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Updated: 2 hours 4 min ago

BPC management yet to investigate sexual harassment case

Thu, 09/23/2021 - 15:05

The case was formally reported to the CEO yesterday

Staff reporter 

A week after a case of alleged sexual harassment occurred at the Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC), the chief executive officer (CEO), Sonam Tobjey, said that he received the formal written complaint letter only yesterday morning.

The CEO said that since he received the case around 10:15am yesterday and was engaged with another important meeting, he was unable to review the case thoroughly.

However, he stated that now that the case has been formally lodged with the management by the victim, it is the CEO’s mandate to assemble an inquiry committee.

“I’ll ensure a committee is formed, and as per the rules, an inquiry will commence within five working days after I’ve read the case report completely,” he said. “Based on the findings and service rules, we will then take action. It should be within 10 working days.”

A female staff member at BPC filed a complaint to the management against one of the directors for behaving inappropriately and harassing her around 2am on September 15.

The incident occurred when the alleged victim and another female colleague were attending to their night shift duties at the company’s customer care office.

The victim formally filed a written complaint on September 21.

The victim has declined to comment. However, it was learnt that she filed the case, despite pressure from several sources to withdraw it.   

According to the CEO, it is important to listen to both the accused and the victim. “We respect the complaint and we’ll deal with the case as per the service rules.”

He said that since nothing has been proven yet, he felt there was no basis to suspend the accused as of now. “Since the accused is a director, the disciplinary committee will act as an inquiry committee.”

The CEO has asked the management to place the victim on leave or release her from her duties as of now so that she does not feel anxious in the office. “This was the least I could do for her as the head of the management.”

As per the BPC’s service rules and regulations 2016, an employee shall be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment if he or she commits any kind of sexual harassment as defined by the service rules. “It will be considered a major violation of the code of conduct and dealt with accordingly, as per the major disciplinary proceedings.”

The victim, as per the service rules, must submit the complaint in writing and write to the designated person. The designated person shall acknowledge receipt of the victim’s written complaint within two working days and commence an investigation within five working days.

“If the victim is not satisfied with the outcome of the internal complaint procedure, the victim may lodge a complaint to the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources. If a person is found to be guilty of sexual harassment, they may be held legally liable if the employer knew or reasonably should have known of harassment and failed to take action,” the service rules stated.

BPC is also an institutional partner of South Asian network ‘WePower’, in which two directors from the corporation are also members. ‘WePower’ is a network for women working in South Asia’s power and energy sector that empowers women in energy and power companies to tackle difficult social issues such as gender equality.

Meanwhile, many BPC employees have written to Kuensel via social media platforms asking for follow-up, fearing the management might quietly close the case like numerous previous alleged harassment cases.

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Agencies complain of fake donation drive

Wed, 09/22/2021 - 12:12

Thukten Zangpo 

The Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs’ Department of Law and Order (DLO) and the Bhutan Kidney Foundation (BKF) each submitted formal letters of complaint to the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) on September 20, requesting investigation into a fake donation drive posted on Facebook.

The DLO found that the donation drive had collected a sum of Nu 112,000 in a Bank of Bhutan (BoB) account number provided in the fundraising post. It was found that 237 Bhutanese had made contributions ranging from Nu 50 to Nu 3,000.

DLO’s Officiating Director, Karma Dorji, said that before they could issue an order to freeze the account, the account holder had already withdrawn Nu 4,000. The order was issued at 10:08am on September 19. He added that the RBP’s investigation would solidify the details of the case.

“The money would be returned to the contributors at the right time,” Karma Dorji said. 

At around midnight of September 18, a fictitious Facebook account under the name “Dema Yangzom” claimed that her friend’s daughter “Pema Tshoki Dolma” was suffering from kidney failure and needed Nu 2 million for treatment in India.

A BoB account number and a photo of a child were shared in the post.   

The post went viral, and many Bhutanese started depositing money into the account and shared screenshots of the transactions.

A DLO notification states that to solicit donations, donation drive organisers must first seek approval from the agency, and urged the people to refrain from making contributions unless there is a valid approval letter number quoted in the post on Facebook or other social media platforms.

Edited by Tshering Palden

Graduates perform poorly in civil service preliminary exams 

Wed, 09/22/2021 - 12:12

Yangyel Lhaden  

Close to 70 percent of graduates who appeared in the Bhutan Civil Service Examination’s (BCSE) preliminary examination (PE) did not qualify for the main examination.

Of the 3,912 graduates who appeared in the PE, 1,028 qualified to seat for the main examination between October 29 and 31 to compete against 512 vacancies in the civil service.

The Royal Civil Service Commission, which declared the results yesterday, maintained the cut-off percentage at 50 percent.

The highest number of graduates registered for vacancies in Post Graduate Diploma in Public Administration (PGDPA). Of 1,084 graduates, only 19 percent of the graduates qualified for the main examination. Around 214 graduates will contest for 45 vacancies.

For  Post Graduate Diploma in Financial Management (PGDFM), 212 graduates, out of the 924 graduates who sat the exams, qualified for the main examination to compete against 30 vacancies.

In the Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) category, 115 graduates out of 598 qualified for the main examination to vie for 96 vacancies. In 2020, there were 148 vacancies for PGDE.

Only 15 percent of graduates qualified for the main examination in Dzongkha category. Of 423 aspirants, 65 qualified for the main examination to compete for 52 vacancies. Of that, 50 vacancies are in the teaching and two for government agencies requiring officials from Dzongkha category.

The highest number of graduates qualified who passed the PE was in the technical category with a pass percentage of 47.7 percent. Some 422 graduates will compete for 289 vacancies including 50 ICT teaching profession.

The registered candidates are based on the information submitted to RCSC during e-registration. Graduates could change the category while verifying documents for the main examination.

A total of 1,997 women appeared PE out of which 441 qualified whereas 1,915 men appeared for PE out of which 587 qualified.

This year’s pass percentage is 26.27 percent which is a 23 percent decrease in pass percentage compared with last year. In 2020, 4,400 graduates appeared PE out of which 2,164 qualified for the main exam.

Jamyang Seldon, a Civil Engineering graduate from the College of Science and Technology, Royal University of Bhutan obtained the highest score in the PE (82%).

The graduates were from 186 different colleges based in 14 different countries including Bhutan.

Besides the graduates who appeared PE, 539 Bachelors in Education graduates will seat the main examination for 300 vacancies and 28 Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery will also appear for the main examination.

Edited by Tshering Palden

Bhutan marks 50th anniversary of UN membership

Wed, 09/22/2021 - 12:11

Staff reporter

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bhutan’s membership of United Nations, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering hosted a reception yesterday. Bhutan was formally admitted on 21st September, 1971, as the 128th member of the UN.  

Speaking at the reception, the Prime Minister said that it was exactly seven months ago, coinciding with the 41st birth anniversary of His Majesty The King that the commemoration of this historic milestone took off from the Memorial Choeten in Thimphu. 

“It was an auspicious location given Bhutan’s membership in the UN was possible due to the perseverance and wisdom of His Late Majesty the Third King to whom we humbly pay our tribute,” he said.  

Lyonchhen also launched a limited-edition collectable commemorative stamp and a coffee table book called “Reflections and Beyond – The Story of Bhutan and the UN”. 

The book contains a collection of photographs and written contributions from notable individuals who helped shape Bhutan’s journey with the UN. 

The winners of a national youth essay competition with the theme “50 years of partnership: Bhutan and the UN for a better future” were declared during the reception.

Edited by Tshering Palden

GoI finalises commitment to allocate Nu 45B for the 12th Five Year Plan

Wed, 09/22/2021 - 12:10

Younten Tshedup  

Foreign Secretary Kinga Singye and Ambassador of India to Bhutan, Ruchira Kamboj, signed the minutes of the third Bhutan-India Development Cooperation Talks yesterday.

With the signing of the minutes, the Government of India (GoI) has committed to allocating Nu 45 billion (B) for the 12th Five Year Plan (FYP), to be utilised in various development projects in the country.

The signing of the minutes also means that the GoI has formally approved the proposed reprioritisation of the project-tied assistance (PTA) projects proposed by the government in the Plan.  

According to a press release from the foreign ministry, the entire amount of Nu 28,000 million (M) allocated for PTA in the Plan was delegated to 82 projects, including the new priority projects. 

The new priority projects include interventions related to Covid-19 and other critical areas such as water, farm roads, and the health sector. 

The press release stated most of the new priority projects intend to boost the economy, which has been affected by the pandemic. However, no further details were shared during the signing yesterday. 

A press release from the Indian Embassy stated that new projects, including the water flagship projects, development of Motanga Industrial Park, and the stray dog and waste management projects would be supported under the arrangement.  

The signing of the minutes follows the third Bhutan-India Development Cooperation Talks, which were held virtually on June 28. 

Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj said the development assistance model between India and Bhutan was unique, as it is based on mutual trust and understanding, and the wishes, aspirations and priorities of the Bhutanese people.

Foreign Secretary Kinga Singye conveyed the appreciation of the government to GoI for its continued and unwavering support towards Bhutan’s socio-economic development. 

He also conveyed the gratitude of the Bhutanese people and government to the people and government of India for the support extended during the Covid-19 pandemic, despite all the challenges it has faced. 

Meanwhile, GoI has committed Nu 45B for the implementation of various development projects, and Nu 4B for the transitional trade support facility in the 12th FYP. 

Officials said that 77 large and intermediate projects, including 524 small development projects (SDPs) or high impact community development projects (HICDPs), were at various stages of implementation under the current Plan. 

They also said that with the 12th FYP (2018-2023) completing its third year, the two countries reviewed the overall progress of the ongoing PTA projects, as well as the SDPS or HICDPs.

Edited by Tashi Dema

Shortage of stones hamper construction in Mongar

Wed, 09/22/2021 - 12:10

Tshering Namgyal | Mongar 

Mongar town residents say there stones suitable for use in construction cannot be found in the town area and its periphery. 

A resident at Ridaza, just outside the town, stopped the construction of his two-storey semi-concrete house because of stone scarcity. He has gathered enough timber.

Thromde thuemi Namgay Dorji said that there is a significant number of plot owners in the town in need of stones and aggregates to begin their construction. Some have already sought approval for construction.

He said that aggregates were necessary for concrete buildings, along with bricks and cement, but a huge quantity of stones is required for walls and site development. 

Dzongkhag architect Sangay Wangchuk said that each development site needs between 45 and 50 truckloads of stones.

He said that site development, including walls and other infrastructure developments, had been done on the geologically unstable plots a few years before the construction to strengthen and stabilise the area.  

He said the dzongkhag has issued approvals to 15 plot owners for site development, a total of 18 for house construction (10 in Mongar town, five in Gyalpoizhing and three in Lingmethang town) for this year, besides those approved by the gewogs.

Similarly, construction is about to begin on a number of plots outside the town like Ridaza, Pekchurung and Hurungpam.

The issue was deliberated in the recent dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) last month. The DT asked the divisional forest office and the regional Natural Resources Development Corporation (NRDCL) to address the issue. 

NRDCL’s regional manager (RM) Tandin Wangchuk said that the demand for stone has escalated recently with increased development activities in Mongar. 

However, he said that the issue was not about unavailability, but people’s preference from sources close to their sites. 

He said NRDCL identified two sites: one at Tsangkhar in Drepong gewog and another one at Mangling in Saling gewog. They were, however, abandoned owing to lack of demand. 

Tandin Wangchuk said that the public denied clearance for surface collection at Konbar, which is about seven kilometres from Mongar town, claiming that the extraction work would affect their water source, which is more than a kilometre away from the site.  

Tandin Wangchuk said getting clearance from stakeholders like the public, forestry, and environmental organisations, is difficult. “Thus, it hampers public service.” 

However, the RM said the NRDCL corporate office is readying to put the sites at Tsangkhar and Mangling into operation, while exploring additional sites along the logging route at Korila and pursuing clearance for the sites at Konbar, in order to cater to the local demand. 

Edited by Tshering Palden

Pema and Karma have bonded well

Wed, 09/22/2021 - 12:09

Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

Gangtey, Wangdue, 2016 — Black-necked crane Karma was found injured. Injuries to his wing have left him unable to fly.

For over two years, Karma has lived in a small shed near the BNC visitor centre in the Phobjikha valley. A mirror was placed inside the shed to give him the illusion of company.   

Today much has changed: an aviary has replaced the shed, and Karma lives in the company of a female crane, Pema, the name bestowed to her by Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck.

According to BNC visitor centre’s manager, Santa Lal Gajmer, Karma was found when he was still a juvenile, about six months old. Today he wears a red crown patch, indicating adulthood.  

Santa Lal Gajmer said that the aviary was built in 2018, funded by crowdfunding efforts and donations, to accommodate Karma for life.

Then, Pema was found last December in Khamey, in Lhangthel, Trongsa. The bonding process between the two cranes took almost a month.

The National Coordinator for BNC Conservation, Jigme Tshering, said that while Pema’s injuries on her wings have healed, the centre is not sure whether she can fly.

“We cannot risk releasing her right now. We think she was injured by colliding with a pole line. If we release her and she cannot fly, it would be very risky.”

Santa Lal Gajmer and the staff at the centre helped the two cranes bond. 

In the early days, Karma would constantly poke his beak at her and thrash about, and Pema had to run for safety.

Santa Lal Gajmer said that the team then stretched a net across the aviary, dividing it in half. Pema and Karma shared the aviary, but were separated by the net.

Later, the net was opened at both ends, so if Karma attacked, Pema was able to escape to the other end, said Santa Lal Gajmer.

“So slowly, they bonded—it took around 15 to 20 days. They have now bonded well and they also make unison calls. From that, we know they are friends,” Santa Lal Gajmer said.

He added that Karma’s behaviour towards the centre’s staff has also changed after he bonded with Pema. “In the past, when people came, even the staff, he was aggressive. Now he’s not acting like that.”

Today, sharing the aviary, Karma and Pema are often observed making the unison calls, bathing in the artificial pond in the aviary, and sharing meals.

Jigme Tshering said that black-necked cranes mate for life. 

He added that because the two cranes have bonded, if one of them is to be released, there is risk of death. “If we release one, it would be separating them.”

While excited onlookers discuss the prospects of the two cranes breeding, Jigme Tshering said that because of Pema’s broken left wing, copulation would be difficult.

The centre and Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) are looking to further expand the aviary and improve the space to treat and rehabilitate injured cranes, for which USD 32,000 is required.

Jigme Tshering said that according to international standards, the dimensions are adequate, but the environment inside must be improved. “Inside, the natural food is also running out. After extending, we are planning to keep it natural where they can find natural food, and also be given supplements.”

Currently, the two cranes are fed Karma Feed.

Cranes live up to 35 to 40 years in the wild; they live longer in captivity. Karma is about six to seven years old, and he could live to be over 40 years old.

Donations can be made by visiting the RSPN website.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

In divine power, we trust

Wed, 09/22/2021 - 12:08

An epidemiologist credits Bhutan’s success in large part to divine intervention   

Younten Tshedup

Covered in white plastic wrap and stored in temperature-controlled boxes, the Covid-19 vaccines might be the only medicinal drug to have received one of the highest and most ostentatiously religious receptions in the country.

This was because of the important role vaccines played in controlling the pandemic, which was, and still is, wreaking havoc around the world. But besides the vaccines, many laud the role of the religious body in the fight against the pandemic as exemplary. 

Series of rituals and religious ceremonies including kurims to contain and pacify the pandemic started as early as March 2020, just when the country was beginning to see positive cases. 

Led by His Holiness the Je Khenpo, the first-ever initiation of Sangay Menlha (Medicine Buddha) over the TV and social media platforms was conducted on March 20.   

“As a Buddhist, it is this belief in religion and God that helps guide us when nothing seems to work,” said a health worker, adding that when all things fail, people should trust in the divine. “This is exactly what we did in Bhutan.”

Science vs the Divine  

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology with the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan (KGUMSB), Dr Sithar Dorjee, opined that although no scientific data was collected or hypothesis tested, he believes divine intervention has helped the country endure the pandemic without many challenges.  

“I’m a scientist but I absolutely believe that our success so far in controlling the pandemic is a combined effort of science and divine intervention,” said Dr Sithar Dorjee. 

The epidemiologist said that there were multiple incidences where science could not explain certain events that were happening in the country. The Gelephu case that triggered the first nationwide lockdown last year had tested positive approximately 65 days following the exposure to the virus. “The Technical Advisory Group was certain that the woman had recovered and what she tested positive for was the remnant virus.”

However, Dr Sithar said that given the uncertainties surrounding the virus then, the technical advisory group (TAG) recommended imposing the lockdown. “It was during this lockdown where we actually detected active transmission of the virus in the south. So, our first case was not the woman from Gelephu. But she was the one who alerted us on time and helped prevent further spread of the virus.”   

In another incident, Dr Sithar said that Bhutan accidentally received personal protective equipment (PPE) that was meant for another country. This was during a time when PPEs and face masks were running short globally. “It’s the same with the vaccine. While the world is struggling with vaccine shortages, we have achieved one of the highest vaccine coverages in the world today.”   

He added that having cabinet ministers with medical and epidemiological backgrounds during a time when the world had to battle a public health emergency is, in itself, divine intervention. “Having a prime minister and health minister who come from the same background and who know the subject better means things become much easier for people like us.”

Above all, Dr Sithar said that it was His Majesty The King’s personal effort since the very beginning that has kept Bhutan ahead of the pandemic. “His Majesty has always been there, guiding with his farsightedness and extraordinary leadership. The divine intervention that we talk of comes from His Majesty, as he has demonstrated insight far beyond regular humans like us.”

He said that when His Majesty The King ordered the closing of the southern borders last year, the TAG had not even considered any such decisive decision at that point. “If not for His Majesty’s farsightedness, we would have been in a different situation now,” he said. “So, in these ways, although not scientifically proven, divine intervention has been playing a major role in Bhutan for ages. That is why we have to keep praying and not lose faith in the divine.”  

The epidemiologist, who otherwise is an ardent advocate of facts and figures, said that divine intervention can be as simple as remembering something important after praying, which otherwise might have been overlooked in the process. “This is something hard to scientifically prove, but then again, we don’t have to prove anything. I truly believe there is divine intervention at work here.” 

Edited by Tshering Palden

FM is chair of Small States Forum and vice-chair of Board of Governors of World Bank Group

Wed, 09/22/2021 - 12:07

Staff Reporter

Finance Minister (FM) Namgay Tshering was appointed as the chair of Small States Forum (SSF) and vice-chair of the Board of Governors of the World Bank Group yesterday.

A press release from Prime Minister’s Office states: “It is an auspicious turn of event, news that injects a major boost to our economic recovery process as we seek to heal from the scars of the pandemic.”

Lyonpo Namgay Tshering, as a chair to SSF for two years, will lead the forum of finance ministers and central bank governors of the 50 countries to address the challenges of the small countries.

Also, he will convene high-level dialogues with the World Bank Group and other multilateral and bilateral agencies on behalf of the SSF.

Alongside Austria, Lyonpo will vice-chair the Board of Governors (comprising of 189 finance ministers of member countries) for the 2022 annual meetings of the World Bank Group.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that it is an encouraging development as Lyonpo partakes in the global role of decision-making and in inscribing Bhutan’s new relationship with the World Bank Group.

“It is a matter of pride since countries around the world are looking for renewed hopes and guidance to rebuild the economy and Bhutan is playing a critical part in the process,” he added.

“Given his hard work, professionalism, and network as the finance minister so far, I am happy that his colleagues heard him,” Lyonchhen said.

According to the press release, the offer for the posts considered Bhutan’s impressive progress in its Covid-19 response.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

How do we tackle sexual harassment?

Wed, 09/22/2021 - 12:00

Few women have reported cases of sexual harassment at work places recently. One case is with the police, the other within its management.

 The two cases may be among the few cases that are rarely reported to authorities or police, but studies have shown that sexual harassment at work places is rampant in the country. About 40 to 60 percent of working women have experienced it.

 Sexual harassment includes staring or leering, unwelcome touching, suggestive comments, taunts, insults or jokes, displaying pornographic images, sending sexually explicit emails or text messages, and repeated sexual or romantic requests.

Workplace sexual harassment affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment. It impacts the employee’s productivity besides the emotional and psychological trauma that will last a lifetime. It also costs the company or the organisation.

As what is called a “tolerant society,” there are numerous stories we hear of power relations where heads of organisations or companies take advantage of young officials, rewarding them with promotions and other professional incentives. Such behaviours are equally intolerable like unwelcome sexual advances.

Internationally, it is condemned as sex discrimination and a violation of human rights. More than 75 countries have enacted legislation to prohibit workplace sexual harassment.

 At home, we have many laws to safeguard employees from it. It (sexual harassment) is a criminal offense. Section 205 of the Penal Code defines it as an unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal abuse of sexual nature. It is graded as an offense of petty misdemeanour.

 The Constitution condemns it. Article 9 mandates the state to take appropriate measures to eliminate sexual harassment. In 2009, labour ministry drafted sexual harassment regulations.

The Labour Employment Act 2007 requires all employment agencies to set up an internal complaint procedure system, where investigation into a complaint should start within five days after the complaint was lodged. The outcome of the investigation should be conveyed within 10 days after the investigation.

The Royal Civil Service Commission has initiated ‘Go to Person’ to help civil servants report incidences related to sexual harassment at workplace including official travels, conferences and meetings.

 But all these legal and policy frameworks remained on paper. There is a serious lack of implementation. Sexual harassment victims do not know where to report and how to seek help when they experience it at work. Even if they report, they are put under tremendous pressure to withdraw the case. Some are even coerced. There is no support from colleagues and management. There is so much character assassination and ‘gaslighting’.

Sexual harassment are culturally accepted as aggressive flirtations. Organisations tolerate it. We need empathetic leaders but our compassion should not be misplaced. We care about such issues only when it happens to us, not because it is a social menace.  

 As a society, we have to condemn any acts of sexual harassment and workplace power relations. There has to be the strongest action against it.

Hydropower generation decreases by over 12 percent

Wed, 09/22/2021 - 11:51

MB Subba 

Hydropower, which has remained the bedrock of the economy during the Covid-19 pandemic, recorded a 12.7 percent decrease in generation in the first eight months of 2021, compared to a corresponding time period last year.

Total electricity generation from January to August this year in the six hydropower plants that are in operation fell to 10,520.778 Gigawatt hours (GWh) from 12,046.747 GWh during the window of time in 2020, according to the Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC).

Tala, Chukha, Kurichhu, and Basochhu hydropower plants are directly under DGPC. The Mangdechhu plant is under the Mangdechhu Hydropower Project Authority (MHPA), although the operation and management component is managed by DGPC while Dagachhu is incorporated under the Companies Act.

The country exported 7,536.466 GWh of electricity worth Nu 20.72 billion (B) to India in the first eight months of the year. A total of 1,590 GWh, worth Nu 2.31B, was sold in the domestic market.

DGPC attributes the decrease in generation to lower hydrological flows and disruptions in generation at the Tala plant.

DGPC’s managing director (MD), Dasho Chhewang Rinzin, said that electricity is one commodity that could be traded without Covid-19-related restrictions and protocols. “We have been able to seamlessly generate and supply electricity for domestic consumption as well as export surplus energy to India,” he said.

However, he added that the hydrological flows during 2021 were not as good as 2020.

Even without the problems faced at the Tala plant, the managing director said that the aggregate generation for 2021, based on recorded hydrology, is expected to be lower than 2020.

Dasho Chhewang Rinzin said that DGPC faced numerous recurring problems with the Tala hydropower plant in 2021. There has been concern over the appearance of concrete masses at the distributors and nozzle injectors of the generating units.

“We undertook an underwater investigation of the head race tunnel and the surge shaft in March 2021 through an American firm using remotely operated vehicles (ROV), but without loss of generation,” he said, adding that the findings are being reviewed by expert groups to decide on remedial measures, if required.

DGPC also had some problems with the dam intake and desilting chamber gates at Tala. This was followed by a number of problems with the dam radial gates.

DGPC, he added, was able to fix each of the problems as and when they emerged, and the powerhouse is currently fully operational.

Dasho Chhewang Rinzin said that the remaining work related to maintenance and rectification measures that do not affect generation will be undertaken during the upcoming lean season as regular annual tasks for power plants.

Unlike in the past years, this year, unscheduled maintenance and rectification work was necessitated during the monsoon months. Dasho said the maintenance groups had to work around the clock to ensure that generation losses were minimised.

The Tala plant was shut down on July 19 after large chunks of debris clogged the gates of the intake tunnels, due to heavy rain for days.

“We had a number of problems with the dam intake and radial gates and with the desilting chamber gates, the rectification of which in a few cases required a lowering of the reservoir. In those events, we had to either partially or fully shut the power house down while maintenance work was being undertaken,” he said.

As the country’s GDP growth is linked with the growth of the hydropower sector, strong growth in the hydropower generation is expected to offset some impact of the pandemic.

The hydropower sector saw significant growth with energy generation in 2020, with an increase of 31.45 percent. Hydropower exports as a share of GDP increased by 18.7 percent.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

Board examinations postponed to February 2022

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 12:22

Thromdes or dzongkhags to decide home exams dates for affected schools 

Yangchen C Rinzin  

The education ministry has postponed the board examination to February next year. The ministry issued a notification yesterday stating that the Bhutan Certificate of School Examination and Assessment (BCSEA) would hold the main examinations from February 14 to 28 next year.

The practical examination, including the practical test for the seven Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutes, will be held on February 12.

The board examination usually starts on December 1 and ends on December 13.

The BCSEA will conduct the evaluation of the answers from March 5 to 24 simultaneously for both classes X and XII so that schools could reopen in time for the 2022 academic year. 

Results for students of class XII and class X will be declared on April 3 and April 10 respectively.

The BCSEA will now prepare the examination and logistics for the evaluation.

Kuensel learnt that the ministry proposed to postpone the examination so that students of Phuentsholing and Samtse, whose studies were affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic, would get enough time to complete the lesson and prepare for the examinations.

The affected schools are schools in Phuentsholing thromde, Chumithang Middle Secondary School (MSS) in Chukha, classes IX and XI of Phuentshothang school in Phaduna, and two private schools in Phuentsholing.

These schools have remained closed for more than six months and classes for PP-VIII students are continued online whereas classes IX-XII students were relocated to Phaduna in Punakha recently, which is now called Phuentshothang School.

The education ministry has also decided that the home examination for classes IV-IX and XI for those schools unaffected by the pandemic will be held in the third week of November this year.

However, as for the affected schools (classes IV-VIII), the respective thromde and dzongkhag can decide an appropriate date for the examination. Once the examination date is confirmed, the ministry will approve the date.

The vacation for unaffected schools for classes X and XII will be from December 19 to January 14, 2022 before they return for the board examinations. Some principals said that this would help students since boarding students could not go for midterm break.

The notification signed by the education secretary also mentioned that the same would be also decided for classes IV-XI of schools in Samtse. The schools are Gomtu, Peljorling, Tashicholing Primary School (PS), Gayshinggoan PS, Depheling PS, and Phuentshopelri PS.

However, there will be no vacation for all affected schools for classes X and XII and the students would have to join the new academic 2022 after the examination.

Meanwhile, the ministry has decided to reopen the new academic year for 2022 by March except for schools used to conduct the evaluation camp. Schools used for evaluation camp will reopen from March 26.

Schools will reopen from February 15 for Classes VII-VIII.

Edited by Tshering Palden

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50 years of a successful partnership

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 12:21

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji speaks to Kuensel about the Bhutan-UN relationship that has its 50th anniversary today

On September 21, 1971, Bhutan was admitted as a Member State to the United Nations. How significant is the day to Bhutan? Why was it important for Bhutan to become a member? 

Bhutan’s admittance to the UN in 1971 was historic in many ways. Our membership in the UN was realised mainly due to the wisdom and singular drive of His Late Majesty The Third Druk Gyalpo, during whose reign Bhutan’s socio-economic development journey in its current form began. To date, it is one of the most important foreign policy initiatives of the Royal Government.

The UN membership reinforced Bhutan’s status as a sovereign nation and provided a global platform for small developing nations to proactively engage and contribute as a sovereign equal in the multilateral fora. Bhutan has never viewed membership in the United Nations as an end in and of itself, and has always endeavoured to constructively engage with the international community to fulfil the values and principles set forth in the UN Charter.

The 50th anniversary this year is an opportunity to reflect on our national journey over the last five decades, to celebrate 50 years of successful partnership between Bhutan and the UN, and most importantly, to reflect on how we can collectively work to meet emerging challenges.


Besides the recognition as a sovereign nation, what were some of the milestones during the 50 years of the Bhutan-UN relationship; or in other words, how did Bhutan benefit from the UNO?

Ever since the UN established their presence in Bhutan in 1974, the UN specialised agencies have been a constant source of technical and financial resources to Bhutan, aiding our socio-economic development. The UN’s portfolio in Bhutan has diversified and grown over the years, and its resource contribution increased from a mere USD 2.4 million in 1972 to USD 120 million in the 12th Five Year Plan (FYP).

The UN’s early engagement with Bhutan were in the areas of the School Feeding Program which has touched the lives of thousands of school children since the seventies, when it began. Many of us are beneficiaries of the School Feeding Program.  The establishment of the national airline Druk Air and National Newspaper are also important areas where Bhutan benefitted during the initial years, to name a few. More recently, the Royal Government, together with the UN, has also successfully accessed much needed critical climate financing windows such as the Green Climate Fund. The UN and its specialised agencies continue to be valuable partners for Bhutan as our challenges and needs evolve.

UN membership, in turn, has provided Bhutan with a platform to contribute to international peace, security, and development. The implementation of Agenda 2030 for sustainable development; adoption of the Happiness Resolution by the UN General Assembly in 2012; and Bhutan’s contribution to peacekeeping operations around the world are noteworthy examples.

The UN has also consistently recognised Bhutan’s remarkable leadership over the years.

In 2019, UNDP presented a Special Recognition Award to His Majesty The King for his leadership in advancing human development and the wellbeing of Bhutanese people. His Majesty was recognised for three major human development achievements in Bhutan: championing Gross National Happiness as a holistic development paradigm; leadership on the environment and climate action which ensured that Bhutan is the only carbon-neutral country in the world; and His Majesty’s guidance, which ensured a smooth transition of the system of governance and strong democratic foundations to be established in Bhutan.

His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo was recognised as the laureate for the Champion of the Earth in 2005, recognising His Majesty’s leadership in protecting Bhutan’s environment through numerous policy initiatives since the 1970s.

Her Majesty The Queen Mother Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, besides being the longest-serving goodwill ambassador for UNFPA, was also recognised as the laureate for the 2020 UN Population Award. The award was presented to recognise Her Majesty The Gyalyum’s outstanding contribution in raising awareness and devising solutions to population and reproductive health issues.


While Bhutan has benefitted from the UNO, what have been some of Bhutan’s major contributions to the UNO? 

In the last 50 years, we have witnessed a coming of age of the Bhutan-UN relationship. As much as Bhutan has benefitted from our UN membership, Bhutan has also made certain notable contributions. In 2014, Bhutan deployed its first peacekeepers marking an important milestone. Since then Bhutan has been contributing peacekeepers to various UN peacekeeping operations. Although modest in numbers, this nonetheless represents Bhutan’s desire and willingness to give back to the UN. Bhutan was also the first troop contributing country to sign a Rapid Deployment Level Agreement with the UN in 2017. As per the agreement, Bhutan annually pledged a Force Protection Company consisting of a military unit of 200 troops in the highest state of readiness to be deployed within sixty days of receiving a notification from the UN.

Bhutan also led the initiative at the UN to recognise 20 March every year as the International Day of Happiness. The UN general assembly resolution to that effect was passed in July 2012, recognising the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world, and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives. It was the first time that the international community acknowledged GDP alone is not adequate to ensure the well-being of people in a country, and that happiness is a fundamental human goal.


As Bhutan gears to graduate from the Least Developed Countries (LDC) category by the end of the 12th FYP, how will it change the UN’s involvement in Bhutan?

As Bhutan prepares to graduate from the UN’s List of Least Developed Countries in 2023, and as we continue to implement GNH and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we will explore opportunities to strengthen the foundations for broader partnerships. Bhutan looks to the UN to focus on priority issues that transcend physical borders and require multilateral cooperation. A key area will be to address the impacts of climate change. Regional and multilateral cooperation will remain critical to ensure that graduation is smooth, sustainable and irreversible. We look forward to continuing our engagement with a more agile UN capable of responding to Bhutan’s evolving challenges and needs.

As Bhutan marks 50 years as a UN Member State, how will the occasion be observed?

It was the Royal Government’s intention that the 50th anniversary of Bhutan’s membership to the UN be commemorated in a manner that befits the event’s historical, economic, and political significance. A joint national task force consisting of senior representatives from the Royal Government and the UN agencies in Bhutan was established earlier this year to oversee the year-long commemoration in 2021. The joint national task force’s work was made all the more challenging by the ongoing pandemic, as a result of which many of the planned events could not take place at a scale that corresponds with the occasion. However, numerous events were held throughout the year beginning with the symbolic launch of the commemoration coinciding with the auspicious occasion of the 41st Birth Anniversary of His Majesty The King in February of this year. Some of the events held following the launch include the national essay competition for youth, lighting of the National Memorial Chorten in Blue, tree plantation, and hoisting of prayer flags at Kuensel Phodrang, leading up to a modest celebration today on 21st September 2021, coinciding with the day Bhutan was formally admitted to the UN 50 years ago in 1971. To mark the day, a special commemorative stamp, a coffee table book chronicling the journey of UN and Bhutan, and a documentary will be launched.


Any other comments?

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Bhutan’s membership to the UN, I would like to convey my deep appreciation to all the members of the UN Country Team both past and present for their continued support and commitment to Bhutan. I would also like to acknowledge the contributions made by numerous individuals who helped shape and guide Bhutan’s relationship with the UN.  Tashi Delek!

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50 years of UN-Bhutan partnership

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 12:21

Today, we mark Bhutan’s 50th year as a member to the United Nations (UN) during extraordinary times– both around the world as well as within Bhutan. Looking back at the past 50 years, we recognize the history of a unique development journey undertaken by Bhutan under the wise and dynamic leadership of Their Majesties the Kings- the Third, Fourth and The Fifth Druk Gyalpo.

We are also reminded of the strong and enduring partnership between the UN and the Royal Government of Bhutan and today, we (the UN), reaffirm our commitment to work together for a healthier and more sustainable Bhutan. 

As we commemorate this important milestone, share our hopes, learn from our experiences and spark ideas for building the future, we strive to ensure the UN remains ‘fit for purpose’. We need to expand our ambition for this country and for the people of Bhutan and take real action to support the most vulnerable sections of the society – because only then can we truly ensure we ‘leave no one behind.’ In practice, this means taking explicit action to end extreme poverty, curb inequalities, confront discrimination and fast-track progress for the furthest behind. 

And we do this work guided by values grounded in Gross National Happiness and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres has identified the ‘five horsemen in our midst’ capable of jeopardizing every aspect of humanity’s future. These five horsemen include surging global tensions; a green planet that is burning; the form of mistrust is deep and growing; and the dark side of digital technology raises deep concern by spreading disinformation while undermining governance.   In the first half of 2020, we were also beset by Covid which is probably the biggest challenge to  humanity since the second World War- the impacts of which has affected humanity in ways comparable to the suffering caused by the second World War.

While we live in uncertain times and in a world full of unprecedented risks and challenges, there are also opportunities that couldn’t have been imagined previously. 

Bhutan has emerged as a beacon of hope in the region and the world as it responds to a Double Crisis of climate change and Covid. This Double Crisis demonstrates the need for multilateralism and the value of a 50 year partnership. Just as the battle against Covid cannot be won in isolation, so the climate crisis requires states to come together through international co-operation. Sharing of resources and expertise between the member states of the UN is needed now more than ever. 

Therefore, the 31 UN agencies that work in Bhutan have a unique role to play in supporting Bhutan to respond to these challenges as we look ahead to the next 50 years. 

Speaking at the 75th UN General Assembly in September 2020, the Prime Minister, Lyonchhen Dr  Lotay Tshering said Bhutan remains assured that the UN is and will continue to be instrumental in spearheading global collective action for building a better world and it is time to start a new UN chapter with renewed commitment to working together at all times.

The Prime Minister also rightly said that the UN needs to think differently about development and consider new ways of building back better.  This will require practical and innovative thinking, not just from UN member states or UN policymakers but from a diverse network of supportive, nonstate actors including CSOs, the media, academia and the private sector. Two weeks ago the UN Secretary General launched the ‘Common Agenda’ which is a detailed roadmap for how humanity can best respond to the challenges and opportunities we are likely to face over the coming 25 years: for details on this important global leadership, please go to www.un.org/en//un75/common- agenda.  

The world of today is very different from what it was when the UN was created 76 years ago. We must evolve-adapt to this changing world. We need to develop long-term sustainable strategies to address the challenges we face. 

While there are more countries, more people and more challenges, there are also more solutions. Our working methods need to adapt, and we need to create a more agile and effective organization that delivers results-based solutions to global challenges. It is not enough to say we are part of the solution; our responsibility is to deliver results in the actions we take, day in – day out.

The UN supported the foundations of a modern Bhutan, starting from the establishment of the first airline and environmental trust fund to the current day, helping support Bhutan’s capacity to mitigate the impacts of climate change and its recovery from Covid.

 The UN supports the Royal Government in identifying the best practices in innovative financing to recover from the Double Crisis.  We recognize there is an increasing need for more resources to meet sustainable development priorities, counter the threats posed by climate change, and deal with the consequences of Covid. The issuance of Bhutan’s first sovereign bond in 2020 is evidence of the contribution the UN can make, in working together with a member state and providing technical assistance in strengthening its capital market.

As we deal with the Double Crisis there are countries (even in the region) facing what we may call a triple crisis as they are also affected by conflict and violence. Bhutan plays an important role in UN Peacekeeping and police missions since it joined in 2014. As of 31 December 2020, 32 Bhutanese personnel were serving to maintain international peace and security in some of the most challenging crisis countries around the world. This is a testament to Bhutan’s commitment to share the burden along with other member states. 

As the world struggles through this Covid battle, I am, as always, deeply moved by how Bhutan has come together in solidarity. His Majesty The King’s leadership inspires and encourages all Bhutanese to work together as one nation to combat Covid. I wish to commend the Royal Government of Bhutan for its tireless work in managing both the immediate responses to this pandemic and also the longer-term recovery measures.

On behalf of the 31 UN agencies working in Bhutan, I re-dedicate our commitment to the Royal Government and to the people of Bhutan. Your unwavering commitment to Bhutan’s development – in line with the values of Gross National Happiness – will help ensure the UN remains ever ‘fit for purpose’.

Partnership is the foundation stone for what the UN does in Bhutan and as we look forward to the next 50 years of partnership, the UN pledges to work with agility, transparency and accountability to strengthen our partnership  – for we know, partnering is the lifeblood of great development.

Together, we listen; and together, we act in partnership.

Contributed by

Gerald Daly

Resident Coordinator, UN Bhutan 

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Once in a Life Time Event

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 12:20

How Bhutan celebrated her admission to the United Nations.

Exactly fifty years ago, Bhutan was unanimously elected as the 128th member of the United Nations. To mark the historic occasion the Royal Government declared three days of national holidays. The highlight of the grand celebration in the capital was the archery match held in the Lungtenphu ground.

The choeda or inter-regional archery match was held between Paro and Wangduephodrang dzongkhags. Led by Dasho Paljor J Dorji and Dasho Karma Dorji respectively, the archery match drew a large crowd.

Played in traditional bamboo bows and arrows, the choeda lasted three days. The match drew the largest congregation at that time.

According to people who witnessed the occasion, traditional white tents with dragon embroideries were pitched in the Lungtenphu archery ground. The national flag was hoisted, along with other colorful flags to create a festive ambience. The nation’s best mask dancers and folk singers performed, enhancing the spirit of jubilation.

The 21 September 1971 issue of Kuensel recorded and reported the grand celebration of Bhutan admission to the UN.  According to the report, lunch was served to the public, and dinners were hosted for the senior Bhutanese and non-Bhutanese officers on all three days.

The next issue of Kuensel, 1 October 1971 reported more details of the celebration of the historic occasion. According to the newspaper, two films were screened at the Lophel Theater as part of the celebrations.

The first film was on His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck’s (r.1952-1972) visit to Delhi in April 1971. The second film was a color documentary. It was specially made for the occasion showcasing Bhutan’s rich culture and tradition. To stamp the occasion in the annals of history, the Postal Services and Information released a special series of commemorative stamps.

Bhutanese from all walks of life joined the grand celebration. They rejoiced the admission of our country to the most important world body.

Bhutan’s membership in the international community of nations gave a new meaning and content to its existence. With a self-imposed isolation policy, Bhutan, was virtually unknown to the rest of the world. With the admission to the world’s largest international organization, Bhutan could now participate and contribute to the goals of the UN.


His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo

The admission to the UN is one of the most important landmarks in our history. His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo called it a once in a life time event. “I myself and all officers serving my government and the representative of India in Bhutan are lucky indeed that our admission to the Untied Nations has occurred in our life time.” The 1 October 1971, Kuensel edition quoted the King.

His Majesty said that the other important landmark in the annals of our history was in the 17th century when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651) came to Bhutan from Tibet in 1616. At the time Zhabdrung brought unto us a message of truth and dharma. The lam eventually united country. His Majesty gave the admission of Bhutan to the UN the same significance.

His Majesty was a visionary leader and the chief architect of our admission to the UN. The King was determined to do everything in his lifetime to ensure that Bhutan not only remained a sovereign independent nation but enhanced its security. He was the mastermind and headed the movement to join the UN.

Bhutan’s admission to the UN was a gradual process with a well-thought-out plan that was executed patiently and brilliantly over a decade.

The process began in 1962. That year Bhutan attended the Colombo Plan as an observer. The, all-women delegation led by Ashi Tashi Dorji charmed the member countries. In an unprecedented manner, Bhutan was unanimously admitted as a member of the Colombo plan; Bhutan’s first membership in an international organization.

Five years later, after gaining confidence as a member of the international body, in 1967 the National Assembly discussed Bhutan’s admission to the UN. After months of deliberation, the Assembly passed a resolution for Bhutan’s bid to join the UN.

Two years later, in 1969 Bhutan became a member of the Universal Postal Union; one of the specialized agencies of the UN.

In accordance with Bhutan’s National Assembly’s resolution, the government looked to India for guidance and advice in the matter of UN membership. India agreed to sponsor Bhutan’s application.

In 1970, the application to join the UN was submitted. His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo sent a delegation from Bhutan to attend the General Assembly as an observer.

According to the ‘Report of the Security Council Committee on the Admission of the New Members’, Bhutan’s application for membership was circulated on 22 December 1970.

Two months later, on February 10, 1971, the Security Council unanimously recommended Bhutan’s admission. The Council’s report states, “We are pleased that this Security Council reported, unanimously and within a short period, its recommendation that the Security Council should accept Bhutan’s application for membership.” All fifteen members of the Security Council were present at the meeting and all supported Bhutan’s application. By September 1971, Bhutan had done a lot of groundwork and had conducted intensive negotiations all informally.

By September 1971, much groundwork had been done. Bhutan had conducted intensive informal negotiations both in India and in New York.

For example, our king had travelled to India several times. In April 1971 he was in Delhi. One week before Bhutan was admitted to the UN, His Majesty had just returned from Kolkatta after a week’s unofficial visit.

In anticipation of its membership, Bhutan had established a permanent mission in New York with a full staff. His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo appointed Lyonpo Sangay Penjor (1928- 1993) as the country’s first representative. Lyonpo was already based in New York.

His Majesty then sent a three-member delegation to New York to attend the assembly session and be present at the formal approval of Bhutan’s admission.

His Majesty’s brother, His Royal Highness, Lyonpo Namgay Wangchuck, headed the delegation. The other two members were Lyonpo Dawa Tsering and Dasho Tshering.

A week earlier, on 14 September, as part of the build-up to the event, Kuensel reported that the Bhutanese delegation was scheduled to reach New York on 17 September.

The 26th session of the United Nations General Assembly was a turning point in Bhutan’s history. Bhutan’s membership of the world body was proposed and formally approved along with those of Bahrain and Qatar. 

At 5 p.m. GMT (noon, in New York), H.R.H N. Wangchuck addressed the 26th session of the General Assembly. H.R.H thanked the members of the United Nation in accepting Bhutan into the organization and thanked in particular India for sparing no efforts in securing Bhutan’s admission to the free association of sovereign countries.

In his address to the General Assembly, H.R.H said, “Our government and people are now fully committed to a policy of modernization, although we are at the same time aware of the importance of preserving our national identity by retaining the best in our ancient culture and tradition. None of us imagine that this will be an easy thing to do to achieve this fine balance and synthesis but with all our mind and effort directed towards this goal, we are confident of success.”

With admission to the UN, His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo achieved his wish of further strengthening our independent status and securing the sovereignty of Bhutan and becoming an active member of the international community of nations.

At the end of the three-day inter-region archery match witnessed by the largest crowd amidst dancing and feasts it was clear that the Paro archery team was much superior. Since it was a celebration the Paro team captain wanted to call it a draw but his team members opposed stating that it was choeda. They had to win the Wangduephodrang team good and proper. So, while the Paro team were able to carry the day the real winners were the people of Bhutan captained by His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo. The people had congregated in the nation’s capital to rejoice the historic occasion of being unanimously elected as the 128th member of the United Nations.

Contributed by 

Tshering Tashi

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A day to reflect

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 12:19

Traditionally, Autumn is a festive season with annual tshechus across the many valleys in the country. It is also a season of harvest for the farmers of what they have cultivated in the months gone by. 

Bhutanese have another occasion to celebrate today. The country marks 50 years as a member of the UN. Celebrations of this milestone were launched coinciding with the 41st birth anniversary of His Majesty The King in February this year. 

This is also the time to reflect on our journey as a nation and the sacrifices and hardships our leaders experienced as they embarked on fulfilling the aspirations of their subjects and secure the future of the nation. 

The membership into the UN was a result of years of consistent planning, perseverance, and determined actions. 

Bhutan’s membership in the UN started with His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo’s vision and foresight. Despite our constraints in various resources, our leaders worked relentlessly from joining the Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic Development in South and South-East Asia in 1962, the Universal Postal Union in 1969, until the successful admission to the United Nations in 1971. 

While UN assisted Bhutan to achieve its planned developments over the decades, Bhutan has been involved in the numerous bodies of the UN, and its leadership has been recognised from time to time. 

The presence of the UN system is important for Bhutan, a small country between two giant neighbours, both politically as well as economically. 

It provides us with a forum in which we can express our views and concerns on a wide range of issues on the international agenda. Economically, the specialised agencies have been important sources of financial and technical assistance to our socio-economic development. Assistance from the UN and its specialised agencies has played a vital role in the process of modernisation in Bhutan. 

Today, as we prepare to graduate from the least developed countries group by 2023, the UN has a greater responsibility and role to play. The expectations from us will also be far greater. 

As we build back from the adverse impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, our priorities have to transcend short term gains. There are reforms beginning in many sectors from education, health, and governance, among others. No matter how tumultuous the changes,  if we let ourselves be guided by the visionary leadership of our Monarchs, no challenge will be too big. 

Through decades, we have learnt that we have difficulty in grasping the depth and holistic picture of the reforms of our Kings at the beginning. From joining the UN to instituting democracy to the nationalisation of the natural resources, the results today speak for themselves. 

This day gives us the opportunity not just to celebrate our successes but also to embrace the challenges and strive to bring out the best in us – for our future like our ancestors did for us. 

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Bhutan celebrates 50 years of UN membership

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 12:17

Tshering Palden 

“It was only a decade ago that we launched development programmes to raise the level of our economy and provide welfare facilities for the people. We’ve not made much headway during this period and we’ve nothing much to show to the outside world. I’m confident that if we’re united, the day is not far when we’ll be amongst the other developed nations of the world. Our admission to the United Nations is not an end in itself whereby all our problems will be solved on their own. We will have to work hard and unitedly to usher in prosperity and raise the standard of living of the people.”

More than 50 years after His late Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck delivered this landmark address in 1971, after Bhutan’s successful admission to the United Nations Organisation (UN), the country marks the momentous day today with many thousand kilometres of roads, bridges, thousand more monastic and modern schools, modern communications facilities, and free health care services.

UN Secretary General U Thant made a statement before the flags of the new members of the UNO were raised at the UN headquarters on September 22, 1971

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The former Chief Justice Thrimchi Sonam Tobgye, who began his career as a junior officer at the Royal court then, said that His late Majesty had meticulously planned Bhutan’s admission to UN.

“Bhutan had moved dexterously to the family of the world to promote goodwill and cooperation with nations, foster respect for international law and to promote international peace and security through bilateral, regional and multilateral relationship,” said the former Thrimchi.

Speaking at the 26th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations after Bhutan’s Admission to the UN, His Royal Highness Prince Namgyal Wangchuck spoke of how it all began from a visionary leader’s noble aspirations for peace and prosperity for His subjects and the country.

It was only a decade or so since Bhutan ended her age-old policy of national isolation and opened up to the outside world. The policy of national isolation was motivated in the past by self-interest due to geopolitical considerations, he said, and not because of a lack of desire or capacity to play an active role in the international community.

“The policy served its end and was instrumental in preserving the country’s sovereignty and independence. With the changing circumstances in the world and our desire to participate actively in the functioning of the international community, the policy lost its relevance.”

“It is important to emphasize the fact that all the radical changes in the country have been initiated by the King himself,” HRH Prince Namgyal Wangchuck said.

In the field of government and administration, it has been Bhutan’s aim to reform the traditional institutions to meet the needs of the changing times. Representative institutions like the National Assembly, Council of Ministers and the Royal Advisory Council were established. The sovereign powers of the Monarch were voluntarily surrendered to the National Assembly. The judiciary was separated from the executive and a uniform legal code based on past custom and present necessity was introduced.

By then, Bhutan successfully completed two Five-Year Plans and had launched a third. The social and economic infrastructure of the country was being built up through these Plans supported by the government of India.

His late Majesty remained up late into the night on September 21 excitedly waiting for the news from New York and giving instructions for the celebrations in the following days after the formal announcement of admission into the UN.

“One of the court officials were tasked to follow the news on BBC radio on one of His late Majesty’s two Zenith transistors,” Thrimchi Sonam Tobgye said. “His Majesty rose early that morning to listen to BBC news about Bhutan’s admission to the United Nations.”

Celebrations continued for the next three days.

The representative of India in Bhutan, BS Das, in his address during the celebrations held at Lungtenphu on September 22, 1971, said that the occasion was one of the most important occasions, if not the most important, in the history of Bhutan.

“Your Majesty, you have been the architect of modern Bhutan. It is rare that a leader of a country interprets the trends and hopes of his people so judiciously and correctly. You have been wedded to the idea of peace and progress and it was only in the fitness of things that Bhutan should have reached this position under your wise leadership.”

His late Majesty cautioned the leaders in the country of the challenges ahead in His speech to the 35th session of the National Assembly.

His Majesty said that with the UN admission having been attained, it was necessary to develop relations with other countries of the world, whatever their size and whatever different policies they adhere to. That some nations will give aid to benefit the country and this would assist greatly in developmental works. Other countries shall seek to give us false aid for their own interests. That kind shall be of no benefit to us. Rather it will do us a great injury.

Thus, His Majesty advised the National Assembly to come to a detailed resolution as to the kind of aid which should be accepted and that which should not be accepted later this will be of great value to our country.

Over the years, Bhutan had been involved in the numerous bodies of the UN. Bhutan has served on many important posts such as Vice President of the UN General Assembly, President of the Trade and Development Board, UN Conference on Trade and Development, two terms as a member of the UN Commission on Human Rights, and two terms as a member of the Economic and Social Council. Bhutan chaired the Third Committee during the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of the UN, and it is today a member of the Bureau of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries.

Bhutan’s leadership was recognised through the presentation of awards from time to time.

His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo was recognised as Laureate for the Champion of the Earth in 2005 for His Majesty’s leadership in protecting Bhutan’s environment through numerous policy initiatives through decades.

In 2019, UNDP presented a Special Recognition Award to His Majesty The King for his leadership in advancing human development and the wellbeing of Bhutanese people.

Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the longest-serving goodwill ambassador for UNFPA, was recognised as the laureate for the 2020 UN Population Award.

Bhutan worked with other Member States to realise the objectives of the UN. Among others, Bhutan has committed to promoting international peace and security. In September 2014, Bhutan joined the UN peacekeeping operations and since then peacekeepers have been dispatching regularly.

To mark the occasion, the Prime Minister will host a reception later today. The event would also be marked with the launch of a commemorative stamp and a coffee table book followed by a screening of a documentary on Bhutan and the UN at Royal Institute of Tourism and Hospitality in Thimphu.

The High-level General Debate of the 76th General Assembly will be held from September 21 to 27.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering will address the debate through a video statement on September 25. The theme for this year’s General Debate is “Building resilience through hope – to recover from Covid-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalise the United Nations’’.

Besides the General Debate, lyonchhen will participate Live in the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit on September 20, and the UN Food Systems Summit (virtually) on September 23, among others.

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Illegal structures on State land removed in Tsirang

Mon, 09/20/2021 - 11:41

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

The Tsirang dzongkhag administration demolished 12 of the 14 houses that were built illegally on State land in Dzomlingthang under Gosarling gewog on September 15.

Land record officer Ugyenla said that the administration issued repeated notifications and warnings to dismantle the structures after the lease period ended.

However, residents said that after the owner of the property passed away, the property was not accessible. The deceased’s children live in other dzongkhags, and there was no one to take care of it.

There are 14 houses, which mostly served as retail spaces, on the State land. The dzongkhag administration leased the State land in 2013 for a period of five years.

“The notifications for the last two houses will be issued by the end of the month,” said Ugyenla.

The remaining two houses are expected to be dismantled by March of next year.

The administration found that only two shopkeepers out of 14 lessees have complied with the lease agreement. While some lessees rented the houses to other people, some did not make use of the houses. “According to the lease agreement, they are supposed to use the structures provided,” the land record officer said.    

The houses were reportedly built by the ancestors of the house owners. However, Ugyenla said that the first National Cadastral Resurvey Programme in 2003 and 2004 revealed that those individuals were not original thram holders, and the land actually belongs to the State.

At the site, the property was found empty. Most of the corrugated galvanised iron (CGI) sheets and planks, however, can be reused.

Ash Maya Jogi, 75, a former resident whose house was dismantled weeks ago is currently living in a temporary shed with her family. She claims that she had lived in the now-dismantled house for the last 50 years.

In tears, she said that her four children had requested the dzongkhag to grant an extension to dismantle the house, but to no avail.

Gosarling Gup Ram Bahadur Karki said that currently, there are no development plans for the area.

Residents recall that Dzomlingthang, popularly known as “Changchey bazaar” in the past, was one of the oldest towns in the southern region where people from other dzongkhags like Gelephu and Dagana frequented for trade.

Edited by Tshering Palden

DLO freezes bank account  of a fake donation drive 

Mon, 09/20/2021 - 11:40

Thukten Zangpo  

Home ministry’s Department of Law and Order (DLO) has issued an order to freeze an account linked to a fake donation drive through Facebook at around midnight on September 18.

A fictitious account in the name of Dema Yangzom claimed that her friend’s daughter ‘Pema Tahoki Dolma’ is suffering from kidney failure and needed Nu 2 million (M) for treatment in India. It claimed that the family has only Nu 0.2M.

A Bank of Bhutan (BoB) account number and a photo of a child were shared in the post. The post went viral, many Bhutanese started depositing money into the account.

A social media user observed that it was the first post of the account. The individual also did not acknowledge any of the contributions from well-wishers. 

After complaints, Bhutan Kidney Foundation (BKF) issued a statement that it was not genuine.

“The content of the post is not true and the agency does not have any child registered with kidney failure,” said  BKF executive director, Tashi Namgay adding that the child’s photo was taken from a website.

“It is a lesson for all the Bhutanese to not blindly trust and be mindful,” Tashi Namgay said.

Officiating Director of DLO, Karma Dorji said that the account number mentioned in the post was frozen and that they would investigate the case today.

He said that they were waiting for the details of the account number from the BoB to study whether the person who owned the Facebook account and the bank account owner is the same.

“We want to be absolutely sure of the case and present it properly to the police,” said Karma Dorji.

The DLO also notified the public yesterday against people engaging in the collection of donations with fake stories through social media. “To solicit donation, one must seek approval from the DLO,” it states.

The agency also asked the people to refrain from making contributions unless there is an approval letter number quoted in their Facebook or other social media posts.

Edited by Tshering Palden

RCSC removes about 500 positions in civil service

Mon, 09/20/2021 - 11:39

Yangchen C Rinzin

The 12th Five-Year Plan staffing and organisation structure review resulted in removal of 228 messenger (GSP) positions.

The review also merged the position of dispatcher, telephone operator and receptionist as one position, according to the Royal Civil Service Commission’s annual report 2020-2021.

It was found that the work of these three positions can be delivered by one employee with the utse of ICT.

The merging of positions has reduced 260 such positions.

The report stated that the civil service agencies’ staffing exercises were conducted to allow the Commission to rationalise human resource numbers against the standard operating procedures and agencies’ mandates.

The staffing exercise was to align staff requirements with organisational mandates and increasing demand for efficient delivery of public service.

The staffing reviews until 2025 were done for eight ministries, 25 agencies, 20 Dzongkhags, and four Thromdes.

“It aims to examine existing staff numbers and the requests for additional staff based on the human resource standards protocols,” it stated.

The staffing exercise has also reduced the position of HR officer, planning officer and finance officer in some dzongkhags from two to one because two employees with the same position in one dzongkhag were found not to be optimally utilised. A total of 19 positions were reduced in this category.

“The 12th Plan staffing provides the HR requirement and projection on the entire civil service which will facilitate the projections of HR requirements in the years to come,” the report stated. “This is critical for our recruitment plans and preparations for succession planning.”

The report stated the 12th Plan staffing showed that there was an overall net decrease of 106 positions compared to the 11th Plan staffing. This indicates that the requirement of civil servants has stabilised except the staffing trend for teachers and medical professionals.

“While reviewing the staff, there were challenges like RCSC kept receiving constant restructuring proposals with requirements of additional manpower,” it stated. “The challenges include a change in policies and upgrading of socio-economic structures for education and health sector, which are HR intensive.”

However, although staffing exercise was conducted, there were many ad-hoc requests for additional staffing in different ministries, especially due to the pandemic.

Some of the ad-hoc recruitments approved this year were recruitment of substitute teachers on consolidated contracts for contract teachers on six month-maternity leave. The Commission has also approved the fast-tracking of B.Ed regular appointment on June 1 instead of July 1.

The Commission also approved the post creation for two thromde health officers for Thimphu and Phuentsholing. A three-year diploma course in medical entomology and parasitology was approved at KGUMBS.

A total of 39 different medical professionals were approved to facilitate the increased service delivery requirement due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The contract extension of laboratory officer was approved at the national referral hospital to facilitate pandemic services.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk