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Updated: 1 hour 54 min ago

No water in Rinchending lhakhang

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 16:46

The Rinchending lhakhang in Phuentsholing is facing an acute shortage of drinking water.

Although the reservoir tank has water, the tank at the lhakhang area remains empty.

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Tsirang has a public toilet for the differently-abled

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 16:45

In an effort to make public services available for the differently-abled, a public toilet was handed over to the municipal this month in Tsirang.

The six-unit toilet was completed three months early and is located near the taxi parking at Damphu.

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MoH allocated 3.56 percent of total fiscal outlay

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 16:43

The health ministry’s annual performance agreement (APA) for the current fiscal year has a total of 213 success indicators.

Health Secretary Dr Ugen Dophu, during the ministry’s APA review on July 29, said the ministry’s APA for this fiscal year is aligned to the 12thPlan and in line with GPMD’s APA quality assurance framework.

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RTA’s summer weaving programme ends

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 16:36

Summer weaving programme for school-going girls that began from July 1 at Royal Textile Academy (RTA) in Thimphu concluded yesterday.

Forty-seven girls aged between 9 and 20 from Thimphu, Paro, Wangdue, Sarpang, Gelephu, Trashigang, and Zhemgang completed the basic weaving skills programme that is aimed at imparting textile knowledge and art of weaving to children to preserve and promote the textile traditions of Bhutan.

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Zhelgno residents shut down hot mix plant in Paro

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 17:32

After their plea to stop a bitumen-processing firm for health and socio-economic reasons fell on deaf ears, the people of Zhelgno in Paro decided to stop the hot mix plant from operating in their village themselves.

On July 15, about 30 people intervened at the site and stopped the movement of trucks along the farm road. Two fully filled bitumen tanks and a processing machine remain idle at the site today.

Residents alleged the firm and Shaba Gup of starting the plant without public consultation in November last year. According to a villager, Sangay Khandu, at the end of three months, in April, the firm got another three months to operate, this time with approval from public. “After people questioned the legality of firm in the area, the Gup called for a public consultation.”

Villagers accused the firm of initially misleading them about building a storeroom and not the hot mix plant in the allocated area.

The three-month contract ended on July 4 but the firm continued to process, justifying that the dzongkhag administration gave them the clearance to again operate for 15 days. That was when some 30 people stopped the movement of trucks.

“When we visited the dzongkhag office, the dzongrab said they have the Prime Minister’s order to extend the contract for 15 days. The road should be well-maintained for VIP visits next month but there was no document to prove that,” a villager said.

However, Paro dzongrab Kinley Gyeltshen said the dzongkhag administration gave a temporary clearance for 15 days for it involved national interest. “The clearance was given after a survey team along with civil aviation found insignificant harm to the people and the environment.”

But residents of Zhelgno complained of pollution related illnesses. A woman said, “We are at the receiving end of air pollution because of the wind direction. There are about six to seven chronic asthma, pneumonia, and TB patients who face difficulty living in this kind of environment.”

Some residents also suffered from eye sore and throat pain.

They said toxic air entered paddy fields and vegetable gardens in the form of grease and affected yields.  “Our village is known for cucumbers (Shabi Genchu). In a year, vegetable alone fetches about Nu 100,000. This year, we did not even earn Nu 10,000,” said Sangay Khandu. “We could not work in our fields during cultivation season because of the stench.”

Shaba Gup Chencho Gyeltshen said few households received compensation of Nu 2,000 to 3,000 for crop damage from the firm. The gewog agriculture officer inspected the damage.

A village elderly said that as work started around 1-2am, the smell of burning bitumen filled the atmosphere. “This year, we received untimely rain and intense heat because of the environmental pollution.”

The owner, who didn’t want to be named, said although they obtained public clearance, their request to reheat and drain the bitumen tanks was curtly rejected. “Without means to take the machines and tanks to other place, we are incurring huge losses.”

While the firm has completed blacktopping 19.9km from Woochu to Chuzom, another 17km from Chuzom to Babesa is being operated through other alternatives once they stopped the hot mix plant in Shaba.

Next month, villagers said they would again visit the National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS). There are about 65 households in Zhelngo village. They depend on paddy, wheat, apples, and vegetables for sustenance.

Choki Wangmo  | Paro

PM dissects health ministry’s performance indicators

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 17:30

Success indicators of the annual performance agreement (APA) of the health ministry are not in line with the actions the ministry is trying to achieve, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said during the ministry’s APA review for the current fiscal year yesterday.

Lyonchhen said there is a need to improve coordination when it comes to APA.

Today, he said that the budget approval is not based on priorities of the ministries.

“People in the finance ministry will not know the priority of the health ministry. There is no direct communication between budget approving authority and project approving authority,” he said. “We must sit down, do this exercise before the plan goes to GNHC. From next year, the execution of APA would be slightly different.”

Lyonchhen said many documents were signed between the ministers and the prime minister, between the ministers and the secretaries and between the secretaries and directors. “If we go by the standards of it or its theoretical meanings, it means a lot.”

However, Lyonchhen said that practically when the indicators are dissected, the indicators are overlapping.

“There is no clear direction. My expectation was the document that I sign with the minister must give policy directions, policy support, and way forward, not just what is happening.”

Bhutan still has a huge burden of communicable diseases and also seeing non-communicable diseases like the developed countries. “We should plan our health care policy accordingly. Based on this, how should we now go on developing our human resources depending on the disease pattern.”

He said he would like to sign the APA with the ministers on the direction to address such policy issues, not on the number of anti-natal check-ups (ANC) covered.

“ANC visit should be there because it is important at the policy level. The maximum weight should be between the sector and the director level because at the minister and prime minister’s levels there is nothing much to be done to increase the ANC visits,” Lyonchhen said. “The actual work is of the GDMOs, health assistants and the other health staff.”

The agreement that is signed between the minister and the prime minister should have a ripple effect on the other compacts that is signed.

A representative from the Government Performance and Management Division (GPMD) said that some of the success indicators are broad and needs to be pinned down to locations.

One of the success indicators he pointed out as broad and lacked clarity was the number of health facilities implementing Adolescent Friendly health services. Instead of the number of health facilities, he said, it should be the number of cases seen.

Health secretary Dr Ugen Dophu said the health ministry’s APA for the fiscal year 2019 – 2020 has been aligned with the 12th Plan and also in line with GPMD’s APA quality assurance framework.

Health minister Dechen Wangmo said the ministry already had internal discussions on the success indicators that GPMD pointed out and necessary changes had been made focusing on the reach.

Lyonpo pointed out that today the health centres claiming to have Adolescent Friendly health services have a chair and a table to provide the service. “I said it is not acceptable and suggested focusing on the reach.”

In terms of ANC coverage, Lyonpo said that with conditional cash transfer of the accelerating mother and child health programme, the coverage would reach over 90 percent.

Lyonchhen shared with health officials that no one is at fault. “Maybe this is the way APA is being understood by all of us. But after assuming office, I thought this is not the way we should be doing it if we have to achieve the required targets in APA.”

Dechen Tshomo

Driver accused of stealing 20 mobile phones 

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 17:29

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) charged a 22-year-old driver of TashiCell for stealing 20 Samsung mobile phones worth Nu 1.3 million (M).

The driver was accused of stealing 10 Samsung S10 and 10 S10plus mobile phones from the company’s store on April 6. A S10 mobile costs Nu 65,000 and S10plus costsNu 72,000.

According to the charges, the driver sold one of the stolen S10plus phones to a woman for Nu 46,000 by claiming that his uncle, who resides in Germany, sent him the phone.

Police tracked the phone through the IMEI number from the woman.

The driver confided about the stolen cell phones to a friend, who works in a restaurant in town, and made him sell one of the S10 phones. The restaurant worker sold the phone to a shop owner for Nu 45,000, who happened to be a mobile supplier for the company. He asked an employee of TashiCell to sell the phone and she sold it for Nu 65,000.

Police retrieved 16 new mobile phones from the accused.

The company’s lawyer lodged a complaint to police on May 14 and police arrested the driver on May 21 and the restaurant worker on May 22.

OAG charged the driver for violating section 240 of the Penal Code of Bhutan 2004, which states, “ A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of larceny if the defendant takes or moves the property of another person without the owner’s consent and with the intent to deprive the owner of the property or to appropriate the same to the defendant or a third person.”

It stated that in accordance with section 244 of the Penal Code, which states that the offence of larceny should be value-based, the driver’s offence should be graded a third-degree felony.

OAG also charged the restaurant worker for violating section 255 of the Penal Code, which states, “A defendant is guilty of the offence of possession of stolen property, if the defendant purposely receives, retains, or disposes off the property of another person knowing that it has been stolen, or believing that it has been stolen, with the intent to benefit oneself or a third person other than the owner of the property or to impede the recovery of the property by the owner.”

The offence is graded a petty misdemeanor.

OAG also requested the court to order the driver to pay Nu 274,000 to the company for the four mobile phones.

Tashi Dema  

PM asks MoE to rework on some APA targets

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 17:28

With all nine flagship programmes approved and budget allocated, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said there is no room for additional flagship programme during the review on education ministry’s Annual Performance Agreement (APA) 2019-2020 yesterday.

The education ministry had requested for critical support from the government to consider Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), as one of the flagship programmes.

“One of the flagships already includes enhancing capacity of teachers, which is aimed to upgrade teachers’ quality,” Lyonchhen said. “However, based on the impact, if education ministry feels the need for flagship is more in the STEM subjects, then we can discuss again.”

Presenting the APA, education ministry’s planning officer, Phurpa said that one of the critical supports required is directives on the continuity of scholarships to class X passed students in private schools.

Lyonchhen said, the government would continue the scholarship scheme. However, he reminded the ministry to look into up-gradation of private schools.

Some of the support the ministry requested for included the construction of new secretariat building for the ministry and increase of stipend for boarding students.

Lyonchhen agreed that there was a need for a new building and asked the ministry to identify a site. However, he indicated that it might not be located in the core city.

Among the APA targets, the ministry has set to increase net enrollment rate for ECCD by 32 percent for male and female students by the end of 2019-2020 year.  It has also targeted to increase girls scoring above 60 percent in STEM subjects in BCSE examination.

However, Lyonchhen said that the ministry should look into why girls are performing poorly in STEM subjects and what the ministry has done to ensure that they score better in these subjects.

The ministry has also targeted to reduce the number of students in informal boarding to 1,500 from 2,600 (2017) and meet the class size by 85 percent in primary and 55 percent in secondary schools.

On the target to reduce attempted suicide cases among students, Lyonchhen suggested that the ministry train counsellors who are able to recognise and help the students that are at risk instead of waiting for the students to come forward for counseling.

Another success indicator targeted is to decrease the number of youth in conflict with the law from 487 (2017) to 390.

Lyonchhen suggested the ministry to work along with the water flagship programme on its WASH programme and indicators, as there is a possibility that the water related budget might not come to the ministries.

One of the success indicators also include adequate number of teachers by subjects (shortage reduced) where it targets to reduce Dzongkha teacher attrition to 400 from 571, Science teacher to 80 from 150, and 66 from 111 general teachers.

Lyonchhen also reminded the ministry that the weightage for the minister should be more in enhancing teaching profession so that the minister can work hard to intervene through policies.

“I am reviewing all the APA targets before signing the document because I want to make sure that they have a space to re-appropriate or re-prioritise the activities, which is not possible once the APA is signed,” Lyonchhen said. “When I review and make comments for change, it doesn’t mean that you’re not doing your work.”

Lyonchhen said often the most important activity could get shelved, as it was missed out from the APA. He said it is important to review before signing because most APA indicators show the targets as achieved, which is not true on the ground thus indicating loopholes in the APA.

“It was also noticed that earlier there was a big gap between activities planned by the ministries and the finance ministry,” he said. “The APA was signed for the sake of signing where the media is called for coverage.”

Yangchen C Rinzin 

Search on for bodies in Lhuentse

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 17:27

The search team has still not been able to recover the bodies of the two women, a mother and a daughter who were washed away in the flashflood in Gangzor, Lhuentse on July 25.

The mother was 49, and her 23-year-old daughter was seven months pregnant. They were washed away when they tried to escape to safety.

Gangzor gewog mangmi, Tshewang Thinley, said dzongkhag officials and desuups led by dzongdag searched from Autsho until Tangmachu while the police team scanned between Tangmachu and Gangzor.

He said the locals of Nimshong and Magar- Somshing chiwogs searched between Gangzor and Linggabi- Dogarpang village, adding that they have also dug every area affected by the flood with the help of an excavator yesterday. “However, we could not recover the bodies yet.”

The team has decided to resume the search when the water volume decreases as it is risky to search along the banks of the swollen Kurichu. “We are not sure whether to continue the search today.”

The flood also washed away a cow and few chickens while it has also damaged paddy fields, vegetable gardens, roads, irrigation channel and few chukhor mani (water prayer wheels).

Gyalpoizhing – Nganglam highway

The Gyalpoizhing – Nganglam highway that was closed to traffic since July 11 after its formation width was washed away would take another four to five days to clear the block.

Department of Road’s (DoR) junior engineer in Nganglam, Jai Kumar, said that although they have cleared the blocks along the highway for 43kms from Nganglam, it will take time to clear the blocks as it is located in rocky areas. 

He said the major blocks were reported between 43kms and 44kms because the base of the road has been washed away in many areas. “We are expecting to clear it in four to five days if there is no rain.”

Jai Kumar said they would need to study the possibilities of clearing a new base along the rocky areas. “It would be challenging and risky for labourers at the site as falling boulders and dry landslides hamper the works.”

Heavy rainfall on July 11 caused several roadblocks along the highway until 44kms from Nganglam towards Gyalpozhing .

Kelzang Wangchuk  | Samdrupjongkhar

An initiative worth replicating

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 17:24

It is not a new idea, but the paying for environmental services initiative that was recently formalised in Tsirang is a good initiative in ensuring sustainability of precious natural resources.

The initiative is a collaboration between consumers and those living near the catchment area or water sources. It is a win –win scenario with the community paid for their services while they ensure water sources are protected. This way, we are putting something back after taking too much from the land.

It is an idea worth replicating all over the country and should be done fast.

Water is already a huge problem in the country. Whether it is for drinking or for irrigation, everybody is feeling the heat. One main cause of water shortage is the shrinking or drying water sources. It is being reported from all over the country. Human activities in the catchment area like logging or over grazing disturb the natural regeneration process resulting in shortage of water.

Today, despite rules and regulation in place, local beliefs are the only effective protection. Some areas are protected because people believe disturbing the local protective deities would bring misfortune. That too is changing fast with pressure on our resources. The misfortune, in this case, is the drying water sources.

In the past we tried giving ownership of natural resources to communities in our efforts to protect them. Some worked, some failed. Without some benefits, communities are not keen or convinced by the rhetoric of conservation policies. The community forest worked because the communities benefit from the initiative. Our farmers or villagers now know that there is no such thing as free lunch.

Such initiatives need not restrict to water alone. In urban areas, one of the biggest problems is waste management. Despite several efforts, it still remains a challenge. If the landfills are overflowing, we have not enough compactor trucks to ensure timely collection. When this happens, every corner becomes a dumpsite.

A small user fee could improve waste collection service even if not reduce waste. The fees could be used to maintain or purchase more trucks, the biggest hurdle today, to ease the pressure on collection. Residents wouldn’t mind paying a few hundred ngultrums a month if it results in efficient services.

A good example is the pay and use public toilets. No users argue paying Nu 5 per use if the toilet is clean and have running water. They will not pay if the condition is like the one at the Thimphu crematorium. The fee it seems is not invested in maintaining it.

UN commits to ensure sustainable graduation

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 17:21

To ensure sustainable graduation from the category of least developed countries, Bhutan must focus on self-reliance.

However, the UN system in Bhutan will continue its assistance and renew its role even after graduation. The UN system will shift from aid to trade, as Bhutan’s economic index is still vulnerable.

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BCCI takes ownership of Private Sector Development Committee

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 17:20

The Private Sector Development Committee (PSDC) with the economic affairs ministry was officially handed over to the PSDC Secretariat at the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) yesterday.

Following a government order based on a cabinet decision taken on February 19, the PSDC was established to foster holistic private sector development through a “whole of government” approach, a press release from the BCCI stated.

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Classmates give their friend a new life

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 17:19

Twice he broke his right arm. And then he fell in the bathroom one early morning and broke his leg. Crippled, yet he continued drinking, even more heavily than he used to. All these, not so very long ago.

Monday, July 29, 10.00 am: A group of elderly and respectable-looking men wait at the Tee Dee Automobile Workshop in Olakha, Thimphu. The guest of honour hasn’t arrived yet. The summer sun is fierce, very harsh.

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Dengue suspected in Doksum 

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 17:18

Trashiyangtse general hospital has reported six suspected dengue fever cases from Doksum until yesterday this month.

According to health officials, more people are visiting the hospital.  Officials from dzongkhag hospital and Khamdang gewog Basic Health Unit are monitoring the area.

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CNR starts BSc in organic agriculture 

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 17:17

To develop human resource capacity in organic agriculture and to contribute to the country’s food security and sufficiency goals, the College of Natural Resources (CNR) in Lobesa, Punakha launched a BSc programme in Organic Agriculture yesterday.

A total of 35 students have enrolled in the four-year course that begins today.

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Latvia beats Bhutan 6-0

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 17:16

The U-15 Junior national team was humbled in the finals of the UEFA ASSIT U-15 international tournament by Latvia in Maldives yesterday. They lost losing 0-6.

The junior Dragon Boys started well, but fell behind in the 13th minute when Latvia’s Georgijs Sackovs scored to take the lead. Dario Sits doubled the lead in the in 24 minutes.  Georgijs Sackovs scored Latvia’s third and his brace ending the first half with a score line of 3-0 for Latvia.

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Semi final exit for Tashi Wangdi

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 17:12

Bhutanese boxer Tashi Wangdi lost to Deepak Bohoria in the semi finals of the Asian Confederation Boxing Championship, men’s light flyweight category, held on July 26 in Thailand.

Tashi Wangdi reached the semi finals after defeating Kazakhstan’s Askhat Zhussupov in the men’s light flyweight (49kg) category.

Picture story

Mon, 07/29/2019 - 16:53

Double cropping: Farmers in Yadi, Mongar transplant paddy after harvesting their spring paddy on July 26. To boost rice production and encourage farmers grow rice twice a year, Ngatshang gewog administration has piloted spring paddy cultivation on 0.50 acres wetland in Thangdong in March this year.

Water users pay community to protect water source

Mon, 07/29/2019 - 16:51

The Paokhola water source in Tsirang will be legally protected to benefit the environment, consumers and the community close to the source.

The community of Thakorling and Khuchi-Darachhu and the users living in Damphu signed the Payment for Environmental Services (PES) affirming the collaborative effort to protect Paokhola water source last week.

The community agreed on five PES activities which needs to be carried out annually, at the end of which, a verification team would monitor and accordingly provide a fee.

The five activities include maintaining, a buffer area of about 100 metres radius on both sides of the three streams in Khuchi-Darachhu. Every four months, the stream channels need to be cleared. Besides guarding the watershed area from illegal extractions of forest resources, and limiting livestock grazing in the area, plantation activities would to be carried out.

For all these activities, the users will pay about Nu 224,000 in a year to the community or the service providers. In the last meeting on July 18, every user paid Nu 3.11 as PES fee in addition to the water bill for each metre holder.

Chief forestry officer at Watershed Management Division, Sigyel Delma, said that the payment for environmental services is one of the mechanisms that will help conserve water sources. She said that it is a unique scheme as the water users are willing to pay the community living near the watershed for conservation activities.   

 “When we say PES, we are not paying for water as a commodity, but for activities such as plantation to protect the water source and natural forest as it is. Such activities involve a cost.”

She said that as Bhutan graduate from the status of a least developed country, there is the need to look for revenues and resources for conservation activities. “It will depend on whether there is potential and need for a PES to be established. There needs to be beneficiaries and users.”

However, the watershed management division would, wherever feasible, conduct  consultations and assessment. “It’s really up to the stakeholders, but we need to sensitise and advocate the conservation of watershed as the natural forest are the best reserve for recharging water resources.”

It is the fourth PES scheme established in the country since its first establishment in Mongar in 2011.

Sigyel Delma said that the scheme would help create ownership as community and users become part of conservation. “Forest has intangible and tangible benefits, but right now water is an indispensable resource and a priority, as the country faces growing water shortage issues.”

The agreement is valid for 10 years.

Chairperson of the Khuchi community forest, Ganesh Sunwar, said that there were plans to carry out plantation activities. “We have agreed to not extract stones or timber from  near the streams and catchment area. Although we are being paid, it is something that will be good in the long run.”

A verification team of six members from the stakeholders would be formed to verify and monitor the agreed activities. If the verification team finds that the activities are not carried out, the amount won’t be provided to the community.

Rinchen Zangmo  | Tsirang

Observers condemn teacher-student affairs

Mon, 07/29/2019 - 16:50

Police are framing charges against the lecturers of the College of Language and Cultural Studies (CLCS) in Taktse, Trongsa, after the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) sent the case back to police.

The college president, Lungtean Gyatsho, lodged a complaint again nine lecturers and a supporting staff for criminal attempt to custodial rape, attempt to rape, official misconduct, sexual harassment and battery. The staff were compulsorily retired in May this year.

Trongsa police and a special investigation team from the RBP headquarters conducted the investigation for more than a month and charged six lecturers, four from the nine lecturers and two serving lecturers for the alleged offences.

OAG dropped charges of criminal attempt to custodial rape, attempt to rape, official misconduct and battery and reduced the charges to sexual harassment.

Many in Trongsa and those following the case closely questioned if the case was taken lightly by the investigating and prosecuting agencies, compromising the legal obligations of the teachers or lecturers.

A Trongsa resident said teaching is a noble profession and teachers should have a legal binding and obligation that would stop them from abusing students in any form.

He said that dropping the case would have multiple repercussions in the education sector that is experiencing increasing reported cases of sexual abuses by teachers. “Many teachers might assume that it is fine to have relationship with students if they are not charged for the misconduct.”

A corporate employee, Sonam, said taking the matter lightly would encourage the teachers to have illicit relationship with students, who are vulnerable as their grades would depend on the teachers.

She said that dropping charges against the lecturers might send wrong message to the educationists, who take advantage of the vulnerability of the students.

A former educationist said although all education documents state that teachers should not have affairs with students and all schools are supposed to have school policy that specifies the conduct, the documents are not legally binding.

He, however, said it is not only in Taktse College where there are affairs between lecturers and students. “There are many cases where lecturers are married to students of the same college.”

It was learnt that colleges are mandated to have faculty or staff and student relationship policy. Some colleges have policy on zero tolerance on consensual romantic or sexual relationship between faculty and student or staff and student.

He said that it was time for the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) and education ministry to thrash out the issue and ensure conducive learning environment for students.

The investigating agency based their charges on the evidences gathered and did not take the anonymous confession of students.

Prosecutors explained that they looked at the criminal liability of the case and concluded that there was no criminal liability against the two lecturers, who married before the students before they joined the college or after the student completed studies. “We have asked police to charge the assistant professor if they find evidences,” a prosecutor said.

A senior attorney explained that if the students are minors, then there would be criminal charges against the lecturers, but anyone can have affairs if there is consent and if they attained the age of majority. “There are no criminal issues.”

They explained that the moral and ethical aspect of the relationship should be taken care by the administrative action the college took against the lecturers. 

“The teachers’ code of conduct and university’s rules and regulations should address it,” a prosecutor said.

Sources also say it is now time for the ministry and RUB to frame stringent policies to address the issue. The RUB’s Human Resource Rules and Regulations mention about the sexual harassment, but there is nothing specific on affairs between students and lecturers.

Tashi Dema