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Updated: 58 min 34 sec ago

Bhutan Herbal Tea overwhelmed with demand

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 15:50

Products of Bhutan Herbal Tea plant located in Krongmanba in Dhur, Bumthang, which produces nine varieties of herbal tea, is gaining popularity, both locally and in the international market, but it can’t meet the demand.

Two Bhutanese, who worked in the United States for decades, co-founded the plant in 2016. Currently, it employs 12 youth and provides daily wage labour opportunity to the people of Dhur.

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Farmers in Wangdue not happy with shiitake yield

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 15:48

Farmers in Wangdue, who cultivated shiitake mushrooms through Priority Sector Lending (PSL) loan, are not happy with the yield.

A farmer at Bajothang, Kinley Wangdi, said he availed Nu 500,000 loan through PSL to grow shiitake.

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Bhutanese judokas out of championship

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 15:47

Tandin Wangchuk, Kinley Tshering, and Ngawang Namgyel who represented Bhutan Judo Association (BJA) at the World Judo Championships in Tokyo, Japan are out of the tournament.

BJA’s President Karma L. Dorji said that although all the three Judokas were out of the tournament, they performed with high standard.

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BFF strives to diversify football

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 15:46

To broaden the horizon of football in the country, the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) is organising 17 competitions in the country as of yesterday. Some competitions are completed.

The Under -15 and Under -18 Youth leagues for both girls and boys were organised in Thimphu, Paro, Punakha and Phuentsholing from March to May this year.  The two top teams from all the categories came to Thimphu in July for second round of competition.

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Another opportunity to work and earn in Japan

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 16:09

Ministry of Labour and Human Resources yesterday launched Technical Intern Training Programme (TITP) which is expected to engage youth to take up technical training internships in Japan.

Labour Minister Ugyen Dorji said that the programme would not be implemented like the Learn and Earn Programme (LEP) that did not fare well and that the programme was different from the LEP.

Unlike LEP, the ministry would directly implement TITP without involving agents or private partners.

The programme is the outcome of the Memorandum of Cooperation signed between the ministry and the government of Japan in 2018 to engage youth as technical intern trainees in Japan.

The programme comes after the seven-member delegation led by labour minister visited Japan from April 16 to 27 this year to gain a clear picture of the situation of students placed in Japan through LEP. During the visit, opportunities under TITP for Bhutanese were explored upon the recommendation of the Japanese authorities.

TITP will allow Bhutanese youth to pursue a three-year internship with Japanese employers to gain skills and knowledge to augment their employability. The youth are expected to master the skills by the fourth and fifth year.

Lyonpo said that the programme was designed in direct collaboration with the Japanese government.

“The ministry is striving to create gainful employment for youth through such programmes,” Lyonpo said. 

“This internship is expected to result in the transfer of skills, technologies, and knowledge, which will culminate in the capacity development of youth in the country.”

Under TITP, the employing agencies in Japan will pay stipend to youth based on prevailing rates for internships, facilitate the accommodation and logistics during the internship.

The youth are expected to return home to join the labour market in the similar sectors of their engagement and bring back critical skills in filling the job vacancies through TITP.

Youth could also choose to continue to work in Japan if they get visa. In the first batch, the ministry plans to send about 25 youth.

“There could be flaws, loopholes and challenges as the programme continues. What is important is that we respond to all these swiftly and improve the programme which is why, unlike LEP, it is not designed to send hundreds of youth together,” Lyonpo said.

Senior employment officer (SEO), Chimi Rinzin, said that depending on the Japanese requirement, the youth would be trained in different vocational and general fields, given crash course and would be certified before leaving for an internship.

“The youth should have a certain set of skills to go for TITP once selected. However, they will have to also learn Japanese language bearing the expense themselves,” he said.

For effective implementation of the programme, Lyonpo also launched the guideline for TITP. The details of the programme will soon be made available on the ministry’s website.

Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji also launched the Youth Engagement and Livelihood Programme (YELP) to engage and support the livelihood of about 6,000 youth in the 12th Plan. The programme would support around 1,500 jobseekers annually.

YELP will provide jobseekers with the opportunity to enhance their skills and gain work experience. The programme incorporates the government’s aim to support the livelihood of youth, especially in the construction and agriculture sectors.

The programme will engage youth through four different sub-programmes – Youth engagement Programme (YEP), Employment Support Programme (ESP), Project Specific Support (PSS), and Skills Training Programme (SP).

The youth would be engaged for a maximum of six months each for YEP and ESP, 12 months for SP, and 24 months for PSS.

 Youth engaged through YELP will be supported through allowances.

Chimmi Rinzin said that monthly allowances based on different sub-programmes would be born by the ministry and the employers.

“This will provide opportunity for youth to see where their skill matches during six months of internship, field of interest and, after the internship, they would be employed as a regular employee,” he said. “The ministry will bear the majority of the salary cost, especially in the areas of agriculture and construction.”

The programme was developed based on the findings on impact of Direct Employment Scheme (DES), which was carried out jointly by GNHC and the Ministry. The Direct Employment Scheme has been discontinued.

The ministry also signed a memorandum of understanding with Construction Development Corporation to engage 500 youth annually, Pyelbar Lokchey Nyamchoe Laydey will engage about 10 youth, and The Youth Group of Panbang about nine through this programme. Bhutan Development Livestock Cooperation will engage about 134 youth.

A guideline was also launched to provide systematic procedures. Jobseekers and employers should register with the ministry’s job portal.

Yangchen C Rinzin

Cold storage laid to waste in Dagapela

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 16:08

Technical failure has turned a two-storied zero-energy cold storage, constructed at a cost of Nu 2.6 million (M) in 2012 and deemed first of its kind, to waste in Dagapela.

The cold storage constructed to store horticulture produce using passive evaporative mechanism to minimise fruits and vegetable waste was used only once in 2015 to store oranges.

The problem is with the technical design. The National Post Harvest Centre’s (NPHC) plant manager in Dagapela, Tenzin Rabgyel, said the leakage from the roof has to be inward so that the cooling effect is maintained inside. 

But the leakage of the structure, roofed with shingles, is outwards, spoiling the plaster and mud walls.

He said that the storage mechanism would have been economical, as it does not require electricity for operation of the cold storage facility.

Tenzin Rabgyel said that in April 2015, the imported fireproof roofing with insulation properties got damaged in a storm. “This kind of roofing sheet costs about Nu 650,000.”

He said after almost six months without the roofing, tarpaulin sheets were used but it wasn’t durable. “Wooden shingles were used ,but there is leakage.”

The structure poses  risk to the staff going in to open and close nine earthen pipes and windows every night. 

The staff have to monitor and keep the ventilation and cooling system intact.

The NHPC had reported about the situation to the headquarters, but it was learnt that there was no budget.

Tenzin Rabgyel said that the facility can be restored if the roofing is replaced. “Although there won’t be 100 percent restoration, it can help store horticulture products and serve its purpose.

He said that people also do not seem keen on storing in the facility in the area ,as they only keep the rejected ones.

Besides reducing the loss of fruits and vegetables, the cold storage was built to improve the socio-economic status of the farmers, to increase the shelf-life of farm products and to promote the organic products as storage does not involve the use of chemicals to extend shelf-life of the products.

The plant manager said that farmers in the locality stored agriculture produces which have long been harvested. “They tend to only store these products when it is about to get spoilt.”

He said that products that go into the store need to be harvested well and be in good condition for a longer storage period. “Otherwise it could rot and damage other goods.”

About 880kg of mandarin was stored in 2015. It was a trial storage to find how effectively the facility preserved the mandarin. Besides this, it was also to find possible ways to improve the facility. However, the trial failed when the leakage happened.

Meanwhile, the facility was constructed with funding from South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) development fund.

Rinchen Zangmo  | Dagana

ACC requests OAG to re-consider prosecuting former RICBL CEO

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 16:07

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has written to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) along with new evidences to reconsider prosecuting the case against the former chief executive officer of Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan (RICBL), Namgyel Lhendup.

In her letter to the Attorney General (AG) on August 23, ACC’s chairperson Kinley Yangzom stated that after analysing OAG’s decision for dropping the criminal charges against Namgyel Lhendup, the commission felt that the case merits prosecution.

The ACC forwarded the case to the OAG on December 29, 2017 alleging that Namgyel Lhendup had embezzled public fund of Nu 237,907 from the company’s Ex-Gratia Fund and CEO’s public relations Fund without the endorsement of the management committee.

The Commission implicated the former CEO for seven counts of embezzlement of funds or securities by a public servant.

Reasons for dropping the case

OAG reviewed the case and determined that Chapter V of the case did not merit criminal prosecution against the former CEO and informed the ACC so in writing on July 5.

To meet various natures of expenses, the RICBL board had approved six different budget heads, including ex-gratia fund and CEO’s PR fund. The fund from the ex-gratia budget-head is subject to the prior endorsement of the core management team comprising of CEO, executive director and five general managers of different departments. CEO’s PR fund is at the sole discretion of the CEO for fulfilling corporate-social-responsibilities by way of donations and other contributions.

The AG stated that the citation of wrong budget-head had caused procedural lapses.  While there was the ex-gratia fund, a budget head called “CEO’s Ex-gratia Fund” did not exist. CEO’s personal assistant (PA) had processed the PR fund release on several occasions as CEO’s Ex-gratia Fund. The heads of General Administration Department & ADM had approved and the funds were released from the “ex-gratia fund” instead of CEO’s PR Fund without the endorsement of the management team as required.

“It is on this basis that the ACC alleges the CEO for embezzlement of funds by a public servant,” AG stated in his letter.

The wrong citation of budget-head, he said, was neither notified to the CEO nor informed to his PA for necessary corrections. “The joint statements deposited with ACC by the dealing officials of RICBL maintained that the CEO cannot be held accountable for the alleged release of funds as it was the dealing officials whose failure had resulted in the disbursements of funds from the ex-gratia fund.”

While determining Namgyel Lhendup’s culpable intent, or if he had issued any instructions to withdraw money from the ex-gratia fund, OAG found that Namgyel Lhendup had consistently maintained in his statements that the funds should have been released from the CEO’s PR fund and that he never instructed his PA or other dealing officials to disburse the funds from the ex-gratia fund. That assertion by the CEO, according to AG, was corroborated by the statements of the dealing officials who maintained that they received no directives from the CEO for the release of such fund.

AG stated that the receipts for the alleged amount spent by Namgyel Lhendup was fully accounted and validated by the ACC and OAG at various stages of the investigation.

Based on theses findings, the OAG concluded that the release of funds from the ex-gratia fund was due to the wrong citation of budget-head by the Namgyel Lhendup’s PA as there was sufficient balance in the CEO’s PR Fund to meet the alleged releases.  Namgyel Lhendup fully accounted for the budget he had released to fulfill corporate-social-responsibilities and had personally gained no material benefits from the funds that he had allegedly spent.

ACC’s stand

The chairperson of ACC said that during the investigation, Namgyel Lhendup was given the opportunity to explain and account for the use of funds as implicated in the investigation report, yet he failed to do so. However, after the investigation report was forwarded to OAG, he had submitted additional documents with receipts from individuals for justification, which the Commission was asked to validate the authenticity of the receipts by OAG on June 5, 2018.

The commission forwarded a subsequent report on August 3 last year invalidating all those documents and receipts submitted by Namgyel Lhendup. In the subsequent report, the letter stated that the Commission had highlighted that most receipts were backdated to justify the amounts withdrawn by the CEO and, most importantly, those documents and receipts pertaining to his personal donations/expenses were not within the scope of the Ex-gratia fund.

“His submissions of such additional documents to OAG for the philanthropic activity done by him for personal relations, is an attempt to cover up wrongful acts committed in his capacity as the CEO and thus, his assertion based on such receipts cannot be considered as valid or bona-fide expenditure of RICBL,” the letter stated.

ACC also established that the booking of the budget heads, in particular the disbursement of the funds from the Ex-gratia fund, was purely done on the specific instructions of Namgyel Lhendup.

New evidences

Contrary to the OAG’s figure, the ACC submitted new evidences on statements in budget and expenses. The Commission clarified that the ACC’s investigation report reflected only the expenditure amounts that were adjusted through note sheets without supporting bills and documents under the three budget heads of CEO’s PR Fund, Ex-gratia and donation for the year 2016 and 2017.

As per OAG’s statement, the board approved Nu 500,000 each for CEO’s PR Fund in the financial years 2016 and 2017. Of that, Namgyel Lhendup spent Nu 200,000 in 2016 and Nu 85,000 in 2017. The OAG found that there was a balance of Nu 300,000 in 2016 and Nu 415,000 in 2017.

However, ACC found that the allocated budget for Ex-gratia of Nu 450,000 and CEO’s PR fund of Nu 500,000 in 2016 were used up since Namgyel Lhendup had spent 9,887 more from Ex-gratia and Nu 65,419 from CEO’s PR fund. There was a balance of Nu 12,570 under Ex-gratia and Nu 309,875 under the CEO’s PR fund in 2017. The unused budget in 2017, according to ACC, was mainly because Namgyel Lhendup was suspended from his office on July 7, 2017 for the purpose of investigation.

Challenging OAG’s statement, the Commission stated that the dealing officials in their written statements to ACC during the investigations had neither reported that they did not receive directives from the CEO for such release of fund from the Ex-gratia nor did they claim that the CEO cannot be held accountable for the alleged release of funds.

“In fact, his PA asserted that the withdrawals of funds from the Ex-gratia was done as per the verbal advice of the CEO and accordingly the note sheets prepared,” the letter to OAG stated.

It also stated that the CEO does not have the sole prerogative to use the specific budget for Ex-gratia and donation without the endorsement of the RICBL management committee.

The Commission, according to the letter, noticed that OAG did not mention anything on the charge against the CEO on the purchase of a secondhand TV stand from the RICBL for his personal use at home from the Ex-gratia.

“Even the note sheet for releasing the fund reveals that it was purely done on the instruction of the CEO. This was accepted by the CEO himself during the investigation,” the ACC letter stated.

The Commission feels that labelling the case as administrative lapses on the part of the dealing officials of RICBL as indicated in OAG’s letter is not appropriate and justifiable.

“It is inappropriate to drop the case from criminal prosecution considering it as nothing more than administrative lapses. The Commission, therefore, requests the OAG to reconsider prosecuting the case considering the additional evidences and information submitted herewith,” the letter stated.

Rinzin Wangchuk

Going to work in Japan

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 16:06

The labour ministry launched another programme under which Bhutanese youth could live and work in Japan for five years as interns.

The programme comes close at the heels of the Learn and Earn programme (LEP) that is now suspended and officials involved dragged to court. While all eyes are on the court, it is a bold decision on the part of the labour ministry to go ahead with another programme.

The controversial LEP has raised doubts among youth and parents. Every time there is a programme about sending Bhutanese to work in Japan, there will be second thoughts. But that shouldn’t discourage our decision makers.

Japan is in need of work force. The country is struggling with an aging population. It desperately needs hundred of thousands of workers. It is an opportunity even if the number of Bhutanese is a drop in the sea of immigrant workers.

The programme’s timing may be imperfect when media is exposing how Japanese firms are exploiting immigrant workers. But, at home, we cannot create jobs for all those graduating from school or college. Youth unemployment is the beggest problem facing the country today.

There is advantage of working a few years in a foreign country. Apart from the income, when they come home, they bring with them skills. Japan is known for innovation in almost all fields.

There are success stories in the past programmes although the controversy overshadowed it. It is not a total failure.

Desperate for work, there will be many who would want to apply for the programme. Having learnt lessons from the LEP and other programmes, we will be wiser now. We are wiser now to not politicise an employment programme, we are wiser to be more transparent and make our decision-making process professional.

The LEP case could expose a lot of issues including a blame game between the bureaucracy and the elected leaders. From this learning process, our bureaucrats will learn to resist political interests, including saying “no” to a minister.

Bureaucrats should not be concerned of their self-interest. They should provide the right feedback and advice to politicians. The bureaucracy’s mandate is to safeguard the interest of the public, not to please a minister.

There will be clashes. Politicians will have to consider the interest of the voters and private business supporters in making decisions. In the process, our decision-making could become more complex or our priorities could change. The bureaucracy should be able to resist this through professionalism.

Politicians come and go but the bureaucracy will remain.

The internship programme is different. It is a result of an agreement between the two governments. When governments are involved, the risks of exploitation are reduced. Besides, we have the advantage of our close and friendly relations with Japan. A good example is the overseas programme in the Middle East. Bhutanese workers in the Middle East are doing fine.

Another lesson we learnt is also in choosing who goes to Japan. Japan needs people to work, not tourists. If people applying for the internship think it is a holiday or if parents see the opportunity to discipline their jobless son, the programme will fail even before we start.

Dengue still raging in Phuentsholing

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 16:05

Dengue cases in the border town of Phuentsholing have risen in weeks to 1,468.

Until August 20, the Phuentsholing hospital had registered 1,239 positive cases.

Measures continue to be taken to control the outbreak.

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A second shot at telemedicine 

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 16:04

Recognising telemedicine as the answer to our rugged terrain and distance, the government for decades has tried to use telemedicine.

However, lack of adequate ICT resources both in terms of human resources and infrastructure have been an impediment in allowing health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients at distance using telecommunications technology.

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Development activities threaten ruddy shelduck habitats

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 16:03

Bhutan is winter home of ruddy shelduck, a distinctive waterfowl with orange-brown body plumage with a paler head.

Ruddy shelduck mostly inhabits inland water-bodies such as lakes, reservoirs and rivers, but their habitats are increasingly being threatened by developmental activities in the country.

Although the species is categorised as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of threatened species, waterbirds in the country are under constant threat due to habitat destruction.

Some of the threats arise from construction of buildings, draining of wetlands and conversion, extraction of fuels from peats and collection of river materials along Punatsangchu basin, according to an ornithologist with Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICE), Sherub (PhD).

“Moreover, the habitats of water birds such as ruddy shelduck do not fall within any biological corridor or protected area. That is why the species is at risk,” he added.

According to WWF country representative, Dechen Dorji, the migratory birds are great symbols of longevity and connectivity in the natural world. They are representatives and indicators of relentless efforts of nature to keep our ecosystems intact.

To conserve and protect the habitats for multiple water- and wetland-dependent species, covering the areas of international and regional importance, a study was carried to track the journey of ruddy shelduck under the WWF programme on lesser-known species.

“As a consequence of Least Concern status of some common species, they receive the least attention and resources when it comes to conservation interventions and research. The larger community and society need to learn and know about the beautiful gifts of nature that we take for granted,” Dechen Dorji said.

Sherub said that the findings from the study would help to conserve habitats of the threatened species and inform the conservation agencies to strengthen community-based conservation efforts.

The study, which began in December 2017, tagged six ruddy shelducks from Thimchhu, Punatsangchhu, and Bumthang with Global Positioning System (GPS).  The birds were named after Tshering Namdru, the six symbols of longevity as Bja Tshering, Chu Tshering, Drak Tshering, Mi Tshering, Shauw Tshering, and Shing Tshering.

By tracking the birds’ behaviour, the study found out that the birds followed different routes towards their summer habitat. The highest elevation they climbed was 7,288 metres above sea level. The birds roosted and foraged in different groups.

This, Sherub said, was because the birds in three different locations had different migration timing and belonged to different sub-population. “It was difficult to conclude but within ruddy shelducks, they had different families among which they migrate and live.”

Except for Chu Tshering, other tagged birds died between 2018 and 2019.

Ruddy shelducks migrate to Bhutan by November and then fly back to Tibetan plateau by March. There are about 1,500 ruddy shelducks in the country.

Bhutan is a host to the migratory birds in the Himalayas. The rich avian diversity is attributed to a wide elevation range covering different habitat types and the country’s effort towards environmental conservation.

The 10th edition of mountain echoes festival in Thimphu discussed “Long flight home: Following the Ruddy Shelduck”.

Choki Wangmo

TCB meets tour guides to strengthen collaboration 

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 16:01

Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) officials met with Bhutanese tour guides on August 24 to strengthen collaboration and to discuss issues facing the sector.

About 870 guides attended the day-long consultative meeting in Thimphu.

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Phongmey gewog cut off

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 16:00

With about 50ms of the Phongmey gewog centre (GC) road completely washed away by the swollen Dungjurri on the evening of August 23, the gewog remains cut off from the dzongkhag.

Dungjurri was swollen due to heavy rainfall that evening.

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Dramtoe women brave life without spouses

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 16:09

Inside her rickety and smoky hut, occasionally rubbing her teary eyes, Jampem Doya peels potatoes for dinner. It is only 5pm.

At 42, the Lhop woman looks way beyond her age. She is sick and tired. But dinner must be cooked fast. Her three children are home from school and done with fetching water from a nearby stream. She collected some wild mushroom for dinner.

Life is hard raising three children as a single mother, she said. She divorced her alcoholic husband two years ago. Like Jampem, there are many women in Ngawang Dramtoe, a remote Lhop (Doya) community in Tading, Samtse.

Her husband sold the cattle and goats and wasted the returns on alcohol. He turned violent every time Jampem made an issue of his habit. “I decided to divorce when he fractured my hand while beating me,” she said.

There are 105 households with more than 500 Lhops in Dramtoe

Jampem makes Nu 200 a day working in others’ fields during crop cultivation and harvest time. The Doya woman looks after her school-going children alone and without much income, it is difficult. She has three adult daughters but they left home for urban life.Above Jampem’s hut, her sister Kinzang Dema Doya, 34 lives with her four children. Three girls are in school. The youngest, a boy stays home.

Kinzang is also a divorcee. Her husband left her seven years ago. One day he told the family he was going in search of a work.  The family never saw him again.

Despite her search for her husband using court and police, he was untraceable. Kinzang married again with a man from a neighbouring village of Khenpagaon, Tading, and bore a son. Three years ago, he left her and they later divorced in court.

Ngawang Dramtoe is a village that overlooks the tail of Kailashwar Dara along Toorsa river. Lhops own plenty of cultivable land, but they haven’t tried beyond millet, fox tail millet, and maize after the cardamom failed.

After the harvest season, most Lhops engage in livestock farming. But none in the community has tried at commercial level. Income generation is low. Most Lhops have also not moved from their traditional bamboo huts.

Although a beautiful village, it is grappling with a harsh socio-economic reality. There is not a single university graduate from this village, which is a contrast compared with their neighbours of Jigme, Singye and Wangchuck villages in Dorokha. There is not a single civil servant out of this village.

There are 105 households with more than 500 Lhops. But every year, two to three children quit school.

Husbandless women and fatherless children is a big social problem. All divorced women Kuensel talked to were either uneducated or school dropouts.

Sangay Lhamo, 24, a class three dropout recalls her difficult days after her nuptial with a Doya man. The love marriage ended abruptly when her man started drinking and abused her.

She has two children. Her son, 5, is physically challenged.

During Kuensel’s visit, Sangay Lhamo and her friend Tshering Om Doya are whiling away in the sun. Sangay’s physically challenged son, Kinley Tshering is a nervous child. Today his mother has given him a doma.

“They were married beautifully in our Doya style,” Tshering Om Doya said, explaining they divorced about a year ago because of domestic violence.

Sangay’s parents have taken her back and constructed a small bamboo hut next to theirs. But there is not much work at home and she depends on the Nu 1,500 monthly alimony her husband send. “The money is not enough and he doesn’t pay on time,” Sangay Lhamo said.

Samtse Wangmo Doya married a man from Sarpang when working in a restaurant in Phuentsholing. Her husband was already a divorcee. “After I gave birth, my husband left us never to return,” she said.

Samtse Wangmo is still unaware of her husband’s whereabouts. Today, Samtse looks after her two-year-old daughter and her aging father. The income from her tiny shop is difficult to make ends meet.

Naktarua Doya, 48, father of a 22-year-old divorced daughter said his son-in-law never returned after he left for his home to harvest maize.  His son-in-law, from Darjaygaon village in Phuentsholing gewog, did not want to return to Ngawang Dramtoe. “My daughter didn’t want to go to his village.” Naktarua’s grandson is three years old and stays with him today.

The increasing number of divorced women and fatherless children is a big concern in the community. Almost every household has a story to share.

An elderly Lhop, Choep Tshering, 65, blames alcohol.

Men abuse alcohol and forget their social and filial duties, he said.

Rinchen Om, 27 divorced her husband from Trongsa when he started consuming alcohol and abused her. Rinchen said he would come home drunk always from Phuentsholing and told her it was the Red Bull (energy drink) that got him drunk. Rinchen tried the drink herself. Problems brewed and they divorced. She runs a small shop today.

Village tshogpa Dorji Tamang said alcohol is the primary reason for increasing divorce cases. “It leads to abuse and divorce,” he said.

However, Dorji Tamang said villagers have found it easy to divorce than to hold on their marriages. Although goewog office has settled many cases, people still go for divorce, he said.

Tading gup Jagat Bdr Ghalley said his office has not seen many divorce cases this year, but alcohol is a serious problem.

“Many have married from outside,” he said, adding that some husbands could have left failing to adjust with the Doyap life.

If it is alcohol problem with the Lhop men, it is betrayal from those married to men outside the Lhop community. There is a misconception that Lhop women are easily influenced and that men take advantage.

Sojey Lhamo, 26, Nim Pem, 36 and her sister Kinzang Dema and Lhamo share similiar stories. Nim Pem left her husband, from Khenpagaon, Tading, after she found out he was already married with five children.

The gup also said that education would be able to bring reforms at Ngawang Dramtoe. Agriculture and water connectivity projects are also on the way for the community, the gup said, adding villagers should take ownership, which is not the case today.

Meanwhile, the only intervention in the community is from the Tarayana Foundation, which today is helping the community in building safer homes. The Foundation contributes to house and toilet constructions. An ECCD has also been completed, but it is yet to open even with 40 children at the ECCD age.

National Commission for Women and Children’s (NCWC) director Kunzang Lhamo said they have heard of the growing social issues in Ngawang Dramtoe. “At the moment we don’t have any data, but we are aware  of thee social issues there,” she said.

Kunzang Lhamo said NCWC will be working with UNICEF and Tarayana on child protection. “For a start, we will need to do some awareness programmes.”

Back inside Jampem Doya’s hut, the bamboo floorings are loosely fit and the ground below is visible through the holes from the gaps. Some chickens and a pig loiter underneath.

The fire from the hearth is the only source of light. Hers is the only hut without electricity. “My husband spent the money meant for electricity on alcohol,” she said.

Rajesh Rai | Samtse

Two students drown in Mochhu

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 16:08

A class-11-student died while search is still on for another student’s body washed away by the Mochhu river on August 24.

Two other students and a freelance rafting guide escaped after they were also washed away. The incident took place around 1:30pm while the deceased along with other friends were at Zomlingthang, Punakha for a picnic.

Punakha police official said that a total of 24 students of Rinchen Higher Secondary School, Thimphu, had come for a picnic at Zomlingthang. However, the teachers were not informed about the picnic. One of the deceased had organised the picnic.

Police official said although the case is still under investigation, it was reported that one of the survivors, a female student wanted to go to a small island in the Mochhu river. The police official said that a guide, who was also a former staff of Lotus Rafting based in Punakha, offered help to take her after assuring there is no risk crossing the river.

“While they were about to cross the river, three other male students joined them and started crossing the river holding hands,” police said. “However, one of the male students slipped and fell in the river followed by others.”

The guide managed to swim and push the girl near the riverbank where people nearby helped rescue her. The guide was rescued by people who witnessed the accident while a staff of Lotus Rafting rescued one of the male students. However, two boys could not be rescued and were washed away.

Police, DeSuups and staff of Lotus Rafting carried out a search and around 2:30pm, one of the bodies was found before reaching Punakha dzong. The search team, even after carrying out extensive search for two days from Punakha till Wangduephodrang bridge, couldn’t find the other body.

Police said that people along the riverbank helped family of the deceased in the search while Lotus Rafting provided boat for free. “People should be careful because the river level are unpredictable during monsoon and should refrain from visiting.”

The rest of the students were kept at Punakha Central School and were brought home yesterday.

The search is expected to continue today.

Yangchen C Rinzin

RDC to reduce transmission of acute respiratory illness

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 16:07

In an effort to end tuberculosis (TB) by 2027, three years ahead of the WHO South-East Asia regional target of 2030, the health ministry has been intensifying TB prevention screening and treatment intervention in recent months.

On August 24, a respiratory disease clinic (RDC) started at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu to reduce transmission of TB, influenza and other acute respiratory illness in the hospital’s OPD (outpatient department).

This would be done through segregation of patient at the entry-point, thereby averting possible hospital acquired outbreaks and infections.

Health officials said that there is potential for outbreaks of seasonal influenza due to patients gathering in the health facilities while they wait for healthcare services if there are no proper infection control measures in place. Seasonal influenza is an acute respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses.

Common cold, which is a respiratory illness continues to be the top cause of morbidity in the country. In 2018, about 10,583 cases were recorded by the health facilities across the country.

The centre, established by the health ministry in collaboration with the JDWNRH will adopt a system of fast-tracking and triaging patients with respiratory illnesses depending on the severity of their signs and symptoms.

Appreciating the effort of the TB programme and the leadership of the ministry and the JDWNRH for the initiative, Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that TB is a big concern for the nation.

Lyonpo said that Bhutan has a high incidence of MDR TB (multi-drug resistant TB) in the region.

“Having a health system that is fully funded by the state with a very small allocation of budget to health services, I think we cannot afford not to act on really controlling and stopping TB,” Lyonpo said. “We have the SDG goal to end TB by 2030 but we hope that we can prepone the target.”

Health officials said TB, particularly pulmonary (lung) TB is an infectious disease which spread through the air when someone is sick with TB coughs, laughs, talks and sneeze.

An untreated lung TB can spread to 10-15 people in a year.  Therefore, health officials said it is crucial to have sound infection control practices at least in the larger hospitals where patients with cough are promptly identified, separated and treated.

Lyonpo said the majority of the TB cases are in Thimphu, followed by Phuentsholing. “We are hoping that with the limited resources that we have, we must target where the impact will be greater. Instituting something like this in JDWNRH will have a greater benefit.”

All patients aged 12 and above with respiratory symptoms irrespective of cough duration will be directed to the centre, located near the Health Help Centre in the premises.

The centre will be open from 9am to 3pm on weekdays and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.

Health officials said the RDC will function like One Stop Health Services for respiratory illness. It will have registration counter, vital signs checking room, two physician chambers, sample collection room and data management room.

Patients requiring X-ray investigation will be fast-tracked with a stamp on the prescription ‘To Be Fast Tracked’ and referred to the main building of the hospital since it is not feasible to install an X-ray machine at the centre.

JDWNRH’s president Lhab Dorji said it is hoped that the clinic will not only benefit the patient at the hospital, but the whole population at large.

Dechen Tshomo

Canada to invest in Bhutanese projects

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 16:06

The government of Canada through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives will invest in projects in Bhutan.

According to the Canadian ambassador to Bhutan in New Delhi, Nadir Patel, who was in the country last week, his government will invest Nu 2.7 million (M) in three projects, which will be implemented this year.

The fund would be used to support gender empowerment through expanded access to medical care, skills development, and gender-responsive public services.

The fund will be given to Bhutan Cancer Society, the Handicrafts Association of Bhutan and the Royal Institute of Management.

The Canadian government will also invest about Nu 7.5M in a Bhutanese craft beer brewery to develop the company’s workforce, skills, training, capacity, technology and expertise transfer from Canada.

On why the investment in a beer factory, the ambassador said it is not about promoting alcohol but helping a company succeed. “They have been identified since Canada has the expertise and world-class equipment that would help the brewery succeed in its objectives.”

He said that the craft beer company requested assistance and it is a Canadian government initiative to a business company. “We opened a call of interest and selected the company based on its proposal.”

He explained that it is a part of the Canadian Trade and Investment Facility for Development and the project will contribute to skill development and expand markets for craft beer while promoting job creation.

The ambassador said that they are also exploring new funds to provide technical assistance, through which they would help the Bhutanese government bring experts to Bhutan. “That is in an early stage but we see opportunities.”

He said the projects are chosen based on Canada’s international assistance priority, the feminist international assistance policy which prioritises areas of gender, empowerment women, creating employment for women, skills development and maternal health. “But it is not limited to it. We have a business focus too.”

The ambassador said they also look at what Bhutan’s priorities and needs are and where Canada has the capacity and expertise that align with Bhutan’s priorities. “Educational ties that include professional development of teachers, job creation, entrepreneurship, climate change, environmental initiatives like water management, ecosystem, agriculture technology and health care.”

On commercial aspect, we look at capacity development for Bhutanese businesses to succeed or help Bhutanese become a successful businessperson.

While there are no figures available, Ambassador Nadir Patel said that the number of Bhutanese students visiting Canada for studies increased in recent years. “We want more Bhutanese to go and study in Canada, as it has a welcoming environment. Canada is safe, multicultural and the quality of education is world-class. The tuition fees are also much lower than in most countries.”

He also said there are other benefits of choosing Canada as an education destination, as students could work part-time and if they have spouses or partners, they could also work. “After completing two years of full-time study, they will get work visa for three years. This will help students bring back not only education but valuable work experiences.”

According to the ambassador, their visa process system is streamlined and much convenient and easier.

He said Canada’s relationship with Bhutan is strong and they want to see it grow. “Our relationship in education front is deep-rooted since the times of late Father Mackey. We want to see this progress.”

Nadir Patel has been serving as the ambassador for the last four years and visited Bhutan seven times.

Meanwhile, the ambassador’s meetings follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding last December establishing a new consultation mechanism to expand bilateral cooperation between Global Affairs Canada and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Tashi Dema

Another tragedy

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 16:05

Again, we lost two young lives to the river.

As the news spread about the incident at the Mochhu in Punakha on Saturday afternoon, which involved a group of students from Rinchen Higher Secondary School who had gone for a picnic at Zomlingthang, it was with shock that we reacted to the information that was coming to us, at best, in bits and pieces.

But then, how else could we have responded in a situation like that?

While we waited wringing our hands and scurrying about, calling each other up frantically for more and detailed information about the accident that involved four students and a freelance rafting guide, we were up against yet another deeply chilling reality of human callousness that made the pain all the more unbearable.

As the social media began to flood with the news, some had already begun laying the blame on teachers and parents and on the students themselves. It was hard to take in such disturbing insensitivity from the people who could not empathise with the shock and grief resulting from the traumatic event on those who were intimately affected.

The school authority and the teachers had no way of knowing that some of their students — days scholars — were heading to Punakha for a programme to eat al fresco and to have some well-deserved leisure hours on a weekend. Even parents could have been lied to, as children tend to do when they know that their proposals could meet with objection from parents and elders. The parents, so, could not have found serious enough reason to caution and refrain their children from setting about with their plan.

But the point is not about whether the children kept their parents in the dark because that would be calling the children to account, who had no way of foreknowing the kind of misfortune awaiting them. Doing so, at this point of time would be, if anything, of little avail.

We can, though, prevent such tragedies to a large extent with a constant reminder about the changes surrounding us every day that are influenced by the seasonal cycle. Rivers swell in summer and are dangerous to cross or to take a dip in. Continuous rain could trigger landslide and endanger our lives on the road. But then, we are always wiser only after disasters and tragedies strike us in the face.

In the meanwhile, the students who were rescued from the accident and their mates are in deep trauma. It will be hard on them and could take years to come to terms with this benumbing experience. 

The school authority and parents must ensure that the children receive all the medical attention and support to help them get through these darkest hours of their lives.

Understanding the basics of technological revolution

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 16:04

An aspiring agriculture entrepreneur, Yam Bdr Gurung wanted to develop a mobile application that would encourage youth to take up farming.

However, as a technoob, there was little he could do to realise his ambition. An opportunity was presented to the 35-year-old when he saw an announcement in Facebook about a programming course in Thimphu, Code for Bhutan.

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Poor Matsutake yield in Ura

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 16:03

The people of Ura in Bumthang are not happy with the Matsutake yield this year. The mushroom is one of the main sources of income for them.

People say they had been harvesting Matsutake for the last one month but they could not collect much.

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