thrashed Nepal 7-0 in the first round of the qualifying match in September.

Focus point

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 15:19

Picture story

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 15:18

Her Majesty the Royal Grand Mother Kesang Choeden Wangchuck restored (2017- 2019) the Dumtseg Lhakhang in Paro to its former glory. Leytshok Lopon of the Zhung Dratshang, Sangay Dorji presided over the consecration ceremony of the historic lhakhang yesterday. During the ceremony, Her Majesty the Royal Grand Mother conferred the lhakhang back to the 15 households who are the custodians of the national treasure. The royal project was a collaborative effort involving the local community, local government, Department of Culture, BACCC and Japanese experts from Aichiken Co. Ltd from Nagoya. 

Trongsa Court orders Anti-Corruption Act amendment

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 15:17

Tashi Dema

In the 3,767-page judgment Trongsa dzongkhag court passed in the land case between the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the 10 defendants, the court pointed out anomalies in laws, particularly the Anti-Corruption Act and issued other directives.

The court ruled that ACC and the Parliament should amend the Anti-Corruption Act to ensure the care and custody of immovable properties once ACC seizes it.

One of the main issues before the Court was whether ACC has the responsibility and duty to take care of immovable properties it seized.

Defendant Karma Tshetim Dolma contended that after the ACC issued freeze notification in 2015, ACC was mandated to take care of the resort as per section 104 of the Anti-Corruption Act, but ACC did not respect the provision of the Act.

She also submitted that because of the notification, all activities in the resort had to be stopped and the resort could not be sold to Tangsibji Hydroelectric Project for Nu 233 million (M) as negotiated and requested the Court to order ACC to pay the annual income of Nu 6.5M and also buy the resort at Nu 300M.

ACC officials contended that it only froze the transaction of the land and not the building and commercial activities.

The court stated that it did not accept ACC’s argument and stated that after interpreting various provision of the AC Act, it found out that section 104 mentions only about taking care of movable properties, which was inserted in 2011 after complaints about properties getting damaged after ACC seizure.

It ruled that when section 104 is not applicable to immovable properties, properties worth millions like the resort at View Point got damaged, causing loss to everyone including the economy.

The court also directed ACC to investigate and file charges against two sisters, Sonam Choden and Yangchen, who availed land substitute from Gelephu for their land acquired by the government for Taktse College, but fraudulently registered the plots in their children’s name in 2010.

It stated that ACC practiced nepotism by not charging Sonam Choden despite knowing that Sonam Choden made a fake agreement.

The court directed defendants Karma Tshetim Dolma and Lhab Dorji to file separate civil and criminal suit against ACC and The Bhutanese, a weekly newspaper.

Defendant Karma Tshetim Dolma, on June 5 and August 3, 2017 and August 29, 2018, had submitted before the court that ACC had given false information to The Bhutanese, in 2015 where 20 points were false.

She requested the court to look into the matter and compensate her Nu 15M for every false point.

She submitted that when she inquired with the editor of The Bhutanese, Tenzin Lamsang, he told her that got the information from the ACC report given to him. She also requested the court to penalise ACC in accordance to section 319 of the Penal Code of Bhutan.

The court ruled that journalists have code of conduct that mandates the protection of sources and also have the responsibility to ensure that whatever is written or published should be true.

It also directed defendant Lhab Dorji to file defamation case against ACC after he submitted that ACC defamed him and the officials violated their code of conduct.

The court also directed ACC to file charges against the main complainant in the case, Gyalmo, for failing to report a crime to relevant offices.

The court ruled that although Gyalmo’s mother, late Lhaden, opted monetary compensation for two plots, plot number 110 and 100 acquired by the government for Taktse College, when defendant Lhab Dorji knew that there was a government plot, plot number 105 measuring 1.10 acres near late Lhaden’s plot, Lhab Dorji intimidated the then Department of Survey and Land Records (DSLR) that there was problem with Lhaden’s plot number 110 measuring 51 decimals and requested for correction to be made as plot number 105 with 1.10 acres.

The court ruled that Gyalmo knew that her land size was increased from 51 decimal to 1.10 acres and the 1.10 acres plot did not belong to her. “She didn’t suffer any loss, as the land defendants Lhab Dorji and Karma Tshetim Dolma acquired fraudulently didn’t belong to her.”

It also stated that although she was entitled to Nu 31,800 as compensation for her two plots measuring 1.08 acres and 51 decimals, she received Nu 45,000 from Lhab Dorji and Karma Tshetim Dolma. The court  ordered Gyalmo to pay the additional Nu 13,200 she received from the defendants to the government.

The court also ordered ACC to take administrative actions against its officials, who violated section 107 of the Act by failing to advertise the notice of seizure through two media houses as required.

It also stated that ACC officials should follow the rule of law when they function and abide by the provisions specified in the law. The officials were also ordered to be fair and just and respect people’s right. “Justice must not only be done but seen to be done.”

 

OAG justifies why it dropped the case

The Office of the Attorney general (OAG) in a statement said that it cannot comment on the decision of an independent trial court on a case that the OAG is not preview to its fact or review.

The OAG dropped the case, in want of credible evidence to charge at least the principal accused, after several rounds of joint deliberation with ACC commissioners and investigating officers.

“It was only through hearsays we have learnt that the ACC reinvestigated the case and collected new evidences and charged 10 persons while their case report had listed only six accused,” OAG stated.

In response to Kuensel queries, OAG said that they never had preview to those new findings as the court directly admitted the case, without even a show-cause notice to us.

“ACC filed the case on the basis of “fact manipulation” under Section 128(3)(c) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2011. It is crystal clear, as to who in fact, had caused the willful changes to the old set of ACC Case report to us. Hence, although it is totally a new case to OAG, the inherent onus of the court to pay more sensitivity to its due process remains glaring as Section 128(3) is apparently offensive to Article 27 and 29 of the Constitution.”

OAG argues that under a good due process, any case filed on the basis of one of the three conditions cited under Section 128(3) of the AC Act should be tested through show cause notice before its admission or require it to be sent back to OAG for afresh review when additional investigations were carried out and collected new evidences. “Nothing of the sort has happened with regard to the Trongsa case.”

“Hence, our disconcertment remains that, in the process of all those chain events, it is the due process that had suffered most, as we have further fogged our already ailing judicial due process in admitting cases of various natures: disregardful of the preceding events, institutional mandates, economic impact on the innocent financial institutions by totally freezing commercial activities and letting newly completed infrastructures rot to its last value which, in turn, incapacitates defendant from loan repayment and other restitutions that may involve at enforcement stage later.”

Corruptions can be combated and prevented more effectively through workable mechanisms tailored for each institutions, without having to slaughter the few commercial golden gooses and fertile human minds that we are fortunate to have around for the meaningful progress of our beloved Kingdom.

 

ACC

After completing the investigation, the Commission referred the case to the OAG on July 17, 2015 for prosecution. After nearly 18 months on the OAG’s desk, the Commission was taken aback by the OAG’s decision to publicly announce in the media on December 30, 2016 that the case did not merit criminal prosecution and charges against all accused in entirety were being dropped.

This U-turn came in contrary to OAG’s own indication preceding the announcement that it was ready to register the case in the trial court.

The Attorney General also gave its justification to the Commission in a 17-page write-up which the Commission felt couldn’t have been possibly done overnight thus begging a question as to whether the Commission was given false hope all along.

The Commission reviewed OAG’s ground in detail, but did not find plausible merit to concur to its reasons for dismissal. Upon review of its report, the Commission was convinced that the OAG did not review the case fairly and objectively in the interest of justice. The Commission felt that the OAG’s views and interpretation of the facts and evidence had been conveniently moulded to support its own narratives which were evidently aligned to absolve all accused from the alleged charges. The report presented deliberation of issues independent of its context and sounded like defendants’ arguments in court. The Commission concluded that the OAG used two key reasons to exculpate and preempt criminal prosecution against the accused (i) administrative lapses on the part of DSLR for not updating Blue Thram in 2004 and (ii) conduct of the deceased witnesses. However, the Commission could not find its reasons acceptable when considering the facts and circumstances under which the alleged fraud was conspired and executed. Further, the deceased witnesses were only accessories to the crime. They were neither the conspirator nor the ultimate beneficiaries of the criminal proceeding. Both the legitimate title holders as well as the alleged mastermind and primary accomplice are still alive to stand trial and face justice. The OAG also pointed out certain factual discrepancies in the investigation report which on ACC’s review did not have any distortionary effect on the substance of the case. The Commission did not have any shadow of doubt about its position that the case was as strong as it could be given the merit and strength of evidence it had collected. The Commission, therefore, decided to prosecute the case on its own by invoking the Section of the Act and registered the case with Trongsa dzongkhag court on February 15, 2017.

OAG appears to have conducted its own investigation for almost 18 months, between July 2015 until December 2016, much longer than the time taken (January to June 2015) by ACC  to investigate the case. However, only those information which favoured its dismissal justifications were used defying fairness, completeness, objectivity and professionalism expected of the institution who is seeking truth to ensure justice. On OAG’s dismissal of the case, the Commission decided to prosecute the case on its own. The additional information gathered by the ACC after the OAG’s dismissal did not have material impact on the merit of the case. As a matter of fact, with or without the additional information, the Commission would have invariably pursued the case for prosecution with the information and evidence already collected during its investigation.

Electric vehicle project in limbo

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 15:16

Rinzin Wangchuk

From the beginning, electric vehicles despite the good intent have been associated with controversies, dealership being the main matter of concern this time.

During the last government’s tenure, the former Prime Minister’s association with Thunder Motors became an issue.

Today, the country of origin of EVs has surfaced even as the project called ‘Bhutan Sustainable Low Emission Urban Transport Systems’ with funding from the Global Environment Facility and technical support from the United Nations Development Programme was approved.

The project is aimed at replacing 300 fossil fuel driven taxis in three years. By the end of this year, 90 EVs should have been imported.

Four EV dealers – Bhutan Hyundai Motors, Kuenphen Motors, Thunder Motors, and Karjung Motors – have been awarded the contract through the sealed tenders to supply seven different models of EVs, with a battery capacity ranging from 260KM per charge to 412KM.

While two local dealers were going to import the EV from China, and the other two availed dealerships from Japan and South Korea.

However, controversy surfaced when a dealer reportedly complained to the government about the country of origin, China being the question, from where another EV dealer has already ordered 13 EVs. Six are  already in Kolkota.

Following the complaint, the trade department has halted the import of another dealer who is supposed to import EV from China.

Kuensel learnt that the issue was forwarded to the Cabinet by the information and communications ministry’s project management unit (PMU). Foreign minister, Dr Tandi Dorji confirmed that the issue has come to the Cabinet for consideration.

“There was a confusion on the country of origin and the Cabinet is working to resolve the issue,” the minister said. “We are hopeful that the confusion would be cleared soon.”

According to a dealer, tender documents made no mention of restrictions on the country of origin, and that dealers could import from any country as per the terms and conditions specified in the tender documents. “That is why we participated in the bid to import EVs from China,” the dealer said.

EVs from China are reportedly cheaper than the EVs from other countries. A Kuensel source said that was the main reason for the dealers to complain.

An official from the PMU said that about 200 taxi drivers have registered with the office showing interest to procure EVs.

The three-year project, which began this year, intends to facilitate transition to low emission vehicles and aims to roll out 300 more EVs as taxi within Thimphu.

The project will facilitate to create a conducive environment by adopting EVs as a preferred mode of urban transport through review of policies, building infrastructure and capacity building.

In an earlier interview with Kuensel, project manager Phub Gyeltshen had said the project provides 20 percent subsidy to every EV taxi buyers with a maximum cap of USD 5,500.

The Royal Monetary Authority has endorsed 70 percent loan from the financial institutions to all the EV buyers to help promote EVs.

A milestone in the television world

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 15:15

Tshering Dorji

With the launch of multi-service operator (MSO), Bhutan NetCom, television service providers in the country has initiated their first move towards digitalization.

About 92 local cable operators (LCO) in the country came together to institute a MSO, all of whom has equal stake in the business.

“This business model, itself is commendable when the MSOs in the neighboring countries are killing the local operators,” said the Chief Executive Officer of Bhutan NetCom, Khampa. The other side of the business, he said is to keep pace with the global technological advancement.

MSO is an entity that subscribes to channels directly from the broadcasters such as Star, Zee and Sony and distribute to the LCOs. The benefits could be best explained by the dissimilarity and difference in number of TV channels across the country. “With the MSO, every dzongkhag in the country can subscribe to same number of channels, all in high definition, including sound,” he said.

This is a basically a switch from analogue to digital. While TV subscribers in Thimphu have all shifted to digital, sources said that LCOs have erected DTH (direct-to-home) and distributed the TV channels to its subscribers, using the identities of people from across the border.

In essence, this is illegal because DTH is not allowed in Bhutan and in addition, DTH is meant for home consumers and not for distribution by a LCO.

It is not that the LCOs have applied for MSOs or did not avail the rights from broadcaster in the past. They did but it was an expensive affair.

Khampa said that Zee, for instance alone has many channels and for each channel a box resembling the set top box has to be procured from the broadcaster. Then the MSO has to erect dish and align the position to receive the signal directly from satellite. The MSO will then distribute to the LCOs, who will in turn provide the service to individual homes.

“It’s like progressing from Old Stone Age to modern age in the TV systems,” said Tashi Dendup, the Chairman of the board of directors of Bhutan NetCom. “I’m also an LCO operating in Gedu where weather conditions disrupt the quality of TV signal. I hope the digital system will address these issues.”

Would that mean Bhutanese TV viewers could record, forward or rewind the TV programmes, similar to TV viewers in other countries?

No, because it entails more investment.

The set top box first used in Thimphu was the cheapest version and yet its affordability is questioned. The CEO of Bhutan NetCom said that the digitization is complete on part of the MSO. “But equal response has to come from subscribers,” he said adding that poor households in the country are grappling with issue of affordability.

To perform recording, forwarding and rewinding programmes on a television, he said the set top box has to be advanced and dynamic. Costly too. “When our subscribers are contemplating on the affordability, it is irrelevant to persuade them to buy advanced equipment,” he said.

Digitization of television  and telecommunication is not only the priority but also a mandate, by virtue of being a member of International Telecommunication Union.

Until the public realises the need for digitization, Khampa said that the LCOs would grant a three-year transition period. “While the local cable operators will continue to advocate for digitilisation, the analogue system will be available till a time when the people demands it,” he said.

Currently, there are only 60 channels approved by the government including the  local channels.

The digital television system will complement the government’s Digital Drukyul flagship program. Moreover, the CEO said that the government could use the MSO platform to broadcast public service announcements and messages during disasters, besides riding on the facilities to provide internet and public service delivery. This is because the signal rides on the fibre optic cable unlike the coaxial cable in the past. The fiber optics cable allows transfers of numerous signals and data from one end to other, which the coaxial cables are incapable of.

The government can also promote local contents by licensing private broadcasters so that the current bouquet of TV channels is balanced against foreign channels.

“I don’t know why past governments were hesitant to open up private broadcasting services in the country,” said Khampa. “The more we delay these platforms the more we will allow the foreign contents to sink in our minds.”

Bhutan NetCom was inaugurated coinciding with the birth anniversary of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo who gifted the access to television and internet in 1999 to the people. After 20 years, the television industry advances to digital world.

Going electric short-charged

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 15:14

The intentions are clear. Our decision makers want to add on to our carbon neutral status.

The idea is good.

Bhutan wants to go electric in public transport sector, if not all. Given our topography, taxis and buses are the only feasible means of public transport. Mass transportation like trains and trams are not possible. If we can electrify a part of the growing public transport, it is an achievement.

But somehow, our effort to go clean is not working. It is always shrouded in controversy.

An attempt was made six years ago when the previous government introduced electric vehicles. The initiative to replace taxis with electric vehicles got short-charged when the second-hand electric vehicles, the middlemen imported, became controversial.

The proposed idea and implementation didn’t work and the noble intention couldn’t pick up.

There is another attempt to make public transport system clean. With funding from the Global Environment Facility and technical support from the United Nations Development Programme, a project, Bhutan Sustainable Low Emission Urban Transport System, is approved.

The project aims to replace 300 fossil fuel driven taxis in three years. The project has to sort out issues before the first electricity-driven taxi reaches the country.

Some dealers have complained to the foreign ministry on the type of vehicles and their origin.  Six vehicles, imported from China have already reached Kolkata. With the issue yet to be sorted out, the vehicles will be docked at the Kolkata seaport.

The issue is not about dealers getting their businesses delayed. It is more than that. When the government floated the tender, there were no restrictions on the country of origin. Origin of goods should not be a problem unless the government is funding the purchase.

If left to the market forces, the competition will be good.

Whether it is imported from Sweden, Norway, China, or India, at the end of the day, taxi owners will choose what electric taxis they want to drive. If Bhutan is to go for clean energy-driven transportation sector, it should be left to the choices of the dealers or taxi drivers.

You can’t force a taxi driver to buy from a certain dealer or choose a particular brand of electric vehicle. This will give rise to more problems. We learnt our lessons already.

The problem with us today is we are shooting in our own foot. There is no room for change or growth if every initiative of the government is politicised.

We import everything, from salt to medicines to luxury vehicles. Where we import should not be an issue if the standards are met. Whether it is a Telsa, REVA or a Dongfeng, it would be best if it is left to the those who wants what brand to drive.

Those in EV business know how to influence elected governments. It is up to the government how to resolve the issue.

The priority, as many agree and welcome, is to go green in our transportation sector.

More than two sessions of parliament a year-Legally permissible?

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 15:13

When the news of proposal for three Sessions of Parliament a year broke out this week, even among the Hon’ble Members of the Parliament, they seemed to have some disagreements and reservations of whether it would be legally permissible to have three sessions per year. While some felt it would be a good move, some seem to have argued that, the notion of holding more than two sessions of Parliament a year would only occur in case of national emergency situations. Such different interpretations by Members of the Parliament may result in politicization of the parliament which may also lead to confusion among the general public and cause unnecessary political disagreements.

The basis of number of sessions of parliament is found in our Constitution. Article 11 (6) and Article 12 (5) of our Constitution states that, the National Council and the National Assembly “shall assemble at least twice a year”. These same articles are imported into Section 57 of the National Assembly (NA) Act, 2008 and Section 64 of the National Council (NC) Act, 2008. The key words here are “At least twice a year”. The basic dictionary meaning of “at least” means “not less than or at minimum”. This means, both the Constitution and the respective Acts of the houses (NA and NC Acts) are clear that, while parliament must convene at least two sessions a year, there can be more than two sessions a year.  The confusion or disagreement to hold more than two sessions of the Parliament a year seem to have stemmed from Sections 58 and 59 of the NA Act and Sections 65 and 66 of the NC Act where “The NC or NA whenever necessary, the Chairperson or Speaker ” shall convene an extraordinary sitting of the NC or NA” on the command of the Druk Gyalpo”. But this does not prohibit the parliament from convening more than two sessions a year.

For example, both India and Australia have bicameral parliament like Bhutan, which is more of Westminster System of Parliament.  Article  85 (1)  of the Indian Constitution reads “The President shall from time to time summon each House of Parliament to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session.” While Article 6 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, States “There shall be a session of the Parliament once at least in every year, so that twelve months shall not intervene between the last sitting of the Parliament in one session and its first sitting in the next session”. This means, it is mandatory for these Parliaments to convene a minimum of two sessions a year, but they may have more than two sessions a year. In India, generally there are three sessions of Parliament a year, one session dedicated to budget, second Monsoon Session and third one Winter Session.  Finally, the precedence of more than two sessions of the Parliament a year in Bhutan has already been set by the former Government when they held the 11th Session of the Parliament.  Thus, the proposal of holding more than two regular sessions of the parliament is nothing to be confused.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not reflect those of Kuensel.

Is Thimphu only for the rich?

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 15:12

Tshewang Choden

It is easier to get a job, even a wife, than a house in Thimphu!

This is the most common anecdote among those looking for a house to rent in the capital city, Thimphu.

Is it just an urban myth or is it really difficult to find a house in one of the fastest expanding cities in the region?

Leki is married, so he doesn’t take it literally, but Leki had been looking for a house “for about a year”. He rented a two-room apartment in Olakha for Nu 8,000. The rent will be increased soon. He has to look for a cheaper one. “It is almost impossible,” says the father of two.

Sangay Choden, 29, is after a two-room (BHK) flat “anywhere in town.”

“Every place is either booked or the rent is too expensive,” she says. “I don’t care where, as long as I get a house with a rent that is below Nu 10,000 because unlike office goers, I don’t have specific timings.” She runs a clothing business.

Rinzin, 26, is recently married. She wants to move out. For the last three months, she is on a 2BHK hunt. “I have spent about a month’s rent on taxi fare rushing to check vacant houses around the city,” she says.

 

A big mismatch

The capital city is gripped in a building frenzy. There are almost 400 buildings being built in the city. According to Thimphu Thromde, the city today has 6,478 residential buildings, 2,128 in the north, and 2, 370 in the south and 1, 980 in the core city area.

Going by numbers, there should be enough.

The problem, according to those on the lookout, is the mismatch.

In south Thimphu, a building with 16 units opened for booking two weeks ago. The cheapest flat, a 4BHK, is Nu 15,000. It is not different from others completed or nearing completion.

The shortage is caused by the mismatch between availability and affordability.

“The monthly rent is more than my salary,” says Rinzin, a tailor by trade.

Social media pages indicate what is happening in the housing market.

Facebook pages created for advertising property are full of requests to help them find 2BHK for rents between Nu 7,000 and 8,000.

It takes less than half an hour to book such houses when advertised on social media page like “Rent a house in Thimphu.” Tailor Rinzin called an advertiser when she saw the advertisement. “She asked me to come and inspect. It was gone in 12 minutes,” says Rinzin who was frustrated at the advertiser. “If I see her, I will give her an earful.”

Posts on the pages take a pleading tone when looking for cheaper flats. Some are looking for single people to share the rent.

Another trend is “exchange.” Those moving out resort to social media to ensure getting one before they handover their own. In desperation, landlords are left out. Most landlords say that tenants move in and out even before they are informed.

 

Where in the city?

The most favoured locations are closer to the town in the Chang areas of Zamtog, Bandu, Jiji, and Olakha. In the north, it is in Jungshina, Pamtsho, Hejo or Kawajangsa. Closeness to work in the city is the main reason.

Durga, 34, a resident at Babesa IT Park is after a 2 BHK with rent below 8,000 for the last three months. When he moved to Thimphu from Nganglam, he couldn’t find a house that was closer to his workplace or rent that fits his budget. He landed paying Nu 10,000 a month.

“Every day I commute around 16kms because of my job in the city. I wanted to live closer to my workplace, in the Olakha and Changzamtok area,” he says.

There are others like Durga who have to commute for a long distance to get to their workplace. The cheaper houses are far away from the city.

With an increasing number of people pouring into the capital city, the pressure on housing is increasing. If there is an imbalance between demand and supply, it has resulted in house owners charging more.

As a means to survive the high rental issue, people have resorted to living in a combined apartment. It is a common sight on Facebook to see people either looking for a roommate or looking to exchange their house for a cheaper one.

Sonam Zangmo, a resident in Babesa was paying a rent of Nu 12,000. She now shares the apartment with a roommate. The living expenses like house rent, electricity and water bill is divided between the two.

 

It starts with the banks

Landlords attribute the exorbitant rents to high lending rates in the construction sector.

“We are helpless,” says Karma, a landlord who completed one building and is readying one. “We have to ensure that the rents cover the monthly instalments. The root cause of the problem is the high lending rates.”

Another landlord reasons that there is no point in constructing a house if rents are not enough to cover the loans. “The benefit starts after 20 to 25 years.”

There is no dearth of tenants. Even as a foundation of a building is laid, people come inquiring, some even reserving a flat that is not even built.

Landlords feel Nu 13,000 to 15,000 for 3BHK is reasonable. Their calculation is based on what they owe every month to the banks.

“I divide the number of units with the loan that I have to recover every month. So as per that, I came up with the figure while others don’t follow such practices and blindly sets the amount to around Nu 16,000 which is too high,” says a landlord.

One resident feels that the government should take the initiative to make a standard rate for all kind of apartment. This will ensure that the house owners charge the tenants with a fixed rate.

“Why can’t the banks give cheap loans so that builders charge us reasonable rates,” asks Rinzin.

 

Hope?

The housing policy endorsed last month states that the government shall establish mechanisms for rent determination and control for rental accommodations for uniformity.

The policy will also ensure that rental costs do not exceed 30 percent of household income while at the same time low and middle-income households will be provided with public housing.

It (the policy) also states that the National Land Commission may allocate land on lease to real estate developers for the development of affordable housing for low and middle-income groups.

How it will help is yet to be seen, but at the moment, the free market is not favouring the majority. 

Most blame the banks.

NMC looking at producing quality mushroom spawn

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 15:09

Phub Dem 

With the inauguration of the new equipment at the National Mushroom Centre (NMC) yesterday in Thimphu, the centre will now produce about 1,300 bottles of mushroom spawn in a day.

This is more than double of what the centre has been producing with the old equipment. The old machine produces less than 500 bottles of mushroom spawn in a day.

The project for the provision of equipment for NMC was worth Nu 6.59 million (M). Of the total, Nu 4.67M was funded by Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) and remaining Nu 1.954M was supplemented by the government.

Director of Agriculture, Kinley Tshering, said the objective of the project was to promote commercial mushroom production in Bhutan through production and distributions of good quality mushroom spawn.

“With essential equipment in place, NMC must produce quality spawns by utilising the kit available,” she said.

The equipment-sawdust crusher, high temperature and pressure cubic sterilizer, moisture analyser, hot air oven, electronic balance, deep freezer, and refrigerated van were handed over to NMC with support from GGP.

Minister of Economic and Development, Embassy of Japan, Shingo Miyamoto, said that through GGP scheme various projects such as construction of small bridges, school hostels, recycle compactor truck, construction of vocational training centre for economically and socially vulnerable women, and medical equipment in the national referral hospital were carried out. “The construction of community care centre for people living with HIV Aids is in progress.”

Although Bhutan grows mushroom for commercial use, he said that its self-sufficiency rate was very low. The old and shortages of equipment at the lone mushroom research centre affected the quality of spawn which reduced the overall mushroom cultivation.

Otherwise, he said that Bhutan had huge potential for commercial mushroom cultivation. “With new equipment in place, I expect increase in mushroom production. The imported Matsutake mushroom from Bhutan is popular in Japan”

The old set of equipment at the NMC, according to NMC Programme Director, Dawa Penjor, was procured around 1989 with support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) project.  He said that the new equipment would replace the old and would upgrade the spawn production unit.

He added that the centre provided the regional mushroom units and private spawn producers with mother cultures and mother spawn. “The centre also helps mushroom growers to produce quality mushroom especially targeting the rural communities.”

With upgraded laboratory, the NMC is expected to improve both the quality and quantity of mushroom spawn.

Dawa Penjor said that the cold storage would preserve and increase the shelf life of mushrooms. He said that the refrigerated van would help transport mother spawn to the Agriculture Research and Development centres in Bajo, Bhur and Wengkhar. “It will also help transport spawn to private spawn producers and mushroom growers around the country.”

NMC today mostly grows Matsutake and Oyster.

Collaborative Initiative to tackle disasters

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 15:08

Thinley Namgay

Department of Disaster Management (DDM) under Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs in collaboration with officials from United States of America (USA) conducted a three-day capacity building workshop on disaster management at Namgay Heritage in Thimphu between November 12 and 14.

A total of 47 participants from relevant government agencies took part in the workshop.

INDOPACOM’s Commander, Major Ari Cohen said that the workshop was first of its kind and to tackle natural disasters in future by learning from each other.

“The workshop is also to find out how the US government and INDOPACOM can better support resilience and readiness for disaster and the potential core of disaster response in Bhutan,” said Major Ari Cohen.

In the first day, workshop focused on disaster response in the region and globally and also medical preparedness and responses in the event of natural disasters like earthquake, tsunamis, and landslides.

The second day of the workshop looked at gathering information and information analysis for disaster reduction and the country’s preparedness to better respond to natural disasters.

“Agencies working together and preparing ahead of disasters is important for all the countries,” said another official, Major Kevin Boyd.

INDOPACOM has so far conducted disaster training in 36 countries.

The United States Indo-Pacific Command ensures a free and open Indo-Pacific alongside a constellation of like-minded friends, partners and allies that are united by mutual security, interests, and values.

INDOPACOM’s intention is to develop a relationship with DDM to understand each other’s unique capabilities to enhance collective effort to overcome disasters threats.

DDM’s Director General, Jigme Thinlye Namgyal, said the DDM was working to make Bhutan a disaster resilient country and have been conducting similar capacity-building workshop to tackle disasters.

A programme officer with health ministry, Ugyen Tshering, said that the disaster management required multi-stakeholders approach.

The United States Indo-Pacific Command is a unified combatant command of the United States armed forces responsible for the Indo-Pacific region. It is the oldest and largest of the unified combatant commands.

Homestays, alternate income source for villagers

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 15:07

Chimi Dema | Gangtey

In 1992, the lone Homestay service in Gangtey, Wangduephodrang, powered by solar energy, catered to some fifty tourists in a year when the endangered blacked-necked cranes entice the Gangtey-Phobji valley.

A transport and maintenance manager with Yangphel Adventure Travel, Tshering said that there were no hotels or guesthouse in the valley then.

“Situations have drastically improved in the locality in about three decades time,” he said. Today, there are more than 30 Homestays in Gangtey and Phobji  gewogs.

Competition, he said has brought about value added services for the tourists who can now experience the living style, food and culture.

Alongside, came bigger tourist hotels, scattered on gentle slopes overlooking a vast valley. While it may be seen as competitors to the smaller homestays, the owner of Pemba Farm House in Gangtey, Passang said the business is still lucrative.  But homestays in few far-flung villages are affected.

“The migration of wintering cranes to the valley and hosting of the festival to celebrate them are major factors contributing to high turnover around this time,” she said.

Passang is a university graduate who resigned from a private job to help her parents run a homestay. She said that her parents had problems communicating with the visitors until she took over.

Homestays charge about Nu 700 a night and Nu 300 for a meal. Locals can experience the hospitality too at a lower rate. Passang earns about Nu 20,000 from a three-bedroom homestay service a night during peak tourist season.  It has been a little more than a decade since her parents started the business.

For farmers in the locality, homestay is the next source of cash income after Potatoes.

Another homestay service provider in Khewang village of Gangtey, Ap Daw said that the business has contributed to enhancing the livelihood of the villagers besides immensely changing their outlook on tourists.

“I feel happy when more tourists visit and experience our food and culture,” he said.

For Ap Daw, his network among tour guides and operators comes in handy. He is now planning to enhance the facilities.

However, not every villagers in the valley is fortunate. Due to longer distance and large hotels in the valley, homestays in Phobjikha are affected. But this too, is not a problem during the season is on.

Around 10 households in Phobjikha and 11 in Gangtey have started homestays in 2012 as a part of community based sustainable tourism, an initiative by Royal Society for the Protection of Nature.

Villagers were provided with grant to develop indoor plumbing, allowing them to offer services to eco-tourists and birders.

In the meantime, the evaluation on eco-tourism by the Gross National Happiness Commission last year recorded that more than 40 percent of the international visitors avail Homestay services, followed by 22 percent of regional tourist in the country.

The evaluation recorded an increasing trend of Homestays in almost all the dzongkhags, Wangduephodrang witnessing a growth of 20 percent.

Growth adds pressure on Lingmethang town 

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 15:05

Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

Lingmethang, which is around 30km away from Mongar towards Bumthang, is no longer the sleepy, shanty town it once was.

Until recently, businesses suffered because the town had hardly a handful of customers. This hamper timely loan payment for the businessmen. Things have changed today.

Residents attribute the change to the nearby establishments such as the Mountain Hazelnut Project office and the Bhutan Agro-Industry plant.

The demand for residence has risen above supply. Some employees of these establishments are even forced to live in Gyalpozhing town, and as far as Thrindangbi and Jangdung villages.

The monthly rent for a commercial unit has increased as high as Nu 20,000 and a residential unit rent rose to Nu 6,000 to Nu 8,000 from Nu 1,500 to Nu 2,000 about eight years ago.

“Because there is demand, landlords increased the rent exorbitantly, but we’ve no say and we can’t leave either as there is no empty space around,” a shopkeeper, Cheki said. She added that the rent was less than Nu 10,000 a few years ago and that it went up drastically.

A hotelier, Pema Lethro said occupancy for his four-room hotel has improved over the years, while the number of customers at the restaurant.

Around 30 plots in the town were allotted in the year 2000 and 2003 in two phases. Of them, around seven are still vacant, while construction is underway in a plot.

The town was downgraded from a satellite town under the dzongkhag thromde to a gewog town earlier this year. It means the town is not entitled for a representative in the local government, and urban town amenities, which residents believe is a disadvantage for them.

Former town tshogpa, Kuenley said many residents of the town are unhappy with this change. “The sad thing is we have no street lights and acute water shortage is a major problem after it’s been shared with the institutions,” Kuenley said.

He said the town once had streetlight. Department of Road (DoR) removed them while widening the highway but never replaced.

“The town remains completely dark at night and I’ve personally requested the DoR officials to reconnect the streetlight but nothing has happened so far.” He said it could have been delayed because there is no formal representative to raise the problems.

The two offices that brought good business to the town added pressure on the water source of the community leading to acute shortage problem. “We have requested the gewog administration to add larger pipes but were told it could not be included in the 12th Plan as the town was delinked after the plan was ready.”

Despite the town being downgraded residents said they are imposed urban land tax and unsubsidized electricity tariff. “But we are hopeful that the water flagship program could solve our problem,” Kuenley said.

The town falls under Saling gewog and Gup Choney Dorji said the gewog has submitted a proposal to address the issue under the flagship program.

The town also caters to offices of DoR, Construction Development Corporation limited, the livestock breeding center, a school, and Saling gewog office.

Residents said that the upcoming Bondeyma industrial estate, which is close to the town, would add to the town’s growth.

12 Pillars of the Dumtseg Lhakhang

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 15:04

In 1434, Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo built the Bonday Chorten Lhakhang in Paro. After the successful experiment, he built the original structure of the Dumtseg Lhakhang. It is said that the construction took two years to complete after which the adept returned home to Tibet.

Four centuries later, the 25th Je Khenpo Sherab Gyeltshen (1772-1848) had it enlarged to its present form.

Oral Story

Elders of the Jangsa village where the Lhakhang is located recount stories of how during the construction, the Drupthob rushed to Tshongde market to replenish his stock of tealeaves.

After buying the box of Chinese Pu’er brick tea, the Drupthob pleasantly finds a bag of gold in it. As the Drupthob is low on funds, he goes from house to house to sell the gold without success.

Meanwhile, farmers conspired to steal the gold. Sensing the conspiracy, the Drupthob replaces the precious metal with human excreta. The villagers manage to steal the bag but unpleasantly discover the content.

Chorten Lhakhang

The tipping point of the construction of the Chorten Lhakhang is embedded in legend. It is believed that the location was the haunt of a demoness that terrorised people living around it.

”Some good wall paintings, and a row of 100 prayer wheels built into the outside walls all round the building.” Captain Hyslop, Extracts from my diary, written while accompanying the British Mission to Bhutan 1907-08.

 

In August 1918, Dr. (Ethel) Constance Cousins and her assistant Nurse Brodie were also fascinated with lhakhang and took a photograph of it. (Photo: Roger Crosten)

 

According to one legend, the Drupthob constructed the structure for two reasons:  prevent the demoness from harming the people living and to wipe out leprosy.  At the time, leprosy was prevalent in Lho-kha Shi or the Land of Four approaches in the South by which name Bhutan was known.

As the Lhakhang built on the bank of the two rivers of Dho Chhu and Ja Chhu it is believed that the area was a leper colony.

Michael Aris explained the legend. According to the historian, Dumtseg Lhakhang was built to tame the malignant spirit. The snake-shaped mountain separated the main Paro valley from the Dhophu valley.

The English scholar believes that the site was chosen because of an existing prophecy that said a temple would arise where the two rivers of Paro and Dhophu meet.

Aris was also of the opinion that the chorten was built to represent the independent interests of Thangtong’s Chagzampa School of Buddhism.

In the Buddhist world, building a chorten is a common way to subdue malignant earth spirits. Chortens are also built to pin down negative energy and influences. The hillock behind the Lhakhang is said to be the head of the demoness.

It is said that on his way to Bhutan, the Drupthob stopped in Phari and had a vision. In it, the mountain deities of Jhomolhari, Dorje Drakye and Chungdu appeared before him and invited him to Lho-kha Shi.

Drawn by the geomantic power place of Singye Phug, his first stop was Taktshang. At the sacred cave, when the Drupthob performed the powerful phurpai drubchod rituals, it is said that he saw the assembly of Kagye deities with Hayagriva as the central figure in his vision.

The nine headed naga spirit who is the ‘nedag’ or custodian of the power place, told him, “Your religious inheritance was concealed here by Guru Padmasambhava in the eight century.  Please reveal it for the benefit of beings.”

Following the vision, the adept extracted a ‘Khando Dayig,’ from a cliff. The secret scroll is said to have measured ten body-spans in length. When the Dakini script was deciphered, it said that the mountain range where Taksang is located ran down like a venomous black snake to bisect the main Paro valley.

Aris said that the Drupthob made a geomantic survey for building a chorten at the end of the valley. This was to suppress the earth spirit. During the construction, it is said that the Drupthob meditated for three months in the cave behind the construction site visualising the eleven-headed Avalokiteshvara. Today, that cave is known as Lhamoi Neykhang

The Drupthob then completed the chorten-shaped Lhakhang on the snout of the snake. After consecrating it, he proclaimed that all diseases caused by the evil spirits residing under the ground were eradicated and the valley would be free from leprosy.

According to Cyrus Stearns, author of, “King of the Empty Plains,” the Drupthob drove an iron spike in each of the four directions. The people built a Dharma throne on top of a rock that was shaped like many turtles stacked up on the shoulder of that mountain, and he made it his evening sitting place.

After the completion of the Dumtseg Chorten Lhakhang, the Drupthob announced, “These settlements of male and female lepers that are now in Lho-kha Shi will become empty. Disciples of mine will bring benefit to living beings in Kamata in India. Even the king of Kamata will present offerings at this chorten. Furthermore, because many chortens, temples, iron bridges and so forth will be completed, know that you people of Lho-kha Shi will gather attainments.”

Stearns’s information about leprosy is attested by recently discovered hand written biography of the Drupthob. The manuscript states that where Dumtseg Lhakhang was built was chu pharkay, or an island and confirms it to be leper colony.

Architectural description:

The name Dumtseg derives from the shape of the temple. In Dzongkha, ‘dum’ means round and ‘tseg’ means layers. The three temples inside are built around the, ‘sogshing’ or the central axle pole which runs right through the middle from the ground floor to the crest of the structure. The first two temples are located on the first and second square base while the third temple is housed on the vase of the dome of the Lhakhang.

Often referred to as the Divine Architect, the Drupthob was fascinated by two of the grand chortens built in Tibet before his lifetime. The two chorten are that of Tropu built by Tropu Lotsawa Jampa Pal (1172-1236) and the Jonang chorten built by Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltshen from 1330-33.

The Divine Architect is considered to be one of the most widely travelled Tibetans of his time. According to Stearns, he made “28 distant journeys.” He visited most major Buddhist sites in China, Tamradvipa (Ceylon), India Turkic Qarlug (Gar log) regions, Bhutan, and Nepal, including Bodhgaya in India and Swayambhunath in Nepal.

He was inspired by an ancient tashigomang-style stupa in Tamradvipa. When he was circumambulating the stupa, he memorised the architectural details, such as its two-level dome. It is possible that he drew inspiration from this building (and the two in Tibet) to build Dumtseg Lhakhang.

The sacred architecture is unusual as it combines elements of a chorten and a temple. The only others structures with similar architecture are the Thimphu Memorial Chorten and the Namgyel Yuley Chorten in Punakha.

The Cham

408 years after the construction of the Dumtseg Chorten Lhakhang, the 25th Je Khenpo Sherab Gyeltsen (1772-1848) expanded the original structure to its present form. The Je enthroned in 1836 served for three years. The Je is also credited for expanding the Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro to its present size.

There are two oral stories surrounding the extension. One story states that in 1821, the Je restored the monastery after a crack was detected on the walls of the chorten. This he did at the request of his Dolpa patrons from Tibet.

The second story tells of how in 1841, the Je challenged his friend from Jangsa village to expand the chorten. According to the story, the Je said to, Nap Dhendup, “Even with all your wealth, you are not able to put a  ‘cham,’ or an extension to Dumtseg.” Wittingly Nap Dhendup rebutted, “You were a Je and yet cannot move the ‘lu’ or the serpent from Dumtseg.” Je had retired and was living in Gorina.

At 80, Aum Choden the great granddaughter of Nap Dhendup recount stories of Je’s visits to Dumtseg the following day. The holy man stops at Tshongdue bazar, buys milk and puts in a bamboo container.

In Dumtseg, after Je conducts rituals, he offers the milk to the serpent. Aum Choden recalls stories of how a snake crept from beneath the Lhakhang and slithered to the hillock to take residence in the present day Lu Khang.

Nap Dhendup keeps his end of the bargain and built the ‘cham’ with the support of Jangsa Rinchen and Tobgay who are the direct descendants of Jangkhona family.

The wall of the 10 side square base surrounds the inner cylinder. This leaves space for a ground gallery with paintings. Je commissions beautiful murals on all the three floors. All the floors have traditional shali floors with stone pebbles mixed in the mortar.

The ground floor plan with the circular nucleus and square outer walls resembles a mandala.  The Lhakhang has statues of the Drupthob, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, Drungchen Ngawang Chogyal, Vajeasattva, Vijrapani, Dorje Chang, Milarepa, Guru, Avalokiteshvara, Buddha Vajra Dhara and Buddha Maitreya, which is claimed to have been sculpted by the Drupthob himself.

Murals

During the conservation of the murals, Bhutanese experts discovered a section of the original wall murals behind a large altar that had not been touched for almost two centuries.

The Dumtseg Lhakhang has some of the country’s most exquisite Buddhist murals. It is probably one structure in the country that has the paintings of all the Drukpa Kargyu iconography.

On the ground floor, there is a mural of the Drupthob’s heart son Dewa Zangpo. There is a mural of Drupthob when he was young and another when he was old. The Chenrezig mural is the largest in the country.

At the entrance of the ground floor, there is an intricate mural of the paradise of Zangdok Palri. This is claimed to be drawn according to Je Sherab’s vision of Drukpa Kagyu master Kunkhyen Pema Karpo’s (1527-1592)

The middle floor has murals of Zhithro Lhatsho of Terton Karma Lingpa, Guru Dragpo Marchen of Terton Sangay Lingpa and dharma protecting deities.

On the top floor, there are murals of Choeku Dorji Chang, eighty Mahasidhhas and the assembly of the tutelary deities of Chakrasamvara Kalachakra and Hevarjaja, Mahamaya.

Since the Lhakhang was renovated at least three times, experts say that it is hard to determine the period of the murals. The team found on some walls two layers of murals. This indicates that the conservation of the murals were done at least twice since it was commissioned. All the murals are painted with natural pigments and most of them, masterpieces.

The 12 Pillars

The Lhakhang has 12 ‘kachens,’ or wooden pillars. Conservation experts believe that the wooden pillars are part of the original structure built in the 15th century.

The ‘karchen,’ usually added to make the sacred structure look grand are in multiples of three. They are located on the four sides of the Lhakhang and all painted in red. The names of the villages that donated them are inscribed on the pillars.

At the time, Paro comprised of ‘Tshokhor chune,’ or twelve settlements. The names of 11 villages are Doephu Nyelmig Kachen, Tagyud Yurkha Dang Dargyal Kachen, Dungkar Droeltod  Kachen, Gater Dang Gyalung Kachen, Shomo Gang Gyud Kachen, Tshenden Toemad Kachen, Jagar Thang pi Kachen, Bardhen Gadrag Pi Kachen, Dheyphug Chhubar Patshar Kachen and  Kewang Pi Kachen. One had been erased.

The Crooked Pillar

Aum Choden recount stories of how 12 villages sent their gaytsa (strong men) to carry the colossal pillars. One pillar in the monastery is slanted. Aum tells of how the strong man of Chang village was short-changed. In return for transporting the pillar, he was promised a feast sufficient for 20 men. Apparently, the cook prepared food for only 19 people. Hence, while erecting the ‘karchen,’ the ‘gaytsa’ did not have enough strength to straighten it.

Over the past centuries, the Lhakhang has been renovated three times. Je Sherab presided over all the three consecrations.

Conclusion

According to Dr John Ardussi, in addition to the Bonday Chorten and Dumtseg Chorten the Drupthob built and Dzongdrakha Lhakhang Chorten and Tachogang Lhakhang. The Jachung simi Lhakhang in upper Paro is believed to have been built by the Drupthob.

The sertog of the 286 square meter Dumtseg Lhakhang is chained in four direction. Under the pinnacle, there are 56 slate carvings laid under the pentagon roof. The unique architecture with its 10 sides wrapped with 100 hand prayer wheels is built in the most dramatic location. The historic structure has some of the exquisite and rare masterpieces making it not only a national heritage, but a world heritage monument.

Contributed by 

Tshering Tashi

Former Trongsa dzongdag, wife and five others sentenced

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 16:09

Nim Dorji and Tashi Dema

Trongsa dzongkhag court yesterday convicted the former Trongsa dzongdag, Lhab Dorji to 13 years in prison in connection to an illegal land acquisition case, but was given a concurrent sentencing of five years prison term.

He was found guilty of four counts of forgery, three counts of official misconduct and execution of document by deception.

The former dzongdag’s wife, Karma Tshetim Dolma, and the former Drakteng gup, Tenzin, were sentenced to 15 years in prison for fabricating sale deeds, submitting false reports to the courts for transfer of land ownership and for deceptive practices. They were, however, given a concurrent sentencing of six years prison term.

Karma Tshetim Dolma was found guilty of four counts of forgery, three counts of solicitation to commit official misconduct and for offence related to witness.

Former Drakteng gup Tenzin was convicted for forging the thumbprint of the land seller and the witness. He was also found guilty of five counts of forgery related to the sale deed and three counts of deceptive practice.

The Court stated that the defendants were given concurrent sentence because there was negligence on the part of the government officials, in particular, the Land Record Officer of the then Department of Land and Survey Records who failed to delete the land from the Kapa thr am of Yangchen and Sonam Choden when they received land replacement from the government in Gelephu.

 It stated that defendant Karma Tshetim Dolma allegedly purchased the lands already acquired by government for Taktse but not deleted from the thram. This contributory negligence on the part of the government official is a mitigating circumstance for the defendants.

It also stated that ACC failed to charge Neten despite his negligence and Sonam Choden who had helped Karma Tshetim Dolma in the fraudulent land transactions. “ACC officials violated Section 107 of Anti-Corruption Act by failing to advertise the Notice of Seizure in two media houses as required by Section 107.”

A retired drangpon, Ugyen Tenzin, was sentenced to a year and six months in prison for forgery.

Former Nubi gup Phuntsho was sentenced to three years in prison for two counts of forgery. He was given a concurrent sentencing of a year and six months in prison.

The court also sentenced former surveyor, Narayan Dangal, to two years and six months in prison for guilty of aiding and abetting the dzongdag and official misconduct, but he was given a year and six months in prison because ACC did not file charges against two other individuals involved.

Another surveyor, Kelzang Nima, was sentenced to a year in prison. He was found guilty of official misconduct, as he knowingly surveyed 1.93 acres of land and falsely recorded it as genuine plot despite knowing that defendant Karma Tshetim Dolma was not eligible for GY plot.

Of the seven people convicted, only surveyor Kelzang Nima could pay thrimthue in lieu of prison term.

Meanwhile, the court acquitted former Nubi gup Tashi Penden and two former tshogpas, Wangchukla and Kinley, who were charged for official misconduct.

During the trial, they submitted evidence against other defendants and requested the Court to consider them as ‘approver’ and pardon them according to section 66 of the Penal Code of Bhutan.

As submitted by ACC, the Court ordered that the 4.73 acres of land at Thumang registered in Karma Tshetim Dolma’s name to be restituted to the government.

The Court directed ACC to approach the government in consultation with National Land Commission to discuss if the government would be interested to acquire the resort at View Point at the rate to be finalised by the relevant agencies of the government.  “If the government is not interested to acquire it, defendant Karma Tshetim Dolma should demolish it.”

The court prepared a 3,767-page judgment in the land case between the ACC and the 10 defendants.

The case surfaced in 2011 after a landowner, Gyalmo, complained to the ACC that she did not sell her land to Karma Tshetim Dolma.

Gyalmo filed a case against Karma Tshetim Dolma with the Trongsa court in 2011 but was dismissed, stating that the same court adjudicated the matter before.

A memorial service to honour His Majesty the Late Third Druk Gyalpo

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 16:08

Staff reporter

Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck graced a memorial service in honour of His Majesty the Late Third Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck at Fairmont The Norfolk Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya yesterday.

To commemorate the memorial service, Her Majesty the Gyalyum planted a tree within the premises of the hotel in remembrance of His Majesty the Late Third Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.

His Majesty passed away in Nairobi on July 21, 1972.

The memorial service was graced by  His Royal Highness Prince Khamsum Singye Wangchuck, Her Royal Highness Princess Euphelma Choden Wangchuck, Princess Royal of Tonga, The Honourable Lady Tuita, Health Minister Dechen Wangmo, and foreign dignitaries including the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund.

During the reign of His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo, Bhutan emerged from its self-imposed isolation by opening its doors to the world. His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo initiated and fostered bilateral ties in the region and beyond which culminated in Bhutan being admitted to the United Nations as a member state in 1971.

His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo made remarkable socio-economic, political and judicial reforms. Along with the introduction of modern transportation and communication facilities, significant improvements were initiated in the education and health systems.

His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo sowed the seeds for democracy by instituting the National Assembly in 1953, transferring the decision-making and legislative powers to the people. The First Five Year socio-economic development plan was launched during his reign in 1961.

Her Majesty the Gyalyum is currently leading the Bhutanese delegation to the Nairobi Summit which marks the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population Development, held in Cairo in 1994.

Online bus ticket booking hits the market

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 16:07

Phub Dem

Coinciding with the birth anniversary of His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo, an online bus ticket booking system,  Bhutan-Booking (BBooking), was launched in Thimphu.

Bhutan iVantage Solution came up with an idea to improve the travelling experience of passengers.

The application connects the Royal Monetary Authority’s payment gateway to online banking system, through the use of web or mobile application.

The application maintains records of various bus services and it allows the passenger to choose the routes and select the seat through an interactive seat map.

Bhutan iVantage Solutions Chief Executive Officer Pranayee Chhetri said that the BBooking allows ticket booking through both on-line application or booking-counter. “The passenger details will be computed and the passenger will receive the ticket through an SMS.”

He said that the bus operators can monitor the status of the tickets whether booked or sold. “The system generates a daily report, which gives information on the seats sold, revenue collected, and details of the bus.”

Users will have to browse www.bbooking.bt to look for a suitable bus through a drop-down menu and check the booking status. The user then selects the desired seat(s) and enters the passengers’ details including the mobile number. The passengers will have to then enter the bank account number from various options (BoB, BNB, T-bank, and Druk PNB). A one-time password (OTP), will be sent to the mobile number. The OTP should then be entered into the system to complete the transaction; following which the user will receive the bus tick through an instant SMS.

The user can show the SMS to the driver during boarding.

A regular commuter Jigme said that what was once a taxing process of going to the bus ticket counters can now be done through a click.

Pranayee Chhetri said that the company initially started with bus booking system however he said that the company was already developing a movie ticket management system.

“Although it has been just a few days since the launch, we got positive feedback from the commuters,” he said.

The user will be charged a nominal service fee of Nu 35 per ticket booked online. For other passengers who buy tickets from the bus counter, the charge remains the same. Transport operators will be charged license fees if they choose to use the system.

BBooking is initially providing e-tickets for Thimphu-Phuentsholing route. The company has a plan to offer services for other routes. “We hope to add the services nationwide by December 17,” Pranayee Chhetri said.

A project reaching out to PWDs

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 16:06

Yangchen C Rinzin

There are 2,948 persons with disabilities (PWDs) residing in five dzongkhags according to a study conducted by the Ability Bhutan Society (ABS).

The study, to identify the number, needs and the severity of persons with disability, began in January in five dzongkhags of Chukha, Dagana, Punakha, Sarpang, and Trashigang. The study is a part of the project, ‘building an equal and inclusive society’ in the identified dzongkhags.

The study found that at least one percent of the 329,163 population (PHCB 2017) in these dzongkhags have people with at least one or other form of disability.

Project manager Namgay Dorji said this is a cause of concern given the size of Bhutan’s economy and young population.

“The study was aimed at obtaining accurate data about PWDs and their needs in order to have a clear indicator for this project,” he said, adding it would also assess the prevalence of disability, awareness and availability of services for PWDs.

The study collected data from 569 villages in 64 gewogs. Trashigang has the highest disability with 41.2 percent and the lowest is in Punakha with 8.6 percent.

The composition of male and female with disabilities was 54:46. Chukha and Dagana had more female with disabilities.

Namgay Dorji said the median age of the PWDs was 51 years and when categorised in five different age group for the analysis, it found that majority fell within the age group of 61-80, followed by 41-60.

The project that promotes health, education, livelihood and social and empowerment is expected to reach the PWDs based on a designated strategy – a community based inclusive development.

“Through this, families and caregivers would equally participate and contribute with an aim to capacitate and strengthen the role of community actors,” he said. “The project also aims at early identification and intervention therapies especially for children with disabilities.”

The other areas include building capacity of stakeholders at grassroots level, improve self-esteem of PWDs, parents, and caregivers to improve overall quality of life.

Namgay Dorji said some of the intervention provided through the implementation of project this year was training of ECCD facilitators, which would enable to support children with disabilities, training of BHU staff to help identify disabilities in children for further referrals, and observance of international days to create awareness.

It has also conducted life skill development training for children with disabilities including families or caregivers to enhance their capacity. The project has also developed self-care and self esteem development for families and caregivers of children with disabilities to live with dignity in the community.

“The project has also provided assistive devices to PWDs to minimise the impact of disability through disability assessment camp,” Namgay Dorji said. “Through this camp, we intend to assistive devices’ needs and get required consultation and advice from medical professionals.”

This is the first three-year community based rehabilitation project that ABS has initiated.

The project is funded by ABS, DAHW Germany, BMZ, GLRA. The project will end in 2021.

Trucker admitted in Siliguri hospital to be brought home 

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 16:05

Dechen Tshomo

JDWNRH is preparing to bring back a Bhutanese driver who is at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Agrasen Hospital in Fulbari, Siliguri, India.

The 46-year-old man from Bidung in Trashigang was admitted at the hospital after he was hit by a speeding bike on September 29 when he was crossing the highway at Fulbari. He worked for a transport company in Phuentsholing.

More than 500 trucks carrying boulders from Phuentsholing, Samtse and Gomtu ply the Indian highway.

The victim’s family requested the health ministry for support to pay the hospital bill which has crossed Nu 1.3 million. The health ministry forwarded the letter to the national referral hospital’s Medical Superintendent, Dr Gosar Pemba.

Dr Gosar Pemba said the patient suffered a head injury and fractured his hands and legs. Earlier he was on a ventilator and could not be removed so he was kept in the hospital.

“Now that he is off the machine, the hospital will send an ambulance and a team of health staff to bring him back, who is still in a coma, and admit at the ICU in JDWNRH.

“But, first we have to clear more than 50 percent of the treatment bill, which comes to around Nu 800,000. Only then, they will discharge the patient,” he said.

Dr Gosar Pemba said that the government is paying for it because it is an emergency case. “When a person on pilgrimage to India falls sick and requires emergency treatment for an illness like appendicitis or heart attack, the government pays for it after verification.”

Fulbari is an Indian town that borders with the Bangladesh town of Banglabandha. Bhutanese boulders are exported to Bangladesh from Fulbari, which is 160km away from Phuentsholing.

This is the second incident involving a Bhutanese driver in Fulbari.

In another incident on September 23, a Bhutanese truck driver ferrying boulder to Bangladesh had hit a local man at Fulbari. An angry mob then assaulted some Bhutanese drivers and damaged windshields and windows of 35 boulder-carrying trucks.

Social media education is key

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 16:04

The proliferation of social media and its power is the least understood today.

What comes down to the individual level as an effect is far-reaching. The handling of it is an issue. Social media is not just a space; it is much more than a shared space for communication in the modern world.

The world is becoming smaller by the day. Interaction has taken on a new meaning altogether. We talk more with people we have not met and will perhaps never meet in the real world.

All these are well, but what are we losing by the by? This is the real question, and what are we getting out of it?

At a time when information becomes redoubtably accessible, there is a need to figure out what is true and what is not.

Some say that awareness is the key. Yes, it is. But that is not enough. We are talking about innovation where thieves are always one step ahead of the inventors.

Education. Where is education today in our society?

We have something called the tha damtse ley judre. In simple awareness, all these meet at a point called integrity. Who truly has it?

Empowerment has come down to us in such a way that it has taken on a different meaning altogether,among CSOs and the government organisations.

In Bhutan, empowerment is self-aggrandisement. And this is coming at the cost of devaluing the very system that is supposed to define what Bhutan and the Bhutanese are. There is a lot to understand what social media is.

Simple put, it is more than awareness that is needed.

Education is not going far when it comes to tackling social media influences in Bhutan. That’s why we are having to deal with scams and suicides issues repeatedly, to name a few.

Our policies have to be real so.

 Are we even trying to understand the real concerns and problems of our people?

It is sad that politics is dividing our society in the way that it has in the many years since the advent of democracy. But we have always been a democratic society; only we did not care what pressures could come to us.

A broken society is not Bhutan. 

Such a representation was never our dream. If, on the contrary this is what Bhutan is today, we have a lot more to recognise the true power of social media.

When it comes to tackling the power of the social media, awareness is not enough. 

How are we looking at education and how much have we invested in it?

This is the real question. 

Social media education is becoming all the necessary. Awareness is good, but awareness alone will never be enough.

Media literacy is one; social media literacy is a thing that is world apart. 

In this picture, where is the government and the role of the CSOs?

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