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Gift of words for a man of letters, a tribute

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 16:33

For someone who writes more and talks less, no gift is dearer than written words beautifully strung together. Such a gift is what Dasho Sangay Dorji received from His Holiness the Je Khenpo at the concluding ceremony of monlam chenmo in Bumthang this week. It’s a piece of poetry praising the virtues of a man who describes himself as someone ‘who can’t talk much’. 

His Holiness describes Dasho Sangay Dorji as ‘a true son of Palden Drukpa’, a saviour of Bhutan’s language whose ‘meaningful words have resounded in all directions’. In the letter of appreciation, His Holiness underlines language as the heart of culture which is at the heart of safeguarding the country’s independence. 

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

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

 ‘Fourteen times and –,’ Dasho pauses mid-sentence and reminds me that he is not even good enough to talk about himself. Perhaps he means that he is not given to verbosity Dzongkha is associated with. He speaks in terse sentences packed with facts and figures. For an erudite known for poetic compositions, his Dzongkha is surprisingly unpretentious and shorn of linguistic embellishments. This trait of humility is reflected in his body posture. He sits and talks with the head slightly bent forward like a fruit-laden branch.

Barely three years after studying under Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the first principal of Rigzhung Lobdra, he was appointed a teacher for a monthly salary of Nu 30. And three years later, he became the personal secretary to formidable Dasho Shingkhar Lam in the office of the Third Druk Gyalpo, marking the beginning of his long, distinguished literacy career. Dasho doesn’t want to talk about his academic distinction or exemplary career achievements but the honour of the Red Scarf he received from the Fourth Druk Gyalpo in 1999 sums them up. 

Dasho recollects that, when he started his career, the streets of Thimphu resounded with the Nepali language that the locals casually picked up from foreign workers. Today, Dzongkha binds the nation together, helping build a distinct national consciousness. Dasho has been a key player at every stage of this national journey. His Holiness the Je Khenpo clearly recognises this – six years in the office of the Third Druk Gyalpo, 20 years in the National Assembly Secretariat, 27 years in Dzongkha Development Commission (DDC), and five years with the Department of Culture.  

Dasho Sangay Dorji was among the first writers to record the proceedings of the National Assembly, write laws based on the Thrimzhung Chenmo, textbooks for schools, Rigzhung Lobdra and non-formal learners, bilingual dictionaries, and guidebooks on driglam namzha. However, he hasn’t kept a record of his writings and doesn’t know how many books he has written. Following the self-effacing religious tradition, he hasn’t claimed the authorship of most of his books but, in his modest office, he is surrounded by stacks of his own books. 

At 73, Dasho is still at work. After retiring from the civil service in 2006, he has been on contract with DDC and the culture department. He doesn’t take any public holiday or weekend off. ‘I don’t have much time and I don’t want to take what I know with me,’ he says matter-of-factly. 

In recent years, he has co-authored with three other scholars a Bhutanese biography of Guru Rinpoche. He has just been requested to write the history of Bhutan before Zhabdrung’s era. This life is not enough for the volume of work before me, he says. 

In the meanwhile, Dasho says he hasn’t been able to pick up the thread of ngondro he left behind 60 years ago. He wishes to spend his twilight years at a gonpa ‘creating a good link to the next life’. 

Reminiscent of ancient times when people did not study for certificates, Dasho Sangay Dorji doesn’t have an academic certificate. In its early days, Rigzhung Lobdra did not give a certificate. Fifty-five years after he completed his formal education, he is in possession of one conferred by His Holiness the Je Khenpo. And this brings his life to full circle.

An excerpt from the poem

Down in the kingdom of the wide world,

The preservation of independence hinges on

Diverse forms of culture and tradition

Whose essence can be seen in language.

The great castle of Palden Drukpa’s life –

Its external structure maybe strong and robust

But the beauty of expression is on the wane.

Do you know who that personality is

Whose music of skillful means, echoing far and wide,

Has brought back life to the unceasing expression.

Contributed by 

Needrup Zangpo, 

Executive Director, Bhutan Media Foundation

“Swiss Films on Wheels” to spread friendship

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 16:32

To further strengthen the political, economic, and cultural ties between Switzerland and Bhutan, the 728th Swiss National day was observed in Thimphu yesterday.

The day was marked with the launch of the friendship bus “Swiss Films on Wheels,” which is expected to travel across 17 places in the country screening the film, Heidi within the next three weeks spreading the message of friendship.

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CDB’s contractors’ code expected to improve industry

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 16:30

Construction boom in Bhutan began with the start of the country’s first five-year plan. The construction industry continues to play an important role in economic development of the country.

However, like in any other developing country, the industry is struggling because of problems related to poor tendering and selection process, imprecise terms, and conditions of contracts and delayed payment to the contractors.

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Police detains BEO owners

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 16:45

Thimphu police on Tuesday arrested the owners of Bhutan Employment Overseas (BEO) Tenzin Rigden and Jurmey Tshewang for alleged forgery of documents in connection with the Learn and Earn Programme (LEP) in Japan.

This was following a petition submitted by the parents’ representatives and youth sent to Japan through LEP to the Chief of Police on June 27. About 100 parents went to the Royal Bhutan Police Headquarters to register a criminal complaint against BEO.

Following a month of review, both were arrested from their office on the afternoon of July 30.

Based on the complaint submitted to the police, lawyer of the Parents’ Committee, Nawang Tobgay, submitted evidence of forged documents stating that BEO had forged bank’s seal, logo and signature and bank statements.

The other complaints against BEO included deceptive practices where youth were guaranteed job opportunities in Japan, harassing youth for complaining, abandonment of a person in danger through the programme, and human trafficking where the youth were exploited.

However, a police official said that these issues did not merit investigation as they were civil cases and were already with the Office of the Attorney General. “The case did not qualify as criminal, including human trafficking because the youth were sent by the government as a part of LEP.”

The police are still investigating the case.

Nawang Tobgay earlier told Kuensel that while they were drafting a 15-page letter to appeal to the court as a civil case, they realised that the case was more of criminal in nature and decided to register the case with the police. 

“The civil case would only compensate the youth but there will be no punishment to the agent and they should be punished,” he said. “However, we’ll go by the police investigation and their findings.”

The case came to limelight last year after the ACC asked the labour ministry to compel BEO to refund translation fees amounting to Nu 3.832 million (M) to the 511 students sent to Japan through the programme.

The parents’ committee had also said that if the police register the case as a criminal charge, they would not file it as a civil case. However, lawyer Nawang Tobgay said that they are still discussing with the parents’ representatives whether to sue BEO.

Yangchen C Rinzin

RSTA and police officials charged for bribery and fraud

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 16:44

Ninety one people could be charged for fraudulent practices related to issuance of motor vehicle driving licences going by an Anti-Corruption Commission’s investigation.

The report was forwarded to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).

Of the 91 people, three are traffic police personnel and seven are officials of Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA).

According to ACC, the police personnel and RSTA officials have issued ordinary driving licence (ODL) professional driving licences (PDL) and changed vehicle ownerships without fulfilling due processes. They were accused of accepting bribery and fraudulent practises.

The traffic police personnel and RSTA officials have also upgraded PDL to a higher drive-type without following due procedures. “Such illegal perpetrations occurred due to exhortation, negligence or planned intention,” the report stated.

On June 1, 2018, two RSTA officials signed documents and approved the issuance to ODL to a woman, who did not even sit for the driving test. 

On June 18, 2018, two officials approved ODL to another individual in Thimphu, an official approved a PDL and two officials in Tsimasham and Gedu approved an ODL to an individual.

A private individual was alleged of forging 36 fake national certificate level 2 (NC-2) for himself and others. He collected Nu 671,000 from people who availed the fake certificates. Since he did not have the skills and capacity to design and print the fake certificates, he sought help from a couple, who owned a private printing firm. He also made fake seal of labour ministry’s Department of Professional Standards.

The investigation also revealed that two police personnel had collected Nu 168,000 from 13 people and forged a car sale deed by taking Nu 5,000 from the owner. Another police personnel collected Nu 137,700 from 12 people to process licences fraudulently.

In March 2016, the labour ministry and RSTA conducted a bilateral meeting to improve the quality of the driving courses private driving training institutes provided. In the meeting, members from both agencies agreed that PDL courses offered by private driving training institutes should be accredited by the Department of Occupational Standards (DoS).

The RSTA then suspended the PDL training outsourced to driving training institutes and announced that commercial driving licences will be issued only to those who have successfully passed the national assessment accredited driving training institutes.

Professional driving course was accredited from August 2016 with a new curriculum for two months training after which the candidates are assessed for their competencies in theoretical and practical aspects. Successful candidates were issued with NC-2 for PDL by DoS. “The certificates have unique numbering as a security feature which is linked with its serial number, this assures that two genuine certificates issued by MoLHR will not have the same certificate and serial number. MoLHR maintained a record of the certificated issues.”

ACC claimed that their investigation team used the security feature as the basis to ascertain the genuineness of the certificates.

It stated that despite having a clear consensus drawn among agencies concerned, some RSTA officials continued issuing taxi driving licences based on the course certificates issued by driving institutes.

ACC investigation revealed that 709 taxi driving licenses were issued from August 2016 to November 2018, of which 404 were issued based on NC-2, 47 PDLs issued on request of RBG, 158 issued based on course certificates issued by driving training institutes before August 2016, 12 on certificates from technical training institutes, 12 on other categories of NC, 45 based on fake NC-2 and 10 on fake course certificates.

The ACC report also stated 17 PDLs were issued incorrectly by RSTA officials, one for test print and another for official purpose. “Two PDLs were issued before August 2016 without following the due process.”

It stated that the investigation team could not get documents for five individuals who were issued PDLs because of poor documentation at the RSTA.

ACC’s probable charges include passive bribery to public servant, forgery, participation in an offence, passive commercial bribery, commission amounting to an abuse of function, solicitation and aiding and abetting to forgery for the 91 people involved in the case.

Tashi Dema

Picture story

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 16:42

 Evacuation drill at the  health ministry

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has conducted an evacuation drill in collaboration with WHO Country Office and the UN office on July 30. The drill was a part of the Health Emergency and Disaster Contingency Plan 2016, which mandates the need to conduct mock or evacuation drills in health facilities including the MoH building. Such drills are expected to help employees respond quickly, calmly, and safely during real disasters. The drill will be conducted twice a year.

No water in Kanglung

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 16:41

Sherubtse College and residents around Kanglung have a problem every summer. There is shortage of drinking water and when there is water, it is muddy, unfit for drinking.

It has been more than five months without enough or clean water, students claim. The problem arose, this time, after a construction company dumped its construction waste above their water source. It is worse when it rains, which in not scarce this time of the year.

A first-year student, Tashi Choden said the water has been muddy few days after she joined the college. “We are forced to buy packaged drinking water.” Tashi and her friends harvest rainwater to clean the toilets and the surrounding. “It is difficult to maintain cleanliness without water.”

Another student, Sonam Wangchuck, said it is difficult for students staying as “self-catering” around the college. “The supply is so erratic. We managed by fetching from a nearby spring water.”

The problem is aggravated when many students queue for water at the spring water for drinking and washing. “By the time we get water and cook meals, we are late for class,” he said. When the water is muddy, students postpone their laundry, for weeks.

A student said that boys are luckier with the small spring water near the hostel. “The girls don’t have any. They are facing more difficulties than us.”

With the highway blocked between Trashigang and Kanglung, shops are also running out of bottled water.

College President Tshering Wangdi said the water source was washed away by heavy rainfall between July 11 and July 14. “We bought 700 meters of pipe and just completed the work at the site where the contactor has dumped waste.”

The President explained that the college has two water sources, the stream above Rongthung village and another where the contractor dumped the loose soil. “The moment it rains in the hills, the water gets dirty,” he said. “The situation is only during the three to four weeks of monsoon,” he added.

The management has received Nu 53 million in the 12th Plan to improve the water connectivity. “We are ready to execute the work. Hope this will improve the problem.”

It was learnt that the problem this year started after the construction of a water supply Scheme in Kanglung regional hub started.

Neten Dorji | Kanglung

Businessman invests Nu 4.5M in two startups

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 16:40

In what came as a big Jab-chor (support) to the cash-strapped aspiring entrepreneurs, a local businessman invested Nu 4.5 million in two startup businesses.

Through the Jab-chor programme, Kuenzang Dechen invested Nu 2 million for 30 percent equity ownership in Sadone design. Himalayan Foods received Nu 2.5 million  for 25 percent equity ownership.

The first partnership deal under the Season 2 Jab-chor platform was signed on July 30 between angel investor Kunzang Dechen and Sangay Nedup, the founder of Sadone Design and with Bikash Gurung and Tshering Dorji, founders of Himalayan Foods.

An angel investor is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start-up, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity. Angel investors are localised as Jab-chor.

Season 2 Jab-chor featured five entrepreneurs who pitched to investors during the 2nd biennial summit of the Bhutan Economic Forum for Innovative Transformation (BEFIT).

Sadone Design had been struggling to stand out amongst competitive designing businesses. Sangay Nedup, the founder was earning his bread from random logo and web designing proposals.

Though he had innovative business ideas, the amount he received from Priority Sector Lending (PSL) was not enough to even buy designing kits. 

Initially, his focus was on graphic designing projects, but with the investment, he will be making souvenirs such as  Thangkas, Kuthangs, and statues . He said that the business will gradually move towards designing flooring and ceilings using digital techniques.

“Besides digital designing, the process will serve my ultimate intent, which is digital archiving of these aesthetic artifacts.”

Jab-chor came as a rescue to many dying startup business. Through Jab-chor, he said, Sadone design received a wider audience, financial support and value addition. “The brand- Sadone design is proposed through this platform. Without investor, my business would have remained just an idea.”

The investor, Kuenzang Dechen acknowledged Jab-chor for providing the investors with a potential platform to double their return on investment. He said that it was BEFIT which pushed him to invest. “Every business comes with risk. The small economy should start with small business and more investors should come on board to help young business and earn your share.”

Jab-chor season 2 focused on scaling up the business. He said that it was an excellent and viable platform. “The foremost reason why entrepreneurs fail is that they lose out to scale up the idea stage.”

While the market is swamped with imported chips, Himalayan chips is making a niche market. The founder of Himalayan Foods, Tshering Dorji said that his business was not able to meet the market demand and was short of machines.

With Nu 2.5 million, he said that the focus will be on scaling up and to penetrate the international market.

Jab-Chor is a platform for young Bhutanese entrepreneurs to nurture and grow their business ideas through access to finance from potential investors. It is a joint initiative of Royal Monetary of Bhutan to encourage successful venture supported by the legally executed business partnership.

Despite great business ideas, young entrepreneurs particularly startups were faced with the challenge of early start-up equity. 

Although primary production-related projects are eligible for a 100 percent loan backed by insurance under PSL, other projects have a 70 percent loan to 30 percent equity ratio.

However, Jab-Chor complements the Priority Sector Lending (PSL) initiative.

According to Kuenzang Dechen the main challenge startup business face is in scaling up. Majority of the startup business remains stagnant without financial access, market penetration, and competition –copycat syndrome.

Meanwhile, RMA is planning to make Jab-chor a semi-annual programme to connect maximum entrepreneurs with investors.

Phub Dem

What have we learnt?

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 16:39

There are several lessons to learn from the Learn and Earn programme in Japan.

It involves hundreds of youth and their families, two elected governments, the same old opposition and a new national council, a complacent bureaucracy, a nonchalant anti-corruption commission and an apathetic office of the attorney general.

Besides the theatrics of it on social media, the initiative to allow our youth, who are desperate for employment remains an orphaned programme today. It has no ownership. So there are no actions or accountability fixed. The last government left behind a programme it created for the new government to clean or cover up. The new government inherited the problem but could not do much to either clean it up or cover it up.

Where there should have been prompt interventions, emotions and umbrage now abound. What we are today confronted with is the result of our neglect, inactions and poor monitoring. It is a consequence of disregard to our youth and their problems. It is about unemployment, the biggest challenge facing us today. All these have brewed suspicion and convinced many that the government would not take any action.

It was inactions that led to the formation of the parents committee. Their representatives appealed to everyone they believed were in power to address their problems. From the government to the parliamentarians to investigating agencies to those in the media, all have heard their stories. Each tried to do something about it but the youth in Japan and those at home felt it was not enough.

On Tuesday afternoon, police arrested the two owners of the agency, Bhutan Employment Overseas (BEO) for alleged forgery of documents. Their arrest was received by many as an action that was long overdue. It made their appeal heard and made them hopeful for justice. The police are lauded for its promptness.

For those who are unaware of the whole story, Sonam Tamang, who is on life support in a hospital in Japan symbolises the plight of the youth there. While she is fighting for her life there, we are seeing her condition being used to keep the BEO case alive at home. The government has shared their concerns on Sonam’s health condition and assured the people of support to help bring her home.

The story of Sonam and many others like her be it at home or abroad tells us the story of our youth, who dream to work and live abroad.  It tells us a story about the poor monitoring of overseas employment programme, about the lukewarm response of policy makers, about life not always being greener on the other side and about the unemployment problem troubling our society.

It tells us that we have many lessons to learn.

Suspected dengue outbreak cases increase in Trashiyangtse

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 16:38

A total of 138 acute undifferentiated fever or dengue fever cases were reported in Doksum in Trashiyangtse as of yesterday.

Health officials in Doksum tested 64 samples using dengue rapid test kit. Two tested positive for dengue NS1, four for dengue IgM, and 21 for eight dengue IgG antibody.

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Terminal construction extended by six months

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 16:37

The completion date for the construction of the terminal building for the Bumthang domestic airport has been extended until February 2020.

The project director of to M/s Rinson Construction Co Pvt. Ltd, Khandu, said that six-month was proposed considering the arrival of winter that made working difficult. “We missed two winter months due to cold.”

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Create more jobs: Economic affairs committee tells mining companies

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 16:35

Private mining companies must create more employment opportunities as part of their social corporate responsibility.

This was the message from the economic and finance committee at the consultation meeting on the proposed Mines and Minerals Bill, 2020, yesterday.

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High Quality United 10-1 Phuentsholing United

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 16:34

HQUFC thrashed Phuentsholing United FC 10-1 at the ongoing BOB Bhutan Premier League in Phuentsholing yesterday

A blitz from Lhendup Dorji gave HQUFC an early lead just seven minutes into the game.

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Bhutan remembers her rangers past and present

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 16:32

Chelela: On World Ranger Day yesterday, about 50 conservationists gathered to observe and remember the service of forestry rangers killed or injured in their line of duty.

Themed “Celebrating Our Rangers”, Agriculture Secretary Rinzin Dorji thanked the rangers for protecting the natural treasures. “Field rangers are instrumental in implementing conservation policies. I would like to commend all our rangers with utmost respect.”

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Feeding programme starts in three schools

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 16:31

When the bell rang signaling lunch break at Jangsa primary school in Samdrupjongkhar, it was not lunch boxes children were bringing yesterday. They rushed to queue for the first free lunch from the school.

On the menu were rice, fish curry, egg and dal (lentils). The Jomotshangkha drungpa, chief dzongkhag education officer and teachers served the first lunch of the school- feeding programme.

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