The Mines and Minerals Bill 2020 gives the state the prerogative to promote and develop minerals if they are found either on government or private land.
However, a new Section that provides for obtaining written consent from the landowner may have limited the state’s right to extract the mines and minerals from private land to the nation’s economic benefit.
The National Assembly yesterday adopted the recommendation which states: “A written consent shall be obtained from the landowners concerned for promotion and development of mining in private land.” The proposal came from the economic and finance committee.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering supported the recommendation but cautioned that the House needed to see if the new Section was in line with provisions of the Constitution that states that mines and minerals are a state property. “The only concern is what if the landowner does not give the written consent,” he said.
The Bill also states that the rights over mineral resources shall vest in the State. But the concern was that the new Section could render that meaningless.
Chairman of the committee, Kinley Wangchuk, said that the clause was added to protect the rights of the private landowner. He added that mines and minerals belong to the state but that it was important to obtain the consent of the landowner as both the state and people have rights.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs shall have the right to earmark and declare mineral potential areas for future resource tapping and to guide infrastructure and developmental works in such areas, the Bill states.
According to the Bill, the Department of Geology and Mines (DGM) must give notice of entry to the landowner or any person owning such land before prospecting on private property. The landowner shall allow the authorised person to enter his land to carry out mineral prospecting.
Drametse-Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi said there should be clear mention on whether mines and minerals exploration will be allowed in parks and protected areas. “If the mining is on private land, there should be a provision for compensation mentioned in the Bill,” he said.
Prospecting or exploration of minerals is allowed to private individuals as per the Bill. “A person shall not be required to apply for prospecting or exploration license for exposed minerals where the deposit can be directly assessed as feasible for mining.”
If a person discovers any strategic mineral and fossil specimen during prospecting or exploration of permitted minerals, the person shall report to the DGM for compensation, collaboration for development or as may be determined by the government.
The committee had proposed to open protected areas for development and operation of mines, but the House rejected it. The House also rejected the committee’s proposal to close the mining sector to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) said that about 50 percent of the forests are identified as protected areas and parks. “People are not allowed even to harvest trees from those areas. And those places should be kept as it is,” he said.
The Bill states that the state should operate strategic mines while the non-strategic mines are open to the private sector.
Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said that mining opportunities should be left open to both the state and the private sector. He said that the mines and minerals benefit the country either way.
The Bill states that the exploration license may be transferred to any eligible person on payment of transfer fee as prescribed.
An exploration license holder shall use the exploration license for the intended purpose, and not for speculation and land banking, according to the Bill.
“A prospecting license holder shall have the right to prospect minerals specified in the license. The department shall give notification of entry to the landowner or any person in custody of such land before prospecting in private property.”
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the landowner’s consent was not required for the purpose of prospecting but only for exploration. “A patient’s signature is required only for operation,” he said.
… raises question on the legality of the order
Two days before retiring, Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Tshering Wangchuk issued an office order to the High Court (HC) acting Chief justice Sangay Khando to comply with the circular issued in June 2015.
The High Court has not enforced the order and many in the judiciary are questioning its legality.
The section 4 of the June 2015 SC circular states that if a person charged with a penal offence is proven guilty and given conviction by a court, the court shall hand him or her over to the police along with the conviction order on the day of passing judgment.
It also stated that the defendant has the right to appeal to the appellate court for which the court should facilitate the defendant while in custody.
“When appealed, it is the discretion of the HC to grant bail or not to a person convicted with an offence,” the circular states.
But despite the order, it stated that during the recent land corruption case of Trongsa, the district court committed a mistake by not complying with the June 2015 circular.
“But as the defendant has already appealed to the HC, the court shall grant the person bail on the grounds that he deposited bailing amount and assured guarantor,” the latest office order stated.
The order also asked all courts to comply with the directive issued.
However, the order, according to judiciary officials is confusing as it did not specify bailable and non-bailable provisions and was a blanket order.
Some law practitioners said that the SC issues an order that is violating the law and the Constitution.
Others said that if judges followed the circular and imprisoned the defendants then the judges also could be in trouble for illegal arrest.
The SC on July 24, 2019 through an order repealed section 199.8 (A,b) of the amended Civil and Criminal Procedure Code 2011 as it violated the Constitution. The section specifies that the court shall not grant bail to a person who has been charged with a penal offence of or above second degree felony.
The SC based its order on section 16 of Article 7 in the Constitution. Critics said that the order made all offences bailable.
Meanwhile, under the doctrine of separation of powers, the laws are made by the Parliament and judiciary’s role is to interpret the laws.
Some people question why the chief justice issued such an order two days prior to the completion of his term.
For the last three years, according to law practitioners and some former judges, there has been an allegation of making the laws from the bench, including legalising the bail for second and first-degree felony offences by the SC.
Some members of the legal fraternity also questioned the legalising of cannibalism in the country.
Kuensel learnt that some district court judges and prosecutors through their own objections are reportedly nullifying orders issued by the SC.
A dzongkhag judge said that the courts in Bhutan recently stopped giving bail to offenders who were charged beyond the felony of second-degree offences as per section 98 A of the amended Penal Code of Bhutan 2011.
The legal fraternity also said that the future Chief Justice should rectify conflicting and contradicting orders so that the doctrine of separation of powers is maintained. “The Parliament should make the laws while the executive shall implement the laws without being biased. The judiciary interprets the laws,” a legal expert outside the judiciary told Kuensel.
“Therefore, we are refraining from enforcing orders issued by the SC,” he said.
The Supreme Court in 2016 announced that the demarcation between the dzongkhag and yenlag thromdes (satellite towns) should be retained according to the Thromde Rules of Bhutan 2010 until the National Land Commission decides.
The Thromde Rules 2010 for declaration of dzongkhag thromde states: “The demarcation of the approved thromdes shall be carried out in consultation with the National Land Commission Secretariat and local governments.”
An area is declared a yenlag thromde if it has a resident population of more than 1,500 irrespective of their census, 50 percent or more of the population is dependent on non-primary activities and an area of not less than 50 acres, the rule states.
Member of Parliament (MP) from Nganglam, Choida Jamtsho, said that despite the Supreme Court writ, several dzongkhags had designated green and red zones, stopping people from constructing houses and carrying out other developmental activities.
The MP cited an example from his constituency saying that designation of red and green zones in Nganglam had stopped construction works in the thromde area. Construction outside the thromde area was not allowed as it either fell within the economic hub or the biological corridor.
“As a result, it is hard to bring development and start new economic activities in the area, depriving people of opportunities,” he said.
Further to that, the government collects tax from these areas just like other established thromdes, MP said, causing inconvenience to the residents.
He asked the works and human settlement minister Dorji Tshering on how the government was addressing problems faced by people due to zonation activities in dzongkhags and yenlag thromdes.
Green and red zones are an inevitable component of local area plan and human settlement plan, said Lyonpo in his response to a question during the National Assembly’s question and answer session yesterday.
Green zones are designated area in which there should not be any constructions or excavations, whereas red zones are areas that have higher risk and vulnerability and increasing exposure to disasters.
Lyonpo said that while developing human settlement plan and local area plan, the government did not designate throms. “The throms were allocated according to local government and people’s needs. For instance, Kabesa is not under Thimphu thromde but the area had its own local area plan,” the minister said.
Similarly, Taktse in Trongsa and Buli in Zhemgang do not fall under dzongkhag or yenlag thromdes but according to people’s needs, there are local area plans, Lyonpo said.
He said that the people of Nganglam asked the ministry to develop their local area plan. “Red and green zones within local area plan is necessary; it should be there. The designation is the same in all plans across the country.”
The taxes collected by the government, according to Lyonpo, were in line with the order from the Supreme Court and the Thromde Rules 2010. “Whenever there are issues related to taxes, we solve it in collaboration with the finance ministry.”
… during deliberations on Mines and Minerals Bill 2020
The Mines and Minerals Bill 2020 seeks establishment of a mining authority that will have a seven-member board as a regulatory and monitoring body.
The economic and finance committee after a review of the Bill had proposed to empower the authority to issue rules, regulations and notifications. However, after objections from Cabinet members, the National Assembly yesterday decided that such powers should be left with the economic affairs ministry.
Members in favour of the committee’s proposal were of the view that keeping most of the powers with the ministry limits the authority to “mere policing” activities. Members who spoke in favour of the committee’s recommendation argued that it would make little or no sense to appoint the board if it were given no authority.
The authority has been named as Bhutan Mining Authority. Members of the committee explained that the board needed to be given more powers in the interest of separation of power; and checks and balances.
After members expressed their views, some of them also raised their hands in favour of abandoning them.
Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma said that it was the prerogative of the ministry to frame and issue rules, regulations and notifications. He was of the view that the authority’s roles should be limited to that of monitoring and regulating.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said the power to frame rules and regulations should be left with the ministry, saying that the ministry would have the required expertise.
“Works requiring expertise should be left with the department. That’s why we have kept most powers with the ministry,” he said.
Drametse Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi said that it would be more meaningful to empower the board with such powers in the interest of an autonomous authority. He also said that powers to issue mining licenses should be vested with the authority.
“If all the powers are kept with the ministry, there is no use constituting a board under the authority as an independent body,” he said.
One of the committee members and Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi cited examples of Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA), Bhutan Electricity Authority (BEA) and the Civil Aviation Authority, which are empowered to issue rules, regulations and notifications.
“If the Bhutan Mining Authority does not have such powers, then the role of the board or authority would be only about policing works. Then there is no need to constitute the board,” he said.
Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho, however, supported retaining the power with the ministry, saying that some authorities have more powers than others. “Let the ministry frame the rules and regulations and the authority monitor if they are followed properly,” he said.
The Bill states that the Mining Regulatory Authority would be an autonomous body that shall have a board and may acquire, hold and dispose of real and personal property.
The authority shall have a Board comprising not more than seven members. The MoEA shall appoint members of the board from relevant agencies for not more than three years.
According to the Bill, the board shall approve Mine Feasibility Study report to lease a mine, take stock of the permits issued and make recommendations to the department, where relevant.
The Bill also empowers the board to ensure execution of notification and policy directives of the ministry.
The authority shall have a secretariat headed by the Chief Executive Officer selected through an open interview by the Board. The CEO shall be accountable to the board.
Among other roles, the authority shall lease mine as per the Mining Rights Certificate accorded by the department and issue permit for short term mining, surface collection for commercial purpose, fossicking and artisanal mining as per the Rights Certificate accorded by the department.
According to the Bill, the department of geology and mines shall frame and issue guidelines related to the management of mines and minerals in the country.
It will also produce geological maps at a regional scale as a primary source of information on geology for land planning, environment monitoring, seismic risks and geo-hazards prevention, civil works planning and mineral resource of the country.
The Bill also entrusts the department to produce the policy declaration for geo-data management and carry out prospecting and exploration of priority minerals on its own or outsource to a person in consultation with relevant agencies.
With the third session of the third Parliament on, laws are tabled for discussion every day. It comes at a time when we have many laws that are inconsistent and contradictory with the Constitution.
While we are already battling the duplication and proliferation of too many laws, courts in the country are confused with numerous Supreme Court orders issued in the recent years.
Questions of the legitimacy of the orders are raised, as the Supreme Court has no legislative power under the doctrine of separation of powers, which mandates laws to be made by the Parliament and judiciary to interpret it.
For the Supreme Court, section 10 of Article 21 of the Constitution empowers it to issue declarations, orders, directions or writs as may be appropriate in the circumstances of each use. But legal practitioners claim orders and writs could be issued through a judicial review or through cases before the Supreme Court.
What is more worrying is that most court, even the High Court for the matter, is not enforcing the orders. Where is the credibility of the highest law interpreter? Public confidence in the judiciary weakens when there is inconsistent application of the law and we already have so many examples.
The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal, the guardian and the final interpreter of the Constitution. It should uphold the Constitution and should not breed any sense of confusion and manipulation in its fraternity.
As true custodian of justice, judiciary cannot afford to be confused. It was separated from the executive with the establishment of dzongkhag courts in 1961 to protect the fundamental rights of the people. As the place of justice, the judiciary should be a place above reproach, free from coercion and influence.
The future Chief Justice has an enormous task ahead.
Besides clearing the confusion, confidence in the judiciary must be restored. Justice must be based upon the rule of law and not the individual judge’s interpretation. Judiciary has the constitutional duty to safeguard, uphold and administer justice fairly and independently without fear, favour or undue delay in accordance with the rule of law. The Chief Justice should not coerce or intimidate judges to agree with him in delivering judgments.
It should also ensure that judiciary is transparent and credible and it renders fair trial and justice to the people. Public trust and faith in judiciary must be restored.
His Majesty The King had said, “The most precious love of a King is his People; the most cherished wish of the People is Peace and Prosperity; Law is the root of Peace and Prosperity. Thus, no other goal should be noble than the creation of a society based on justice, equality and fairness.”
The courts do not register cases against defendants or accused if they are untraceable both within and outside the country. That could now change.
According to Member of National Council’s Legislative Committee, Phuntsho Rapten, the current practice if continued could give rise to many other issues, including a huge financial loss to the country
Sub Section 31.2 states: “Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary in this Code, a court shall accept a case for registration if it’s satisfied that a defendant or accused has knowingly, purposefully or willfully evaded the suit for prosecution.”
Phuntsho Rapten, during the introduction of CCPC 2019 in the House yesterday said that the new sub-section was proposed after the members faced numerous challenges when reviewing the Royal Audit Authority’s Report.
He said that normally the court did not register the case if the defendant or accused was not available during the course of registration.
The committee also proposed replacement of a clause under Judicial Sale, which states: “the Court shall sell the property of a judgment debtor or a person against whom a financial penalty has been awarded by it at a judicial sale in accordance with this Code or other laws and apply the proceeds for the payment thereof to enforce its judgment if the judgment debtor fails to pay, or evades the payment of the debt, or if the person fails to pay, or evades the payment of the financial penalty.”
The committee presented 18 recommendations to the House. Besides the two new clauses, the committee also proposed the removable of three clauses and changed 10 clauses. Three clauses were retained.
A new clause was proposed under the structure of the courts: Section 8 (e), which states that other courts or tribunals, as may be established from time to time by the Druk Gyalpo on the recommendation of the national judicial system.
The committee proposed the removable of High Court from the Power to Make Rules. This means only the Supreme Court has the power to make rules.
Section 101 dealing with professional conduct of Jabmi was proposed for removal.
Chairperson of the committee, Choining Dorji, said that there was a duplication of the clause in CCPC and Jabmi Act 2003.
He said that because there was no Jabmi Act when CCPC was drafted, the clauses were included in the CCPC. “But now that we have the Act, we have to follow it.”
However, some members recommended the inclusion of professional conduct of Jabmi in the CCPC Act considering increasing usage and reach of CCPC than the Jabmi Act. The House decided to add a reference stating that the removable of the clause was due to the existence of the same clause in the Jabmi Act.
The bond amount, which should be fixed at 10 to 30 percent of the income of the surety in the CCPC 2001, was proposed to be fixed as the court considers fit based on the offence for which the accused has been charged or anticipated to be charged.
The House approved all the recommendations of the committee. The House has asked the committee to prepare for the final deliberation.
Bumthang’s NC representative, Nima, proposed a new clause stating that if the Act endorsed by the parliament was not clear to the judiciary during interpretation, there should be a procedure on how the judiciary should contact the House for clarification.
He said that often the judges issued an order when there was difficulty in interpretation. “We have to make clear on procedures for clarification.”
Gasa’s NC representative, Dorji Khandu, also proposed for the amendment of Section 198 (b) of CCPC 2011.
He proposed that the court should grant bail at any stage after the arrest of a suspect if the conditions of bails were fulfilled considering some cases where the suspects were often not found guilty.
The Code does not grant bail to a person who has been charged with an offence of or beyond the felony of second degree.
The committee will discuss the new proposal and present it during the final deliberation.
… donations pour to cover extra medical costs
Battling 19 hours of surgery followed by complications, 14-month-old baby Yudra Tshering Zeepa is finally out of the hospital and at a rented apartment in Delhi, India with his parents.
The baby was discharged from the hospital on January 15 after being in a critical condition for over a month following a liver transplant.
The father and donor, Dechen Wangchuk donated 34 percent (273 grams) of his liver to his son. He said that both of them were recovering well. “Our son is also getting better each day.”
Both had undergone two surgeries each following complications after the first surgery on December 23, last year. For the baby, the first surgery took 16 hours and three hours in the second surgery.
The surgery time for the donor was seven hours more compared to the recipient. The first surgery for the donor took 23 hours.
The second surgery was not included in the initial estimated treatment cost of Nu 3 million (M).
The family needed an additional Nu 1M for the second surgery. “This was after Bhutan Health Liaison Officer at the Royal Bhutanese Embassy, in New Delhi, Tashi Dawa requested the hospital for a discount,” he said.
With no other choice left, the family again sought the support of the well-wishers. The second round of fundraising began on social media on the afternoon of January 17 by a team who calls themselves Baby Yudra Team. Members include Bhutan Kidney Foundation Executive Director Tashi Namgay, Phuntsho Namgay, and Dr Chuni Selden.
In less than 32 hours, the target of raising Nu 1M was achieved and the fundraising was officially closed at 9:51pm on January 18.
Dechen Wangchuk said while the surgery was successful his son was kept under observation for over a month after the surgery.
“Dr Neelam Mohan and her team did their best to treat the complications. The team said it was a miracle for the baby to overcome such complications,” he said.
“I am out of words to express my gratitude to everyone for their support and prayers. It is because of the compassionate well-wishers that helped us through this difficult journey.”
For Jigme Choden, the mother, it was an emotional moment to hold and nurse her son after 17 days.
“Seeing him fight for his life every second in the critical unit got me scared. The thought that I might never get to hold him again was killing me,” Jigme Choden said. “My baby regaining his health after 17 days was a miracle for us.”
Dechen Wangchuk said the baby was also emotional when he saw the parents for the first time after so long. “He was not able to open his mouth to cry but tears continued to flow from his eyes when he saw us.”
He said that he and his family will be forever grateful to everyone for their support and prayers, without which the family would have never known the strength of coming together for a good cause.
“We can’t find words to thank the compassionate donors and Tsa-was-sum at large for the generous support and giving our son a second life,” he said.
“We will be forever grateful and words cannot express the depth of our feelings.”
Bhutan Volleyball Federation (BVBF) could not participate in the 13th South Asian Games due to lack of well-trained national team. Financial complication is also an issue.
To perform better in the international competitions, there should be clubs in the federation to select a good national team, but in case of BVBF, this apparently has not happened until now.
Until last year, there were no clubs in the federation and a national team.
BVBF’s programme officer, Sangay Tempa, said that only in April last year the federation affiliated nine clubs and conducted volleyball super league in May; Thimphu volleyball league in October to December; and selected national team for the first time. Samtse club withdrew from the federation.
From the eight clubs, six are based in Thimphu and one each from Punakha and Trongsa.
The human resource in the federation also plays an integral part in supporting the overall functions. The federation is currently running short of staff and is manned by honorary members on a voluntary basis.
“Only in January 2018, the first volleyball coach was regularised and from July last year, an assistant coach is in probation period,” Sangay Tempa said, adding that the federation would want to recruit one marketing officer this year to ease the shortage.
Budget shortage remains. Comparing the budget ceiling for the federation for the past five years, the highest was in the financial year 2015-2016—Nu 2.12 million (M). It was decreased in the next financial year to Nu 2.03M. In the last three financial years, however, the budget hit Nu 2.04M.
Sangay Tempa said that the minimum budget outlay in the financial year made it difficult to meet all the expenditures for coaching and competitions, salaries for the staffs, procurements, coach and referee development, meetings, and affiliation fees.
Currently, there are multi-sports hall in Thimphu, Punakha, Trashigang, and Samdrupjongkhar under Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC).
“These halls are perfectly fit to play volleyball but BOC has never kept provision to be used also for the volleyball unlike other indoor games. It seems like BVBF was neglected by the BOC,” said Sangay Tempa.
Volleyball is an indoor game by nature, but there are no indoor facilities at present to host competitions and training.
The official said that they could generate revenue to develop the game and also curb the shortage of human resources if there were indoor facilities.
The major events organised last year such as national volleyball super league and Thimphu Volleyball league were all conducted outdoors at Changlimithang.
BVBF Official said that developing the game was their main focus. “Twenty three participants took part in the level one coach’s course in April last year in Thimphu with support from International Olympic Committee. The International Referee Course was facilitated by the resource person from the Iran Volleyball Federation in December.”
Starting February 29, National Volleyball League will be held in Thimphu, Punakha and Trongsa. Five clubs will compete in the league which includes three clubs selected last year from Thimphu volleyball league and one each from Punakha and Trongsa.
Third start-up, One Click Shop raises Nu 8.5M
In a span of seven months since the launch of Bhutan Crowdfunding portal, three start-ups were able to raise funds to expand their businesses.
After the Bhutan alternatives and Himalayan Food, One Click Shop, an e-commerce based shopping mart was able to raise Nu 8.5M from about 91 investors, two days ago.
Bhutan Crowdfunding is the first digital platform developed by the Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan Ltd (RSEBL) to provide alternative financing model for start-ups and to raise funds from the public and institutions while offering investment avenues to investors.
Studies have pointed out that start-ups and entrepreneurs are confronted with the financial capacity to upscale their businesses and most agencies are involved in promoting the culture itself. A missing link has been spotted between the initial phase and the first stage of expansion, primarily fueled by lack of access to finance and capital.
Platforms like Jabchor and crowdfunding are supposed to address this missing link.
But the RSEBL has given a new impetus to entrepreneurs and start-ups, simply by developing a cycle leading to initial public offering (IPO) and listing.
While three start-ups have raised the required capital from crowdfunding, the CEO of the RSEBL Dorji Phuntsho said that the life cycle of this small businesses should not end here. “We want to see these companies go for an IPO and adapt to the corporate governance culture with great ease,” he said.
The digital platform makes it easy for investors to register on the online portal and make payment via mobile appications.
Internationally, crowdfunding works on mutual trust and there are limited accountability and regulations in place. Involvement of stock exchange is not even necessary. The RSEBL has however made it mandatory for the companies to form a board, conduct AGM, report on the performance and empower the board over strategic decisions.
“We want these companies to enjoy certain freedom but we also want minimum compliance as per laws to protect public investment,” he said.
Young entrepreneurs, according to the CEO has ideas supported by new technologies and innovations, unlike the adults whose thought process is based on technologies of the 1980s.
“What they don’t have is the face value,” he said, adding that this is one of the biggest challenges to raise funds.
For instance, when Dungsam Polymers floated its IPO, it was not only oversubscribed but also overvalued. Many frustrated shareholders today are grumbling because the company was not in a position to declare dividends even after eight long years. In short, people took the risk and there is a consolation simply because the company was backed by the government, indirectly. But when young entrepreneurs campaign for crowdfunding, which requires minimum investment, people are not attracted. Lack of trust and confidence on new and young faces, according to the promoters is the biggest challenge.
The RSEBL has charted a cycle of its initiative. The Bhutan Crowdfunding will support the start-ups to upscale their production or diversify their products. These companies will definitely need more capital as they grow and RSEBL has already put in place an alternative financing model, which is the SME board.
The SME’s can then trade their shares and derive their market value besides raising capital. At this stage, Dorji Phunthso said that most investor would be institutional investors. Gradually these companies will make headway to go for IPO, which is required to boost investment avenues in the capital market.
However, one major problem that is obstructing the evolution of the private sector and small businesses to incorporate under the comapnies Act is the fiery and heavily-regulated corporate governance code.
This said, the RSEBL, through the crowdfunding and its partnership agreement is imposing minimum compliance to the Companies Act. As these companies evolve, the CEO said that adapting to corporate governance would be an easy task. “Doing so would also teach our young entrepreneurs the business morale-accountability and responsibility, which would drive efficiency,” he said.
Crowdfunding portal is dear to the smallest stock exchange in the world to encourage more listing on the main capital market. “We don’t find much interest from the private sectors coming for IPO. So we have to create an opportunity for growing enterprises,” the CEO said.
National Council’s (NC) Legislative Committee proposed two new clauses on fronting under section 284 while deliberating Penal Code Amendment Bill 2019 yesterday.
Rule 3 of the Rules and Regulations for Establishment and Operation of Industrial and Commercial Ventures in Bhutan 1995 defines fronting as “leasing of the licence to another party to run the business”.
The new clause, section 284 (g), states: “A defendant shall be guilty of an offence of fronting, if the defendant leases or subleases, hires or otherwise permits another person to use or operate one’s licence unless otherwise permitted by laws or polices.”
Licence includes any clearance, approval, consent, no objection, registration, concession and the likes issued by a competent authority.
The second clause, section 284 (h), grades the offence of fronting a maximum of misdemeanor, if the defendant are Bhutanese nationals and a felony of the fourth degree, or a value based sentencing, whichever is higher, if one of the defendants is a person other than a Bhutanese national.
However, the majority of members in the House objected to the phrase: “offence of fronting shall be a maximum of misdemeanor, if the defendants are Bhutanese nationals.”
If an offence is a misdemeanor, a defaulter is sentenced to 1-3 years imprisonment.
Chukha MP Sangay Dorji said that there would be problems if foreigner used licence of a Bhutanese and operated businesses illegally, but if fronting was among Bhutanese it should be graded as a violation so that people are not discouraged from initiating economic activities. “If the defaulters are Bhutanese and a foreigner, rich foreigners would grab major chunk of economic opportunities, depriving Bhutanese of the benefits.”
He further argued that if a daughter wanted to operate a business on her father’s licence, it should be acceptable because it does not affect country’s independence and security.
Gasa MP Dorji Khandu said the laws on fronting should be clear because most of the shops in Phuentsholing were currently being operated on Bhutanese licence by people from across the border. “Such illegal operations deviate income and employment opportunities to foreigners.”
Ministry of Economic Affairs reported that there were 205 fronting cases until April last year in four major towns of Phuentsholing, Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar, and Mongar. Phuentsholing alone had 161.
Fronting is rampant in businesses such as grocery stores, hotels, telephone booths, garment stores, pastry shops, electronic and hardware shops, scrap dealers and micro businesses. It was found to be prevalent even in large industries and construction sector, according to reports.
Eminent member and a member of the Economic Affairs Committee, Tashi Wangyel, said that fronting had negative impact on economic security of the country and that there would be consequences if Bhutanese offenders were not penalised.
He said that if a contractor breached the contract and was involved in corrupt practices, the government could first revoke his or her licence but if there were no laws on defaulters, that could encourage illegal practices.
Dagana MP Surja Man Thapa argued that there ought not to be fronting cases among Bhutanese. “Why would a Bhutanese want to operate on another person’s licence? Is it because the procedure to obtain the licence is tedious?”
Public awareness could go a long way in educating the people, he suggested.
Some of the members called for stringent implementation of measures by the authorities concerned so that fronting or illegal collaborations between Bhutanese and foreigners could be reduced.
Eminent member Karma Tshering said that the offence was graded ‘maximum of misdemeanor’, which meant that the defaulters would be charged according to level of offence.
Under section 284, the committee also proposed new clauses —market abuse, serious organised crime and clandestine foreign investment, among others.
Following the deliberation at the National Council on the provisions of the Penal Code on unnatural sex, an online petition to repeal sections 213 and 214 has begun since January 18.
In what could be the fastest signed petition in the history of online petitioning in Bhutan, the petition amassed the support of 2,156 individuals within 48 hours.
Namgay Zam, a former journalist who calls herself an ally of the cause and wrote the petition on behalf of the Bhutanese who identify as LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer), said that she was “pleasantly surprised” by so many people coming forward to sign up.
“I didn’t think that people would be so vocal and so action-oriented and want to sign,” she said.
She added that the petition would remain open for a few more days because of overwhelming response from the people. “We were going to keep it open till the end of the month or until they go to vote, whichever happens earlier.”
The petition will be submitted electronically to the chairperson of the National Council towards the end of this month.
“Some of the members also told me that they welcome it [petition] so I am quite heartened by the response that I had with the NC members today,” she said. “I also explained to the MPs of the House that we are not telling you how to do your job but this petition reflects how we as citizens feel about these issues now.”
The petition states that while Bhutan may not be a homophobic society, the two sections of the penal code clearly demonstrate a bias against gay sex. “To the outside world, we have criminalised homosexuality and thousands of Bhutanese for their SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression).”
According to the petition, gay men are being made victims of blackmail and extortion because of the sections 213 and 214. Trans women are being raped and are not being able to report the violation because of the same sections.
“We understand the need for deliberation and legal process in parliament, but we would like our MPs to understand this from a standpoint that is not heteronormative,” it states.
About 90 percent of the LGBTIQ population is closeted due to fear of being judged and harassed, according to the petition. This group, it states, is sadly not even identified as vulnerable or at-risk despite being among the most vulnerable social groups.
Sharing an incident, she said that someone wrote to his NC member anonymously saying that if they decide to repeal Section 213 and 214 then he was going to write with his real ID to thank him. “So, there is different kind of movement going on showing that people want to come forward, they want to talk and they want to be open.”
After her interaction with the NC members yesterday, Namgay Zam said she was assured that they were not against the LGBTIQ community. “I don’t think they are homophobic, the majority of them, at least. I am sure there are some people who may not see how we see things and there are always people who are like that around the world. I am very much aware of that.”
She said that she was glad to know that there were so many Bhutanese who wanted LGBTIQ people in Bhutan to live with dignity. “There are so many of us who supports the community, it is very heartening to me personally.”
A supporter of the movement said sections 213 and 214 of the Penal code must to be repealed, as it is a vestigial component of the Penal Code.
He said that many arguing that the law has never been put in practice. This itself, he added, was an indication that the articles were just occupying space in the Penal Code without any function.
However, he said, that retaining them had negative implications as they could also be misused. “What needs to be very clear is that the LGBTIQ communities and their supporters are not asking for special privileges, just equal rights.”
As a father of three sons, he said that he might have some luck in influencing their choice of profession but he did not see how he could persuade them to change their sexual and emotional preferences.
“My point is that sexual preference is natural and cannot be described as unnatural just because it doesn’t conform to the norms that the society has determined is natural or right,” he said
Following the deliberation at the NC, many resorted to social media to share their concerns and grievances.
NC’s chairperson Tashi Dorji explained on January 18 on Facebook that there were several attempts to sensationalise the discussions pertaining to the clauses 213 and 214 of the Penal Code amendment. NC members were he said, slandered and labelled homophobic.
“As the chair presiding over the session, I have not noticed any member saying anything against the LGBTIQ community,” the post states.
He said the discussion focused more on the need to harmonise the two clauses with other legal provisions. “As a lawmaking house with the legislative mandate, it is important to understand that lawmaking is a process that involves discussion and debate and is not an event for publicity stunts.”
Requesting the activists to not sabotage the legal process by misinforming and sensationalising the issue, the post states that the chairperson spoke to the LGBTIQ community members who have raised genuine concerns and explained the issue and legal processes to them. “LGBTIQ community members expressed appreciation and understanding of the NC.”
One of the founding members of Rainbow Bhutan, Tashi Tsheten, said that the community was hopeful that the NC would see through the wisdom of what the National Assembly had so far done. “We understand that it’s a legal process and it will take time. For now, we need to be patient and hope for the best.”
On the petition, he said that it, including the comments, were not irrational and showed concerns and fears for the community.
He said that it was not only the LGBTIQ community who was talking about the repeal. “Everyone is coming forward and talking about the repeal. Just a comment or post made on the recommendation by the legislative committee have gathered so much support for the community and we are glad this has happened so far.”
However, he said it was too early to say anything concretely about the issue. “But we are waiting for the decision on February 7 when they go to vote on the Penal Code Amendment Bill 2019.”
As of 9pm yesterday, 2,251 people had signed the petition.
“A lot of signing is happening because other people are sharing it asking their friends and relatives. The credit goes to everybody who is involved,” Namgay Zam said.
Impeachment is the talk of the town.
The world is watching the United States, as the impeachment of President Donald Trump is underway.
In the Parliament here, tensions are building up.
The National Assembly members refused to deliberate on the Impeachment Procedure Bill for constitutional office bearers. The home minister said too many laws would not be healthy for society.
The Bill emerged from National Council as a private member’s Bill. Its 11 chapters detail procedure for impeachment, incorporating the principles of natural justice and establishment of the impeachment investigation committee.
While waiting for National Assembly’s written response, some NC members consider the Bill passed, justifying that not deliberating on the Bill empowers them to now submit the Bill to His Majesty The King for assent.
Given the powers the Constitution vests on the constitutional office bearers, who are supposed to be the pinnacles of public trust and accountability, it must ensure they do not abuse their powers.
Impeachment is not about appointment. It’s a mechanism to enforce constitutional post holders accountable. It is an essential safeguard to protect the Constitution from inappropriate conduct of the constitutional post holders who might resort to criminal activities, come in conflict with laws and not live in accordance with the powers and privileges that come with the office.
The bill will also insulate them from potential arbitrary impeachment.
Save a case in 2013 where a private individual called for the impeachment of the former Chief Justice, a situation to impeach a constitutional post holder has not arisen till date but the situations could change in the future.
Our wise leaders, while enacting the Constitution and the Article on impeachment, stated no one could predict how individuals, the constitutional post holders, would behave once authority is given to them.
The national law review taskforce suggested the need for an Impeachment Act with detailed procedures for the conduct of impeachment proceedings.
It is, therefore, the Parliament’s responsibility to ensure a system of checks and balances. They have the power of impeachment through two-thirds of the majority votes.
But will our legislative body provide the required checks and balances? With MPs who do not even want to deliberate on the Impeachment Procedure Bill, how will they ever execute their judgement and check the functions of the constitutional office holders.
What we need in our impeachment discussions is to identify the roles of our MPs. We need Parliamentarians to deliberate and decide on the needs of the nation. Fence-sitting or cruising on the party politics could be worse.
Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar
Although milk marketing groups in Dewathang Gewog, Samdrupjongkhar are doing well in the market, the groups have been affected as their businesses were temporarily banned after the recent rabies outbreak.
The livestock department decided to ban the business in the gewog after confirming the death of the two jersey cows were because of the rabies last year.
Dewathang milk marketing group’s secretary, Rinzin, said that since most of the group members had availed loan to buy jersey cows, they were worried about repayment of loans.
“I consulted and requested the livestock officials to lift the ban as we are badly affected but the officials told us the business would remain banned until the situation gets better,” he said, adding that it has been more than a month since the business was banned.
Rinzin said that it would help them if the officials had found other solutions than banning the business. The group supplies more than 300 litres of milk daily and earns the net profit of about Nu 100,000 a month.
Sangay Dorji, Rikhey milk group’s chairman, said although the ban affected the business, he supported the ban for the safety of the consumers. The group supplies about 700 litres of milk every day and generates about Nu 300,000 a month.
“Although the jersey cows purchased from India were insured, members of the group are worried who would compensate them as the jersey cows purchased from Bhutan were not insured,” the chairman said. The milk supply from the group was banned on January 1 following the death of the five jersey cows in the area.
Martang milk group’s chairman, Ugyen Tshering, said: “We didn’t understand why our business was banned as there is no such cases reported from Martang.” The supply of milk from the group was banned on January 2.
He said that they were worried about paying salaries to the staff . “It would help if the livestock department could lift the ban.” The group has more than 40 members today.
The rabies outbreak was first reported on December 16 last year after the death of the two jersey cows in Samdrupgatshel and Bangtsho in Dewathang.
The veterinary officer, Doctor Kinzang Choedup, said that it was confirmed both the jersey cows died because of the rabies. About 10 jersey cows died as of January 14.
He said the team immediately visited the scene and carried out the vaccination and awareness programmes in the gewog. Three dogs were tasted positive which later died.
Doctor Kinzang said although the situation had improved, they were still monitoring some cases in the gewog. “So, the business would remain banned until the situation gets better.”
A two-storey traditional house in Lamai Gonpa, Bumthang was razed to the ground yesterday. The incident was reported to the police around 11.20 am.
The house was a government quarter, the ground floor was used as parking and two employees of Ugyen Wangchuck Institute of Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER) lived in the top floor.
The two individuals lost all their belongings in the fire but no casualties were reported.
According to the police, the fire is suspected to have started from the bukhari. No one was at home when the fire broke out. Police, local residents, and UWICER staff took around three hours to contain the fire.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
A sharp whistle breaks the quiet at the Happiness Centre Recovery Volunteer Group (HCRVG). It is 3:30pm and time to play. Several teenage boys hustle up to the volleyball ground nearby.
Located on the confluence of Toorsa and Omchhu, the voluntary centre renowned for “relapse prevention” is inching to complete its first year since inception.
Although the centre today has become a popular spot for the needy recovering addicts, it is not without challenges.
The recovering addicts just have a house that is partitioned to two rooms. It has a common toilet. Recently, a makeshift kitchen has been raised outside the centre, which has created some room. However, it still appears congested.
The centre’s founder and a volunteer, Bhupdhoj Ghalley said more than 20 addicts have already left. But not everyone left on a positive note.
“Some got jobs, some went to schools, while some stopped coming,” he said. “But some had to go home as we were finding it difficult to afford.”
Many from the business community and other professions have contributed to support the centre both in cash and kind. However, ration still is the primary concern with the centre.
Happiness Centre caters to all those in recovery mode. It has students, dropouts, and homeless of ages ranging from 17 to 40. It has become their second home – one where they are understood better and keeps them on track to recovery.
A 17-year-old class nine student from Chapcha is about a week old at the centre. His mother who works in Phuentsholing has dropped him at the centre.
“My parents were divorced. I haven’t seen my father for about two years, now” he said.
The teenager said he got addicted to sniffing fluids. But he has realised what he is doing is wrong and he wants to change. He wishes to return to school.
At 40, Bhushan is the oldest in the lot. He was into alcohol and other substances. After entering into the centre in October, he has been sober.
“I have worked different jobs in my life but all in vain as I was addicted,” he said, adding that he used to get anxious and hallucinations that affected his performance.
Bhusan said he had been sober before and relapsed all the time. Families and relatives don’t understand the phase addicts and alcoholics go through, he said, adding they would only talk about will power, which was not possible for those who had hit “rock bottom.”
Another recovering addict has come to the centre straight from the rehab centre in Siliguri in October 2019. The guitar enthusiast said he got divorced due to his addiction problems.
“I grew up in a bad surrounding,” he said. “I saw my parents gambling at home.”
Tshering said addiction had started as early as 14. It has been 11 months he has turned sober.
Each one at the centre has a story to share. Most talk of neglect and denial, family problems, while some started taking drugs due to peer pressure.
Bhupdhoj Ghalley, who is a former addict, meanwhile, has better plans for the centre’s growth and sustainability.
“Legalisation is our first priority,” he said. “We are working to include ourselves under the umbrella of Nazhoen Lamten, a non-profit organisation in Thimphu.”
Bhupdhoj said the centre is currently stuck at getting the land registration, which is under thromde.
Neten Dorji | Trashiyangtse
Weaving had always been an art that the people of Jamkhar gewog in Trashiyangtse prized over much else. The women of this community would make sure that the art and the skills were passed down to the next generation. But change is coming and there aren’t many young women who can weave today.
Winter would be particularly a colourful experience. The women of the households would all be out in the sun, on the loom, the elders teaching the young ones how intricate patterns must be delicately fashioned on the fabrics. Such sights are less common today than it was a decade or so ago and what is left of this culture could become more a vestigial flicker in the coming years.
Choezom, 67, said that most of children do not prefer weaving anymore. “Learning and mastering the art of weaving Bura is not easy,” she said. “It takes time to become a skilled weaver.”
She learnt weaving Bura and dye processing from her mother. “The production process of Bura is lengthy and time consuming.”
Villagers say that although the gewog has been known for weaving and skilled weavers, it has never received attention and support like Khoma in Lhuentse.
“While skilled weavers are available in the community, the culture of weaving is slowly fading away,” said a villager.
Chimi Wangmo from Zor village said that in the past people used domestic yarn and dye to weave Bura cloths. “It is now gone extinct,” she said.
For a good number of households weaving is still the main source of income. They get orders for Bura gho and kira from as far as Thimphu and Paro.
Muku, 57, said she did not weave all the time. In a month, she earns between Nu 20,000 and Nu 30,000. “I encouraged my children to learn to weave but they are not interested. Losing such tradition could aggravate poverty in the communities. I am worried.”
Another villager, Deki Choden, said that most women in Jamkhar still continue to weave. “If we don’t weave there is no other source of income.”
It was learnt that every household in Jamkhar has a skilled Bura weaver.
Some weavers say that the availability of imported inferior quality Bura has affected the market for Bhutanese weavers.
A weaver said that the only option to save this art was by establishing mechanised handlooms.
Under -17 (U-17) national women’s team will face Meghalaya’s U-17 at the FIFA friendly match at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong, Meghalaya, India, at 6:30pm today.
The match coincides with the 48th anniversary of Statehood Day of Meghalaya.
The four players of the senior team: Karma Zangmo, Karma Wangmo, Sonam Chungku, and Yeshi Bidha have joined the team.
Coach Yeshi Wangchuk said the U-17 girls played two preparatory matches with Assam Kokrajhar SAI on January 16 and 18. “During the first match at Gossaigoan, we thrashed them 3:1. On the second, at Kachugoan School, we defeated them 1:0.
Yeshi Wangchuk said: “We are hoping to win this time. All the players are students and we had good training at Women’s Football Academy in Gelephu.” The girls, he added, are mentally and physically prepared.
The game, he said, was important for exposure before participating in the U-17 South Asian Football Federation Championship later this year.
A total of 19 players, accompanied by coaches, team manager, physio and media team, reached Shillong on Sunday.
The Mines and Minerals Bill 2020 provides for an independent regulatory body as a monitoring authority. Today, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) carries out both implementation and monitoring.
However, the National Assembly yesterday failed to agree on the name of the regulatory body even though the Bill was introduced in the House eight months ago.
The proposed name of the monitoring body in the Bill was the Mining Regulatory Authority. Members proposed two additional names – Mines Authority and Mines Legal Authority.
In what was an indication of lack of adequate homework from the ministry and the legislative committee, the House spent a significant amount of time pointing out clerical errors and mismatch between Dzongkha and English texts.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that people would be concerned if it is said that the House could not finalise the name. He said that there are a number of authorities in the country and that a similar name could be given.
The prime minister said that the august House does not have all the required expertise. He advised the committee could come up with a name after consulting with experts.
The House also debated for a need to enact a separate law for the monitoring body. But most members did not support the argument, saying that it was unnecessary.
Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) suggested for a separate Act to protect the independence of the monitoring body. He clarified that such a law may not be required immediately but that it could be considered in the future as the Mines and Minerals Bill is for a long-term purpose.
Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma acknowledged the need for the monitoring body. But he said that no separate law governing the monitoring body was required.
“There are many authorities in the country and all such authorities may require an Act each,” he said.
Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said that similar authorities, including Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) Bhutan Infocomm and Media Authority (BICMA), have their own Acts.
Bartsham Shongphu MP Passang Dorji (PhD) said that a separate law would be required if the implementation of the Mines and Minerals Act does not address the problem. “If required the law has to be enacted.”
Chairman of the economic and finance committee, Kinley Wangchuk, said that the committee did not discuss the requirement of law for the monitoring body. “One of the reasons not to have a separate law was that too many laws may impede services,” he said.
He said that the committee while reviewing the Bill looked into issues related to sustainable operation of mines, employment generation, environment and narrowing the gap. He said the Mineral and Minerals Management Act of 1995 is being amended after 25 years.
Kinley Wangchuk added that the ease of operating mines was also considered. “The objectives of this Bill are, in relation to prospecting, exploration, mining, processing, exporting related activities, to ensure equitable benefits for the people of Bhutan and ensure inter-generational sustainability of the mineral resources.”
Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho said that while some people were of the view that the mines and minerals are benefiting only a handful of people, others think that the mining should be operated by the state for the benefit of all.
He suggested that protection of environment and culture, religious monuments and health of people in the community should be included in the objectives. Since mining is a capital-intensive business there would not be many investors in the sector.
“The government should provide the private sector with the opportunity to operate mines by putting in place proper rules and regulations. The strategic mines and minerals should be operated by the state,” he said.
According to the Opposition Leader, it takes a long process to obtain a mining license but there is no proper monitoring system in place. “If the people were to benefit from mining, there should be a proper tax collection system,” he said.
Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma said that it was high time to amend the Mines and Minerals Management Act of 1995 and that the new Act should benefit for many years to come.
The admission to public school will take place from February 13
Yangchen C Rinzin
All class X students who registered online with the education ministry to study in private schools can seek admission from today in private schools of their choice.
Admission will be open until January 29.
Of the 12,614 students who appeared in the BCSE 2019 examination, 11,810 students have passed the exam while 804 failed and 144 were absent.
All passed students from the 117 public schools and eight private schools will be eligible for admission in both government and private schools without the merit ranking.
The ministry had notified students to register with the ministry for admission into private schools before the result was declared on January 18. The Google document for registration was to collect information of BCSE-X 2019 students who were interested to study class XI in private schools through a government scholarship.
About 8,000 students registered to study in the 21 private higher secondary schools.
However, the government will absorb about 9,472 students in public higher secondary schools including Taktse Rigzhung, while about 2,338 students would be supported through government scholarship and would be placed in private schools.
Department of School and Education’s director general Karma Tshering said that many students opted to register with private schools because most of them did not understand the instructions properly and registered in confusion.
Karma Tshering said many students have already approached the education ministry to withdraw their names.
“It was learnt that many had registered after the viral message in the social media told students should register compulsorily,” he said. “Then there was another rumour on the cutoff point as 62 percent, which confused the students further. They registered thinking they might not get the opportunity to study in government schools.”
Although, 8,000 students have registered for private schools, the director general said the ministry will provide scholarship to a maximum of 2,700 students in private schools as per the class XI admission into private schools’ notification earlier.
“The number may vary depending on the number of dropout and failures. Almost 400 students dropped out last year,” Karma Tshering said. “The private schools had earlier agreed to the number and also to distribute equally among the 21 schools.”
The ministry also revised the government scholarship fee to Nu 40,000 for day scholars and Nu 70,000 for boarders. The revised Nu 70,000 for boarders will be limited to needy students identified by the respective schools.
The Director General said that once the private school admission completes only then the admission in public schools would begin from February 13. Admission into Taktse Rigzhung will begin on February 3.
He added the merit listing for both the private and public schools are same and the class size should not exceed 36 students.
Meanwhile, many students are still confused over the admission and expressed that they are still not sure with what percent they would be eligible to study in public school. Those who registered to study in private schools have obtained higher marks and want to join public schools.
“It will depend on the admission process if the students registered are willing to apply in the private school, as many had registered in confusion,” Karma Tshering said. “It’s not mandatory to study in private schools they’ve registered with and they’ve the option to opt for government schools.”
Declaring the result, Bhutan Council for School Examinations and Assessment (BSCEA) director Jamyang Choeden said the overall pass percentage was 93.63 percent, a decrease of 2.93 percent in 2018. The pass percentage for English is 100 percent.
Scoring 93 percent, Namita Giri from Lungtenzampa Middle Secondary School topped the BCSE 2019 and with the tie, at 92.80 percent, Hari Prasad Acharya from Damphu Central School and Deki Lhamo from Gongzim Ugyen Dorji Central School stood second. While scoring 92.60 percent, Nima Wangdi Waiba from Dagapela Middle Secondary School was third.
The detail of the class XI admission procedures for the public schools will be announced on January 31.
Yangchen C Rinzin
The community centres across the country have to wait some more before the government can resolve their management issues as the Prime Minister awaits a task force report.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering has asked the task force to study the ownership issues on community centres (CC) and recommend a possible resolution to the problems.
This comes after 212 CC operators including seven operators on standby, had appealed to the Prime Minister in November last year to look into the possibilities to regularise their services either with the gewog administration, Bhutan Development Bank Ltd (BDBL) or any other relevant agency.
Almost a decade after the CC was established, the operators are still looking for a parent organisation that would take ownership of the centres.
Lyonchhen said that although the task force had prepared the first report, it had only mentioned the advantages and disadvantages if CCs are kept with the BDBL or local government.
“This is why I asked the task force to rework on the study through self-sustaining mode, look into possibilities to create activities, which will be cost-saving for the government,” Lyonchhen said.
“I asked them to collect all the activities of different banks, institutions, agencies, ministries and government to citizens (G2C) activities to see if those can be incorporated with the CCs.”
The operation and management of CCs were under the Bhutan Post Corporation when it was launched in 2011. Its operation and management were handed over to the BDBL in 2015.
Lyonchhen said that the first report submitted by the task force was unclear on what should be done to address the current issues raised by the operators. “The only concern right now is way forward and not what happened in the past.”
“I am also seeking suggestions from the CC operators through social media (WhatsApp). They keep asking me on the status of the issue and share their grievances.”
Lyonchhen said it was not easy to come up with the decision and there are numerous aspects that have to be looked into before tagging them with any agency.
BDBL requires government’s subsidy of Nu 230M if it has to continue managing the CCs.
“If I had that budget then why not give it directly to the CC as seed money. We really want to look into how to use them and in a way that would benefit them and the communities instead of giving the subsidy that does not guarantee their job security.”
The operators had also requested for salary revision in the appeal. The operators received a salary of Nu 7,245 for past 10 years.
Lyonchhen, however, said that without ownership or proper management structure there was no basis for the revision. “It might take some time for the task force to come up with the solutions.”
“I’m looking for the plan that was initiated earlier but there is no written document. Even the BDBL has no clear way forward document and I don’t want to go back why and how it was done. I am only concerned about the way forward.”
The overall goal of the CCs was to reduce poverty, empower communities, and improve the quality of life in rural areas.