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No separate budget to preserve intangible culture

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 17:00

There were times when monks from Chizhi goenpa in Thimphu travelled all the way to Dekiling in Dagana to perform tsechu every year. The monks, carrying dung (trumpet), also went to perform local tsechus in Dawakha and Matalongchu in Punakha and Hebisa in Wangduephodrang.

Punakha’s National Council (NC) member, Rinzin Dorji, said that people in Punakha believe that the blowing of the dung by lay monks of Chizhi goenpa bring peace and prosperity to their area.

But the culture, he said, has stopped for the last 13 years in Dagana and for few years in Punakha and Wangduephodrang. Rinzin Dorji said civil servants from Dawakha and Matalongchu have contributed money and revived the tradition.

He recommended the government to allocate some budget to preserve the culture.

The NC’s social and cultural affairs committee reported that there are 397 local festivals in the country but with the decline in rural population, younger generations showing less interest into such arts and lack of financial support, some local festivals are no longer performed. “Others are at risk of being discontinued,” the report stated.

The committee reported that dzongkhags are facing difficulty in finding dancers and mask dancers during annual tsechus.

It was mentioned that dzongkhags like Lhuntse, Zhemgang, Trongsa and Trashiyangtse have discontinued local festivals because of lack of dancers.

The committee also pointed out that although the government has allocated budget for the preservation of culture, most of the budget was allocated for construction and renovation of dzongs, lhakhangs and other religious and historical sites. “There is no separate budget allocated for the preservation of intangible cultural heritage,” the report stated.

Thimphu NC member Nima Gyeltshen and Trongsa NC member Tharchen raised the need for Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation (BBSC) and local television operators to broadcast local tsechus instead of school variety shows.

Paro NC member Kaka Tshering said it is important to empower Department of Culture (DoC) to improve performing arts by collaborating with schools and tourism council.

While the committee recommended appointment of trained artists from institutions like Royal Academy of Performing Arts (RAPA), who are certified by labour ministry as performing arts instructors in schools and educational institutions, Gasa NC member Sangay Khandu pointed out that local people should also be recruited as performing arts instructors.

He also suggested that urban dwellers, who already formed tshogpas to help each other in times of need, should initiate some of their village’s arts in Thimphu so that people can come together.

NC chairperson, Sonam Kinga (PhD), said instead of relying on the government to allocate budget to promote local tsechus, it is important to look for alternative funding mechanism by the local government officials. “When a tshechu is nearing in a locality, local government officials should inform all the people from those areas and ask for funding.”

The committee recommended that the government should prioritise maintenance of an inventory of different festivals and performing arts in different communities and support documentation and archival efforts of agencies like BBSC, College of Language and Cultural Studies in Taktse, Trongsa and other government and private entities.

NC members also deliberated on the concerns raised on dilution of performing arts in drayangs and luyangs.

Sonam Wangchuk said that while Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) issues license to drayangs and luyangs, it is important to find out who monitors whether  they are promoting culture.

“While we understand drayangs and luyangs are commercial, it is important that it is in line with our culture,” the Mongar NC said.

He said that while Drametse ngacham, a mask dance, which originated in Drametse, Mongar, is performed by 16 men, some luyangs are now performing the dance with just eight men.

Chukha NC member Pema Tenzin said police claim that most crimes occur in drayangs.

He said it is important to revisit whether drayangs are really needed. “If it is deemed necessary, it should be monitored and relocated to places away from town. “There are 10 dzongkhags where there is no drayang. We shouldn’t encourage it.”

Trongsa NC member Tharchen said he conducted a study on drayangs in Phuentsholing and questioned whether drayang is providing the intended job opportunities. “We questioned the criteria for the employees and the criteria is disheartening.”

He said that while drayang owners are making money and young girls get employment, it affects families of people who visit the drayangs.

Wangduephodrang NC member Tashi Dorji, who is a committee member, said the committee members looked into drayang issue and its effect on culture and not the social aspect.

Chairperson Sonam Kinga (PhD) said it is important to make drayang and luyang employees feel proud of their work.

The house, while deliberating on vernacular languages, mentioned that except for Dzongkha, the national language, Tsangla, which is commonly referred as Sharchopkha and Lhotsamkha, 16 languages are endangered.

Zhemgang NC member Pema Dakpa said people in Kheng Bjoka speak a different language and it is important to note that people in the locality should preserve their language.

People of Bjoka speak a language that is a mix of Sharchop and Khengkha.

Tsirang NC member Kamal Gurung said Doyaps, Tamang, Sherpa and Lepcha speak different dialects.

Sonam Wangchuk said schools encourage students to speak in English and punish students who talk in their local dialects. “Students should be encouraged to speak in their own language.”

The house, while deliberating on driglam namzha, informed that there are about 30 government and corporate organisations that procure and issue western attires to their employees.

The committee reported that the government must review the proliferation of western attire as standard institutional uniforms so that appropriate remedial measure and advisory directives could be provided.

Sonam Wangchuk said that law has to be uniform and it should be studied why the offices use western attires. “I don’t see why people feel inconvenient wearing the national dress. I feel comfortable in gho.”

He said field and technical employees should take their trousers and shirts, change into it when they work and again wear national dress.

Sangay Khandu said it is important to understand why offices use the uniforms and cited examples of how it is necessary for field staff to wear it.

Meanwhile, the committee will discuss the recommendations made during the deliberation before forwarding it to the government and DoC.

Tashi Dema

E-payment for G2C services launched

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 17:08

Citizens can now pay online for services offered by four agencies 

To improve public service delivery especially those that were constrained due to the lack of e-payment facility, the Government to Citizen (G2C) e-payment services was launched in Thimphu yesterday.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay launched the e-payment facility for Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Bhutan Council for School Examinations and Assessment (BCSEA), Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) and Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) under the Ministry of Information and Communications.

Except for RSTA services, citizens can go online to the G2C website at www.citizenservices.gov.bt to make e-payments. For instance they can pay for a new passport or renewal through the G2C website by entering their CID number, bank account number and also upload additional forms. E-payment for the nine RSTA services such as paying renewal fees for driving licenses or penalty can be done through the RSTA www.rsta.gov.bt website.

Payment can be made from any of the three banks of Bank of Bhutan, Bhutan National Bank and Druk Punjab National Bank through the Royal Monetary Authority payment gateway.  G2C officials explained that the e-payment services are an independent web service and are not integrated with Bank of Bhutan’s mBoB facility.

Launching the service, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that e-payment allows citizens to enjoy services quickly and almost immediately without having to go to an office. “Once you are able to pay for those services, it means that you really don’t need to visit the offices even to make cash payments,” he said.

The Prime Minister highlighted the importance of e-payment and G2C services as a stepping-stone in the country’s journey to become self-reliant and corruption free. “The most important benefit of G2C services, the use of e-payment is the fact that we tell ourselves that we must step up technologically to the next level,” he said. “We must use the best technologies that are available and must demand of our service providers and of ourselves the highest level of efficiency and transparency.”

There are more than 120 G2C services. Of these, e-payment facility is available for four BCSEA services such as issuance of duplicate examination documents, clerical recheck of papers and issue of English Language Proficiency Certificate.

G2C officials said that while e-payment for passport services under the foreign ministry is available to apply for new passport and renewal, those who wish to avail travel documents and passports for children should visit the passport office in person for verification.

All business services with the economic affairs ministry where payment is required can now be paid electronically. A two months trial of the e-payment system showed that RSTA services generated the highest revenue among the agencies followed by the department of trade.

Karma Cheki

Speaker reprimands agriculture minister

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 17:07

Speaker Jigme Zangpo has reprimanded Agriculture Minister Yeshey Dorji for violation of the National Assembly Act and the Rules of Procedure.

During the question hour on May 19, the agriculture minister referred to Trashiyangtse’s Bumdeling-Jamkhar MP Duphob as MP from Falakata, a small town in Alipurduar district of West Bengal, India.

When MP Duptho said that the ban on chillies caused inconveniences to vendors and consumers, the minister responded saying: “I didn’t know there was an MP from Falakata in the National Assembly until today.”

The MP had said that extending the ban on the import of chillies from Falakata appeared to be illogical as chillies are a seasonal crop and that chemical contents vary from time to time.

Following a written complaint from the Opposition, the Speaker yesterday handed the agriculture minister a letter of reprimand, copies of which have been submitted to Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, the Leader of Opposition and the Secretary General of the house.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji was also summoned to the Speaker’s office, where he was explained by the latter about the provisions under which he was reprimanded.

“Henceforth, please keep in mind not to repeat such behaviours,” the Speaker stated in the letter of reprimand, adding that the minister’s behaviour violated both the National Assembly Act and the Rules of Procedure.

The Speaker said that he has used the Speaker’s powers prescribed in the National Assembly Act and the Rules of Procedures. “If the Deputy Speaker had intervened, the matter would have been solved that time only,” he said.

The session was presided by Deputy Speaker Chimi Dorji.

Speaker Jigme Zangpo cited Section 273 of the National Assembly Act 2008, which states that every member should subscribe to maintaining the decorum and dignity of the House and shall desist from acts of defamation and use of physical force. He also cited Section 34.4(b) of the Rules of Procedures, which states that the Speaker shall preserve dignity and decorum in the hall and maintain discipline among the members.

MP Dupthob said the Opposition had actually demanded a public apology on the house floor from lyonpo Yeshey Dorji based on a precedent. Khamaed Lunana MP of Gasa, Pema Drukpa, in 2015 apologised to National Council members in a joint sitting after he accused them of siding with political parties.

“Based on the precedent set by the Khamaed Lunana MP, we had demanded a public apology on the house floor,” Dupthob said. However, the Speaker can also take a disciplinary decision of his own within the framework of parliamentary laws.

“Being satisfied or not is subjective. It’s about obeying the rules,” said Dupthob. “The Speaker as the head of Parliament has reprimanded the minister in writing.”

MB Subba

Going organic by 2020 questionable

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 17:06

Bhutan’s vision to become organic by 2020 is questionable, said the National Organic Programme’s (NOP) coordinator Kesang Tshomo during the first day of the national workshop on a roadmap for organic agriculture policy in Bhutan in Thimphu yesterday.

Agriculture and forests ministry developed and launched the National Framework for Organic Farming in Bhutan in 2007 with a vision to become organic by 2020.

Kesang Tshomo said that the organic programme was established to implement the framework. But the question is: can the country achieve the targets?

“These questions could have been answered if we were able to implement the national framework,” Kesang Tshomo said.

Shortage of funds was identified as a challenge.  “Target for the 11th FYP is ambitious but the budget was not adequate,” Kesang Tshomo said.

She said that since the NOP never actually implemented the framework, the possibility of reaching the target by 2020 is questionable. “This is the reason why NOP has been trying to get some assessments done so that we can gauge where we stand now.”

The NOP is in the process of assessing the benefits and challenges of organic agriculture in Bhutan with support from ICIMOD.

The two-day workshop is part of the national stakeholder consultations led by two consultants, Sunder Subramanian and Sherub Gyeltshen that was completed in March this year.

The workshop is also expected to draw stakeholders’ ideas and contributions before finalising the draft report. The draft will be available on the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests’ (MOAF) website for input from the public.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji said the assignment will assess the potential impact of Bhutan’s vision of going 100 percent organic and possible impact on environment, economy and social development of the country.

The workshop aims to assess the opportunities and challenges for organic agriculture as a source of livelihood for local people in Bhutan including ICIMOD’s pilot sites.

“I see a huge opportunity and potential for organic agriculture to play a significant role since the majority of our Dzongkhags are part of Project Area Network,” Lyonpo said.

The agriculture ministry has mandated Agriculture Research and Development Centre in Yusipang to undertake organic activities.

“The agriculture department is working on the mandates,” Lyonpo said. “This is a step to further enhance our goal for organic agriculture. Slowly, I see an opportunity for other centres to focus on organic agriculture.”

Lyonpo urged the stakeholder from different sectors to think how they can participate in the organic development goals. “The way things were done so far, unfortunately, did not bring expected results.”

Lyonpo said that it is time the nation set achievable targets, ensured required resources and assigned ‘accountable’ responsibilities to the sectors. “ We need monitoring system that ensures committed targets are achieved.

Dechen Tshomo

Only NRDCL to transport and deliver sand in Sha region

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 17:05

The Natural Resource Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) will transport and deliver sand from the collection sites under Sha region from June 1.

This decision, according to a press release sent by the corporation, was arrived after several rounds of meetings. “It is being done in the larger interest of the nation and people.”

The press release states that only trucks registered with NRDCL can transport the sand. “The trucks registered with NRDCL at present will be deregistered by May 31 and the agreements signed earlier would be nullified.”

It also states that all customers requiring sand will have to register with NRDCL along with valid construction approvals and documents from the competent authority.

“Customers will have to deposit full cost of sand and transportation costs to NRDCL while obtaining the sand supply approval,” the press release states. “Delivery will be scheduled by NRDCL and the trucks deployed on daily basis according to a weekly and monthly delivery plan.”

It states that transporters will be paid by NRDCL upon delivery of the sand and customers need not have to deal with transporters directly.

“The revised system has been developed keeping in mind the prevailing problems and challenges of sand distribution, hoarding and escalation in the transportation cost,” the press release stated. This would also ensure fair transportation cost throughout the year.

In 2007, sand supply was nationalised and brought under the corporation with the main objective to make natural resources ‘available, affordable and accessible.

Staff reporter

ADB assistance sought to improve water shortage

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 17:04

To address the drinking water shortage in Samdrupjongkhar thromde, the government has taken assistance loan from Asian Development Bank (ADB) to construct water treatment plant (WTP), reservoir and water transmissions.

Samdrupjongkhar thromde’s assistant engineer, who is also the head of water solution division, Mani Kumar Rizal, said that the work is divided into two packages.

Of the total fund required for the construction, ADB assistance loan of Nu 1.2 million (M) USD takes up 79 percent and the government will fund the remaining 21 percent.

Mani Kumar Rizal said he couldn’t say how much the 21 percent will amount up to since the details are with works and human settlement ministry.

In package one, the construction of intake weir, raw water transmission, WTP, clear water reservoir and clear water transmission will be carried out. The total fund for package one is Nu 89M.

The assistant engineer said that while the construction is almost complete for intake weir and clear water reservoir, raw water transmission and clear water transmission are under construction.

He said that the WTP is being designed and once the design is ready, they will start the construction.

In package two, construction of a reservoir, transmission line and renovation of the existing reservoirs will be carried out in the second package.

He also said the water reservoir will be constructed at Pinchina, about four kilometres away from Samdrupjongkhar to Trashigang.

Mani Kumar Rizal said that they are estimating and reviewing package two as of now. “Thromde would tender the works by end of this year.”

The assistant engineer said that water would be supplied to Local Area Plan (LAP) I from new tank, which is going to be constructed package two. “For LAP II, III, and IV water will be supplied from the existing reservoirs after renovation.”

Meanwhile, he said that for 2015, he received 10 to 15 complaints every day on water shortage. “Sometimes it goes up to one week, as heavy downpour during monsoon damage main connection line.”

He said that by the end of that year, the complaints reduced drastically, as the thromde constructed bore well, renovated the old dug well and treated water.

Mani Kumar Rizal said they did major renovation last year and after that, the water supply has been good.

At present, there are three water sources for Samdrupjongkhar thromde,  Pinchina, Dungsam river and Rikhechu.

The assistant engineer said he is confident that Samdrupjongkhar thromde will not have water shortage once the project completes.

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

Buffalo rearing culture on the verge of disappearing

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 17:02

The practice of rearing buffaloes in Singeygang, Samtse is fast waning.

There are today only about five families who rear buffaloes in Singeygang. Ramlal Munda has a herd of 13 buffaloes. Many have sold the animal because of lack of good grazing grounds and dedicated herders.

Tshogpa Ram Prasad Sharma said that young people in the village are not interested to take up this practice.

At 63, Ramlal Munda is the oldest and among the few buffalo herders in Singeygang. At this time of the year, buffaloes are just left grazing in the fields. Ramlal Munda checks on the herd from time to time.

Ramlal Munda said rearing buffaloes is more profitable than rearing cows. The animal gives more milk and is more resilient. Dung quantity is also more, which is useful for biogas plants.

“A buffalo bull would fetch more than Nu 50,000 in the market today,” Ramlal Munda said.

Villagers say that there has not been much support from the government in buffalo rearing.

Dhanya Prasad Sharma said that recently government officials came to carry out an artificial insemination (AI) programme.

“This is a good sign,” he said, adding that more should be done to keep the practice alive.

The one buffalo that Dhanya Prasad Sharma’s family has had for the last five years has given birth to a healthy calf.

Dhanya Prasad Sharma said that keeping buffaloes would benefit local people economically and the government should support people to rear buffaloes.

Samtse’s livestock officer, Karma Wangdi, said that the government is aware of the scenario.

“People shifted their focus to jersey cows. That is why there is not many into buffalo rearing,” he said.

Karma Wangdi said that in 2010, a subsidy was provided. Four breeding bulls and 16 cows were distributed to two groups that included farmers in Singeygang. He added that equal importance is given to rearing cows and buffaloes.

The government has also leased a 90-acre land to Singeygang farmers. The land is meant for both cows and buffaloes. Livestock office has asked people to increase growing fodder in this land.

“They can also sell the fodder,” Karma Wangdi said.

Karma Wangdi said that interested farmers will be given additional support in the 12th Plan.

Along the borders of Singeygang, Sukur Muni has some healthy buffaloes. “We just leave them into the jungle,” she said. “They return on their own in the evening.”

Gauri Shankar Bhandari has the highest number of buffaloes in Singeygang. He has a herd of 15. “Buffaloes do not need care like cows do,” he said. “They are stronger and can plough more than oxen.”

Bishnu Maya Sharma from Namgaychholing said that getting a herder is not easy these days. “That is the real challenge.”

Rajesh Rai | Tashichholing

Manual on climate resilient agriculture

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 17:01

A farmer’s manual on climate resilient agricultural practices and technologies was launched in Tsirang yesterday.

The 50-page pictorial manual suggests solutions to critical climate change issues and impacts on vegetables in Barshong gewog, and describes climate-smart practices for sustainable production and income of the vegetable farmers.

The manual was produced as a part of several pilot activities taking place in Barshong through support from the EU-funded programme on Rural Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation in the Himalayas (Himalica), managed by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

According to Dr. Surendra Raj Joshi, ICIMOD’s Himalica programme coordinator, the manual has been prepared based on lessons and findings from similar agro-ecological zones from the region in order to equip communities to reduce risks of extreme events such as too little or too much water and have resilient practices adapted and expanded. “The recommended technologies and practices are simple and affordable, yet make sense to address bigger risks of climate change,” he said.

The Programme Director of Agriculture Research and Development Centre in Bajo, Pema Chofil, who coordinated the development of contents for the manual, said that it’s target audience includes educated farmers, extension supervisors, local officials, teachers coordinating school agriculture programme, and individuals interested in farming.

“The manual features simple but proven technologies,” he said. “Some of these technologies have been around for quite some time, but hadn’t reached Bhutan. Others have been around but weren’t popularized.”

The manual therefore has been designed in accordance with the basic principles of environmental, economic, and social sustainability, and provides detailed steps for vegetable production, from land preparation to harvesting, and post-harvest management.

The Himalica pilot interventions in Tsirang focus on four crop value chains – bean, cabbage, onion, and ginger – and all these crops are feature

The politics of economics

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 17:00

Although it did focus on the economy, the recent exchange between the government and Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa saw more than numbers being flung at each other. Even as both parties claimed that the issue was being politicised, the exchange showed that politics becomes part of the debate.

Somehow political parties seem to make an attempt to detach themselves from politics and show that the concerns raised are non-political. Economic issues have social implications on the people, the polity, which means there will always be a political dimension to issues concerning the people. Pretending that it is not adds no value to the discussion. The crux of the debate, if it at all continues, should be on the state of the economy because it is vulnerable and affects all. It is no secret that our small economy is dominated by the hydropower sector. It is understood that our reliance on imports for both consumption and capital goods needs is as high as our reliance on development aid. Reports point out that grants finance about 30 percent of the total budget.

Our policymakers, political parties and the society should be concerned that we are relying on others to become self-reliant. How do we sustain economic growth when the same is induced through external aid? Our economic vulnerability is exposed not only through our reliance on development aid and loans, but as much through political campaigns. The country has seen it happen and it would be naïve to assume that the politics of economics would not be used and abused again.

Compounding such an economic geography is our incapability to tap into our primary sector – agriculture. Perhaps, it is because of the nature of the sector, where results are not as immediate or visible as compared to other sectors that it has not been given the attention it deserves. Yet, we continue to claim that we are an agrarian society, even though the primary sector’s contribution to GDP has been less than one percent between 2008 and 2015. How the sector performs and impacts the livelihood of those who depend on it appears to matter little even to political parties concerned. But when linked to the debt issue, it appears to matter that farmers in some remote parts of the country received a flock of sheep. In such frames, even the bleating of a sheep tends to carry political meanings.

Smoked fish business doing good in Zhemgang

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 17:00

Smoked fish is made not only in Wangdue, but also in Zhemgang. A woman in Berti, a village about four kilometres from Tingtibi town, recently started a smoked fish business and it is picking up.

One can see ponds and huts by the huge maize field. There is a small structure from where smoke comes out. Carefully prepared fish are placed above small fire in different layers of the grill. This is how she smokes fish.

Pema Choden, 31, who runs this farm, said her smoked fish find better market than the fresh fish. She harvests fish from her pond, smokes and sells them. Many people from Zhemgang and other places come to buy them.

She said the demand for the smoked fish is so high she has difficulty supplying them. “I don’t sell fresh fish much,” she said. She has two ponds in which she has about 30,000 fish.

Pema Choden made about Nu 100,000 by selling both fresh and smoked fish last year. Pema gets telephone calls from hotels demanding smoked fish.

She has only a small structure where she smokes fish but the dzongkhag administration has already built a bigger one where she can smoke more fish. She is now planning to increase production now. She will now be able to dry about 20 kilogrammes of fish at a time.

She sells smoked fish for Nu 150.

Nima Wangdi | Zhemgang

Health officials attend World Health Assembly

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 17:00

Leading a five-member delegation from Bhutan, Health minister Tandin Wangchuk is attending the 70th Session of the World Health Assembly, which began yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland.

Attended by delegations from all 194 WHO Member States, the World Health Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the World Health Organisation and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. Bhutan holds a three-year membership of the Executive Board is also a member of the Programme, Budget and Administration Committee.

Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk will deliver a statement at the plenary session and co-sponsor a number of side-events on tobacco control, malaria elimination, non-communicable diseases and Sustainable Developmental Goals.

The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine the policies of the Organisation, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget. This 70th Session of the Assembly will also elect a new Director General for the organisation.

This session will deliberate on non-communicable diseases, promoting health through the life course, preparedness, surveillance and response to antimicrobial resistance, poliomyelitis, International Health Regulations, health emergencies and communicable diseases.

Staff reporter 

Building a toilet culture

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 15:56

It is now a common sight to see a group of young people with masked faces and gloved hands cleaning toilets in most of the public events in the country. They are the volunteers of Bhutan Toilet Organisation (BTO).

BTO is one of Bhutan’s first non-profit organisations committed toward building a toilet culture in the country by inspiring and empowering individuals and communities through education, advocacy and social initiatives.

In any public and commercial settings, toilets are consistently cited as one of the toughest places to clean and maintain. But to these volunteers, it is no hard thing to do.

Besides cleaning the public toilets in the country, the volunteers also set up portable toilets at public events in the country.

The BTO now has more than 1,000 volunteers, who are mostly students, civil servants and people working in civil society organisations.

Volunteers clean the public toilet at the Thimphu crematorium.

In the past three years, the volunteers have cleaned more than 60 public toilets, including toilets in some monasteries and dzongs across the country.

Lack of a central body to address the toilet issues in the country fuelled the inception of BTO in 2014.

The founder and the executive director of the BTO, Passang Tshering, said that having been blogger for over a decade, he complained about various issues, but when it came to toilets, there was nowhere he could complain to.

“Everyone seemed to complain about toilets everywhere but there was no particular body that would listen to our complaints and find solutions,” he said. “That’s when I thought we should have a central body to address the toilet issues that’s common across the country.”

He knew about World Toilet Organisation through a friend. “That was the beginning of this beautiful journey.”

The Civil Society Organisations Authority certified the BTO as a Public Benefit Organisation on December 17 last year.

Passang Tshering, who is also known as Chablop, which translates to Toilet Teacher. This is a title given to him by His Majesty The King for his commitment in keeping and advocating the importance of clean toilets across the country.

“We are yet to get our hands on the construction of permanent toilets,” the Chablop said. “We only built a ten-units knockdown toilet that travelled with us to over six events.”

Volunteers scrubs Tanalum checkpost toilet

The organisation also campaigns for mandatory toilets in parks, low-income housing estates, construction sites, automobile workshops, and bus stops.

The organisation has ambassadors in all the dzongkhags and two drungkhags to manage sanitation facilities.

It also has set up toilet clubs in the 10 colleges under Royal University of Bhutan. “They have decided to observe October 8 as University Toilet Day,” Passang Tshering said.

He added that the organisation is committed to conserve the country’s pristine environment and have worked towards making the country open defecation-free.

He said that the organisation is also conscious about wastewater management and pollution of river and ground water.

“We shall make sure that no sewer flows directly into the stream or river system,” Passang Tshering said. “In places where there is central sewer management system we will push for mandatory connection to the main sewer system.”

Passang Tshering said that sustaining the volunteers’ efforts is a challenge. “We clean a toilet and the next time we go around we find that the toilets have come back to its original state.”

Most public toilets are left without anyone to man them.

“They give us all the excuses and won’t take responsibility for the problem. We want to address it by training all the existing cleaners and provide people to man their toilets that are neglected,” said the Chablop.

Most of the toilets, Passang Tshering said, including the ones built in recent years, are badly designed, located far from the people and many don’t have proper water supply. “These things lead to difficulty in managing toilets.”

Bhutanese have primitive toilet habits, he added. They don’t use toilet paper or water to clean themselves after using toilet. “People manage with anything they could get like sticks, stones, cardboards, and leaves, among others that chokes the toilets. Flushing is a rare habit among Bhutanese.”

He said that even the educated Bhutanese officials have mindset issue when it comes to toilet.

Having grown up with dirty toilets, it has now become a mindset that all toilets will be dirty, Passang Tshering said. “This mindset affects all the decision we make now and stops us from moving forward into better future.”

During public events, people would walk into the BTO toilets with their nose covered, the Chaplop said. A moment later, they come out waying: “Wow, its so clean.”

“We surprise the people more by sitting under the shade of the toilet and enjoying our lunch while they come in and go out of our toilets,” the Chablop said. “We believe that a toilet should be clean enough to sit by and enjoy a meal.”

Passang Tshering said that people who clean toilets were looked down upon. “But now when our volunteers who are educated and well dressed clean toilets, people hesitate and say that they will clean the toilets themselves.”

Now people are beginning to think differently when it comes to toilet. “That itself is a big step for us. We are now beginning to change the mind set of our people.”

The BTO plans to work on upgrading public toilets, building toilets along the highway and in and around tourist spots, to ensure that toilets are friendly to women and people with disabilities.

Passang Tshering said that the organisation aims to make toilets accessible to differently-abled people, which is lacking today in the country.

Bhutan Toilet Organisation

Vision

Clean Toilet For All

Mission

Make clean and safe toilet accessible for all and inspire behavioral change by building public awareness and citizen volunteerism.

Objective 1

Conduct Public Toilet Cleaning and Ownership Building Campaign.

Organise Save the Toilet Campaign.

Organise Clean Clean Dzong Toilet Initiatives.

Objective 2

Conduct Public Toilet Surveys.

Advocate for adequate Toilets in Towns and Thromdes.

Build Public Toilets in Labour camps and Public Parks.

Advocate for accessible and girl-friendly Toilets in schools.

Objective 3

Conduct Toilet Baseline Surveys.

Build Highway Restrooms.

Build Capacity of Highway Toilet Managers.

Objective 4

Build and Promote Accessible Toilets.

Make Public Toilets accessible by wheelchair.

Objective 5

Manage Public Toilets during Tshechus.

Manage Public Toilets during Religious Ceremonious.

Manage Public Toilets during National Events.

Introduce Portable Toilet Service.

Prepare and Promote Toilet Services in Emergencies.

Objective 6

Conduct a Nationwide Assessment of Urban Public Toilets.

Audit Toilets in Offices and Restaurants.

Follow up on the audit Reports.

Objective 7

Create Clean Toilet Promotional ads and air on BBS.

Organize Advocacy on Clean Toilets and Positive Habits.

Distribute Ruby Cubs to School-going girls, rural women and nuns.

Produce Squatty potties for improved habits.

With support from Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation and Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD)

Dechen Tshomo

Building you body

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 15:55

Dear Mr Bhutan,

How many times should I workout a week and for how long? I hear so many different answers an am unable to decide. I want to build a physique like yours and make my country proud. 

-Phuntshok 

Dear Phuntshok,

I am happy to know that you are driven by a goal to excel.

There is no hard and fast rule as to how frequently and for how long one should to train to optimally build muscle.

You have to find your own duration and frequency of training by trial and error. You need to discover and learn your body; figure out how it responds to different levels and frequency of stress (exercise). You are the one who can understand the needs and demands of your body best. I can only advice you how to learn to read the signals of your body.

The amount of work you perform during your workout is positive and beneficial only if your body is able to recover from it. If you are physically sore most of the time, it’s a clear signal that you are not recovering optimally, which will hinder your result and increase the chances of injury.

So find a frequency and duration of training that suits you best.

Increase in strength has a correlation with increase in size. If you are not gradually getting stronger at your compound lifts (multi-joint movements), then there is probably something you need to take a closer look at. It could be insufficient nutrients in your daily food intake, poor sleep, or over training, which can all be the lead causes.

Our brain is constantly sending signals to our muscles to either elongate or shorten at various speeds and intensity.  So when we train intensely and regularly, we exhaust the muscle and the nervous system that carry the signals. If the nervous system is not optimally functioning, the signals travel slowly and poorly, leading to compromised or reduced level of performance.

Taking time off from training completely and sleeping at least 8 hours every night will help you prevent nervous system fatigue.

I would like to add that in most cases, 3 sessions of 1 hour each, spread apart with a day of rest is the most suited routine for muscle and strength building.

Make sure first you focus on maximising the intensity in every set of every exercise in every workout.

Tshering Dorji (three times Mr Bhutan winner), is a certified fitness trainer and specialist in performance nutrition

Konchosum – The Three Jewels

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 12:54

Konchosum (དཀོན་མཆོག་གསུམ་) or the Three Jewels is perhaps the most basic and well known list in Buddhism. Almost every Bhutanese know about it even as a child and continue to believe in and pray to the Three Jewels throughout their life. However, beyond listing the Three Jewels or three objects of refuge – the Buddha, dharma or his teachings and sangha or his followers – very few ask what actually constitutes the Three Jewels and even fewer fully understand what the Buddha, dharma and sangha refer to.

In the basic theories of Buddhism, which spread widely even during the lifetime of the historical Buddha Śākyamuni, the Buddha referred to a rare person who has reached full enlightenment after having uprooted all negative emotions and impulses, and realised the true nature of things. The dharma referred to the teachings of the Buddha, which existed in the two forms of doctrines and the practical experiences. The sangha are the followers of the Buddha who upheld the dharma. One took refuge in the Buddha by accepting the Buddha as a teacher, in the dharma by accepting it as one’s way of life, and in the sangha as companions on the path.

We find a more scholastic presentation of the Three Jewels by the famous Indian scholar Vasubandhu according to the Vaibhaṣika School of thought in his magnum opus Abhidharmakośa. According to this system, the Buddha as an individual is a prince who was born as a result of his previous karma. So, his person as such is not transcendental per se but an assembly of ordinary psychophysical aggregates. One should not take refuge in the person of the Buddha but rather in the two inner qualities of elimination (སྤངས་པ་) or the absence of defilements, and spiritual realisation (རྟོགས་པ་). The realisation or spiritual knowledge of the Buddha, which is transcendent, is the true Buddha in whom one must take refuge. Similarly, true dharma is not the fleeting words of teachings but the state of nirvāa or the absence of defiling elements which the Buddha and his followers have attained. The real sangha to take refuge in is the spiritual realisation in the minds of the followers of the Buddha.

Maitreya in his Mahāyanottaratantra presents the definition of the Three Jewels according to a particular Mahāyāna understanding. The Buddha, according to him, must possess two sets of three qualities. Buddhahood, with respect to its own benefit, is unconditioned, spontaneous and unknowable, and with respect to benefiting others must have wisdom, compassion and power. The dharma includes the freedom from defiling emotions and the path to such freedom. The state of freedom from negative emotions is described as inconceiveable, non-dualistic and non-conceptual. The path to freedom is described as pure, luminous and remedial or antidotal in nature. These two correspond to the third and fourth of the Four Noble Truths. Sangha, in this context, refers to the wise Bodhisattvas who have reached the irrevocable stage of the Mahāyāna path. They are said to possess the understanding of single nature of reality, of the phenomenal diversity of things, and the pure internal insight.

The definition of the Buddha, dharma and sangha further varies as one approaches the different schools of Vajrayāna system. Instead of seeking refuge in an external set of Three Jewels, Vajrayāna traditions often points to the latent qualities within a person and identifies the potential Buddha, dharma and sangha and encourages the practitioner to take refuge in oneself and the enlightened qualities within. Vajrayāna traditions add further the Three Roots, which will be topic of another essay, as an object of refuge. They add the triad of sacred channels, energies and fluids, and also the triad of nature, essence, immanence as objects of refuge.

Whichever tradition one follows, it is crucial to understand the objects of refuge in order to effectively undertake the most fundamental Buddhist practice of taking refuge in the Three Jewels. Without knowing why and in what one is taking refuge, the basic Buddhist practice risks becoming a hollow ritual or a practice of blind faith.

Dr Karma Phuntsho is the President of the Loden Foundation, director of Shejun Agency for Bhutan’ Cultural Documentation and author The History of Bhutan.

Adopt a Cat

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 12:53

Kuzu kuzu,

My name is Siri and I am a cat.

I asked the pups and bigger dogs if I could get a chance to pitch today. They said yes and I know why.

I am the cutest, nicest ginger cat ever and they think I deserve a chance to let the rest of the world know. I hope this is the real reason and that they do not want to get rid of me. So they get more food, more space, more blankets and more belly rubs.

I came to the shelter a few weeks ago with a big wound on my back but nobody can see it now because it’s all healed perfectly and my hair have nearly grown again completely. I don’t remember what happened to me but the people here said it was probably a bite wound from a dog.

I am not very careful with dogs. This is true. I am too trusting and, unfortunately, not all dogs are friendly.

If you want to adopt me, please make sure your dog is a feline fan and not a kitty chaser because I might not be careful enough to get out of its reach. But I am very friendly with other cats once I get to know them. And I am playful for my age.

I am not old at all, but I am not a kitten anymore. So people are surprised how much energy I have and how much I love to play. Maybe it is because of this that I survived my injuries.

Assembly asks OAG to complete corruption restitution

Sat, 05/20/2017 - 16:29

From 17 individuals

Concluding its deliberation on the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) report 2016, the National Assembly yesterday resolved to ask the Office of Attorney General (OAG) to complete restitution of pending cases as soon as possible.

About Nu 110 million is yet to be recovered from 17 individuals who were convicted in court for corruption between 2009 and 2016, according to the ACC report.

To implement this resolution, the National Assembly recommended that the Ministry of Finance provide additional budgetary support and the Royal Civil Service Commission, necessary human resources.

The good governance committee had proposed a six-month time frame to the OAG to complete the job. However, some members said that to prescribe a deadline would not be practical.

Finance Minister Namgay Dorji said, “It would be impossible for OAG to complete restitution of overdue cases within a prescribed time frame.” “We should ask OAG to complete the job as soon as possible,” he added.

The house also resolved for the ACC, OAG and Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) to put in place a system to facilitate regular meetings between the three agencies to coordinate their work in the fight against corruption. Some members suggested that the agencies should meet once a month. However, the house resolved that it was not possible for the agencies to meet every month.

Meanwhile, the ACC report states that initiatives have been taken to establish an endowment fund for the social security of ACC employees. Implementation of the proposal is expected to be completed this year.

According to the ACC, the endowment fund proposal will seek to address the social security needs of ACC staff to enable them to live in dignity and without having to depend on the goodwill of others after a lifetime of dedicated service in the fight against corruption.

“The scheme will also address the ability of ACC to attract and retain qualified and experienced professionals which is a challenge right now,” the report states. “ACC endowment fund will be a key priority of the commission.”

ACC has also recommended the establishment of an office of ombudsman to protect the public against violation of rights, abuse of powers, unfair decisions and maladministration.

The report states that the closest relevant system today is ACC and the Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre. “However, the latter two are by nature more criminal-oriented and adversarial in scope and intent, as opposed to the straight-forward grievances orientation of an ombudsman’s mandate, which may often not fall under the formal legal domain nor require criminal-scale litigation.”

The primary advantage of an ombudsman is that it will examine complaints from outside the offending state institution, and help avoid conflicts of interest inherent in self-regulation. This may apply specifically to government officials as well as members of the judiciary.

An ombudsman can serve as an efficient first step in a national anti-corruption strategy, by filtering issues based on their legal and criminal significance.

MB Subba

Focus point

Sat, 05/20/2017 - 16:29

Opposition demands apology from agriculture minister

Sat, 05/20/2017 - 16:17

The Opposition Party wrote to the National Assembly Speaker seeking redressal to the Agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji calling Trashiyangtse Bumdelling-Jamkhar Member of Parliament (MP) Dupthob, the ‘MP from Falakata’ during the question hour yesterday.

MP Duptho asked the minister on the ongoing ban on the import of chilli from Falakata, a neighbouring Indian town across the border. He said it had caused inconveniences to vendors and consumers.

The minister started his response by saying, “I didn’t know there was an MP from Falakata in the National Assembly until today.”

MP Dupthob said he was shocked by the minister’s comment. “I didn’t know how to react,” he said.

The Opposition is seeking an apology from the minister in the House.

“A member of the executive cannot disgrace a member of the legislative with such derogatory statement,” MP Duptho said. “We demand that the minister is dealt in accordance with the National Assembly laws for his unlawful comment. The Parliament should correct it,” he said.

The National Assembly Act under the Breach of Privileges, section 264 states that breach of privileges and contempt shall include misconduct in the Assembly or committee.

The offences and penalties chapter of the Act states, “Any person other than a member who performs any act or makes any omission contemplated in section 264 and 265 is guilty of an offence and liable to a maximum fine of five years daily minimum national wage rate.”

The Act also states every member who contravenes any provision of this Act is guilty of an offence and liable to one or more of the following penalties, as determined by the NA: a reprimand, a fine, a temporary suspension, and the loss of his or her seat as a member.

According to the Rules of Procedure (ROP) of NA, the general rules on the questions should not contain imputations, epithets, defamatory statements, hypothetical matter and proceedings in committee not reported to the House.

The ROP’s section 431states that every member should subscribe to maintaining the decorum and dignity of the House and shall desist from acts of defamation and use of physical force.

The Act also states that every member should subscribe to maintaining the decorum and dignity of the House and shall desist from acts of defamation and use of physical force.

Rules of Procedure of NA states that if the Speaker is of opinion that words have been used in debates which are defamatory or indecent or unparliamentarily or undignified, he may, in his discretion, order that such words be expunged from the proceedings of the House.

Khar-Yurung MP Zangley Dukpa raised his concern during the question answer session. He said all the members of the House were representatives of their constituencies and they can’t be addressed otherwise.

When the session resumed after tea break, the MP introduced himself and said that he was MP for the Bumdeling-Jamkhar constituency and of Falakata.

The agriculture minister did not comment.

Staff  Reporter

Her Majesty Gyalyum Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck launches the Chinese version of 11-11-11

Sat, 05/20/2017 - 16:15

Her Majesty Gyalyum Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck launched the Chinese version of  11-11-11, a book dedicated to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and the Roar of the Thunder Dragon at the statue of Buddha Dordenma in Thimphu yesterday

The power of corruption

Sat, 05/20/2017 - 16:14

The deliberations on the Anti-Corruption Report at the Parliament were thorough and important. It has to be, given that abuse of functions tops Anti-Corruption Commission’s list of complaints. To our policymakers and the society, this should be worrying because it indicates the power of power to corrupt those in positions of authority.

As the report acknowledges, complaints on alleged corruption offences give the commission the basis to inquire and investigate. That the commission received 149 complaints of abuse of functions last year, three every week or one every other day, suggests that abuse of functions by public servants are high and rampant for a small society like ours.  How and why such practices abound in our society should be an issue worth investigating because it questions the ethics and values of our public servants.

The number of complaints the commission received last year are telling of the level of perceived corruption in the country. That a complaint is filed everyday shows the public’s trust in the institution to address their complaints. This is a good sign for it shows the impact of public education and awareness programmes that has been done so far. But this also shows the people’s lack of trust in public servants. Public servants are being watched, which could explain the increasing number of administrative complaints lodged with the commission.

But if complaints are the basis for the commission to initiate an investigation into alleged corruption, then it should not be overwhelmed by complaints that it sees as being administrative in nature. It becomes necessary to explain to the people what is “corruption per se” or “real corruption” when it comes across issues that could have the potential to be a corruption issue but starts with a surreal or a lame complaint.

Since the complaints involve public servants, these issues are bound to come into the public domain. It is good our parliament members are concerned about the morale of the civil servants. But to speak in their defence for the alleged offense committed does no one any good. By protecting the ‘clean’ ones, we risk covering for those who may only be perceived to be clean.

Allowing the commission to investigate the way it is mandated to would be a crucial move towards the fight against corruption. In saying no to corruption, we are fighting the corrupt, and there are cases when our policymakers must go beyond the rhetoric.

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