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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 1 hour 47 min ago

Tobacco products reach Punakha

Fri, 08/21/2020 - 11:18

Punakha dzongkhag administration officials distributed over 2,000 packets of chewing tobacco, over 200 packets of cigarettes and around 50 bundles of bidi as of yesterday afternoon. 

Distribution began on August 19 after the dzongkhag received 8,592 packets of chewing tobacco, 2,000 packets of cigarettes and 500 bundles of bidi

While demand is high, the dzongkhag officials are limiting the supply. A person can buy a maximum of two packets of cigarettes, two packets of chewing tobacco and a bundle of bidi

A dzongkhag official said that a lot of requests have poured in from all gewogs.

Two caught with illegally imported chicken

Fri, 08/21/2020 - 11:17

Two staff at the fuel depot of Druk Petroleum Corporation Ltd in Samdrupjongkhar were quarantined as they had received two kilograms of chicken from India. 

De-Suups on duty spotted an Indian tanker driver throwing the chicken out from its window and immediately informed the matter to the police. 

Police found the consignments being hidden in the ceiling. The Indian tanker driver had been blacklisted.

Not all are staying home

Fri, 08/21/2020 - 11:17

There are several offices working to ensure services

Yeshey Lhadon

There is a nationwide lockdown, but if everybody stayed home, a lot of essential services would be affected bringing life to a standstill.

Besides the front liners like the health staff, De-Suups, foresters, police and other volunteers, some of the offices are functioning to ensure services are delivered and essentials catered.

Bhutan Agro Industries limited (BAIL), a state-owned company, remained closed for a week. However, with drinking water in huge demand as thousands of people are out on the streets to enforce the lockdown protocols, the company was asked to start producing water.

BAIL has 140 employees. About 20 percent of the employees are engaged in producing bottled water during the lockdown, according to the Chef Executive Office (CEO) Gyem Dorji. The company still produces about 30,000 bottles of drinking water every day since August 17. Gyem Dorji said, “We are trying to meet the urgent requirements. If the demand increases, our employees will do overtime.”

The CEO said that employees were following stringent health protocols. Employees are living in the production facility and are not allowed to mingle with outsiders, not even the drivers delivering the bottled water. “Their movement is restricted to factory premises to ensure safe public health,” said Gyem Dorji.

With interactions mostly done through social media, services of the two telecommunication companies have become crucial during the lockdown.

“We are functioning twenty-four-seven since we are a real-time service provider,” said the CEO of Tashi Infocomm, Tashi Tshering. Tashi Infocomm has 420 stations throughout the country. Most of its employees are working from home leaving only 30 operation maintenance employees to man the core network of Thimphu. The employees are living away from their families, in Druk Hotel. Tashi Tshering said that 70 percent of Tashi Infocomm’s employees are technical employees who are actively working outside Thimphu.

Selling paper recharge vouchers is the biggest challenge without access to outlets and small shops. The company started distributing recharge vouchers to people living in the rural areas without internet banking through gewog centres.

It is mandatory for financial institutions to function during the lockdown to ensure uninterrupted services such as fund transfer, remittances and storing money in Automated Teller Machines (ATM) using digital services. The Financial Institution Association of Bhutan consisting of all the banks in Bhutan discussed a Standard Operating Procedure to be followed during the lockdown with Royal Monetary Authority.

The CEO of Bhutan Development Bank Limited (BDBL), Phub Dorji said that BDBL received several queries and requests during the lockdown from customers, mostly from rural areas. “Our clients requested us to deliver cash in rural areas as they are not using smartphones to avail our digital services,” said the CEO.

BDBL used to send one staff in the rural areas on a monthly basis to provide banking services. During the lockdown, local government officials collect the names of clients and forward it to Thimphu. BDBL officials are then sent to deliver cash.

Phub Dorji said that they are providing online banking services through 13 employees stationed in the office. They are kept isolated from their families in a hotel and shuttled from the hotel to offices using pool vehicles.

The Thimphu Thromde has become busier since August 11. Besides ensuring water supply, sewerage and waste management services, the thromde is also fully engaged in delivery of grocery to the capital’s residents.

Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee said that few selected Thromde employees are working and staying back in their office like any other functioning offices during the lockdown. “We keep on supplying required essential goods and services.”

Meanwhile, mainstream media houses are either stationed at workplace or working from home. The CEO of Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation (BBSC), Tshering Wangchuk said that BBS is running two television channels- BBS 1 and BBS 2 along with a radio channel with only 80 employees out of 310 in Thimphu.

The employees are camped at the BBS station since the first day of lockdown with meals provided from the office canteen. The CEO said that BBS was well prepared for lockdown since March when Bhutan had its first Covid-19 case.

Other than the government officials visiting BBS station for talk shows or panel discussion, no other outsiders are entertained in the BBS compound.

A team of seven reporters and editors including a lone female journalist of Kuensel Corporation is also stationed at their workplace.

Meanwhile, there are other service providers like  waste collectors, grocery, vegetable and LPG suppliers who have become busier during the lockdown.

Bhutanitis ludlowi spotted in Phrumsengla National Park

Fri, 08/21/2020 - 11:16

Choki Wangmo

Last week, a team of foresters from Phrumsengla National Park, while on Covid-19 duty, reported first sighting of Bhutanitis ludlowi, the Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory, also known as Ludlow’s Bhutan Swallowtail.

Foresters Phuntsho Wangdi, Ugyen Lhendup, Tashi Samdrup, and Sonam Choda spotted the butterfly in Khandupang, Bumthang.

Three individuals were found feeding on flower species—Aster sp., and Sambucus adnate—right off the road in mixed conifer forest at an altitude of more than 3,300 metres above sea level.

Ugyen Lhendup said: “The team was taken by surprise and was excited since the spotting was out of its usual range. We will be soon checking on its host plant and habitat.”

The species was last recorded in Tobrang, Trashiyangtse in 2009 by butterfly researcher and forester at the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation of Nature, Karma Wangdi, at an altitude range of 2,300-2,500 metres above sea level.

Bhutanitis ludlowi is listed as “Endangered” under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List Category.

Although there were no scientific studies to deduce sightings of species in unusual range, Karma Wangdi said that climate factors played a crucial role. He said that due to changing climate, most of the low-elevation plant and animal species were moving towards higher elevation.

He said that the phenomenon was observed in other types of butterfly through the database he maintained. He helps identify and confirm the various species of butterflies found across the country.

Recognised as the national butterfly in 2012, the Bhutan Glory can be easily distinguished by its less strongly toothed hindwing, grey or dirty yellow submarginal lunules on upper-side of hindwing and broader forewing. It belongs to the Papilionidae family.

Previously believed to be endemic to Bhutan and found in the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary, the recent spotting makes Phrumsengla Park the new habitat range for the species.

The park now has 85 species of butterfly, making it the third protected area globally to own the species.

Bhutan has 760 butterfly species. Recently, a new species was reported from the Jomotsangkha Wildlife Sanctuary.

Health officials to test Thimphu residents at stations from today

Fri, 08/21/2020 - 11:15

… residents who have travelled to Phuentsholing 

Yangchen C Rinzin 

 

Thimphu residents who visited Phuentsholing, the town which is a red zone, will be tested for Covid-19 at the testing stations beginning today. The health ministry has identified 10 stations in seven super zones of the thromde.

These residents have travelled to Phuentsholing on or after August 1 till date.

Following a local transmission in Phuentsholing, the health ministry asked all who travelled to Phuentsholing to report through the toll-free number1023. A total of 3,673 people had registered with the health ministry.

Those coming for the test have to use the movement pass. Health surveillance team will call the residents whose super zones are not reflected in the movement pass.

With a large number of residents registering for the test, it has become challenging for health officials to continue with door-to-door testing.  Of the total registered, more than 1,000 are in Thimphu.

If a person does not receive one’s test result within 72 hours, it means the individual tested negative.

Clinical Microbiologist Dr Tshokey said that their plan to test each individual at home since August 17 was ambitious and became challenging.

The testing team could not connect with some residents as their phones were either switched off or did not respond. Locating the address of the residents was the biggest challenge for the surveillance team.

“This is why we had to change the testing strategy and come up with testing centres. The number of people registering for the test indicates that people did not heed to the ministry’s appeal and travelled freely.”

More than 600 have been tested in Thimphu so far, and all the tests had come negative. About 98 were primary contacts of the index case in Phuentsholing, but all tested negative.    

Dr Tshokey said that with one more positive case detected in Phuentsholing thromde last evening, the total number of positive cases is now 151 with 44 active cases. The person was detected during the ongoing community mass surveillance.

He said there are now 34 active cases in Phuentsholing, two in Gelephu and eight in National Referral Hospital in Thimphu. “Since the majority of the cases are from Phuentsholing, mass surveillance was carried out based on risk assessment,” Dr Tshokey said. “Two people from each household are being tested.”

There are about 28,000 residents in Phuentsholing. The 20 teams carrying out the surveillance has collected samples from 11,329 and out of which 7,281 samples have been tested and the rest is yet to be tested. From tests until now, five cases tested positive.

Of the 949 primary contacts of the first positive case detected at the mini dry port in Phuentsholing traced in 12 dzongkhags, about 600 have already been tested.

However, five positive cases were detected in Paro, and two of them were the primary contacts of the index case in Phuentsholing. Dr Tshokey said that based on population density and high-risk zone, mass screening was conducted at Bondey town since yesterday.

Dr Tshokey said that all the positive patients in isolation are in stable condition, and no one is on the ventilator. “Although health ministry had advised people to use masks and wash hands or to practice health safety protocols, not many followed.”

He added that scientifically, it is not necessary to test the entire population because a representative sampling would suffice. He said that the Druk Trace App has helped health officials in contact tracing and urged everyone to use it.

Religious ceremony to contain the spread of Covid-19 

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 11:15

Rinzin Wangchuk

To complement the government’s efforts in containing the Covid-19 pandemic and help minimise further risks, the religious institutions across the country are performing a three-day Lhamo Bakchog kurim ceremony.

The sacred ceremony, which began yesterday, to appease one of the country’s protecting deities, Palden Lhamo or Mahakali is being performed on the directive of the Zhung Dratshang (Central Monastic Body).

The former general secretary of Zhung Dratshang, Lopon Gembo Dorji, said that Lhamo Bakchog is a ritual service or offering made to the Goddess Mahakali and her retinues. Her image or replica is made and all possible offerings laid in front.

“Thus, they are fully satisfied and withdraw all diseases and calamities,” he said.

Tsugla Lopon Samten Dorji said that given the difficult situation Bhutan is facing today the central monastic body has directed all the dratshangs and religious institutions to conduct this special kurim to help pacify the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in the community.

He said that such a religious ceremony is performed only during a crisis.

The other reason for conducting the kurim, according to Lopon Samten Dorji,  is to appreciate and offer the deepest gratitude to His Majesty The King, government and all those individuals who are engaged in the efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

About 80 monks led by Lam Neten of Samdrupjongkhar Dratshang conducted Lhamo Torchung Jatsha kurim yesterday and the three-day Lhamo Bakchog kurim begins today.

In Nangkhar Dordhen Monastic School, Trashiyangtse, Lam Rinchen Drakpa along with 20 monks are reciting the holy scriptures of bum, Kangyur and Sangay Moenla zing ngag to overcome the pandemic in the country.

Dagana rabdey Lam Neten Tshering Penjor presided over the Lhamoi Torchu Jatshar yesterday. Similarly, prayers and butter lamps were also offered at the respective gewog lhakhangs in Dagana.

This is the second religious ceremony the Zhung Dratshang initiated to avert the spread of Covid-19.

Govt. to buy back apples and redistribute if lockdown continues

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 11:14

Choki Wangmo & Phub Dem

Apple growers in the country need not worry about the nationwide lockdown hampering export of the cash crop.

The agriculture ministry has developed plans to collect and redistribute commercial crops such as apples, cardamom and mandarin if the lockdown continues. Apple harvest starts in two to three weeks from now.

Agriculture minister, Yeshey Penjor said that through government facilitation and the support of dzongkhag agriculture officers, private exporters would be mobilised at collection points to collect the produce from farmers, who can then initiate online exports. But they would need to undergo Covid-19 testing and follow the government protocols.

If that fails, the government would then buy the products, add value, and also redistribute for internal consumption along with essential items during lockdown. “The government cannot pay perfect oriented price but will ensure that farmers do not run into loss,” Lyonpo said, adding that the government should not run into loss too.

Bhutan Agro Industries Ltd. is the only local industry that buys apples from the local market for commercial purpose.

This comes as a relief to apple growing farmers who are worried even as the apple season nears. There are reportedly low yield this year in many apple-growing dzongkhags like Thimphu, Paro and Haa, but those seeing average yield are concerned where to sell their produce.

In Lango, Paro, farmer Rinzin Pem sold her first harvest, about 10 boxes of apples, to a vendor from Phuentsholing. A box costs Nu 550. She has 50 apple trees in her orchard. As per her estimation, she has around 40 boxes of apple ready for sale. She said that some of her apples started falling, as it matured.

Parops harvest apples towards mid-September and farmers are worried about the market if the lockdown extends. Some growers were hopeful that the lockdown would be lifted before harvest time, while others are planning to store it for winter.

An owner of a 17 acres apple orchard in Yusipang, Thimphu, Namgay said that the harvest season is early next month but since the yield was low, he will not export this year.

Thimphu has one of the largest apple orchards with 46,383 fruit bearing trees with 578 growers recorded last year. Maedwang gewog produced the highest numbers at 4,20,271 kilograms in 2019.  Genyen Gup Karma Gyeltshen said that there were no plans in place to export apples since people did not anticipate huge production.

President of Bhutan Exporters Association, Dorji Tshering, said that there were no plans to export apple but if the lockdown is lifted or protocols relaxed, the association would try exporting to Bangladesh through Pasakha border. Although the entire apple growing dzongkhags reported poor yield, he said those, which were harvested before the national lockdown was stored in the cold storage in Paro.

The farmers blame hailstorm in May and the early monsoon for the poor yield this year.

Man succumbs to sickle injury 

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 11:12

A 45-year-old man died upon reaching JDWNRH on August 18 after a 20-year-old suspect hit him with a sickle on the head. 

The incident occurred at around 2:30pm in Paro on the same day when a fight broke out between the victim and the suspect’s mother.

Sources said the suspect in an attempt to support his mother, he hit the man.

The suspect was staying with his mother and stepfather in a makeshift hut and the victim was his neighbour. 

The man swam over the Pachu to escape the Police search team. He was arrested yesterday afternoon. 

Mixed response to vegetable distribution

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 11:11

Yangchen C Rinzin 

A total of 16,000 packets of vegetables weighing 80 metric tonnes (MT) were distributed to 38 zones in Thimphu thromde yesterday, according to Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjore. Each packet contained 5kg of vegetables.

Farmers in Paro and Wangdiphodrang supplied all the vegetables.

Residents were allowed to use the movement pass to come out of their homes to buy only vegetables in their respective zones. Many residents complained of running out of vegetable stocks. De-Suups and foresters brought the vegetables to the designated areas and distributed.

There were two packets: the one worth Nu 450 had potatoes, chilli, cabbage, carrot, and cauliflower and the other package costing Nu 350 had the same vegetables except for cauliflower.

Lekim in Changzamtog has been surviving on the little pumpkin that she grew in her small kitchen garden. Her neighbour shared a few green vegetables.

“I had been trying to get vegetables for the past five days, including grocery. The phones were either busy or couldn’t connect, and I was worried about how to feed my five children.”

She kept looking out of her window for the delivery truck since 8am yesterday.

“The moment I saw the car, I rushed because I was worried vegetables might exhaust.”

Many residents were relieved after they could buy vegetables for the first time since the lockdown. Residents who lived on the fringes of the city said they are still waiting for grocery they have ordered a few days ago. Some missed the vehicle that came to sell vegetables early yesterday.

However, some residents wandered from place to place as they could not spot the delivery vehicle.

Some residents requested De-Suups to allow them to harvest vegetables from their garden since they had not moved out of their homes after the lockdown. Those who had gardens adjacent to their homes were allowed to collect the produce.

“I have enough vegetables in my garden, so I didn’t buy it. I wanted the neediest to benefit first,” a resident in Changedaphu said.

The movement card or pass was punched every time people bought the vegetables to ensure they do not take more. A household got one vegetable packet per card.

Some residents could not avail vegetables since they did not have money.

A sweeper in one of the offices, Mon Maya survived eating rice with dal and borrowed vegetable oil from her neighbour.

“I requested the office for money and to deduct it from this month salary. I ordered for grocery but didn’t receive,” the 32-year-old said.

However, in a few places, De-Suups, as per the instructions, gave vegetables to those who could not afford to buy vegetables.

Meanwhile, agriculture minister Yeshey Penjore said that although the plan was to pack about 25,000 packets of vegetables, they could not due to labour shortage. With the help of about 150 De-Suups, 17,000 packets of vegetables were packed.

Lyonpo said that the government had paid only 20 percent of the profit on the cost of production for the vegetables. “We couldn’t offer price like in normal times. But if farmers get a better price and choose to sell to others, they can.”

Wangdiphodrang and other gewogs of Chukha are supplying vegetables to Phuentsholing, which has been declared a red zone. The vegetables are dropped at Rinchending check post, and the Food Corporation of Bhutan Ltd collects from there.

Vegetables from Tsirang, Dagana and parts of Sarpang are supplied to Gelephu. “There is no issue in vegetable supply in the rest of the places. We’ve not supplied in East, as they have enough vegetables,” Lyonpo said.

Lack of coordination and miscommunication among the local government and dzongkhags, according to the minister led to the failure to supply vegetables earlier.

“Farmers should inform the agriculture extension officers and dzongkhag agriculture officers about their products. Whatever surplus there is, it can be supplied to urban areas where there is demand.”

Shops to open in designated zones in Thimphu

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 11:10

Choki Wangmo

Owing to public cooperation in implementing the movement cards to avail vegetable delivery service, the government would open identified shops in various zones across Thimphu Thromde starting today.

Depending on the directives in their movement cards, according to allocated zones and timing, an individual from each household can buy essential items from those shops.

The Foreign Minister Lyonpo Tandi Dorji at a panel discussion said that people should, however, practice physical distancing and follow health advisory while visiting shops.

De-Suups and law enforcers will ensure that people follow the government directives. Lyonpo said that lockdown might not last long if people adhere to the rules.

He said that the movement cards in the zone should not be considered as lockdown relaxation because the risk of coronavirus was still high.

The shops in the respective zones would open on alternate days but the initial focus is on the shops that sell essential items.

For example, along the Norzin Lam, three percent of shops can open tomorrow and remain closed the next day so that every shop are given equal opportunity to carry out business. Depending on the situation, other non-essential shops could be opened in the coming weeks and months, Lyonpo said.

On its Facebook page, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that the move was implemented after analysing the epidemiological situation on the ground. However, it stated: “While these initiatives are incorporated to make lockdown as endurable as possible, this doesn’t not mean the public is encouraged to come out of the house.”

Those zones without shops can either avail online delivery service which would be still in place or arrange vehicles to procure the items in their areas. Considering the conditions of low-income group and their financial challenges, Lyonpo said the government would ensure that they were not left behind by arranging other methods like a credit system.

Yesterday, 200 movement cards were issued and the authorities were still working on those areas which did not get their movement cards. The Thimphu residents were asked to call the toll-free number 1010 for movement card.

Lyonpo also said that zoning in other dzongkhags was also underway.

Meanwhile, a team from the health ministry will conduct mass testing in Paro beginning today.

About 1,000 individuals will be tested and should there be positive cases, lockdown could extend.

He also urged the people to stop stigmatising those who are tested positive. “We should empathise and be compassionate to each other.”

The demand for greens

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 11:03

Bhutanese are not vegetable consumers. They could do without it for weeks. All they need is chillies, considered a spice elsewhere. This may be a generalisation but holds true to an extent.

The demand for vegetables in the past few weeks overwhelmed the government and those trying to ease the pressure from a nationwide lockdown. An army of volunteers engaged in distributing vegetables in the capital city and by evening yesterday, about 80 metric tonnes of vegetables were delivered to the capital’s desperate residents.

While the government is apologetic of the inconveniences caused, what we must understand is that the government in the wake of a pandemic is fighting a battle from two fronts. The lockdown is a measure to break the chain of community transmission. Controlling the spread of the virus in the community is the biggest concern now.

The novel coronavirus has been around for eight months. We have seen how governments handle the pandemic and its repercussions. We have managed it well so far. We can do even better if each one of us can take it as a personal Genkhu (responsibility).

The inconvenience caused by the lockdown is recognised from the highest authority. But this shouldn’t be misunderstood as a right to pressure those fighting to make the country safe. The priority is to get the virus under control and let life return to normal. Without us cooperating, the lockdown will continue. In an emergency situation, we have to compromise. From our demands from fresh fruits to meat to tobacco and alcohol, we seem a little too much pampered.

All efforts are put in place to ensure that people receive essential or not go hungry. Salt, cooking oil, sugar, rice and chillies in or case, are the basic essentials. Beyond that, it is a luxury in the present scenario. There are a few genuine cases where basic essentials have run out. These should be identified. A special hotline could come handy to address genuine needs. By and large, this emergency is a luxurious emergency where everything is dropped at the doorsteps.

We are lucky that the lockdown happened at a time when we produce more than what we consume.  During normal times, we would be exporting vegetables and fruits around this time. There is no shortage of it. It will be delivered or made accessible. From today, we will see some shops open. If we rush to hoard and forget the lockdown protocols, we will risk ourselves of a prolonged lockdown.

Authorities are coordinating to ensure that essentials like cheese, milk and butter are brought in from other dzongkhags. Should the lockdown extend, those coordinating are better prepared now. There is no reason to panic. As we spend time in the safety of our homes, it would be wiser to think of a new normal.

Since the border closure and the instant impact of the pandemic on some sectors, we have enhanced agriculture. We were not wrong. The pandemic has made it possible to reach perishable goods to Thimphu in a day without getting damaged. All these indicate that we have the potential to ensure food self-sufficiency, a goal that we dreamt decades ago.

Non-De-Suup MPs to go to Covid-19 frontline

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 11:03

MB Subba

The non-De-Suup Members of Parliament will now not remain at home during the lockdown but on the frontline as part of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel, who is also not a De-Suup, said that the MPs had gone to the frontline beginning yesterday.

“A majority of the MPs are De-Suups. The non-De-Suup members are brainstorming on how we can contribute from our side in this Covid-19 situation,” he said yesterday.

There are 14 non-De-Suup MPs in the National Assembly. Five of the National Council members are not De-Suup, one of whom is on medical leave.

It was learnt that MPs through the Speaker had appealed to His Majesty The King to grant the opportunity to serve on the frontline.

Members said they were overwhelmed with the opportunity to be part of the national effort.

One of the non-De-Suup MPs, Ugyen Dorji from Dewathang Gomdar constituency, said that it was an “exclusive privilege” to be a part of the team led by His Majesty The King.

“His Majesty expressed a deep concern for the immediate welfare of the people and also expressed serious concerns for the long term economy of our country,” he said.

Another non-De-Suup MP, Kinley Wangchuk, from Athang Thedtsho constituency, stated yesterday on his Facebook page: “With His Majesty The King’s brief audience today, Members of Parliament, who are not De-Suup, led by the Speaker shall come out on the frontlines to help contain Covid-19.”

He stated that His Majesty commanded that the lockdown should be as bearable as possible and that no one should suffer from any form of harshness.

“His Majesty also expressed concerns regarding near-future global recession or depression as a result of Covid-19 crippling the world’s economy.”

Zhemgang banks on gewogs for vegetable supply during lockdown

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 11:02

Nima | Gelephu

The agriculture sector has received improved focus and investment in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and many have ventured into commercial farming.

The Covid-19 task force in Zhemgang on Tuesday highlighted that the time had come for gewogs to provide the required vegetable items to the urban areas.

Zhemgang Dzongdag Lobzang Dorji said that huge investment was made in the agriculture sector across the country. “We sensitised the gewogs on the need to supply vegetable items should the lockdown prolong,” he said.

He added that many in the dzongkhag were engaged in commercial farming.

“We need to come up with a collection mechanism. The produce from the dzongkhag would be sufficient for the supply,” Lobzang Dorji said.

Zhemgang has no shortage of vegetable items.

A group of resort workers who started commercial farming in Kheng Buli in the beginning of the year started supplying vegetables in the dzongkhag.

Harka Man Subba, one of the members of the group, said that returns, however, were not as expected.

There are over 20 groups, cooperatives, and informal farmers groups engaged in commercial farming in the dzongkhag today.

In lower Kheng, tropical region, producing vegetables during summer is challenging because of incessant rain and unfavourable weather conditions.

Trong gewog in upper Kheng played a vital role in producing required vegetables to date.

A dzongkhag administration official said that the villagers were self-sufficient. “However, those living near town areas are facing a shortage of vegetable supply today, particularly cabbage.”

This is because the farmers in Goshing had a bad experience about two years back. Farmers produced a lot of vegetables but could not sell then. “This discouraged the farmers,” the official said.

The access to the market is frequently cut off by the roadblocks at Box Cutting at Gelephu and other points.

The authorised vendors are trying to get the required vegetables during the lockdown from Wangdue.

FCBL delivers more than 880 packages of vegetables daily in Phuentsholing

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 11:01

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The complaints and frustrations among people about not getting vegetable supplies in the “red zone” Phuentsholing town is no more a problem.

Many people who complained before are now lauding and appreciating the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) and the people involved in delivering the services.

Along with FCBL, Phuentsholing Thromde and Bhutan Red Cross Society (BRCS) volunteers are also involved in supplying vegetables to the town’s residents.

The vegetables are brought from Chukha, Paro and Thimphu, and are packed at the FCBL auction yard.

FCBL’s director for the department of corporate business, Dorji Tashi, said that the corporation distributed 4,411 combo bags of vegetables in the last five days.

“On average, we have distributed 882 bags per day,” he said. “This is excluding institutional clients such as armed forces and hotels for whom we supplied in bulk.”

At Toorsa temporary settlement, Sonam Pelden, 19, said that people had become desperate in the initial days after the lockdown.

“But now it has improved.”

However, delivery of essentials at Toorsa temporary settlement, which is also FCBL’s responsibility, is still a problem but distribution has started block wise, she said, adding that she had to order from another source as she couldn’t wait.

Another resident said he was glad to receive the vegetables yesterday.

“It took two days after I ordered, which I think is still a fast delivery.”

He also said that the combo pack had healthy green leafs and beans. The quantity of the vegetables was praiseworthy.

Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said that although there were public grievances about the supply of vegetables, FCBL was doing everything in its capacity.

“The main problem in distribution was due to many areas to cover,” he said, adding that the supplies had to reach places as far as Pasakha and Toorsa Tar.

“And having SOPs and implementing them in the field are two different aspects.”

Uttar Kumar Rai said that there weren’t many vehicles on the move due to the risk factor, which affected the delivery.

However, if there are emergencies, people in the local areas can call the thromde thuemis and thrompon for help.

Livestock products and vegetable produce abundant in Wangdue

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 11:00

Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

At least 14 truckloads of vegetables from Wangdue have been supplied to Thimphu, Sarpang and Tsirang since the lockdown.

According to a dzongkhag official, surplus vegetables were supplied to other dzongkhags according to demand.

Continuous supply of vegetables was ensured with activities such as fallow land revival, improved seed supply, and ensured markets as part of the dzongkhag’s Covid-19 contingency plan.

Today, chillies, cabbages and potatoes are in abundance in the dzongkhag.

“It is the peak season for vegetables right now. Plantation of small chillies to make it available for off-season has also begun,” a dzongkhag official said.

The dzongkhag on August 18 also donated excess vegetables to the Punakha Dratshang.

Within Wangdue dzongkhag, vegetable demands are met through three identified commercial aggregators (CA). Until August 18, more than 71.3 metric tonnes (MT) of vegetables were supplied within Wangdue.

While the CAs in the dzongkhag negotiate price with the farmers, the market price is monitored by the dzongkhag to ensure that there is no hike in the price.

Loading and unloading works are initiated by about 45 De-Suups to deliver essential items in Wangdue.

A De-Suup in Wangdue suggested that the Wangdue dzongkhag administration had prior discussions with the receiving dzongkhag so that re-handling of the vegetables could be avoided.

Today, after vegetables are collected from the gewogs and brought to Bajo, separate vehicle from the dzongkhag demanding vegetables come to collect the produce.

The De-Suup said that while labour wasn’t an issue, minimising re-handling of the produce would ensure less contact and safety.

The supply of dairy products was also ensured by keeping the milk-processing units (MPUs) functional.

Following the health safety protocols, dairy products from farmers are also collected by dzongkhag administration officials.

Until August 18, Wangdue supplied about 88,000 balls of cheese and around 3,000kg butter to the Bhutan Livestock Development Corporation (BLDC) in Thimphu.

Within Wangdue, on August 14 alone, the dzongkhag supplied more than 8,500 balls of cheese and over 400kg of butter.

Life in VUCA times

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 10:57

As  21st century homo sapiens, we all are living in ever more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) times. Technology has become part of our daily lives, whether we are early adopters or laggards. Technology is driving every sector imaginable. It is a tech-obsessed world we live in.

We should seize the opportunity of information explosion, which is at our fingertips. Life is going digital. Every sector will have to adapt to the shift of economy from industrial to information. Our cognitive powers are ever more needed unlike physical power.

Machine learning, marrying with Big Data will only further disrupt many service industries and professions. Deep Learning technologies can have many applications. Medical diagnosis for billions of people will become more accurate.

Deep learning also will affect legal profession. Much of the time consuming routine works in law offices will become automated. Furthermore, Gig economy and cloud kitchen is already happening which has disrupted many sectors.

As you increasingly use the Internet, the data generated about us is machine-readable meaning this can be used to create a personal assistant that knows you in and out than anyone else. If you are living in 2035, you will be able to easily track where did you buy that gho or kira from in 2023. You wont forget anything; children will have their own personal tutors, partners in their journey of education.

Opportunities in accessing education will be immense and equal be it for wealthy or low-income families. New jobs, which require new skills, will be created. Automated AI systems will replace current skill sets.

For example, currently in South Korea and Singapore, robots are increasingly being used for daily activities due to COVID-19. For instance, if we had a strong culture of using Druk Trace App, how easy would it be for our government! It would have saved lot of resources.

Therefore, we can thrive in this VUCA world by being a lifelong learner. Now, we all understand that lockdowns will be part of our lives. Although we will be confined or locked in, we should keep learning and keep on investing in our own development. Old model of going to college for four years and then cost for the remaining life wont just work anymore. So even jobs may go away. All will be in better position if we keep learning. In future, people should keep learning all their life even after college from Internet like MOOCs and other openly available online resources.

Ask not what Bhutan can do for you. Ask what you can do for Bhutan, is timely. Let us all cooperate, stay home, stay safe and keep learning. Remember, in building ourselves, we are by default, building our nation.

As per World Economic Forum, COVID-19 has highlighted 5 global inequalities like access to healthcare, access to green space, access to Internet, ability to work remotely, and accessibility. In contrast, almost all Bhutanese enjoy these 5 facilities here in Bhutan. There is nothing much to ask for especially in times like this. Learning has no boundaries and age constraints.

Finally, please remember precious words of our Beloved King: “It is easy to lose material wealth-but not our capability and intelligence.”

So, keep learning!

 

Subash Sharma

Norbugang, Samtse

BBSC stops live streaming of contents on social media platforms

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 10:57

Thinley Namgay

Stating “breach of copyright laws” the Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation (BBSC) management has stopped live streaming of movies and other programmes that do not belong to the corporation.

“It has been found that few contents have been uploaded on YouTube without prior permission, which is a breach of the copyright laws. As the BBS broadcasts content that does not belong to the BBS, it has been imperative that BBS stops live-streaming with immediate effect,” BBS management stated in its official Facebook page.

“However, live streaming shall continue for the news and programmes from 7pm until 11pm, press briefings and announcements,” BBS management stated.

BBS’s Managing Director, Tshering Wangchuk, said that understanding the copyright concerns, BBS had to stop live streaming of the contents on Facebook and YouTube. However, people can watch movies and other programmes on television daily.

Currently, BBS is broadcasting movies to engage the people during the lockdown meaningfully. The Royal Office for Media (ROM) has bought the films from film producers before the nationwide lockdown to help the film fraternity during the pandemic.

Tshering Wangchuk said that ROM had handed more than 90 films to the BBS to broadcast for the public during the lockdown. “ROM has full copyright for these movies.”

BBS has started broadcasting two movies daily since August 13. Fourteen films were broadcasted as of yesterday. The movies are broadcast at 10am in the morning and 3:30pm in the afternoon.

Most of these movies are produced in 2018 and 2019, which was not broadcast on the BBS before. BBSC is also broadcasting short films and the movies produced by private individual. “On our request, people from the Film Association of Bhutan have made 45 short films during this pandemic which have duration of one hour each. BBSC is broadcasting these short movies daily at 9am,” said Tshering Wangchuk.

On August 17, the movie- ‘Pot of Gold’ was broadcast on the request of the private individual. “If the private individual (producer) request BBS to broadcast their movie for free, we do it,” said Tshering Wangchuk.

Meanwhile, Bhutanese movies are a big hit among the people with many expressing their appreciation on social media. Lungten Tshering, a cable line worker in Trashigang, said that he usually watch local movies during the leisure time. “It has really helped people stay home during the lockdown.”

Another movie enthusiast, Yuden Wangmo from Uzorong, said that being a Bhutanese she was fond of Bhutanese movie.

Great scholar passes away

Wed, 08/19/2020 - 10:26

Dasho Sangay Dorji was 74

Rinzin Wangchuk

As the news of the passing away of the Druk Thuksey recipient, Dasho Sangay Dorji, spread far and wide, condolences poured in from across the country.

Saddened by the news, his close friends and colleagues described Dasho Sangay Dorji’s death as a great loss to the nation. He is one of the last scholars and prolific writers in the country.

The former secretary of the Dzongkha Development Commission (DDC), Dasho Sangay Dorji passed away at the Thimphu national referral hospital on the night of August 17. He was 74.

Popularly known as Drungchen Sangay Dorji, the late Dasho was a man of humility, academically highflyer and was passionate about any responsibility or task that was given to him. “He would work late night and woke up early in the morning to ensure that the task was done,” said Lopon Kuenzang Thinley who worked with Dasho Sangay Dorji writing and editing books.

Dasho Sangay Dorju was awarded the Druk Thuksey (Heart Son of Bhutan) medal by His Majesty The King in recognition of his extraordinary service to the nation during the National Day Celebration in Thimphu in 2019.

Earlier in July 2019, His Holiness the Je Khenpo awarded an appreciation and recognition letter to Dasho Sangay Dorji for his contribution in preserving and promoting the national language. In the letter of appreciation, His Holiness underlines language as the heart of culture which is at the heart of safeguarding the country’s independence.   

Dasho Sangay Dorji was conferred the red scarf with the title Dasho by His Majesty The fourth King in 1999 coinciding with the silver jubilee celebrations.

His Majesty also appointed him as the first secretary of DDC when it was established in 1986.

Dasho Sangay Dorji was born into a religious family in Chutoed village of Tang, Bumthang, in 1946 as an ordinary child. But his early childhood was extraordinary. At 11, he completed chagbum (100,000 prostrations) and at 13, ngondro (preliminary practices). It was rigorous grooming to prepare him for a religious life.

In 1961, when the erstwhile Rigzhung Lobdra was started at Wangditse in Thimphu, eager to explore the world beyond Bumthang, he set off to Thimphu on a seven-day gruelling journey on foot carrying a backpack of foodstuff. He was 15. In the next few years, he would undertake the journey between Tang and Thimphu at least 14 times.

Barely three years after studying under Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the first principal of Rigzhung Lobdra, he was appointed a teacher for a monthly salary of Nu 30. And three years later, he became the personal secretary to Dasho Shingkhar Lam in the office of the Third Druk Gyalpo, marking the beginning of his long, distinguished literacy career.

He served six years in the office of the Third Druk Gyalpo, 20 years in the National Assembly Secretariat from 1968-1986, 27 years in DDC, and five years with the Department of Culture.

Dasho Sangay Dorji was among the first writers to record the proceedings of the National Assembly, write laws based on the Thrimzhung Chenmo, textbooks for schools, Rigzhung Lobdra and non-formal learners, bilingual dictionaries, and guidebooks on driglam namzha.

After retiring from the civil service in 2006, Dasho had been on contract with DDC and the culture department. During this period, he co-authored with three other scholars, a Bhutanese biography of Guru Rinpoche.

According to Lopon Kuenzang Thinley, Dasho Sangay Dorji was writing the history of Bhutan before Zhabdrung’s era before he passed away.

 

Telcos offer free data to help people connect 

Wed, 08/19/2020 - 10:25

MB Subba

To help subscribers stay connected with their loved ones, the two telecom companies have offered more than one giga-byte free data to each subscriber.

Bhutan Telecom (BT) on August 17 announced that it would credit free data of 1,110MB yesterday to the accounts of all its subscribers.

The only private cellular company, TashiCell, also yesterday morning came up with a more attractive offer – Nu 50 talk time and 1,024MB data for free.

However, many subscribers of both BT and TashiCell, who had thanked the companies in advance for the offer, said that they had not received the offer even by yesterday evening.

The service providers clarified that they could not credit all the numbers due to the large volume of subscribers and requested the subscribers to be patient.

Chief Executive Officer of BT, Karma Jurme, said that all subscribers would receive. “We have clarified on our social media account,” he said.

The BTL on its official Facebook page stated that it received numerous queries as to when the free data will be credited.

“BT has already started provisioning data to users’ accounts. Due to the large volume of BT subscribers, all numbers have currently been queued. Everyone will receive the data by the end of the day,” it stated yesterday afternoon.

TashiCell also stated in the evening that it had started provisioning free data and talk time but that it could not credit the “freebies” to all the subscribers on the first day itself.

“The freebies shall get credited and you will be notified through two SMSes – one for the talk time and another for the data,” the company stated on its official Facebook page.

Company officials said they were yet to see in detail as to how much the freebies would cost for the companies. The BT CEO said that the offer would be given to all active users.

A rough calculation shows that BT is estimated to provide a total of around Nu 41 million (M) in free data as it has about 415,570 active subscribers.

Similarly, TashiCell’s free data and talk time offer could be worth about Nu 37M although the exact worth of free data and talk time it will provide are not known.

TashiCell has over 242,550 active subscribers, according to the statistical bulletin of the information and communications ministry for the second quarter of 2020.

The total number of mobile subscriptions were 465,085 for Bhutan Telecom and 295,475 for TashiCell as of July.

The figures, however, include 49,525 and 53,925 passive subscribers for Bhutan Telecom and TashiCell respectively. Passive users are those that are still registered with the operators but have not been in use for three months.

Mobile cellular subscriptions jumped by 24,558 in the second quarter of 2020.

Stopping community transmission isn’t impossible 

Wed, 08/19/2020 - 10:24

The nationwide lockdown that enters the ninth day today has caused immense disruptions and discomfort. 

Even as many wish it to be lifted, it is not clear when it will be. But there is one thing that is crystal clear. It is in our own hands.  

That is the message the health minister and the prime minister have been trying to drive home. From the health point of view,  lockdown could ease when the pandemic is brought under control. And this can be done only with unconditional support from the public. The situation has changed. 

There is community transmission and as we know, it is difficult to control the spread without wholehearted cooperation of the people. However, it is not impossible. That is why those fighting on the frontline or planning in the background are urging us to help them by helping ourselves. Mass testing is on in Phuentsholing. About 6,500 of the 27,000 people in the border town has been tested. 

As of last night, primary contacts of the first case from the Mini Dry Port in Phuentsholing has reached 12 dzongkhags. Three positive cases are confirmed in Paro. The risk of a full-blown community transmission is imminent. People from all over the country had been to Phuentsholing between August 1 and 11, the period health officials consider crucial after detecting the first case outside a quarantine facility. About 900 were from the capital city.

By today or tomorrow, we would know the results of the 500 people who reported and tested for the virus. The concern is about those who are not reporting to health authorities of their travel history. If they are hiding and carrying the disease, all our efforts and resources will have gone to waste. Health Minister Dechen Wangmo yesterday said that the situation is not good in Phuentsholing. What is more worrying is when she said that epidemiologically Thimphu and Phuentsholing are considered as one. 

This means that the most populated town is also at risk of reporting a case in the community.

Lyonchhen, the health minister and many others trying to help us stay safe are appealing for help at every opportunity. The appeals are nothing other than asking people to stay home, report their travel history, keep distance or wash our hands.  We should be able to do this. Tenants or neighbours, colleagues or community members reporting an individual with travel history to Phuentsholing, for instance, is a great service to the nation fighting a pandemic. 

With community transmission confirmed, priorities have changed. The health ministry would prioritise minimising the impact or prevent deaths. 

Each Bhutanese can play a great part in fulfilling this priority.

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