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Boulder business slows down

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 16:00

After almost two months of standstill, export of boulders from Gelephu to Bangladesh resumed on June 22. However, three months later, the business has failed to pick up to its initial vigor.

When the business started, more than 100 trucks ferried boulders to Bangladesh everyday. Today, on an average about 50 trucks leave for Bangladesh in a month.

Most of the vehicles in Gelephu are seen ferrying boulders and other riverbed materials to places in Assam, India given the high incidental charges imposed while ferrying to Bangladesh

After the resumption of the business, about 300 metric tonnes (MT) of boulders have been exported. There are more than 4 million MT of riverbed material stocked along the banks of Mao Khola.

 

Where is the problem?

As has been in the past for Gelephu, conflict among exporters is attributed to be one of the main reasons for the sluggish business.

Exporters claimed that there was more than one group of exporters in Gelephu who were reportedly in disagreement with each other. Kuensel learnt that some of the groups have recently dissolved and former members are now working independently.

However, according to sources, although most of the exporters have decided to disband from their respective groups, they still function together and have colluded with counterparts in India.

It is alleged that exporters share prior information of the Bhutanese consignments leaving for Bangladesh to the members of non-governmental organisations (NGO) who extort money from truckers along the way.

“Since some of the exporters do not approve the agreed price from the importers, they conspire with the NGOs and goons along the Indian highway to rob Bhutanese truckers,” said a source. “Information such as load capacity and number of consignments are already shared with Indians when the vehicles move from here.”

One of the exporters, Chencho Gyeltshen, said that competition among Bhutanese exporters on rates that importers offered has hindered export business to Bangladesh.

“There is a conflict among ourselves. If one individual is not happy with the rate at which another exporter sends the consignment, they report this to the NGOs and motor vehicle inspectors (MVI) along the highway.”

He said that in order to resolve grievances among the exporters, a meeting was conducted last month in presence of officials from the Bhutan Export Association (BEA). “Majority of the participants agreed that we would start working together during the meeting.”

Another reason for the sluggish export is attributed to the high incidental charges imposed along the way.

Exporters said that each vehicle travelling to Bangladesh has to pay a sum of about Nu 7,500 as extortion fees. “With the floor price of boulders remaining the same (about Nu 1,900 per MT) it is not feasible for us to export at this rate,” said one exporter.

While the collection of extortion fee starts as the vehicles enter Dadgari town, majority of the money is collect along the Meghalaya region.

 

Inland waterways not effective 

With transportation becoming a major challenge in the boulder business, the introduction of inland waterways from Dhubri Port in Assam, India came as a relief to many.

However, since the first consignment that was lifted on July 10, the initiative has failed to attract exporters as anticipated.

Without a custom’s office at Chillmari, between the Bangladesh-India border, many waterways consignment have been stranded for days at the border.

Chencho Gyeltshen said that for Gelephu, the Dhubri Port offered several opportunities given the short distance (140km). “We have heard that it would take about four months to establish a customs office at Chillmari,” he said. “Until then, there is nothing we could do with the port.”

It was also learnt that the current vessels used at the port are only for stone aggregates and not for boulders.

Younten Tshedup | Gelephu

On moral grounds

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 15:58

There is a lot of interest in the much-publicised case of the home minster and the labour ministry’s director general.

There is public interest because one is an elected official – a cabinet minister, and the other, a senior official at the executive level.

The interest is heightened by wanting to see some, what is called here, “big fish” caught.

The courts will soon pass its judgment and close the case. The high-level officials could be convicted or acquitted, but that does not solve the problem. There are many questions that we cannot ignore.

The big question is on the suspension of officials when charged in the court of law. The Royal Civil Service Commission recently decided not to suspend the director general.

There is a call for the home minister to leave office or the government to suspend the minister. This arises from the fact that laws are clear. Both the election Act and the Constitution state that an elected member should be disqualified as a candidate or a member holding an elective office if he or she is convicted for any criminal offence and sentenced to imprisonment.

The home minister has time. He has appealed and is innocent until proven guilty. The RCSC didn’t see enough reason to suspend the DG.

Both the judiciary and the RCSC are independent constitutional institutions. They have their own mandate. While the RCSC is responsible for punishing civil servants who violates its law, rules and regulations, it also has the responsibility to protect civil servants.

The Commission has learnt lessons from past experiences. However, civil servants misusing authority or their office for personal gains, if proven by court, should be punished. The higher the post in the civil service, the greater is the impact on the public.

The issue of suspension will keep coming. Following suspension issues in 2013, the Supreme Court ordered the need to revisit the suspension needs and prepare comprehensive guidelines either as rules by relevant agencies or law passed by the Parliament.

Nothing has been done. In the past, we tried something called “authorized absence” where officials are allowed leave with full salary and entitlements. This was a middle path taken, but it too left a lot of questions.

There is only one clear solution when laws are not clear and every one is interpreting it to their own benefits.

What about taking a moral stand?

Top-drawer bureaucrats or elected members sidestepping on moral grounds, especially when they are implicated in a legal case and when the public is demanding their removal, seems to be the best solution.

Elected leaders resign on moral grounds when it is not even directly their fault. When they do that, it is seen as a noble gesture, as being accountable to people who elect them and of being a man of integrity. Holding onto post and power and fighting in court is not setting a good example.

If resignation is too much to ask for, taking a break from the post, with or without salary would set a good example. If they are acquitted, they can come back with their heads held high. If not, the leave will become permanent.

Of cooling period: A flawed policy

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 15:57

The nation felt the tremors of broken hearts and emotions of parents, who lost their first child, when the lifesaving ambulance couldn’t reach them when it was most wanted. Yet, an equally important issue, the cries of those living youth, went almost unnoticed and did not receive much attention.

The policy of so called, “Cooling Period” destroyed their dreams, shattered their hopes and aspirations, when they learnt that, they won’t get security clearance for two years before they can embark on a new journey in their life.

Such requirement, an “Invisible Tool” of the state itself is so little known to the public. For many, two years may look too short but for these young people, two years is too long.

It was the same institution, who helped these youth, repent for the crime they committed, reformed, rehabilitated and cared them like their own children for months and years in Tsimasham. The reformative approach, gave them the inspiration to begin a new chapter in their life and strength to forget their past and motivation to move forward.

Thus, such invisible tool has put a curtain on the objectives of reformative policies and rehabilitative processes for the juvenile justice system in the country. It has challenged the protections offered to the child in conflict with the law. The fundamental objectives of social reintegration are lost. These innocent young minds may fall back into their past.

Royal Bhutan Police must have instituted such a regime with the best intentions in the interest of national security, law and order. But the best intentions have manifested into bad results. Further, neither the police nor the prison laws mandate such mandatory cooling period after their reformative and rehabilitative process unless they become threat to our society.

This invisible tool has denied their right to “equal access and opportunity to join public service” and “right to practice lawful trade, profession or vocation” for two crucial years of their social re-integration process. Does such policy violate their constitutional rights? Even, if it does not, shouldn’t there be exceptions?

The Child Care and Protection Act, 2011 mandates the state to ensure “the protection of children against all forms of discrimination” and promote conducive environment for them to socially integrate back to the society and ensure that any measure for children in conflict with law must be in best interest of the child. This simply means that children in conflict with the law are not criminals. They are merely unfortunate victims of social menace and evil created by us.

Therefore, the state must review such draconian state machinery in the interest of our youth. The policy makers, the parliamentarians and relevant institution must take note of such loopholes in our system.

We must reform such erroneous policies so that, we do not disadvantage our own young Bhutanese fellows. These youth are equipped with right skills, filled with right attitude and motivated with positive energy to move forward and start a new chapter in their lives and for their families.

We have spent huge public money in reforming and rehabilitating them.

Lets reform our youth not ruin them. Let help build their dreams not destroy.

Sonam Tshering

Faculty of law at the JSW School of Law.

Government calls on private sector to create jobs

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 15:55

Labour and Human Resources Minister Ugyen Dorji called on the private sector to create employment opportunities at the opening of the 32nd annual general meeting (AGM) of Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI) yesterday in Thimphu.

The labour minister said the government’s plan to address the unemployment problem are linked with the development of the private sector.

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Japan experience: sharing best practices for balanced development

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 15:54

At the JICA Training Ex-participant’s Seminar in Thimphu yesterday, Bhutanese who received training in Japan under JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) shared and discussed their experiences.

JICA officials and the participants figured out how some of the efficient practices and concept in urban infrastructures, branding local products, sustainable tourism and young leaders in local governance in Japan could be replicated in the Bhutanese system.

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All is well that starts well

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 15:53

The committee from Trashigang dzongkhag, who visited Merak gewog, decided to blacktop the gewog centre (GC) road from Merak.

The committee, comprising of the dzongrab, planning officer and dzongkhag engineer, met the people of Merak on September 5.

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College of Language and Culture Studies: finding new direction

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 15:51

Last Monday, on September 2, I was among a group of representatives from various stakeholders at the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) to review strategic direction for the College of Language and Culture Studies (CLCS) in Trongsa.

The initiative was welcome and timely. Rethinking the future course of the college and its role as the only educational institution of language and culture studies had become truly necessary.

However, the discussion at the review workshop was mostly shadowed by the importance of Dzongkha as the national language than the educational role as a college for language and culture studies. Most of the participants seemed to think that CLCS is where Dzongkha should be developed.

I take this opportunity to express some points herein that I was not able to at the workshop.

CLCS is not an agency for the promotion of language and culture, and certainly not an institution with the mandate to preserve and promote Dzongkha in the context of modern-day Bhutan. It is an educational institution that should aim to excel in the fields of language and culture studies and produce skilled manpower with commendable flair in both Dzongkha and English. Stressing on the promotion of Dzongkha as core responsibility for CLCS seem vastly misplaced which robs the college of its educational roles.

To ensure that the college finds strategic direction present and future needs of the nation, we need to acknowledge that it is not an agency for promotion and preservation of language and culture, but an educational institution with the focus of study on language and culture. It is probably because of this confusion that the members at the workshop were proposing rejection and reduction of English programmes in the college.

CLCS may have to strengthen pedagogy and tutoring system to improve the linguistic ability of its graduates, but English is certainly not the cause for the declining quality of Dzongkha. Without keeping both Dzongkha and English, the scope of academic and professional progression that the CLCS strives to offer in the field of language and culture studies will simply be not possible. Without English, the door to academic progression for the graduates will be closed. If the problem is poor language quality, the solution is to improve and strengthen existing language courses the college offers by identifying issues and problems that are responsible for the quality of its graduates. Poor language quality is indeed the reflection of the quality of schooling before the students enter the college for higher education.

Discontinuing or reducing English courses will only add to the problems facing the college today.

It may also be time for CLCS to start thinking about the language components of the college. At the workshop, language was discussed as a responsibility and not a subject. The responsibility of promoting Dzongkha does not fall on CLCS; it is, in fact, the responsibility of the entire nation. For an educational institution with a focus on language and culture study, language has to be looked at it as the subject or as a vehicle of specialisation.

When CLCS was founded as a school for literature and philosophy, its focus was only on developing the linguistic ability and Buddhist philosophical understanding, but having evolved, it is time the college redefined its focus. Dzongkha and English should either be the medium of teaching and study or the subject of study at the college. It is wrong to look at it as the subject of learning.

Unlike many participants at the workshop, for me, making students able to read and write Dzongkha has to be the role and responsibility of the schools and the education ministry, not CLCS or the RUB. High school graduates who qualify to enter the college should be well versed with Dzongkha reading and writing abilities, as in the case for English. CLCS as a tertiary educational institution is the stage where this ability in language is processed into academic and specialised skills. CLCS’ role has to be in building Bhutanese manpower in heritage management, policy and planning, which is very much lacking today.

The participants at the workshop completely ignored the culture component of the college. What we need to remember is that besides Dzongkha, there are many other elements of language and culture—Bhutan’s cultural heritage; the age-old historical monuments; the highly valuable cultural and natural landscape; and many folk knowledge and customs that are in need of specialised interpreters, caretakers and protectors. CLCS can introduce programmes of policy, planning, research and management relevant to cultural heritage preservation and promotion. Educational responsibility of CLCS does not end with language, and certainly not with Dzongkha. It has the role of producing graduates with ability to provide policy guidance in culture and heritage, to develop cultural and heritage management plans, to overlook monuments protection and restoration, and to develop legal frameworks related to culture and heritage.

This, I think, is where CLCS can add value to  learning which will make the graduates employable. Demanding that the government create jobs for CLCS graduates will not work. It is silly.  But introducing programmes that help the development of skills needed in the field of language and culture is critically important because language and culture are fundamental to every other field of study and specialisation, including management, policy and planning. Technical fields like architecture and engineering are no exception because they shape our cultural landscape.

These elements, therefore, should become the strategic area of interest for CLCS as an educational intuition with focus on language and culture, to intervene through strategic study programmes to make a leap out of the box. This succeeding, manpower required in preservation and promotion language and culture in Bhutan and employment shortage for the graduates can both be addressed.

In the end, what is important for CLCS is to ensure academic excellence and specialisation which will produce graduates with knowledge and skills required to preserve and promote language and culture. The college should aim to produce teachers, researchers, heritage managers, heritage strategists and planners, experts in monument protection and restorations, heritage policymakers and analysers and cultural keepers like curators, archivist, and etc.

Let us leave the role of promoting Dzongkha to those institutions with the special mandate.

Samten Yeshi

Program Manager (Culture)

Loden Foundation

There is more than what people know in the Taktse case

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 15:50

Most of the readers and followers of Taktse case think that the nine lecturers and one supporting staff was terminated based on the complaint lodge by the 19 girls. This is untrue.

Even the media didn’t attempt to cover the actual story behind the case. The media just accepted the information given by the president. However, the background of the case is different from what media and the president informed.

The college president and his selected team conducted a survey solely targeting few lecturers. The survey was fully based on anonymity. The Human Resource policy, section 4.27, clearly states that the university shall not act on anonymous complaints. However, the president took the power and based on anonymous survey, compulsorily retired those staff.

The 19 girls are no one but people planted in the case by the president. There is no logic that 10 staff can harass 19 girls at a go as the president informed the nation. The case is all about personal differences and personal grudges between the president and his staff.

The president stated that police is conducting the investigation on the sexual harassment charges and whatever the findings are, the college management will not accept the lecturers back since it is against the college management (Kuensel, 28/05/19). This was a powerful statement the president made in Kuensel.

Now that seven lecturers are declared innocent during police investigation, the question is how is it against the college management. The president is also an employee like any other staff in the college. If proven innocent, it’s his responsibility to reinstate those affected staff. Chapter 15 clause 1.1 states that the objective of the university is to ensure that the university operates efficiently and effectively and that staff are treated fairly and equitably. So the management must treat all staff equally.

In addition, the college president said that, the administrative action taken by the college is an independent decision. “We took the administrative decision because the illicit relationship could not be established.”  Clause 4.9 states that mutual social interactions or relationships freely entered into shall not be considered as sexual harassment unless otherwise specified by law. Going through this clause, the illicit relationship being mutual in nature does not classify as sexual harassment. Moreover, if the illicit relationship was not established, there is no logic in taking administrative action by the college. If the case was criminal, it should forwarded to the police and wait for their decision before taking any action.

There are lots of procedures lapses and weakness. Chapter 14 clauses 2.9 to 2.9.4 states that lecturers must have been given a fair chance to know their allegations of misconduct and sufficient opportunity must be given to explain or refute the allegations. However, according to Kuensel, dated 25/05/19 those lecturers claimed that neither did they know about their allegations nor they were given opportunity to refute the allegations. Most of the lecturers claimed that they were not aware about their allegations. Further clause 4.27 and 4.28 states that the person affected by the complaint must be made aware of the allegations against them, including the identity of the person who lodge the complaint and given an opportunity to respond. However, following the issues closely the above two clauses was not followed by the president.

One of the biggest mistakes made by the president is compulsorily retiring them without any warning. The HR policy clause 2.3.1 and 2.3.1.1 states that the University may compulsorily retire a staff based on disciplinary grounds or upon conviction by the Court of Law for criminal offences or misdemeanor.

Since the president alleged those lecturers for sexual harassment, which is criminal in nature he must firstly report the case to the police and suspend the lecturers. The Human Resource policy Chapter 14 clause 2.13 states that the University shall ensure that the staff remains away from work while the matter of concern is being investigated and keep the lecturer on suspension on leave of absence with pay.

Chapter 15 clause 13.1.2 and 13.1.3 states that the college will place a staff under suspension when the staff faces criminal charges in a Court of Law. This clause clearly states that the lecturers must be kept on suspension until the court proceeding is completed. On the finalization of the court proceeding if the staff is found innocent and acquitted of all charges and the college must accordingly reinstate them in the service. By not following this procedure, he breached those clauses and still the president claims that he is not going to take back those lecturers notwithstanding the police findings.

Further clause 12.7 states that all disciplinary cases involving a regular staff, staff on fixed-term or GSS, after establishing, beyond reasonable doubt by the College/OVC, the need for criminal prosecution shall be forwarded to the Court of Law through the Office of Attorney General. Clause 12.8 also states that a staff shall be terminated from service as per Clause 10.5.6 of this rule if the staff is convicted by the Court of Law for an offence of misdemeanor and above, related to official functions. These two clause clearly states that if the case is criminal the president must wait for a court decision, which he didn’t do.

Before those lecturers were proven guilty by the court and despite proving seven lecturers innocent by the police, the president announced vacancy which directly breached clause 13.11 which states that the College/OVC concerned shall not recruit new staff in place of incumbent when the incumbent is under suspension till all the administrative and/court proceedings are completed and the final decision against the incumbent is taken.

The president can’t be above the law. Clause 14.6 states that the staff concerned shall be reinstated in the service if found innocent by the law. This clause explicitly states that he must reinstate the affected lecturers, as seven are now proven innocent.

Rather, it seems now that the president harassed those staff going by clause 4.10.3 for humiliating and affecting the wellbeing of those lecturers. Further, the president breached clause 4.11 by using his power improperly to insult, dominating the lecturers and manipulating the information. In addition, clause 4.2 also states that harassment will be considered if the staff denies the worth, integrity and dignity of human beings, fails to respect human rights, and may constitute unlawful discrimination. This clause states that president has breached this clause and harassed those staff.

One thing is certain that the president didn’t follow the HR policy.

But the good news is that seven staff were proven innocent during the police investigation without waiting for court. If the case is not based on personal grudge the president must revoke the decision and reinstate those affected lecturers with dignity and take accountability for misinforming the nation.

The president too should be held accountable for ruining others’ life. Similarly if there is law, Police must charge the president for misinforming the nation and providing false information. Since the president himself made a complaint to the police he must be charged for defamation since most are proven innocent.

Let justice prevail.

 

Tshering Tobgayss

Ex Student (CLCS)

tobgaytshering446@gmail.com

The Statesman on a yak and an enduring friendship

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 15:49

In August this year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Thimphu in a trip that significantly strengthened multi-sectoral cooperation between the two nations. He inaugurated the Mangdechhu hydroelectric power plant and signed MoU in areas as diverse as space research and the energy sector. Modi also launched the RuPay card, a payment network card scheme, regulated by the National Payments Corporation of India, by making a purchase at the historic and revered Simtokha Dzong.

This was Modi’s second visit as Prime Minister to Bhutan, with the first being early in his previous term in 2014. After that visit, India doubled the prestigious Nehru-Wangchuk scholarship to Rs 20M per annum. The scholarship and the individuals whose memory it honours, is a strong symbol of how the extraordinarily strong relationships between the two nations, that today share open borders, a rarity in the region, was forged.

In 1958, a delegation from India undertook a journey to Bhutan, which was rather unique in nature, in the context of modern bilateral diplomatic visits. Over the course of six days, with logistical and infrastructural challenges leading to them being carried on the final phase of the journey on horseback and yaks, the delegation led by India’s first prime minister and founding statesman, Jawaharlal Nehru entered Bhutan and was received by His Majesty Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. This was the first time that the head of a modern government had attempted to visit Bhutan. Three years later, the King returned the visit.

Despite the signing of the landmark treaty of 1949, nine years before, it was this journey that has now entered regional folklore, which became the seminal moment for establishing the modern relations shared by the Bhutan and India. Since then, the relationship has grown exponentially in various dimensions in the last decades. Yet, it is very much the foundations built in a historical milieu, that has now long passed by, that remain the structure within which this modern relationship has been deepened.

In 1947, Nehru invited a Bhutanese delegation to participate in the Asian regional conference. This was influential in the later negotiations that led to the signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in 1949. Article 2 of the treaty, in which India pledged non-interference in Bhutan’s internal affairs, was crucial for the nation’s alignment towards India as it eased its traditional isolationist policies, during delicate geopolitical times in the region, with the nascent crisis in Tibet, especially being a looming concern.

In his memorable speech delivered in 1958, Nehru reemphasised this aspect of Bhutan’s independence and sovereignty, stating:

“Some may think, India is a great and powerful country and Bhutan is the small one, the former might wish to exercise pressure on Bhutan. It is therefore essential that I make it clear to you that the only wish is that you should remain an independent country choosing your own way of life and keeping the path of progress according to your will. At the same time, we too should live with mutual goodwill. We are members of the same Himalayan families and should live as friendly neighbors helping each other.”

These words, delivered with his characteristic grace by one of the most respected and esteemed leaders of the anti-colonial movement, a man Rabindranath Tagore praised for his “unwavering adherence to moral integrity and intellectual honesty” became powerful reassurances for sections of the Bhutanese society understandably suspicious of India’s intentions in the country.

In Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, Nehru had a visionary partner, who shared his foresight. Much like Nehru’s tenure in India, the third King’s reign saw significant social and political reform, including the foundations of democratisation that by his decree was laid with the opening of the National Assembly of Bhutan.

Bhutan’s first five-year plan, which began in 1961, was supported and financed by the Indian government. Ambitious projects related to road construction, education, agriculture, and health were envisaged and implemented in the ensuing years. India also supported Bhutan’s membership process to join the United Nations, which eventually was accomplished in 1971.

The subsequent years have seen varying degrees of diversification in the external relations and dependence of both nations; the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation was amended in 2007. India remains Bhutan’s largest trading partner, and a free trade regime continues to exist between the nations. In a troubled region, with historical conflicts still brewing and unresolved, the Indo-Bhutanese relationship is a model to be replicated and cherished.

On Nehru’s journey, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, Her Majesty Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck during a visit to New Delhi in 2014 stated:

“With this remarkable journey of friendship, this great man, this great leader, won the hearts of the Bhutanese’s people, who still refer to him as aginyaroh. Aginyaroh is an affectionate term we use when we speak to our very respected elder of the family”.

Sixty years later, the legacy of a journey undertaken by a statesman on a yak remains the core nucleus of an enduring friendship between two nations, the two nations that are modern manifestations of ancient civilisations that have shared relations since the times of the Saint Padmasambhava in 747 AD.

Contributed by 

Kiran Mohandas Menon

Kiran Mohandas Menon is a lawyer specialising in International Law and Relations, who currently works at the International Nuremberg Principles Academy in Germany. Views reflected are his own.

Fire leaves 14 families homeless

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 15:48

A fire at Changedaphu in Thimphu razed two two-storey traditional house and six temporary sheds around 5:30 am yesterday.

The Alto car

The fire also partially damaged three-storey concrete building and an Alto car. No casualty was reported.

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Zero Waste Hour collects 24.4 MT of waste in Thimphu

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 15:54

Since the start of the Zero Waste Hour initiative in the capital, volunteers collected about 24.4 metric tonnes (MT) of solid and organic wastes.

About 731 individuals, including officials from the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet, members of civil society organisations, private agencies and volunteers from institutions and schools participated in the four cleaning campaigns conducted in four months.

Among waste collected, plastics constituted the highest component in all the cleaning campaigns conducted, followed by rubber, glass, clothes, wood, metal, and papers.

All components of waste collected were segregated by Thimphu Thromde to be diverted and disposed off.

 Observed for an hour on the second day of every month through involvement of offices and institutions, the National Environment Commission Secretariat, as the lead implementing agency aspires to achieve Bhutan’s vision of Zero Waste Society by 2030.

In an effort to move towards the vision, the Zero Waste Hour is expected to eliminate illegal dumping of wastes, inculcate behavioral change towards proper waste management and practice sustainable consumption lifestyle leading to a safe, healthy and clean community environment.

However, despite the efforts, the unchanged dynamics of waste collected from different areas in Thimphu in each cleaning campaign questions the overarching goal of the event.

The Chief Environment Officer with the Waste Management Division, NECS, Thinley Dorji, said that unless a detailed survey is carried out, it couldn’t be determined how effective the programme is in inculcating a sense of social responsibility among residents and communities towards proper waste management.

But he said that in areas where they have cleaned during the campaign, waste is already accumulating. “We have also noticed wastes being accumulated in some private premises for years,” he said.

Thinley Dorji said that landowners and residents would be made responsible to clean their premises henceforth. “Currently, it is in our plan to coordinate with the Thromde and discuss on imposing penalty to those who fail to abide by the rule.”

According to the Waste Prevention and Management Regulation 2012, fines start from Nu 100 for acts such as littering, urinating or defecating and smearing lime and spitting doma in public areas.

A person is liable to pay Nu 20,000 for dumping and releasing waste into prohibited areas and dumping of industrial waste without permit from the relevant authority, according to the regulations.

Thinley Dorji said that the situation and mind-set of people are  expected to improve as they keep moving forward with the initiative.

Meanwhile, the Assistant Environment Officer with NECS, Ugyen Tshomo said the initiative is also targeted to reduce waste generation at source, which will help in curbing GHG (greenhouse gas) emission from the waste sector in the long run.

Methane emission from the landfill sites as a result of anaerobic organic waste decay is a major source of manmade methane gas.

“Methane gas emission from the waste sector is 23 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than the common GHG, carbon dioxide and contributes to global warming and climate change,” said Ugyen Tshomo.

Contribution of GHG from waste sector has been increasing in the country since 1999, according to the National Waste Management Strategy 2019.

In fact, by 2050, the GHG emission from the waste sector is projected to increase by six times, from current 200,000 to 1.6M Gigagram.

Today, Thimphu’s only landfill in Memelakha collects around 40.3MT of waste daily.

An increased population growth, economic activities, non-biodegradable goods in the market and change in consumption patterns among the society were known to have led to increased waste generation in the country.

Thimphu’s solid waste generation is projected to increase to 124MT per day by 2027, if an estimated 200,000 people are living in the capital, according to the strategic environment assessment for Thimphu structure plan.

As of March 2017, the population has reached 114,551 according to the Housing Census and Population 2017.

Chimi Dema

Kuchay bridge gone, villages remain cut off

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 15:53

Phuchena village of Dumtey gewog in Samtse has been completely cut off for more than two months since the temporary bailey bridge over Kuchay river got washed away.

As the bridge connects the Samtse-Haa secondary national highway, four chiwogs of Gakidling and five chiwogs in Sombaykha gewog in Haa are also cut off. 

A villager from Dramekha village in Gakidling, Tobgye said this was a major problem for the people. Farmers are also unable to take their cardamom produce to Samtse.

“We are unable to do business,” he said, adding that the goods and commodities could not be transported from Samtse. “Most of the villages are affected in our gewog.”

Tobgye said the problem became severe when people fell sick and had to be taken to the hospital.

Phuchena village has 26 households and about 200 people.

A department of road engineer, Sanman Tamang, meanwhile, said the work to reinstate the temporary motor bridge started a few days ago.

“Since the water level has subsided, we are filling the river to start the construction of a bridge,” he said.  “But if it rained, chances are high it will get washed away again.”

The engineer also said that there were other problems at the site. A backhoe loader is without an operator.

“Operators do not want to work at this site because of the landslides, which killed three men this year,” Sanman Tamang said. “The bridge is near the accident area and operators do not want to work there.”

At present, a temporary bamboo bridge has been placed over Kuchay river.

Rajesh Rai  | Gomtu

Dagapela-Dalbari road about 70 percent complete

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 15:52

At the recent Dzongkhag Tshogdu of Dagana, local leaders questioned about the progress and quality of the road. Today, the highway is almost 70 percent complete.

Construction of Dagapela-Dalbari secondary national highway (SNH) began in October 2014.

The 80.58km highway is critical as it will directly connect Dagana with Lhamoizingkha Drungkhag. Today, people from Danaga have to travel to Lhamoizingkha via the Phuntsholing route.

The construction of the road stopped in January 2015 when allegations of issues related to procurement emerged. The work resumed only after almost two years in 2017.

Karmaling Gup Gyan Bdr Subba said that the status of the road remained the same. “People have begun asking questions.”

Gesarling Gup Pema Wangmo Tamang said that there were repeated complaints regarding the highway. “The drain’s quality is poor and during summer it poses a risk to the people.”

She said that the gewog administration did not have technical expertise. “The water from the hume pipes is diverted to private land.”

The poor conditions of the road besides, local leaders said that some part of the gewog centre (GC) roads had also suffered damage due to the construction of the highway.

Project coordinator, Pema Thinley, said that it would take about  two years to complete the road from Dalbar to Gesarling. “The reason for taking more time is because of the stretch between Gesarling and Dalbari stretch, which is very rocky and were full of ridges.”

The stretch is almost 59km long.

“The progress of the road construction has been good despite the challenges with the monsoon,” Pema Thinley said. “At a chainage of 39km from Kalikhola, first formation cutting of the stretch of 270m is underway. It is the only part that was untouched.”

About 45km of the road has been blacktopped so far.

The main focus of the work, he said, was improving the condition of Lhamoizingkha-Dagapela road. “By December, we hope that at least medium vehicles can use the road.”

Pema Thinley said that the rectification work for the damage due to the construction work was already initiated.

The road passes through five gewogs of Tsendagang, Gozhi, Dorona, Gesarling, and Karmaling.

Rinchen Zangmo  | Dagana

Elephant conflict force villagers to resettle as sharecroppers

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 15:50

For the last 16 years, many villagers from Chumaedthang in Samdrupcholing drungkhag resettled as sharecroppers in nearby villages.

Villagers claim they abandoned their lands because elephants rampaged whatever they grew in the fields and even houses.

Many villagers resettled in Dungkarling chiwog and Khamaedthang chiwog. Only six households braved the elephant problem and stayed back in the village.

A villager, Rub Bahadur Monger, 46, said he left his village in 2003 after the elephants destroyed everything he owned.

He said gewog and forest officials visited the village several times but did not compensate them. “Gewog officials told us to report to forest office for the compensation, as the houses and lands were destroyed by the wild elephants. There was no response from the forest office when we did.”

He owns 2.5 acres of land in Chumaedthang but makes a living as a sharecropper in Khamaedthang chiwog today. “It’s difficult being a sharecropper, as 50 percent of what we reap through hard work belongs to the landowner,” Rub Bahadur Monger said. “But I am thankful to the owner.”

He said he would want to go back to his village if the gewog administration or government provide solar or electric fencing. “I am worried my children will not inherit any arable land from us.”

He said he had been paying land tax although he doesn’t cultivate anything, which is an extra burden.

Another villager, Kharka Bahadur Rai, is also a sharecropper in Khamaedthang.

He said he pays 60 tins of rice every year as house rent. “I am expecting a land substitute.” He has not applied for it.

Phuntshothang gup, Jamyang Gyeltshen, said although all the villagers left Chumaedthang village because of wild elephants, people were not compensated until now as the gewog office didn’t receive any reports from them.

He said electric fencing would cost a lot but the gewog would provide it if people want to go back. “We would also facilitate land substitute after consulting with relevant authorities.”

He, however, said he is doubtful if people would go back.

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupcholing

CPI records 2.7 percent price rise

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 15:49

The consumer price index (CPI) or year-on-year inflation for June this year was recorded at 2.7 percent.

This means, on average, the consumers are paying 2.7 percent more than what they did in June 2018 for the goods and services.

The CPI measures average change in prices over certain period that consumers pay for a basket of goods and services, which is commonly known as inflation.

The basket of the goods and services is a sample of commodities selected using the household expenditure data.

Prices of the sampled goods and services are collected from urban areas in 20 Dzongkhags on monthly, quarterly and annual frequency depending on the price volatility of the items.

The National Statistics Bureau (NSB) has identified a total of 113 items (314 varieties), classified according to consumption pattern from where prices are gathered about 450 outlets are selected for pricing.

Each commodity is attached with weights that reflect the relative importance or share of the individual item to the total consumption expenditures of the households. It determines the impact an individual item will have to the overall inflation.

For instance, 45.9 percent of the weights are assigned to food items, including beverages and the rest is assigned to non-food items.

Inflation in food is recorded at 3.1 percent, meaning that the prices of food items as of June this year increased by 3.1 percent compared with June last year.

Among the non-food group, restaurant and hotel services witnessed a price increase of about seven percent between June last year and June this year.

Usually, price inelastic goods such as example fuel and rice, whose prices does not affect the demand and supply, are given more weights because of its importance to every household consumption basket.

Since inflation also derives purchasing power of Ngultrum (PPN), Nu 100 in June 2019 is worth only Nu 72 at December 2012 prices.

The PPN dropped by 2.73 percent in the past 12 months (from June 2018 to June 2019) due to price increase in the economy.

Tshering Dorji

Putting people at the centre

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 15:48

Almost five decades after the decentralisation process started, our decision-makers are still struggling to put people at the centre of decisions.

The recent Trashigang dzongkhag tshogdu decision to blacktop the Merak gewog centre road from Chaling route instead of Khardung route is one such case.

The route from Khardung was the first gewog centre road. It is stabilised and wider. The government already approved Nu 128.31M in the 12th Plan to blacktop the road.

During the recent DT session, Merak gup and mangmi, the representatives of the immediate beneficiary of the blacktopped road, became a minority. Representatives of other gewogs decided which road to Merak should be blacktopped.

When it comes to building infrastructure, one common complain is decision makers taking it through or closer to their village or properties. There are also allegations of tshogpa, mangmi or a gup changing or influencing to change road alignment to benefit them. The whole purpose of decentralisation is defeated if members of the highest decision-making body in the dzongkhags and gewogs based their decisions on personal relationships or support representatives who are more vocal.

For the elected representatives, it is important to understand their mandate. It’s more of a responsibility than a choice. The Local Government Act 2009 mandates them to be accountable to the people.

The argument of the DT members was that villagers of Chaling in Shongphu and Tongleng in Radi would benefit from the road from Chaling. But there are implications and the yak herders, not present in the DT, are pointing them out.

It’s not just the people of Merak who will be travelling through a road that is narrow and less stabilised. Dzongkhag and government officials will use the road too. How would it benefit people if it is unstable and narrow?  The government would have to spend more on constructing drainage system, base course and widening the road.

Such incidences call for the need of a check and balance system for DT decisions. Decentralisation aims at instilling a sense of ownership and accountability in the people themselves. How can it be achieved if people are not happy with the decisions their representatives make? It would not even be fair to underestimate that people do not understand their own interests and needs. Yak herders, it seems, are more aware of the implication of the DT decision.

In Trashigang, the dzongkhag administration decided to form a committee who would consult the people on the decision. It is a good decision. It will ensure that people of Merak would have a say on which road that reaches their gewog should be blacktopped.

Vested interests and individual benefits should not blur of decision-making process. Just telling people they have a say in their developmental activities is not enough. We have to make it realise by letting them decide what is best for them.

The DT members have to remember that their real responsibility is to uphold the interest of the people who elected them and whom they represent.

No demand for oak timber

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 15:46

While there is a shortage of hardwood in many parts of the country, there is no demand for oak timber in the eastern region.

Four forest management units in the east, Lingmethang and Korilla in Mongar, Rongmanchhu in Lhuentse, Dongdechhu in Trashi Yangtse and Kharungla in Khaling all produce oak, but the hardwood is not harvested for the lack of demand.

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Online auction and potato grading machine to help farmers

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 15:45

To provide fast, convenient and efficient auctioning services to farmers who come to the Samdrupjongkhar auction yard to sell their potatoes, Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) launched the potato grading machine and online auction on September 4.

FCBL initiated the grading machine and online auction in Samdrupjongkhar auction yard in collaboration with Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan Limited (RSEBL) to commercialize farm products and standardise the quality, which would help farmers fetch better price and expedite auctioning process in a fair and transparent way.

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Six choetens vandalised in Khamdang

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 15:44

Six choetens, all more than 60 years old, were vandalised at Nombaring in Trashiyangtse on September 4.

Source said an attempt was made at another janchub chosen.

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RCSC decides against suspending DG Sherab Tenzin

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 16:14

The Royal Civil Service Commission has decided not to suspend Sherab Tenzin, the director-general of the department of employment and human resources.

In its 15th Commission meeting, RCSC took the decision based on the provision of Bhutan Civil Service Regulation and Regulation (BCSR) 2018 and the Supreme Court’s order issued on July 17 2013.

Anti-Corruption Commission had written to the Commission on August 26 asking to suspend Sherab Tenzin in connection to alleged corruption in the two different overseas employment programmes in Japan and India.

Sherab Tenzin was charged for four counts of offences at the Thimphu dzongkhag Court on August 23.

Until 2013, ACC suspended public servants who were charged before the court directly. The Supreme Court on July 17, 2013, issued a directive stating that suspension as an administrative matter must be assigned to a competent authority under which the official is to be suspended.

According the Commission, Sherab Tenzin must avail himself of leave at his own expense to attend the court proceedings and would not be permitted to use any government resources to attend the court.

Chapter 19 of the BCSR 2018 states that the authority to impose penalty on a civil servant shall be exercised by the respective authority. Because Sherab Tenzin is in the executive position, as per the BCSR, only RCSC can investigate and take action on him.

Only RCSC can impose a penalty on the EX1-EX3/ES1-ES3 level civil servants; an agency can impose a penalty on the civil servants from P1-04 level.

Section 19.10.1 of the BCSR 2018 states: “Suspension shall be discretionary and not mandatory in its application. 

It is a means to prevent one from hampering the ongoing investigation while the person is in the office or to prevent further misfeasance/malfeasance or destruction of evidence.”

According to the RCSC’s press release, “Suspension is to ensure non-interference and prevent possible destruction of evidence during ongoing investigation and if there are possible continuance of the malfeasance while in office.”

Once charges are filed, the suspension must be based on whether the public servant, while in the office, has the opportunity, or is in a position to impede or frustrate prosecution, or commit further acts of malfeasance, or both.

It also states that once charges are filed, suspension must be optional at the discretion of the competent authority and not mandatory and that public interest should be the guiding factor in deciding whether to suspend a civil servant.

This means RCSC will wait for the court verdict to take action on Sherab Tenzin.

Assistant Programme Officer Ugyen Tashi, who is also implicated in the case, will also continue his service without suspension.

Yangchen C Rinzin

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