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Updated: 1 hour 4 min ago

Dengue claims a life in Samdrupjongkhar

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 16:12

A 53-year-old woman died from dengue fever in Dewathang hospital in Samdrupjongkhar around 8:20pm on September 8.

This is the fifth death from dengue fever so far in the country this year.

According to health officials, the deceased spent a night in Phuentsholing recently on her way back from Thimphu. 

She was admitted to Dewathang hospital on September 4.

The hospital saw two dengue cases this year and the first case was reported on July 25. Samdrupjongkhar dzongkhag hospital had registered about 16 dengue cases until yesterday.

Health officials said the dengue case in Samdrupjongkhar is under control as all the patients are in stable condition and no one is admitted in the hospital at the moment, adding that they visit the residents of the dengue patients and inspect the surroundings.

Officials said they carry out an entomological survey before the monsoon and do larvicidal tablet inoculation to all the ponds to kill the larval life stage of the mosquito, adding that they also carry out in-door residual spraying (IRS).

They also said that during the IRS, they visit all the residents and spray pesticides in the toilets and surroundings, and carry out health awareness programmes to the public and in schools.

According to the record maintained by the Samdrupjongkhar hospital, more than 200 dengue cases were reported in 2017 and more than 30 cases in 2018.

Meanwhile, more than 2600 dengue cases have been reported so far in the country.

Kelzang Wangchuk  | Samdrupjongkhar

186 dengue cases reported in Sarpang and Gelephu hospitals 

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 16:10

The central regional referral hospital in Gelephu has recorded 139 dengue fever cases as of September 9.

Of the total infected, 129 were imported cases with majority of the patients having a history of travelling to dengue-endemic areas like Phuentsholing and Doksum in Trashiyangtse.


The remaining 10 cases have been categorized as indigenous. However, health officials said that the indigenous cases are not new, meaning that these patients had the disease for more than a year.

The hospital recorded the maximum number of positive cases (61) in August. There was a gradual increase in the number of positive cases since January this year.

From five positive cases reported in January, the number rose to 14 in June. There were 28 positive cases in July.

The hospital recorded 20 positive cases this month.

The dzongkhag hospital in Sarpang has also observed an increasing number of positive cases during the same period. There were 47 positive cases registered at the Sarpang hospital as of yesterday.


Why Gelephu did not report the outbreak?  

Programme analyst with the Vector-borne Disease Control Programme (VDCP) in Gelephu, Tobgyel, confirmed that both the primary and secondary dengue vectors, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus have been found present in the locality as is the case in Phuentsholing, Samdrupjongkhar and Samtse.

He said that although majority of the cases in Gelephu are imported, there are also few indigenous cases. “During a close inspection of the areas that reported the disease, there were no substantial transmissions in those areas.”

According to the World Health Organisation, a case contracted locally with no evidence of importation and no direct link to transmission from an imported case is considered as an indigenous case.

Gyem Gyeltshen, in-charge of the vector-borne disease control and prevention unit at the Gelephu hospital said that those 10 cases identified as indigenous were old cases.

“These cases also have travel histories but people do not share with us,” he said. “This is one of the major challenges we face when patients do not disclose full information.”

Only 99 of the 139 infected patients have reported of visiting the endemic area of Phuentsholing. Sonamgytsel, the core Gelephu town area has reported 14 positive cases so far.

Gyem Gyeltshen said that if all these cases were indigenous, Gelephu would have been under major dengue outbreak as of now.


Why the outbreak?

The last dengue outbreak in Gelephu, Samtse and Samdrupjongkhar was in 2017 where some 900 cases were recorded.

The outbreak this year in Doksum, Trashiyangtse, has taken the health professionals by surprise. Tobgyel said that last year when the VDCP team conducted its surveillance in the area, there were no traces of the vector mosquito.

Favourable breeding environment for the vector was  laid by the rise in tempertature, which is one of the consequences of global warming, according to officials.

Tobgyel said that because of the Kholongchhu project, the movement of vehicles especially trucks could have carried the vector from the humid southern foothills to a more elevated location like Doksum.

As for the outbreak in Phuentsholing, he said that cross-border contamination and poor preventative measures could have led to the outbreak.

“For a place like Phuentsholing where settlements are in close proximity across the border, the chances of cross-border infection is high. Efforts to destroy the breeding grounds of the vector should be collectively taken by those living both inside and outside the gate.”


The vectors- Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus

At a glance, the female mosquito in question would be like any other blood-sucking mosquito. However, upon close inspection, this group of mosquito carries white markings on its legs. The fly range of the mosquito is between 200ms to 400ms.

Contrary to the popular theory circulating on the social media that dengue spreading mosquitoes has a lower flight range, health officials said that the aedes mosquitoes can fly up to a height of a six-storey building.

According to Dechen Pemo, an entomologist with VDCP, the biting habits of aedes mosquitoes are more frequent during the day. “People should be more careful especially two hours before and after sunset,” she said. “The most important method to stop dengue is to destroy the breeding grounds of the mosquitoes.”

Tobgyel said that unlike other mosquitoes, the aedes breeds in clean water especially inside the houses. To prevent mosquitoes from breeding, he said that residents must frequently change their stored water in the house, clear all discarded water-holding objects like old tyres, drums, and regularly empty the refrigerators’ dipping pans and change water in flower saucers possibly within three to four days.

“It is advised to wear full sleeve shirts and trousers during early mornings and in the evenings and to sleep under mosquito nets,” he added.

Meanwhile, health and VDCP officials in Gelephu have been constantly carrying out sensitisation and advocacy programmes in high-risk areas along with thermal fogging, spraying of indoor residual spray (IRS), supply of long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLIN) and introducing insect growth regulator (IGR) in the breeding sites among others.

Younten Tshedup  | Gelephu

Making media accountable

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 16:05

In a simple ceremony last week, the Media Council was formalised. The establishment of the Council, even if it didn’t gather much attention, is an important step in the field of media development.

The Council is an independent body with its board members both representing media and the government. On the first board, there are more members representing the media or media-related offices. This is a good representation, especially when the first mandate of the Council is to promote and protect the freedom and independence of the media.

From setting standards, curtailing offensive or illegal contents and hearing complaints and settling dispute, the Council has a huge mandate. Freedom and independence of media is guaranteed by the Constitution. There are codes and ethics drawn up by the association for journalists (JAB) agreed by members of the association.

What is new with the establishment of the Council is that it will serve as a standard setting body to promote and enhance ethical and professional standards among journalists ad media practitioners. The Council will also ensure objective and fair treatment of any person by the media, protect the general public from undesirable influences of all media services.

In other words, it is a form of self-regulation in ensuring professionalism and ethics across media spectrum by media themselves. The Council will provide a voice or a platform to the readers or audience. It will provide a check to media coverage.

How it will be done will be seen with time, but it is good to remind media of their responsibilities. Media here is not restricted to the traditional media. In fact, internet or social media is the most influential media. Hiding behind fake accounts, social media is getting out of hand. It is full of negativity, gossip, and rumour.

Media is having a notable impact on our society, social media included. It warrants a close attention on the nature and extent of its influence. The race to stay afloat and competition for the eyeball can blur our mandate.  If freedom is guaranteed, it also comes with a huge responsibility.

In a way, the Council protects the people who are harmed by media coverage.  One common complaint among those affected by media coverage is that there is nobody to hear their case unless the media is dragged to the court or write a response, which many say is not fair. The Council will provide the space to people to hear their case and settle dispute in relation to media content.

The media landscape has changed. We have one of the highest per capita media if we go by numbers. Our readers are often questioning the quality journalism or the choice we offer.  Sustainability is a big issue and when media is driven by commercialism, we tend to be dictated by what is called the lowest common denominator or sensationalism.

When we do that we forget the standards we agreed to follow. It is said that media governing and regulating themselves is the best way to ensure the very principles and standards of journalism are followed.

Lower back pain common among working-age population

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 16:03

Lower back pain is one of the most reported illnesses among the working-age population in the country today.

The national referral hospital’s Department of Physiotherapy recorded about 2,000 lower back pain cases last year. Patients were mostly aged between 30 and 50.

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Helping people build homes

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 16:00

Chiming Dem is 45 years old. When her husband passed away about a year ago, she was deeply shattered. They’d just returned to the village, Tsirangoted to settle for the rest of their lives.

She lost her husband when they were halfway into building the house. “A sudden illness took my husband. It was very difficult after that.”

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Picture story

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 15:58

Trashtag Bhutan and plastic ban advocacy that was inspired by an international sensation of the #trashtag challenge where 121 schools in Bhutan took up the challenge bagged the second prize in an international award titled “The Plastic Initiative Award” developed by UNESCO Bangkok. 

Local brick: space constraint cuts production in Mongar

Tue, 09/10/2019 - 15:56

Sangay Tenzin, 39, was not so sure about the market when he started a local brick-manufacturing unit at Gyalpozhing about three years ago. But he took the risk.

Looking back, he thinks he had made the right decision.

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Dengue cases should be in single digits next year: PM

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 16:09

A strategy to tackle disease outbreak like the recent dengue outbreak in Phuentsholing will be drawn up and implemented from next year.

Meeting the management of Phuentsholing general hospital yesterday, Prime Minister Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that if implemented well ahead of tome in phase wise, the number of people affected will be cut down to single digits.

Lyonchhen commended the work of the hospital staff and met with the patients. He asked the hospital management to submit a report. “Draw a plan and let us know. We will see how we can go together,” he said.

In their presentation to the Lyonchhen, the hospital team said that 2,227 people were tested dengue positive as of September 7 in Phuentsholing. The private diagnostic centres reported another 894 confirmed positive cases. About 19 cases were referred to Thimphu.

The hospital management highlighted several challenges the hospital experienced during the outbreak. The hospital has only eight beds in the emergency unit. Trollies were used to cater to increasing number of people.

Dr Thinley Pelzang also said that the rapid test kit used to diagnose dengue was “not sensitive.”

“Many cases could not be detected,” the doctor said.

Although the report would “clinically” point towards a dengue fever symptom, the result was negative. However, the results came as positive in the private diagnostic centres.

The hospital staffs were also exhausted it was highlighted. However, the hospital has prolonged their timing until four pm to cater to patients.

Dr Thinley Pelzang said that there was poor response and participation from the community. Porous border and Bhutanese living across the border were other challenges that made the dengue fever difficult to contain.

It was also learned that Jaigaon and Pasakha were the places from where most dengue cases were reported.

Lyonchhen said that it would not suffice to simply say there were no public participation. Although there is no control across the border, there should a good control of places within Bhutan.

“It is just a matter of campaigns and awareness enforcement and the way of approach,” he said, explaining lessons must have been drawn from experiences before.

Responding to the problem of rapid test kit, the Prime Minister said that health ministry should now come up with more specific and sensitive test kits. It is an unwanted surprise to know that the rapid test kit being used is not sensitive, he added.

“If it is not sensitive, you must immediately report to the department of the public health. You should not go on using it,” he said questioning accountability of supplying test kits that were not sensitive.

“There should not be any complacency in health as it is a dealing with human beings at the critical point of their life when they are sick.”

Meanwhile, Phuentsholing dungpa Karma Rinchen said that there were some policy issues regarding the hospital administration. Since the hospital is only accountable to directly report outbreak to its headquarters, thromde and dungkhag were left out.

“There is a gap between,” the dungpa said, adding thromde and dungkhag were not informed at the right time.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay tshering said he agreed to the issue and elaborated the trend existed in other hospitals too. He said he would look into solving it within a week.

The director with the department of public health, Dr Karma Lhazeen, who was in the Lyonchhen’s team yesterday said the department will look into all the matters and take the lead.

The first dengue case was reported in July 5 this year. The fever has so far claimed four lives across the country, out of which one was in Phuentsholing.

Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing

e-PEMS responsible for ambulance without fuel?

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 16:08

The process of implementing the electronic public expenditure management system (e-PEMS) was questioned when an ambulance in Dagana ran out of fuel and couldn’t cater to an emergency condition where a baby died.

The baby, six-weeks-old, was brought to Lajab BHU in Dagana on August 26 and died the next day on the way to Tsirang. Lajab BHU called an ambulance from Drujeygang BHU, but the ambulance didn’t have fuel to make the trip. An ambulance was called from Tsirang, which is 70 Kms away. Lajab is 40 Kms away from Drujeygang.

E-PEMS was at the receiving end with people blaming the system for hindering budget release.

However, following the incident, the Public Accounts Department, through a post on social media, clarified that there was no delay in fuel budget release. It was stated that the request for budget was made on August 12 and that there were no pending payments.

The last request was made on August 28, two days after the incident.

An official from Department of Public Accounts said they had verified all the transactions that occurred in the system. “There were no pending payments,” he said.

In fact, he said that the budget has been released by July end. 

He said that budget for salaries and fuel are not segregated but released as recurrent expenditure together. “If fuel budget was pending, there is no way salaries were deposited,” he said.

However, there are certain formalities, which the dealing officials have to fulfil with the dzongkhags and lapses were spotted there. “But it is very unfortunate,” he said.

However, the Dzongkhag media focal person, Sonam Jamtsho said that while the system was launched in mid-July, data migration was not complete. Without completing the data migration, transactions could not be performed.

The data migration, he said was completed only at the end of July and this is why salaries, DSAs and other travel claims were also deposited on July 31. However, the payment for bills, including the fuel budget was only done on August 8.

In absence of budget and to cater to emergencies, he said that the ambulance was fueled on credit around the end of July. This, he said is as per the report prepared by the health sector in the dzongkhag. When the first release in first week of August came through, half the amount was deducted for credit. The remaining half was exhausted in plying between Thimphu and Damphu for emergency patients.

All government vehicles have to pay in advance for fuel and the amount would be deducted as and when the vehicles fuel up.

The e-PEMS also requires all vehicles to be registered with the registration numbers to ensure budget release for fuel and maintenance. This, according to the Dagana dzongdag, Phintsho Choeden was also an issue initially.

However, it was completed by the end of July. “Even with the registration completed, transaction cannot happen because data migration was not completed,” an official said.

Dzongdag Phintsho Choeden said that a detailed report has been submitted to the health ministry and that the Bhutan Medical Council is also conducting an investigation. “It was an unfortunate incident. We have full sympathy for the bereaved family.”

The investigation would find whether the baby could have been saved, if the ambulance arrived on time.

However, the dzongkhag planning officer said that it was a big lesson for the dzongkhag and that a meeting was immediately called.

The dzongkhag decided to settle all the bills soon as a  scanned copy is submitted, without the need to submit original receipt. The dzongkhag will also maintain a minimum 15 litres of fuel in all the ambulances and that all the hospitals and BHUs will keep a fuel reserve of 25 litres.

“While it is very unfortunate that a baby died, it is important of us to prevent such incidents in future,” Sonam Jamtsho said.

Tshering Dorji

BCCI expects to collect Nu 7.48M in fees and donations

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 16:07

The Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI) projects that the chamber will collect about Nu 7.48 million (M) as membership fees and voluntary contributions from its members during the fiscal year 2019-20, according to the BCCI secretariat.

The information was released at the BCCI’s 32nd annual general meeting (AGM) held from September 6 to 7 in Thimphu.

The expected revenue, however, may change, the report issued by the BCCI, added. The government will provide Nu 10.5M to the chamber as grant for the fiscal year, according to the chamber’s projection.

According to a performance audit report covering the period from January 2013 to December 2017, over the period of the last five years the BCCI generated a total revenue of Nu 258.669 million and received grant of Nu 42.750 million from the government as grant.

The BCCI sustains its operations from annual membership fees of the business entities, voluntary fees, rental income and sale proceeds among other sources of revenue. It generates 50.4 percent of its revenue from annual membership fees and 45 percent from rental income and voluntary fees.

Speaking at the AGM, BCCI president Phub Zam said membership of the BCCI was not growing as expected. “We are not growing in terms of membership,” she said adding that the chamber has fulfilled its mandate of developing the private sector in the country.

However, she added that the government’s pledge to make the private sector to be vibrant by partnering with BCCI would go a long way.

BCCI’s secretary-general Sangay Dorji said that the chamber needed more money to conduct trainings at the dzongkhag level. He said that trade fairs have been one of the major sources of revenue for the chamber.

The chamber is projected to earn a net income of Nu 793,000 through organization of trade fairs in the fiscal year 2019-20, according to the BCCI secretariat.

In total, the BCCI is expected to earn about Nu 19.243M in the fiscal year 2019-20. The projection includes Nu 270,000 as rental income.

The Chambers will spend about Nu 18.556M in pay and allowances of its staff. This is considering a 20 percent raise for members of the BCCI staff after the pay raise civil servants received beginning from the fiscal year.

The BCCI projects that that it would require to invest about Nu 3M for capacity building of the chamber. The operating cost of BCCI is projected to come around Nu 34.393M.

MB Subba

Fake overseas employment agents still abound

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 16:06

Despite the labour ministry’s announcements asking jobseekers to be vigilant of fake and unauthorised operators advertising fake overseas job vacancies, many Bhutanese has become victims.

The ministry issued a notification on their website, advising job seekers to only apply for jobs advertised by the ministry or licensed overseas agents listed on the website to avoid getting duped since those overseas vacancies posted online are illegal.

There are six authorised registered with the ministry. Five agents, who were initially licensed, are now terminated.

However, there are increasing complaints on social media forums on fake agents offering employment overseas with attractive salaries and free accommodation in countries like India, UAE and the United States of America.

The ministry also receives complaints from people who claim to be duped by fake agents and not being able to trace the agent.

An official from the Department of Employment and Human Resources said there are also risks of people being trafficked through the fake agents.

“Job seekers come to the ministry to complain that they realised they were duped only after reaching the destination,” he said. 

According to the official, most people come to complain only after they make the advance payments and the agents refuse to contact them. “They do not know who the agent is and where it is based,” she said. “Most of the complainants travel from dzongkhags and villages and do not bother to verify with the ministry.”

Most complainants refuse to complain in writing and many do not return to follow up on the complaint. Most of the fake agents, who advertise the vacancies, have fake numbers and addresses.

In a few cases, the ministry managed to trace fake agents. The cases are dealt by the legal division. Article 211 of Chapter XIII of the Labour and Employment Act of Bhutan 2007 states, “A person shall not act as an employment agent unless the person is licensed.”

There are also cases where the ministry traces the information on job seekers leaving through unregistered agents.

“Although the job seekers are placed and are working, the placement itself is illegal and this is illegal recruitment,” an official said. “When we see overseas vacancies, we call up but the number is either switched off or they don’t respond.”

The official, however, said that some jobseekers have now started to verify job vacancies with the ministry. “We urge jobseekers to do more research and study carefully before signing any contract.”

The licensed overseas employment agents have to follow procedures laid out in the regulation on Bhutanese Overseas Employment Agent 2013. The agents must seek approval from the ministry right from announcing overseas vacancies to the final placement.

Today, there are 7,062 Bhutanese youth working overseas as of July 2019.

Yangchen C Rinzin  

Study suggests replacing imported construction materials with timber

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 16:05

Research by a lecturer of  Royal University of Bhutan suggests replacing imported construction materials with timber.

Over the years, timber use as the main construction material decline due to susceptibility to fire and durability issues compared with the strength and easy availability of modern-day materials.

However, new timber building products are emerging in the market. These new-engineered wood products are stretching the boundaries of timber design and enabling a new era in the construction of timber buildings.

The new-engineered wood products include laminated timbers, adhesives and carbon fiber reinforced wood among others. The product offers increased dimensional stability, more homogeneous mechanical properties and greater durability and resistance to fire.

The research titled “Building with nature’s footprint – emerging trends in the use of timber as a structural material” says that given the pressure on climate, environment and rapidly depleting resources due to the housing sector’s heavy reliance on concrete, steel and other industrial products, the potential of timber as an alternate to these materials could be explored.

The paper presents timber as an alternative to the imported materials in terms of low cost (about 20 percent cheaper), faster construction time (about 30percent quicker), and reduced or eliminated carbon emissions.

A total of 332,500MT of cement and 65,000MT of steel reinforcement bar is consumed annually on average by the housing sector.

The housing sector relies heavily on concrete, steel, and other industrial products, which is responsible for nearly 40 percent of the global resource and energy consumption, greenhouse gas emission, and solid waste generation.

Studies found that a cubic meter of wood sequesters one tonne of carbon dioxide.

There are around 0.8 billion trees in the country of various species within the 71percent of geographical area under forest cover. Tshewang Nidup said that the figure could provide a good starting point to explore the potential of timber as a viable construction material in Bhutan.

He said that the 11 percent excess of the minimum 60 percent forest coverage as mandated by the Constitution was estimated to have a total of 34,870,240 cubic meter woods from the seven most abundant species.

“Even with 50percent wastage in conversion of the raw timber into sized usable wood products, the 11percent excess from the seven species will yield around 17,435,120 cubic meter timber available for construction,” he said.

Furthermore, he said that the promotion of timber as a construction material must be underpinned by sourcing timber responsibly.

Phub Dem

Complacency should be nipped in the bud

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 16:04

The bottom seems to be falling out in our efforts to contain the outbreak of dengue fever in the border town of Phuentsholing.

Going by the day-to-day update of the cases since the first week of July this year, the matters are a far cry from well in hand.

While we continue to flounder with control measures, what with mosquito fogging and increased awareness and cleaning campaigns to fight the outbreak, positive cases in the town has touched more than 3,000.

And the number is expected to grow.

Quick response to the health emergencies that disease outbreaks call for is one thing; addressing them with the right interventions at the right time is a different thing altogether. In our case, we seem to have fallen short on both counts.

Even as the hospital was overwhelmed with increasing number of new cases very early in the days after the outbreak of the seasonal epidemic, the health ministry’s reaction to it was lax to the point of being apathetic.

There can hardly be a more approving way to describe the ministry’s art and part in responding to this scourge that is threatening to become unmanageable.

With just eight beds in the emergency unit, the patients are being treated in the hospital’s corridors. The scene is one of riotous confusion, of near-total bedlam. The more serious cases are being referred to hospital in Thimphu.

Bhutan’s health system has, over the years, seen a phenomenal growth both in terms of reach and sophistication. We can today boast about the state-of-the-art technology in our health facilities and up-to-the-minute medical know-how at our fingertips, and we are well on our way to achieving many of our significant national health goals.

But we are also confronted with serious challenges some of which are born of our deep-seated culture of taking everything rather too lightly.

At a time when we are faced with severe shortage of health professionals—many health centres outside the capital still do not have doctors—lack of proactive approach to addressing the emergence of new health challenges can be expensive for the nation.

Fear, panic and frustrations among the people have subsided and have taken on a new dimension of reaction to the disease—to just go about as if nothing’s happened. This is the real danger.

Complacency is also showing in the lack of collaboration and communication between the drungkhag office and the hospital. If this is allowed to continue further, the repercussions can be devastating.

Prime Minister has described the situation as alarming. We must meet the situation, now rather than later, with fitting attention and resolve.

Anything less is unacceptable.

Sarpang-Gelephu sees increasing taekwondo enthusiasts

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 16:03

Outside the multi-purpose hall in Gelephu, a group of kids are engaged in a serious discussion.

These are students of Gelephu lower secondary school. And the team has just won the 7th inter-school taekwondo championship that concluded yesterday.      

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Rinchen Lethro wins the best leader award

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 16:02

Rinchen Lethro, 33, received the best leader award from among more than 200 delegates in the Global Youth Peace Ambassador (GYPA) in the Maldives last week.

GYPA is the largest international youth development programme that advocates the global peacekeeping mission and conducts peacebuilding activities and bridging socio-ethnic, religious, and community divides.

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Marijuana smuggling on the rise as farmers lose interest in agriculture

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 16:01

Smuggling marijuana out of Jomotshangkha drungkhag, Samdrupjongkhar is becoming uncontrollable and challenging, according to residents.

Despite police and the concerned authorities carrying out awareness programmes and patrolling the place, smuggling marijuana is on the rise. Of the three gewogs in the drungkhag- Langchenphu, Serthi and Lauri gewogs, Serthi gewog has the highest incidence of smuggling out dried marijuana.

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Pelden Wangchuk becomes the youngest TOD winner

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 16:00

Pelden Wangchuk practised for four months to take part in the Tour of the Dragon cycling race.

It paid off.

On Saturday, Pelden, 20, not only won the 10th edition of the treacherous race, but also became the youngest cyclist to win the race.

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Focus point

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 16:03

Dengue cases continue to rise in Phuentsholing

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 16:03

Dengue fever cases in Phuentsholing are on the rise two months after the outbreak was first reported.

Public awareness and campaigns have been of little help.

Phuentsholing hospital saw a total of 2,121 dengue positive cases as of yesterday, 313 more than the September 1 record. With 894 dengue positive cases reported from private diagnostic centres in the town, Phuentsholing saw 3,015 positive cases as of yesterday.

Figures from the diagnostic centres, however, include both Bhutanese and people from across the border.

The scene at the hospital yesterday had not changed since mid-August, the peak outbreak period. In fact, the situation had by much aggravated.

Men, women, and children of all ages were in the queue for blood reports. Extra trollies were being brought for emergency.

Dr Thinley Pelzang said that the rise in the cases was because the people are still very complacent.

“Their poor participation is the cause for the spread,” he said. “Community should come up forward to reduce the breeding sources, both inside and out of doors.”

A mass cleaning campaign will be conducted today in the town. Close to 2,000 students are expected to take part in the campaign with dessups, health, drungkhag and thromde officials, among others.


Country status

The chief programme officer with Department of Public Health (DoPH), Ministry of Health, Rixin Jamtsho, said that 77 percent of the total cases in the country were reported from Phuentsholing hospital.

“The cases were reported from 19 dzongkhags till yesterday,” Rixin Jamtsho said. “Majority of the cases reported from other districts had travelled to Phuentsholing prior to their illness.”

Rixin Jamtsho said that three dengue cases were reported from Bumthang. All the three patients had the history of having travelled to Phuentsholing.

Despite efforts to contain the outbreak, there have been fluctuations with rain.

Outbreak in Doksum in Trashiyangtse has been contained.

“The people are advised to continue prevention and control activities to avoid a second outbreak, which could prove catastrophic,” Rixin Jamtsho said.



Bhutanese living across the border in Jaigaon are the most affected, findings have revealed.

Rixin Jamtsho said that 32 percent of the positive cases in the country were Bhutanese living across the border town in Jaigaon.

“Based on the findings, there is also a poor response to awareness and self-protection among the public,” he said.

DoPH findings showed that 56 percent of the respondents had containers, barrels, tyres with stagnant water in their surroundings. About 53 percent of the respondents still do not use mosquito nets.

Further, 65 percent did not use mosquito repellents, while 88 percent of the respondents wore short pants and shirts with short sleeves; 56 percent had flowerpots on their balcony.

Containment and preventive measures

Rixin Jamtsho said the health ministry distributed preventive and precautionary messages to all the schools, institutions and offices in the south to be displayed on their notice boards.

In the major public gatherings, announcements are made and precautionary messages continue to be shared through RSTA and at check posts. Media is also used to strengthen the advisory messages.

Thermal fogging was encouraged across the country and house-to-house vector surveillance was also being continued, Rixin Jamtsho said.

Desuups have been trained on dengue prevention and control methods and empowered them with the rights to inspect households, shops and hotels and surroundings.


Way forward

The health ministry is planning on a dengue operational plan for source reduction and destruction ahead of the rainy season. Dialogues are already underway.

Rixin Jamtsho said that a capacity building for dengue management would be initiated. A proposal has been developed.

“SOPs to develop early warning system and case investigation have also been revised,” he said. “Strengthening of vector surveillance and reporting system has also been initiated.”

Collaboration and coordination among stakeholders for the prevention and control of dengue outbreaks would be strengthened.

So far, the outbreak has claimed four patients.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Glitches in ePEMS, banks face issues

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 16:01

The introduction of electronic Public Expenditure Management System (ePEMS) last month has left banks and civil servants experiencing some hiccups.

This is because the monthly loan installments  or EMIs and insurance premiums of civil servants are deducted at source, and credited to their loan accounts with the respective banks. After deducting taxes and other contributions, rest of the salary of a civil servant is deposited in his or her respective savings accounts.

However, the finance ministry has issued a notification on August 16 stating that only statutory and common deductions like taxes, health contribution, provident fund, house rent for government quarters, GIS and welfare fund would be facilitated by ePEMS.

The notification also stated that other deductions and remittances, including the loan EMI shall be made through mobile banking Apps, standing instructions the budgetary bodies issues to the bank and linking individual loan deduction with the saving accounts.

“Ideally, government accountants should not be deducting loan of civil servants,” an official from the finance ministry said.

However, banks claim that their clients, before the loan approval, are mandated to get an undertaking from respective finance officers vouching that EMIs would be deducted by the agencies and remit it to their respective accounts. “This process is mandatory with all the civil servant availing loans to ensure timely repayment and suddenly government agencies are saying that they will not do so,” a banker said.

After experiencing load defaulters initially, few banks claim that the number of defaulters has decreased substantially over the past month and that various channels like mobile banking are used to pay loan EMIs. “This could be because there wasn’t enough awareness carried out by the ministry among the civil servants, initially. Now more are aware of it. But there are also willful defaulters, which makes  the bank’s job difficult,” the banker said.

Bank of Bhutan is fortunate since most of the government agencies and civil servants have their saving account with it. Initially, an official from BoB said there were some lapses because there were minor mistakes with the information, which their system rejected.

An official from Department of Public Accounts with the finance ministry said that the system would reject transactions even if there are minor errors in the spellings. “Some accounts were in the name of their children while there were few errors in account numbers,” he said.

But this has been rectified. The BoB official said that the bank has reversed all faulty transactions and that there are not many issues currently.

However, there are problems when remitting EMIs from BoB, where most of the civil servants have their saving accounts, to other banks.

An official from a private bank said that inter-bank transaction system, which is the Global Interchange for Financial Transaction (GIFT), is also new and has its own technical glitches. “If GIFT is robust and maintained at real time, this issue can be resolved,” he said.

The GIFT platform, maintain by the central bank closes at 3PM and standing instructions cannot be performed. Standing instructions are set of command to perform certain transactions. These commands are pre-punched in the system and the operation is performed automatically once the bank close all transactions.

This means that for standing instructions to device, banks must close transactions before 3PM as the GIFT platform shuts down at the same time. This is the issue, banks other than BoB, are facing. Banking channels such as mobile banking and internet banking has helped in addressing this issue, but not for the willful defaulters and at a time when these systems are down.

The RMA governor, Dasho Penjore said that people should give time for the system to mature. In the transition phase, he said, such technical glitches could arise. “It will be handled soon,” he said.


The system

An official from public accounts department said that financial rules and regulations does not allow government agencies to deduct loans, which the civil servants owe to the banks.

“But we are not washing off our hands,” he said adding that the ministry has been following up with defaulters and urging them to pay their loans. “We will do that until the system stabilizes.”

He said banks need to come up with an interface where the system of one bank supports the others.

On the ministry’s side, he said that 70 percent of the accountants across the country have been trained last year. While the remaining would be trained soon, a refresher course would also be offered.

The feedback, according to the official is that most accountants find it user friendly. “We have also distributed manuals for them to read and it is easily understandable,” he said.

“Even the vendors, who provide goods and services to government agencies are finding it efficient and effective,” he said.

The e-Pems, a finance ministry’s initiative to digitise government expenditure and payment system has recorded about Nu 6.3B worth of transactions in two months, of which Nu 2.8B pertains to salaries.

The e-Pems is expected to promote transparency and accountability. Under this system, all service providers to the government agencies should be registered and payments could be directly made to individual accounts.

There are instances where private entities have to rely on the accountants to write cheques. This would no more be the case, should e-Pems prove a success.

For example, a supplier registered on e-PEMS can directly bill the government agencies and money would be electronically transferred to the individual account after verification.

However, all e-PEMS transactions have to be routed through the BoB since most of the government agencies maintain their account with BoB.

This is why the GIFT is important tool to enable e-PEMS transaction to other banks.

As of now, the finance ministry, RMA and the banks are working together to sort out issues.

Tshering Dorji