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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 1 hour 25 min ago

Exploring alternative energy for domestic use

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 16:02

With hydropower facing many challenges, alternative renewable energy could come as a rescue.

As of today, hydropower remains the main source of energy. The country’s energy is completely dependent on rivers, which could pose challenges to energy security because of climatic changes, seasonal variations, and natural disasters.

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BTO inaugurates Chabto

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 16:01

Bhutan Toilet Organisation (BTO) inaugurated a user-friendly and portable toilet called ‘Chabto’ in the office of the Royal Society of Protection of Nature (RSPN) at Kawajangsa in Thimphu on August 24.

BTO’s executive director, Passang Tshering said the name ‘Chabto’ is derived from the small containers used as a night toilet by old people in the villages. “It is a toilet for those who can’t go to toilet.”

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Children park in Trongsa remains unutilised

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 16:00

With most equipment broken and no maintenance done, the children park in Trongsa remains unused.

The two-unit toilet in the park compound has no water connection although it just located next to the Truepangchhu.

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Focus point

Sat, 08/24/2019 - 13:32
focus point

The sand thieves of Sha region

Sat, 08/24/2019 - 13:25

Rinchengang, Wangdue—A full sail dredging is underway at the quarry. This happens six days a week from 7am to 7pm.

The narrow stretch along the Punatsangchhu  is crowded with trucks zooming in and out, and this dizzying state of affair ever seems to stop. Sand from this quarry is ferried mostly to Thimphu and Paro.

Almost 65 percent of the total sand transaction in the country happens in the Sha region

It takes less than five minutes to fill an 8m3 (cubic metre) truck with a help of a pay-loader. Loaded trucks start their journey towards Thimphu, making way for the others waiting for their turn.

However, the journey from the quarry to the final destination, in either Paro or Thimphu, takes a curious turn with numerous clandestine transactions in between.

Why illegal supply and black market 

Over the years, the growing demand due to the construction boom, especially in Thimphu and Paro, has unleashed an illegal market in the sand supply. And, because of the illegal nature of business, the real game happens under the cover of darkness.

Records with the Natural Resources Development Corporation Ltd (NRDCL) show that Thimphu alone has more than 2,500 new on-going construction activities registered this year.

Based on approvals, the NRDCL supplies the sand.

With the capital gripped by a construction frenzy, demand for sand is soaring. The increasing demand is confronted with the supply limit NRDCL has set. As per the corporation’s regulation, an individual building a house  is eligible for only a truckload of sand a week.

This, according to builders, hinders construction work. “One truckload of sand is not enough for whole week’ work,” said Karma Tsewang, who is constructing a three-storey building in Changangkha, Thimphu. “The quota, with judicious use, is enough for only about two days’ work.”

He said that once the sand was used up, labourers had no work. “This adds up to the construction cost. Works are resumed only when we receive the next quota of sand a week later,” he said.

On an average, construction of a three-storey building (20mx10m) with 3BHK of two units on each floor would require around 30 truckloads (8m3) of sand.

Since November 2007, among other natural resources, sand was nationalised.  Operation and marketing of sand was put under the purview of the NRDCL.

However, many builders have found a solution of a sort. There are others who are involved in supplying sand besides the NRDCL. These suppliers are mainly truckers who engage some middlemen to connect the builders with them.

 

Under the cover of darkness

Like in most illegal businesses, the activities happen at night. The loaded trucks enroute to Thimphu from the quarry in Rinchengang starts moving at night.

The trucks are seen parked alongside the highway until late evening. Hiding in secret pockets along the Dochula-Lampari highway are other empty trucks waiting.

At least seven to eight trucks laden with sand start moving together. When they reach the secret pockets, mostly near Chasheygang area, they start sharing the load. Sand shared from eight trucks can fill up another two trucks. This additional sand is sold in the black market where the cost is more than double the regulated price.

When the trucks arrive at the check post in Hongtsho, those with valid documents take the lead, while others without documents wait.

The wait is long.

“Before the additional trucks start to move, we make sure that the guards are either sleeping or busy in some other works,” said a trucker who requested anonymity. “We also see if there are vehicles to chase us if in case they see us.”

Once the drivers hiding a few metres away from the checkpoint receives the green signal from the friends, they slowly start to move without starting the engine. This usually happens after 2am.

“They take advantage of the person who is on duty,” said a forester at the Hongtsho check post. “If it’s a female on duty, the drivers pass using force. Most of the time, they cross the check post while the duties are asleep or while eating.”

The forester shared that once when a 10-wheeler truck forcefully crossed the check post they followed the vehicle. “We were in my car and the truck nearly threw us off the road when we tried to overtake and stop it,” he said.

In another event, some of the truckers had quietly latched the door of the duty-room with foresters inside. “Even the tyre of the vehicles of a duty personnel was flattened so that we could not follow them,” said an officer.

Except for a CCTV camera that was recently installed near the check post, there is no barrier gate or other fortifications in Hongtsho. “Speed bumps and a barrier gate can help monitor the vehicles better,” said the forester. “This is the only check post between the source and Thimphu. Once you pass from here, you cannot monitor the vehicles.”

Besides illegally transshipping the sand from one truck to another, NRDCL officials in Rinchengang said that there are truckers who extract sand from along the banks of Punatsangchhu.

Sand collected for rural consumption and from private land are also illegally sold, according to NRDCL officials.

The forest and nature conservation rules and regulation 2017 of the Department of Forest and Park Services (DoFPS) allows private registered landowners to commercially trade sand extracted from their land after obtaining environment clearance from the department.

This regulation, NRDCL officials said has loopholes that are exploited by individuals. The chief forestry officer (CFO) has the authority to allow people to collect sand from certain pockets where the NRDCL does not operate.

“People collect more than what the CFO permits,” said an official. The additional sand is sold illegally.

It was learnt that some of the people intentionally dump the legally lifted sand in open spaces and claim it to be illegal. This is a trick adopted by suppliers to convert illegal sand into legal sand.

Forest officials impose fine on illegal sand. However, the sand is not seized. Once the fine is imposed, the sand becomes legal.

“If we have about 20 truckloads of sand, we just claim five truckloads to be illegal,” said one trucker. “Once we pay fine for the five truckloads, we take the remaining 15 truckloads together claiming that we paid the fine for all.”

 

The illegal auction yard 

The truck parking in Thimphu is a bustling hub. Covered in blue tarpaulin are trucks loaded with sand. And there are people busy on their phones negotiating rates.

“We cannot keep the load for long. There is pressure on the vehicle tyre,” said a trucker. “The frequency of checking from forest has increased lately.”

According to sources, many more loaded trucks stay hiding elsewhere and avoid coming to the truck parking. “Most of the deals are made in advance so immediately as the trucks reach Thimphu, the load is delivered to the concerned buyers,” said a source.

He said that during peak season when constructions are in full swing, the demand for illegal supply of sand increases. “People don’t mind paying double the price as long as the consignment is delivered on time. There is a risk involved but the reward is worth it.”

The cost of dredged sand at the Rinchengang quarry is set at Nu 273.77 per cubic metre. The cost for stock and quarry sand is different.

As per NRDCL rate, an eight cubic metre tipper truck ferrying dredged sand from the quarry till Olakha, Simtokha and Changbangdu areas cost Nu 9,168.72 (Nu 6,978.56 as transportation rate). For every additional kilometre from Simtokha area, the transportation rate increases by about Nu 100.

According to the source, illegal sand is sold at about Nu 18,000 (for the same amount) in areas near Simtokha. The cost differs with the carrying capacity of vehicles. A 16m3 AMW truck sells sand for some Nu 28,000 in Simtokha area.

 

Collusion?

Recently, the NRDCL sacked four staffs involved in illegal transaction of sand. Two of them were at managerial level.

NRDCL’s officiating chief executive officer, Sonam Chophel, said that the management does not tolerate any illegal activity among the staffs. “There is no big or small corruption. They had misused their authority which is why they were terminated.”

An internal investigation was undertaken to curb the practice after the office received complaints from the public.

Sonam Chophel said that with a new system in place things have improved. “It might not be a perfect system, but it’s a good one and people have come to us expressing their gratitude.”

Under the new system, customers with their own vehicles can collect sand on their own once all the documentation of the construction approval and the sand requirement is worked out.

For those without vehicles, NRDCL mobilises vehicles from their common pool. Currently there are more than 400 registered trucks in the pool.

No system is full proof, said Sonam Chophel. “A strong collusion among the agencies involved could work through any system.” However, he said that there are also advantages of involving several counterparts.

The fine imposed on the illegal sand intercepted at the check post and along the highway is minimal. The sand is not seized after the fines are imposed.

The fine imposed for 8m3 tipper truck was about Nu 3,000.

Chief forestry officer with the Thimphu division, Gyeltshen, said that the department is now planning to seize illegal sand. However, a large area to dump the seized sand has to be identified, he added.

He said that having another check post while entering Thimphu could help curb the issue, however, it would be additional harassment for the public. “Constructing a gate at the Hontsho check post could help control the illegal movements.”

Sonam Chophel said that with increasing demand of sand, the pressure is on the natural reserve. However, he said that NRDCL has managed to narrow the demand-supply gap over the years.

“Initially we had targeted to supply about 50-60 trucks in a day but due to high demand we are supplying about 120-130 trucks everyday,” he said. “During winter the supply goes up to 200-230 trucks a day.”

He added that with almost 65 percent of the total sand transaction in the country happening in Wangdue, opportunities are abundant to do illegal business.

“We are yet to find a solution to this problem. But the overall system has improved and we believe almost 95 percent of the illegal business is stopped,” he said. “However, a few incidents are bound to happen.”

Meanwhile, recently, in a cat and mouse chase, officials intercepted a truck laden with sand at char-kilo near Chuzom checkpost.

It was learnt that the truck was illegally ferrying sand and was enroute to Paro after escaping officials at the Hongtsho checkpost.

This story is supported by Bhutan Media Foundation’s content grant

 

Younten Tshedup

OAG takes former labour minister, wife, niece and accomplice to court

Sat, 08/24/2019 - 13:13

The former minister of labour and human resource, Ngeema Sangay Tsempo, his wife, niece and a hotel manager are charged before the court for four offences in connection with the Bhutanese youth training programme in India and hiring business.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) filed the case at the Thimphu dzongkhag court yesterday and charged the former minister for false declaration of assets, deceptive practice, official misconduct and larceny by deception.

Other three are charged for deceptive practices. The court accepted the case after conducting miscellaneous hearing in presence of both parties- plaintiff and defendants.

Ngeema Sangay Tsempo is charged for making false declaration with a view to conceal his asset, excavator, hiring incomes and loan liabilities in his asset declaration for the year 2016. Despite being the actual owner of Tshomo Hiring (a hiring agency), the former minister deliberately made false declaration.

He is also accused of concealing the fact that Manav Dhingra, an Indian bid winner, was a secret partner and deceptively obtained trade license from Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) and loans from Bhutan National Bank (BNB). He is charged for two counts of deceptive practice.

The OAG also charged the former minister for official misconduct for soliciting Manav Dhingra to be a secret partner with Tshomo Hiring.  Manav Dhingra is not only a foreign national, but also a youth training and placement contractor of the labour ministry who does business under direct supervision of the MoLHR.

The former labour minister is also facing charges of larceny by deception. Sometime in 2015, during an official visit to New Delhi, the defendant met Manav Dhingra and asked him to arrange for gemstones and rudraksh rosary with a promise to make payment on later date. Manav Dhingra allegedly arranged a gemstone worth INR 85,000 and rudraksh rosary costing INR 71,983.

However, the former minister did not pay for those items even after three years indicating he had no intention of paying. OAG charged him for the two counts of larceny by deception and submitted before the court to restitute the two items to its lawful owner.

As per the Anti-Corruption Act (ACA) and Penal Code, the offences of false declaration of assets and official misconduct are liable for misdemeanor while deceptive practice and larceny (theft of personal property) by deception are liable for petty misdemeanor for each count of offence.

The OAG stated that the defendant was an elected high-ranking public official under the Oath of Allegiance/Secrecy to serve TSAWA-SUM with full dedication, loyalty and integrity as per the spirits of the Constitution. “The prosecution pleads the court that the defendant be penalised with maximum penalty liable for each count of the offence charged,” OAG’s statement to the court stated.

 

Charges on three others

Pema Tshomo Sherpa, after having agreed to proxy her uncle Ngeema Sangay Tsempo in operating the illegal Tshomo Hiring business, obtained trade license from MoEA with Dilu Giri, general manager of Druk Hotel, and got loan from BNB to purchase an excavator in her name, for her uncle.  Pema Tshomo Sherpa is charged for two counts of deceptive practices.

Ngeema Sangay Tsempo’s wife, Namgay Lhamo, despite knowing that her husband was the actual owner of the Tshomo Hiring, abetted her husband by helping Pema Tshomo in processing loan from BNB and accounting for proceeds from the hiring services. She is also charged for deceptive practice.

The OAG also charged Dilu Giri for agreeing to proxy for Manav Dhingra in operating Tshomo Hiring business and obtaining trade license with Pema Tshomo and receiving cash from Manav for the purchase of the excavator for 30 percent of Manav’s profits from the business.

The 30 percent of Manav’s profit Dilu Giri received should be restituted to the State as per the Penal Code.

All the illegal investments made by the parties, including Manav, in the joint business and income proceeds therefrom, if any, shall be restituted to the State.

 

Background

At the time of committing the offences, Ngeema Sangay Tsempo was the MoLHR minister. While sending Bhutanese youth for training programmes to India, the defendant met Manav Dhingra in both Delhi and Thimphu and proposed his business plan of an excavator hiring service. He insisted Manav to invest 50 percent.

Manav had dues to be collected from the same ministry for his contract services and had to comply with the proposal. He was told that the business operation, obtaining trade license and loan will be done in the joint names of Dilu Giri in Thimphu for Manav and Pema Tshomo Sherpa for her uncle.

Manav told Dilu Giri to study the business viability and asked him to act on his behalf on condition that he will get 30 percent of Manav’s share of the profit. As directed by Manav, Dilu Giri met the former minister. The minister had readymade calculation on the profits the excavator would earn from its arranged engagement with the SD Coal Company in Samdrupjongkhar.

Tshomo Hiring was then established in the joint name of Pema Tshomo and Dilu Giri. The former minister also got loan from BNB in the name of his niece while Manav handed over his investment of INR 3 million, in cash, through Dilu Giri for the purchase of an excavator, which was bought in Pema Tshomo’s name and hired out to SD Coal Company.

Payments were received in the name of Tshomo Hiring’s account and withdrawals were made under joint signatures of Pema Tshomo and Dilu Giri.

By the end of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) investigation, the BNB loan was fully paid and the excavator was surrendered to SD Coal Company, in adjustment to the personal loan, but without the knowledge of Dilu, Manav or his niece.

“Although the investigation didn’t freeze the machine, the proceeds can still be tracked for the restitution of the criminal proceeds amounting to Nu 9.117M to the State,” the OAG stated in the charge sheet.

 

What took OAG so long?

OAG received the investigation report from ACC on December 28 last year, but without the statement of the defendant’s niece who was then working under the BOE programme in Japan, they had to hold the review for the want of additional information.

She also refused to respond to ACC or OAG till she recently returned home. ACC was able to take her statement only on August 12.

Moreover, Manav kept evading ACC calls after his first statement but the OAG finally got in touch with him in New Delhi and emails were exchanged recently. “He is willing to come and testify in both the cases if he is granted with the immunity from arrest and plea bargain benefit in exchange of the full disclosure of information on those cases,” OAG officials said.

OAG agreed in principle and he exchanged material information through his recent email on August 16.

Rinzin Wangchuk

Labour DG implicated in overseas employment programme

Sat, 08/24/2019 - 13:12

After almost a year of investigation and waiting, the Director General (DG) of the labour and human resource ministry, Sherab Tenzin is charged for four offences under two different overseas employment programme in Japan and India.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) yesterday filed the case in the Thimphu dzongkhag court.

Charges related to Bhutan Overseas Employment (BEO)

Sherab Tenzin is charged for abuse of functions related to the overseas employment, Learn and Earn Programme. The same offence has also been filed against the ministry’s assistant programme officer, Ugyen Tashi.

The DG and the assistant programme officer had processed and issued certificate of registration (after the Secretary had signed) to Jurmey Tshewang, one of the owners of BEO, without the pre-requisite documents required under Section 2.1 of the Regulation on Employment of Bhutanese Overseas 2013.

This had enabled Jurmey Tshewang to obtain trade license to establish and operate BEO.

Both the DG and assistant programme officer were charged for the offence as per the Section 59(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act, which is liable for misdemeanor and sentence ranging from one to three years.

 

Background

The Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) implicated both Sherab Tenzin and Ugyen Tashi in the overseas employment programme in Japan for engaging in unethical practices that are construed as corruption in accordance with Anti-Corruption Act 2011.

The ACC report was forwarded to the OAG for probable prosecution last December.

The ACC had called for cancellation of trade license of BEO. The report also found that, although registered in the name of Jurmey Tshewang, BEO was operated in partnership with Tenzin Ridgen, officially represented as a consultant of BEO.

On November 24, ACC found that a registration certificate signed by the labour secretary was issued to BEO. The same day, Sherab Tenzin had sent a recommendation letter to the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) to issue trade license to Jurmey Tshewang. On November 30, the MoEA issued the license to BEO as recommended by the MoLHR.

“It is evident that Sherab Tenzin and Ugyen Tashi had failed to strictly implement the Regulation on Bhutanese Overseas Employment Agent, 2013, which led to illegal issuance of license to BEO, ultimately benefitting Jurmey Tshewang and Tenzin Rigden,” the report stated.

 

Charges related to programme in India

The OAG has charged the DG on the count of offence of deceptive practice as per Section 309(g) of the Penal Code of Bhutan and is liable for petty misdemeanor.

Sherab Tenzin despite knowing that Manav Dhingra, head of operations for International Institute of Hospitality and Wellness Studies (IIWS) was an investment partner in the M/S Jana Tissues, had concealed the fact and obtained trade license in the name of his son.

Manav had invested Nu 639,000 for M/S Jana Tissues business, registered in the name of Sherab Tenzin’s son, Kezang Nendag.

Sherab Tenzin was also booked for official misconduct as per Section 316A(a) of Penal Code and liable for misdemeanor. OAG stated that although the DG was an “informed public servant,” he solicited Manav to be a secret investor in his son’s business.

The charges stated that Manav was not only a foreign national, but also a contractor in training and placing Bhutanese youth in India under direct supervision of the labour ministry.

The DG is also booked for the offence of conflict of interest. The DG despite knowing that Manav was investment partner in his son’s business, had failed to declare his conflict of interest and sat as one of the Tender Committee members.

Manav had participated in a tender floated by the labour ministry in June 2016 and was one of the winners at the bids.

Failing to declare the conflict of interest, the DG is charged for the offence as per the Section 63(1) of the ACC Act and would be liable for misdemeanor.

ACC’s investigation on this issue found that the DG solicited and accepted a favour from Manav Dhingra to set up a tissue paper business. The investigation later confirmed that Kezang Nendag was the registered owner of M/s Jana Tissues. It was revealed that Manav Dhingra had helped the DG to purchase as well as transport machines and materials to Thimphu.

The investigation also established that DG not only sought financial assistance from a foreign source, but also engaged in a conduct that was in conflict with his public position as the DG of department of employment and human resources.

Meanwhile, the OAG has also charged Kezang Nendag for the offence of deceptive practice. Despite knowing that Manav was a foreign national and solicited by his father to invest in his business, Kezang Nendag deceptively owned the business in his name.

The OAG has also submitted to the court for restitution asking all the illegal investments made by the parties in the joint business and income generated from it.

Yangchen C Rinzin

Bumdeling gup imprisoned for 12 years for rape of a minor

Sat, 08/24/2019 - 13:11

Trashiyangtse dzongkhag court yesterday sentenced Bumdeling gup Mani Wangda to 12 years in prison for the rape of a child above 12 years.

The gup, who is 46-years-old and a father of five, was found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl on July 3 when her parents were away from home for cordyceps harvesting.

The judgment stated that gup first contacted the minor asking for her father’s identity card and bank account number because of the pay revision.

After knowing that the minor’s parents were away, the gup called the victim many times claiming he in in love with her and bought her a VIVO mobile phone worth Nu 10,300.

It stated that the gup visited the minor’s house that night and took her upstairs on the pretext of downloading some mobile apps and raped her.

He was found guilty of violating section 183 of the Penal Code of Bhutan, which states, “A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of rape of a child above the age of twelve years if the defendant commits any act of sexual intercourse against a child between the ages of twelve to eighteen years.” The offence is graded a second-degree felony, with minimum sentencing of nine years to maximum 15 years in prison.

The court ruled that the gup, who was elected in 2016 during the second local government election, misused his authority as a local leader.

“The gup, as the local leader, should act as a bridge between the government and people and explain laws and good governance to people,” the judgement stated. “However, he misused his authority, which is going to cost huge to the government since the government has to conduct by-election.”

Although the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) submitted before the court to order the gup to compensate the victim, the victim’s father denied the compensation for the welfare of the gup’s wife and children.

The victim’s father reported the matter to police after learning about the incident on his return from the mountains. Medical report confirmed the rape.

Neten Dorji | Trashigang

Bhutan achieves Hepatitis B control among children aged five

Sat, 08/24/2019 - 13:10

Bhutan achieves the 2020 control target of ‘less than or equal to one’ hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) sero-prevalence among children aged 5 years.

Bhutan is one of the first four countries in the region to reach the 2020 target ahead of time.

The Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia Region (SEAR), Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, in a letter to the ministry, congratulated the government on achieving the target before time.

The recognition comes after due verification by the WHO SEAR Expert Panel for Verification of Hepatitis B Control and upon careful review of the evidence provided in its second consultation held in June 2019.

The letter, according to the ministry, reiterates that the achievement was a result of the strong leadership of the government and the commitment of the healthcare workers and volunteers at all levels in sustaining a strong routine immunisation system and enhancing access to vaccination services.

“The letter states that the WHO SEARO is honoured to recognise this achievement of the Royal Government of Bhutan,” it states.

Staff Reporter

Close friend of Bhutan, Tim Fischer, passes away

Sat, 08/24/2019 - 13:09

Former deputy prime minister of Australia and a close friend of Bhutan, Tim Fischer passed away on Wednesday, August 21.  He was 73.

A statement his family released stated that he died on Wednesday night, surrounded by those closest to him, at the Albury Wodonga Cancer Hospital, Australia.

After successfully battling three cancers since 2009, the fourth cancer, acute myeloid leukaemia eventually claimed his life although he continued to contribute to his many passions and attend functions right until the day of his final hospitalisation, read the statement.

The former deputy prime minister was known as an outspoken promoter of Bhutan and its culture, especially the concept of gross national happiness.

Tim Fischer was born at Lockhart on May 3, 1946. After being conscripted into the army, he served with 1 RAR in Australia and Vietnam between 1966 and 1969. At 24 he was elected as a State MP and then served as Federal MP for Farrer, a political career encompassing over 30 years.  Tim Fischer also served as Trade Minister and Ambassador and as Federal Nationals Leader 1990 to 1999.

After leaving Parliament, he actively engaged in many new corporate and charitable commitments.  He was Chair of Tourism Australia, Chair of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Chair of the Crawford Fund, Chair of the Global Crop Trust and a Director or Patron of over two hundred ‘not for profit’ and Community organisations.

Tim Fischer was a prolific writer and authored several books on Rail, as well as on the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan and East Timor. Tim Fischer, after visiting Bhutan for several times, wrote a book on Bhutan, From Jesuits to Jetsetter- Bold Bhutan Beckons, co-authored by Tshering Tashi.

Tim Fischer is survived by his wife Judy Brewer AO and sons Harrison and Dominic.

Protecting (what) image

Sat, 08/24/2019 - 13:08

“What about our image?”

This is a common question we hear every time there are some issues that do not reflect nicely on individuals, institutions, and government or even on the country.

The suggestion or recommendation, quite often, is to sweep them under the carpet to protect the “image”. These become more sensitive when media is interested.

For many, this arises from lack of awareness or not knowing how to deal with the problem. That’s why a rape incident is hushed for the fear of what others would say. Earlier this week, a man entered the room of a 15-year-old girl sleeping with her relatives. He is charged for trespassing. Investigation will reveal if it was trespassing or an attempt to rape.

The relatives are concerned, both of the trauma the girls suffered and the image of the family. But not so much of what could happen if they do not discuss with experts or relevant authorities to pursue their case. It is quite rare to trespass to a room of sleeping minors at odd hours.

A school in Paro tolerated a senior student, 18, who was molesting junior boys for the fear of the school’s reputation until one teacher decided to take the matter in her own hands. She threatened to inform police when told about how little boys used to cry every evening fearing the sexual predator. The boy was transferred, so too was the problem.

If this was discussed and help sought, the senior boy would have received help, the juniors would have not been tormented and the school would have gained some true reputation for handling a problem professionally.

Going by records or media report, the image we might present is that we are country of sexually frustrated men. Every now and then, rape, especially that of minors, are reported. This could indicate something is wrong.

Hushing up or not discussing these issues will not help. Social trends or problems must be known or discussed to be cured. We are far better these ways with institutions, civil societies and experts who can lend help. Going by what the few experts we have say, it is always at the last stage when people come forward to discuss problems.

Beyond the problem of rape, the false notion of protecting image or reputation is common everywhere. If media is interested in mistakes and failures, there is a natural tendency among government organisations to publicise successes and hide failures or mistakes. It is done at all levels and on a wide scale.

Those in the media chasing or publishing such stories are threatened with advertisement blockage if employees are not warned to not talk to the media. Media is persuaded to cover a reception or a workshop funded by an outside agency, but when it comes to matters of public interest, the bureaucratic steps are too steep to climb.

Discussing problem openly will not tarnish the image of society or the country. It rather shows that society is willing to confront and tackle its problems.

Age old tradition becomes a problem in Sembji

Sat, 08/24/2019 - 13:07

Perched on a slope overlooking Mangdechhu, Sembji is a small village of 20 households in Trongsa. As the nearest village to Trongsa town, it has all the basic amenities like a farm road, electricity and mobile connection.

The small village is, however, divided into the threps, who are the taxpayers and zups (who have originated from the threps, but with separate household).

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Lack of female health worker is problem for women in Maelongkhar

Sat, 08/24/2019 - 13:06

Many BHUs in the country still do not have female nurse and that means female patients are reluctant to avail themselves of the critically important services from such health centres.

In Yalang in Trashiyangtse, Maelongkhar BHU (II) does not have a female nurse. But the BHU in Thragom, give hours’ trek away from Maelongkhar, has one. So, the female patients from Maelongkhar are compelled to go to Thragom for medical services.

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Bondeyma Industrial estate taking shape

Sat, 08/24/2019 - 13:05

Plot allotment is expected to begin at the much-awaited Bondeyma Industrial Estate in Mongar.

Following the application announcement, the Department of Trade and Industry made last month, 20 promoters, all from Mongar have submitted their application to the regional trade and industries office in Monger.

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Yalang farmers depend on Sichuan pepper

Sat, 08/24/2019 - 13:04

Sichuan pepper is a popular spice in Namthey and Yerphey, the two remote villages in Yalang, Trashiyangtse. The sharp and pungent flavour of the spice has to be added in every local dish.

And, in Yalang, the pepper (locally known as gee) grows naturally and abundantly, even in the maize fields.

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Draft NPPF policy seeks to broaden social safety net

Sat, 08/24/2019 - 13:03

A draft National Pension and Provident Fund (NPPF) Policy, which has been submitted to the Cabinet, seeks to broaden and strengthen the social safety net in the country.

The draft policy is not only aligned with the fourth pay revision, which extends the pension and provident fund to GSP and ESP, but also covers members of the national work force (NWF) for the first time.

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Picture story

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 16:10

Her Majesty the Queen Mother Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck inaugurates Mountain Echoes, the annual festival of arts, literature and culture at the India House Estate in Thimphu yesterday

Private sector drags feet to avail PF for employees

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 16:09

Only 2,504 enterprises of the 15,371 have registered for the PF schemes in the country as of today.

This is despite the Ministry of Labour and Human Resource’s notification that says all the private sector enterprises should provide provident fund (PF) for their employees, as they are entitled to provident fund and gratuity.

The notification was issued last year with May 31 deadline. The ministry had to reissue the notification upon finding that not many firms had participated in the scheme.

As per Section 99 of the Labour and Employment Act of Bhutan 2007 and its regulations, an employee is entitled to PF and gratuity upon retirement from services. The International Labour Organisation also mandates that an employee, irrespective of whether he works in a private or government organisation, had the right to equal benefits.

An official from the Department of Labour and Employment said that the registered PF was an increase of 17.3 percent.

Although the notification provided a deadline, no penalty was levied and the ministry decided that a longer period would enable enterprises to register in PF schemes.

“However, the ministry will strictly monitor the compliance of enterprises through inspections. If any enterprise is found to have violated the Act, as per the notification, improvement notices and subsequent failure to comply, it will hereon result in the issuance of a penalty memo,” the official said.

The recent notification also mentioned that the ministry had observed that many enterprises had left PF accounts inactive and urged to update the account by August 31.

Inactive PF accounts are those accounts into which contributions have not been deposited for more than 30 days.

“Around 1,000 enterprises have inactive accounts at present,” the official said. “Some enterprises deposit their contributions in lump sums every few months.”

There are also cases where employees from some of the enterprises resigned without notice and did not close the PF account.

Of the total 1,000 inactive enterprises, many have been inactive for a period of anywhere between 100 to 1,000 days.

The official said that some of the employers and employees expressed reluctance to register with PF schemes they think PF is a waste of funds.

“Some of the other reasons include the frequency of employees moving from one job to another, which creates resistance from employers to register,” official added. “The department has been constantly raising awareness on the benefits of having PF.”

However, the official said that this time, if the enterprises fail to meet the deadline to register for PF schemes, they would be strictly dealt as per the Act and regulations.

There are 9,836 small, 3,255 medium, and 2,280 large private firms in the country. There are 26,071 micro and 18,539 small and cottage industries.

Yangchen C Rinzin

Kuenselphodrang teachers go beyond teaching

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 16:08

When Tshering Yangzom joined Kuenselphodrang Primary School in Thimphu in 2017 as a teacher, an 11-year-old boy in Class I did not even know how to pronounce his own name properly.

As a class teacher and a guardian of the student, she had to ensure he showed improvement through “one teacher-one student” initiative.

Through her interaction with the student, she learnt that the boy was not only a special-need student and slow learner but he also had problems at home. His parents were both alcoholics.

“Throughout the year, I dedicated my off period for him. I had to even carry his remedial books and pencils, because he couldn’t take care of them,” she said.

Today, the boy, who is in class III, can communicate well in both English and Dzongkha and he also participates in other class activities.

“It was an extra burden, but I am very happy with his drastic improvements,” Tshering Yangzom said. “I consider it a big achievement.”

Tshering Yangzom today has six students under her care.

But she is not the only teacher in the school who shoulders such extra responsibility.

Of the 18 teachers in the school, 11 class teachers have the responsibility to look after 63 students. While 58 students have been identified for academic improvement, two students needed financial assistance and three students needed both academic and financial help.

Even some subject teachers guide students in their particular subjects.

According to the school’s principal, Karma Tshewang, guiding the students started when the former government initiated the ‘one teacher-one student’ initiative.

He said while the responsibility of the teachers remained same, the number of students increased to almost seven for a teacher last year.

The school’s teachers said the initiative helped improve learning outcome of the students, bring positive behavioural change and enhance their psychosocial support.

A teacher, Kunga Wangmo, guides five students. She provides with academic financial supports as and when required.

She said the initiative strengthened the teacher-student bonding. “I spend my lunchtime with the students. I eat with them and provide necessary guidance.”

Another teacher, Dorji Wangmo, said the school also had a session called “circle time” every Friday where students share their problems to the teachers.

Bullying is an issue with most of the students.

Circle time allows teachers to intervene appropriately at the right time.

“A bright and cheerful student suddenly regressed in studies this year. He also began coming to school dressed shabbily. When I asked his problems in the ‘circle time’ he said his parents were at the verge of divorce. I tried to call the parents but they refused to come,” Dorji Wangmo said.

The teachers said most parents are not cooperative when the school and the teachers go the extra mile to help students.

Citing an example of how the school’s non-formal education (NFE) teacher explores funds and donors and tries to help students, a teacher said the guardian of a student who never brought lunch and came in torn dress refused to cooperate with the school’s effort to improve the students learning ability and well-being.

Teachers feel more can and should be done.

A girl-student confided to a teacher about how her mother and stepfather physically abuse her every day. The teacher decided to take care of the student.

Tshering Yangzom’s 11-year-old student, who is now 13, said he enjoyed coming to school and learning new things every day.

He and his three brothers are back home from a shelter home, as their mother has been sent home from the hospital.

“My mother is still sick but my father has stopped drinking,” he said.

Tashi Dema

MOEA targets hydropower and economic diversification

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 16:07

The Sunkosh hydropower project is likely to meet its destiny within this fiscal year, going by the Annual Performance Agreement (APA) the economic affairs minister signed with the Prime Minister.

While the project is approved by the Government of India (GoI), the discussion, off late, revolved around the implementing modality with the Bhutanese side pushing for an inter-governmental model with 70 percent loan and 30 grant.

Even during the recent visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering at a press conference said that an expert group is working on the project.

“We will definitely pursue and there will be good news about Sunkosh in this fiscal year,” Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said.

For energy security in the country, he said that a reservoir scheme like Sunkosh was urgent and essential.

To this effect, Lyonpo said that timely completion of the on-going projects are necessary and that the minister, who is the chairman of all IG projects will sign compacts with all the projects.

The agreement, he said would set a definite deadline and targets for the project. By December this year, Lyonpo expects a breakthrough on the Punatsangchhu Hydropower Project Authority-I (PHPA-I).

With the intent to bring  changes in legislations, policies, strategies, and Acts, he said that all paper works will be in place to implement the economic plans without any barriers.

Economic diversification was highlighted as another important target. The activities are focused on rural economy, targeting the agriculture sector. 

Upscaling of cottage and small industries is another focus. “To make the economy self-reliant, rural economy is the base,” he said. Establishment of one-stop window for CSIs at dzongkhag level is one such commitment to complement this effort. This service is expected to create awareness on various opportunities, generate employment and conduct resource mapping exercises. The outcome of this target is to drive CSI growth in the rural areas.

The ministry is also committed to improve investment climate and ease of doing business to create an enabling environment.

Within the APA, each dzongkhag is expected to have one economic development officer by the end of the year. “The development officer is mandated to conduct resource mapping of each dzongkhag and lay plans to attract FDIs for small sectors, besides providing technical backstopping and  improving access to market, finance and certification.”

The ministry has also committed to develop four industrial estates. By the end of the year, all facilities would be made available and the industries should start operating.

To increase the contribution of mining sector to the GDP, which is about three percent, the ministry is revising the Mines and Minerals Management Act 1995, the draft of which has already been submitted.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the mining activities in the country lacked modern techniques. “Rather than benefiting selective individual, the Act should benefit everyone. The new act will solve the bottlenecks,” he said.

Other targets includes private sector development, promoting use of renewable energy, expansion of electricity transmission systems and import substitution.

Lyonpo also assured that the work of the ministry will not be limited to APA.

Meanwhile, the Department of Cottage and Small Industries will sign another APA for the CSI flagship programme.

Phub Dem

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