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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 1 hour 29 min ago

SMCL pushes DHI financial performance  

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 12:11

MB Subba

Besides revenue from hydropower, which accounted for about 81 percent of the Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) group’s revenue, it was the State Mining Corporation Limited (SMCL) that helped DHI achieve an “excellent year” in terms of financial performance in 2019.

In 2019, SMCL contributed more than Nu 235M in taxes, mineral rent and royalty. During the year, SMCL also paid more than Nu 270M to members of the community in the form of hiring, transportation charges and daily wages.

SMCL’s return on equity soared by 49.33 percent from 24.43 percent in 2018 with successful take-over and commencement of gypsum mining.

A DHI press release stated that the Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) in 2019 experienced better river inflows, mainly in the Wangchu basin, and increased power generation by 5.36 percent to 6,926.22 mega units (MU) from the aggregate generation of 6,573.99MU in 2018.

“The Chhukha hydropower plant faced technical glitches in one of its generating units, but it did very little to impact power generation as two of the five impacted months fell in the lean season and DGPC ensured 100 percent water utilisation factor then,” it stated.

Consequently, the net energy exported to India increased by 10 percent.

Accordingly, the net profit of the company increased by 9.47 percent to Nu 4,926.73M.

The Natural Resources Development Corporation Ltd (NRDCL) also achieved its best-ever operational performance with the highest performance in timber business, sand and stone extraction and disposal quantities in 2019.

Consequently, it registered a net profit of Nu 61.33M, which is one of the best in many years.

The Bank of Bhutan Limited (BNBL) left its competitors “miles behind” as it registered profit after tax (PAT) of Nu 1.25 billion (B).

The DHI in its report says that the Covid-19 challenges are opportunities. “We commit to complete group digitalisation including development of skillset, mindset and toolset by 2023.”

The DHI plans to continuously invest in development of skills and expertise of our investment abroad division while continuing to leverage on all possible networks as well as brand DHI for investing in the overseas market.

Crime drops in the capital during Covid-19 pandemic

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 12:10

Police call on parents to play a collective role to help further reduce crime   

Younten Tshedup

With fewer people on the streets, especially during the night, and more at their homes, the capital city is witnessing a drop in crime.

As of June 17, Thimphu police station recorded 688 criminal cases compared to 978 cases during the same period last year. As of June 2017 and 2018, there were 1,123 and 1,331 criminal incidents reported to the police, respectively.

Police attribute the drop in cases this year to the current Covid-19 pandemic.

An official from Thimphu police station said that initially most of the burglary cases, one of the common criminal activities in town, occurred because there was no one at home when residents left for work.

With schools and other institutions closed and many office-goers working from home, the homes could not be burgled, officials said.

The drop in crime is attributed to the pandemic; he said crime in the capital, in general, had been decreasing.

To improve policing and community safety, the police started the intelligence-led policing (ILP) system last year. The system is an information-based operating model where data analysis and criminal intelligence are pivotal to objective decision-making and targeted approach to combating crime.

The official said that under the ILP, crime data are analysed every month and accordingly patrolling measures are concentrated. Besides, RBP has also been creating awareness and sensitising the public against criminal activities.

Most crimes occur in Norzin Lam, Changzamtog and Olakha areas.

Larceny, assault or battery (including domestic violence cases), crime related to controlled substances and burglary are the most common offences reported in the capital and across the country today.

Most of the convicts were youth.

The official said that most of the people involved in assaults and battery are students.

“It should be the responsibility of every parent to monitor where their kids are and what they are doing,” he said. “Some parents are least bothered, and they don’t know where their kids are or when they return home.”

He said that the public, in general, is least bothered to guide any youth if found engaging in some illegal activities. “There is no one to tell the kid if he or she is found smoking or loitering around.”

He said that only a few report crimes to police through the emergency line 113, and many do not for fear of police investigation.

He explained that besides the location of the crime and description of the suspect, no personal details are asked from the informers.

“People still feel that by reporting a crime to police, they would be harassed by us. It is not true.”

Deceptive practices and fraudulent check writing are also reported to the police.

The modus operandi involves individuals typically citing non-functioning of ATMs. They ask for cash from shopkeepers and concur to pay electronically (MBoB). They show the shopkeeper fake transaction receipts and flee.

Later, when the shopkeepers realise and report the case, many cannot identify the suspects.

Work from home to continue until govt. directives 

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 12:09

More than 2,000 CS deployed as an extra force to manage Covid-19

Yangchen C Rinzin 

Royal Civil Service Commission will allow agencies to continue work from home (WFH) to avoid crowding in offices until the Covid-19 situation improves, officials said.

Government offices were allowed to work from home beginning March 30, and the initial timeline was until the end of June.

However, the commission decided to let it continue until the government issues a directive saying that the pandemic situation has improved, RCSC director general Tashi Pem said.

RCSC had earlier notified that expecting mothers and employees under pre-medical conditions could work from home. Otherwise, the office could split into teams and work on alternate days.

The move was to ensure no disruptions in critical or essential services during the pandemic. The RCSC divided the services into three categories: critical services that require officials in office, and essential or routine services that can be delivered from office or home.

The third category was services that can be deferred for the time being, and employees could stay home.

Despite allegations and complaints on social media of delays on services, owing to the work from home scheme, the RCSC has decided to continue with it.

The director general said this was because RCSC did not receive any complaints.

“If people complain specifically about which agency has delayed the services, we’ll respond. We would appreciate constructive feedback, and we’ve tried to ensure no critical public services are disturbed.”

Director general said that as of May approximately 8,000 civil servants were working from office because their services were deemed critical. They would continue to work from their stations even if the country went under lockdown, she said.

About 7,000 civil servants are currently either working from home or office depending on the workforce in the respective agency.

“But these figures are excluding civil servants from six southern dzongkhags, education and health ministries,” she said. “The civil servants in southern dzongkhags have not even been able to implement WFH, as they’re involved in managing the Covid-19 situation almost every day either on field or office.”

The director general said that this was why it was unlikely that the services were delayed or affected because of WFH.

More than 2,000 civil servants are deployed as an additional voluntary force in dzongkhags along the border in managing the Covid-19 situation. It also includes civil servants serving as Desuup and those trained by the health ministry as frontline responders.

“Maybe, that’s why some services are not met, but then we have to understand we need additional workforce somewhere to combat the Covid-19,” Tashi Pem said.

The RCSC has not yet assessed the effectiveness of WFH. Tashi Pem said, “Had this been implemented as new norms during a normal situation, then it would require evaluation. But right now we have to do it to comply with the government’s directives on the physical distancing.”

There were internet issues at home, and some felt discussions were not fruitful compared to an in-person meeting.

Tashi Pem said that some civil servants with large families at home continued to work from office for convenience.

“So WFH also depends on the type of working environment at home. However, WFH is guided by guidelines and Dos and Don’ts.”

There are about 30,000 civil servants.

The wild (life) dilemma

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 12:04

As long as we can remember, Bhutanese farmers have been losing animals to predators. It is not new even today to hear villagers talk about losing their best bull to a tiger before Changla. In fact, in Trongsa, which falls in the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (JSWNP), the tiger rich area, predators, mainly tigers have killed 148 animals in two years.

Today, it is called human-wildlife conflict, a conflict that has been recognised decades ago. A recent study on the conflict within a part of the biological corridor that links two parks has encouraging findings as well as disturbing ones. From the conservation point, it is good to see tigers making best use of the corridor. But that is at the cost of livelihood. Each household within the park has lost one or more livestock to predators. It is increasing even as we step up our conservation efforts and the endangered species find a safe home in our forests.

While we take pride in our conservation efforts, the issue of wild animals is a cause of concern. It may not attract the attention like other issues because it hampers only villagers, but something obviously needs to be done. Those losing crops and animals to predators say the conflict is animal centric. They feel that while wildlife needs to be protected, we need concrete solutions to the loss of hard earned food grains or livestock to the wild.

The irony is that we are still talking about it. The bigger irony is that a lot of research had been done on the conflict, some even published in journals. A lot of meetings and workshops had been conducted and a lot of money spent on finding a solution. Yet, human-wildlife conflict remains a recurring agenda in the parliament. It is the most common issue that comes from the dzongkhags to the parliament.

All the studies and researches directly correlate a lot of issues in rural Bhutan to the conflict. From increasing fallow land to rural poverty and the increasing rural-urban migration, human-wildlife conflict is at the centre of it. For instance, in 2018 alone, a study found out that 53 percent of people from seven gewogs within the JWSNP left 431 acres of agricultural land fallow due to conflict with wildlife. Out of that 44.48 acres were wetland. In the biological corridors, the inhabitants depend on livestock. When animals are killed, farmers are not compensated.

The National Assembly last week rejected a proposal on making an endowment fund for crop and livestock conservation operational to compensate the farmers affected by wildlife. This is even with the government, which has major representation in the Assembly, having pledged crop insurance schemes.

The much-touted electric fencing is not keeping tigers or leopards at bay. Even monkeys and boars have found a way to bypass it. The government had earlier assured that it is getting committed resources to tackle the issue. We hope the indecision is because of the recent pandemic and farmers would not be forgotten.

Farmers cannot wait.  When wildlife kills the only milking cow and the owner not compensated, there are repercussions. Some will retaliate by killing. Others will lose confidence in the conservation projects, of which they are important stakeholders.  We cannot delay in finding a solution that is inevitable in the harmony that we enjoyed with nature so far.

Hazelnut plantation not popular among Paro farmers

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 11:59

Phub Dem | Paro

Dago Dorji chose to become a lorry driver. Due to shortage of farmhands, he had left his arable farming land in Paro fallow for a long time. And then Covid-19 came. Driving is not a lucrative profession anymore and so he has return to his farm. He has ventured into growing hazelnut.

Hazelnut is not very popular among the farmers in Paro but then Dago has planted hazelnut saplings in his five-acre land. In Punakha too, he has planted hazelnut saplings, in about the same acreage.

“It’s a long-term investment,” he said. “The venture can enhance the country’s export market,” he said.

Lhamo, in Lungnyi, was among the first to venture into growing hazelnut in Paro. Hard work and long wait time are why most farmers do not prefer growing hazelnut.

In the eastern parts of the country, however, hazelnut production is good business. In the west, the main problem is the farmhand shortage.

Dago said that the farmhand shortage was not a problem now because many people, especially those who had been employed in the tourism sector, were getting into agriculture.

But then, even in Paro, water—the lack of it—is a serious problem for the farmers. Luckily, for Dago, the weather these past few weeks have been kind. There has been enough rain and he owns a water tanker.

Officials involved in the mountain hazelnut project say that water scarcity was the main challenge facing the farmers. Limited landholding is another problem.

Cheday from Haa also took up hazelnut plantation in 2016 hoping that by this time of the year she could make money from the fruits.

“It was a wrong investment and a waste of time,” she said. Trees have matured in some gewogs in Haa and Paro , but fruiting has not happened.

MH’s communication officer with the corporate department, Lhaki Woezer, said that following extensive consultation with stakeholders, MH had set a guaranteed floor price around Nu 34 per kg of quality hazelnuts.

She said that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests conducted a detailed assessment to determine the floor price. “MH’s guaranteed market and price enable growers to make risk free and sustainable plans for their future.”

More than 11,000 households are engaged in the hazelnut venture today. The project distributed 7 million trees.

Close to 1,400 farmers in Paro and Haa have registered to take up hazelnut plantation.

Paro FC gears towards an inclusive sports development

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 11:57

Thinley Namgay 

Taking the current pandemic as an opportunity, Paro FC has initiated activities to develop its sports infrastructure at Woochu Sports Arena in Paro. 

The idea of developing the sports infrastructure is in line with the club’s long-term strategy to encourage youth to take football as a career by enhancing skills. 

The development of a mini educational football pitch for the grassroots development programme is one of the initiatives currently underway. 

The mini-pitch has a playing size of 12 x 8 metres. It has fundamental movement concepts and skills encompassing locomotor, stability and object control systems to introduce children to essential movement skills and the alphabets. The pitch has all the 17 laws of the game written on the boards, which can be used for a basic introduction to refereeing. 

Paro FC’s technical director and  head coach, Puspalal Sharma, said that the pitch would offer opportunity to young football enthusiasts to get the feel of a normal size football ground. “The mini-pitch can also be used as an extended technical and tactical training area for different age groups to provide a peripheral view of the overall game. The pitch resembles a life-size chessboard to enhance thinking-based learning.” 

The layout for the construction of the courts for other sports such as volleyball, basketball, tennis, badminton and recreational park are also prepared, according to Puspalal Sharma. Construction works would start soon.

Puspalal Sharma said that volleyball and basketball courts are closely aligned with football development. “The game of basketball brings a positive transfer of learning within a small space initiating quick decision-making ability. The principles of basketball and football are cross-cutting as both fall under the category of invasion games.”

He said that the development of the volleyball court is to develop an estimation of the projectile (ball) to enhance heading techniques, an important skill in football.

Google classroom for the players, grass field for goalkeeper training, sitting gallery, skill development track and two natural grass mini grounds for youth are also in place. 

Of the 13 registered football clubs under the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF), Paro FC is the only club to own a football ground. All other clubs depend on the federation’s ground to organise tournaments. 

Meanwhile, except for Paro FC, major clubs such as Thimphu City FC, Transport United FC and High Quality United FC are unable to pay salary for the players currently. Most of these clubs paid the players from their tourism-related business, which has been affected by the pandemic. 

Paro FC has been paying its players, at a reduced rate, since April. 

Thimphu City FC also pays a monthly rent of Nu 17,000 to accommodate eight players. Transport United FC also paid a rent of Nu 20,000 for nine players, but the club discontinued since April 26 citing financial constraints.

Rodongla trek is ready

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 11:54

The 33-km route links Bumthang to Lhuentse through the old route

Tshering Namgyal | Lhuentse

Should there be trekkers wishing to explore and experience the spectacular old traditional east-central route from Lhuentse to Bumthang, the Rodongla trek is ready now.

Lhuentse dzongkhag has revived the approximately 33 km trekking route, perhaps the longest and the most exciting route. It is one the most prominent tourism products the dzongkhag developed as part of the tourism flagship programme. To make the old route pliable, the dzongkhag has installed 35 log bridges over streams, in marshy areas and some attached to rocky slopes with a smaller path.

Along the route are also four canopies at Tsaenkharpang in Tang gewog, at the top of Rodongla, at Gaphabsa and the last one at Sisingbrak near Ungar in Maedtsho gewog. A signboard welcomes trekkers at the entry points from Lhuentse and Bumthang. A 1.5km water source has also been developed at Sisingbrak in Ungar.

After the survey conducted some nine months ago, the route development work was awarded to locals of Maedtsho gewog through the community contract worth Nu 1.1 million.

Lhuentse dzongdag, Jambay Wangchuk said Rodongla trek is important for economic and cultural reasons. He explained that the trek will not only benefit locals, but also revive age-old traditions. “During the old days, this route was politically and economically important because most of the political figures were from the east: Lhuentse, Trongsa and Bumthang, and it was the only traditional highway that connects east to west. So, we wanted to revive it.”

The trekking route is divided into three segments at Thogmey, Primey and Ungar, from Bumthang to Lhuentse and each segment has a distance of 11 to 12km. The travelling time between each point is expected to take an average of six hours. The whole trek would take about three days.

Dzongdag Jambay Wangchuk said that the dzongkhag is thinking in terms of the post Covid-19 pandemic. “We will ready the product in advance and want to offer our tourists an exciting piece of experience of the scenic beauty of nature and the kind of life our forefathers experienced,” he said.

Rodongla pass is about 4,150m above the sea level and a concrete staircase that was built and used in the old days can be still visible today along the pass.

In relating to the steepness of the slope, there is a local saying which roughly translates to, “Rodongla is fair in making all equal. The master and the servants have to dismount their horse and walk   (Kidu Nyompey Rodongla, Gom Penyog meypa saley dro).” The steep climb starts at the base call Gaphabpsa where people riding horses dismount given the steepness of the climb. Dzongdag, Jambay Wangchuk said the trekking is one of the most spectacular and would provide an exciting and enriching experience.

Meanwhile, the two dzongkhags are working out on how to operate the route so that the benefits trickle down to local communities of two dzongkhags while keeping the service sustainable. Geographically, Gaphabsa is the border, according to election delimitation. However, dzongkhag officials said there should be a proper understanding developed between the two dzongkhags and in particular between Maedtsho gewog in Lhuentse and Tang gewog in Bumthang so that equal benefits are shared.

“We have asked the two gups to work out and to draw a certain memorandum of understanding. We’re also planning to work closely with the Tourism Council of Bhutan to ensure local tour guides, cooks and mules are employed for sustainability because maintenance has to be done every year and the beneficiaries must be bestowed with the responsibility,” dzongdag Jambay Wangchuk said.

Dungbi village managing irrigation water sustainably

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 11:49

Nima | Zhemgang

The small village of Dungbi in Zhemgang has managed to plant paddy on time without facing irrigation and labour problems to date.

This is despite the farmers of the village not having proper irrigation system and the source of irrigation water hugely dependent on monsoon.

The farmers of this village under Trong gewog do not face a shortage of labours like in other parts of the dzongkhag, according to the farmers of Dungbi.

This is because of the age-old tradition called Chhukhor that helps the farmers do their paddy plantation in turn on time. The practice also brings together villagers during peak paddy plantation season.

The paddy plantation in the village is decided by their turn to get the irrigation water. The farmers said that they were following this irrigation water schedule since the time immemorial.

The routine starts on June 22. Yangzom from Dungbi gets the first two days to complete her paddy cultivation. If she misses her turn, she will have to wait for the whole village to finish Changla.

Jamtsho, 56, from Dungbi said that they had been practicing this for generations. “The irrigation water is well managed here. We don’t face any disputes related to irrigation water,” he said.

However, the farmers worry about decreasing irrigation water volume from the source, which is located a few kilometres away, at the top of their village.

“We receive enough irrigation water only during rainfall. This year we received good rainfall. We hope the water at the source would be increased,” said Jamtsho.

There are over 14 households in Dungbi. The farmers cultivate over 10 acres of rice annually.

Trong gup, Wangyel, said the whole gewog faced irrigation and drinking water problem. “Even schools and town has no proper water supply. But this is expected to change with integrated irrigation project coming up in the gewog.”

He added that there were no irrigation problems in Dungbi like in other places in the gewog so far.

“But, with climate change, we never know when will the village face the irrigation problem. The integrated irrigation project would benefit Dungbi village too,” said Wangyel.

Sither Dorji from Dungbi is one of the last households to start the paddy plantation in the village as per the routine. The water volume decreases when it is his turn.

“There was no severe water shortage but it’s difficult to manage weed in the field because there is no sufficient irrigation water after the plantation,” he said. “We have to use more herbicides which is not healthy.”

The farmers of Dungbi are ready for the paddy plantation by this time of the year. It takes one and a half month for the farmers to finish the plantation of the paddy.  

251 cattle lost to wildlife within two years, none compensated

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 11:37

Choki Wangmo

Research has found that sixty-nine percent of the 91 households in 10 villages within the biological corridor (BC8) lost 251 livestock between 2016 and 2018.

It means that each household lost one or more livestock to predators. None of them were compensated.

BC8 connects Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (JSWNP) in central Bhutan and Wangchuck Centennial National Park in the northern region.

The joint study by senior forest officer with the forest department, Letro and Klaus Fischer of Institute for Integrated Natural Sciences, found that the depredation were attributed to tigers with 58.9 percent (148 kills) of the livestock followed by snow leopard with 32 kills and wild dogs during summer.

BC8 is an important corridor for tigers either as migratory corridor or home range. JSWNP was identified as a tiger-rich area in the 2015 national tiger survey. The inhabitants are either nomadic herders who rear yaks and practice migratory grazing or agro-pastoralists rearing cattle and practicing subsistence agriculture. Their winter grazing ground falls within BC8.

The survey showed that the livestock loss to predators had increased over the years. Communities lost 1.8 heads of livestock per household, equaling 4.4 percent of their stocks per year, which is higher than the loss rates recorded in the early 2000s in JSWNP where the mean loss was 1.3 heads per year. 

Eight households reported the incidences of livestock depredation to park officials and 78 percent of them requested that governmental agencies should compensate for the livestock lost to predators. The survey showed although peoples’ awareness on BC was low, they had a positive attitude towards tiger conservation and BC management.

Last week, at the National Council deliberation, majority of the members raised the challenges of wildlife predation in rural areas and the immediate need to address the problem. MP Tashi Samdrup said that within six months, two chiwogs in Trongsa lost 83 cattle to tigers out of which 29 were milking cows.

He said that if the trend continues, people in rural areas might be forced to abandon their villages and seek opportunities in urban areas. It would also threaten tiger conservation efforts, he said. “Although Nu 69 million is allocated as endowment fund, people were not compensated.”

The government, before the elections pledged to provide crop insurance schemes for farmers to ensure rural prosperity. However, in the recent Parliament session, the National Assembly rejected the Council’s recommendation on making endowment fund for crop and livestock conservation operational to compensate the farmers affected by wildlife.

The study has recommended implementation of preventive measures, addressing depredation issues and conducting awareness programmes in the communities.

Framing a holistic conservation management plan for BC8 that identifies mitigation measures such as pasture improvement and livestock-intensification programmes, compensatory options and other conservation incentives relevant to local communities through community engagement were also recommended.

Bhutan has a network of protected areas covering 51.3 percent of the total area, including five national parks, four wildlife sanctuaries, one strict nature reserve, and eight biological corridors. BCs were established in 1999, as areas set aside to connect one or more protected areas to facilitate wildlife movement and dispersal.

However, management of BCs is not vibrant and the status of wildlife and human-wildlife interactions in BCs was unknown due to lack of knowledge about BCs. This lack of knowledge may hinder the sound management of BC8, because people associate protected areas with increased levels of predation, the study states.

Although high incidences of livestock depredation by tigers show that they are actively using BC8, the need for proper management of BC8 was deemed necessary to benefit both wildlife and communities.

Out of 91 households interviewed for the study, 47 respondents were from the buffer zone and 44 from the inner zone of the corridor.

MHPA’s turbine 3 down for two weeks

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 11:41

MD says no loss in power generation

Nim Dorji | Trongsa

The Mangdechhu Hydro Power Authority officials are working round the clock to fix Unit III of the 720MW project that has been down since May 31 because of some mechanical problem.

As of yesterday, the other three units are generating around 593.36MW of the installed capacity. If all the four unit functions, each unit will be generating around Nu 8.3 million a day.

Managing director of MHPA, AK Mishra, however, claims that there is no energy loss, as the water in the dam is only enough for three of the four turbines “We are generating power from the available water and sometimes we generate overload on each unit,” he said. The other three units, he said, are generating 10 percent extra on the actual generation capacity of 180MW. “So if any loss incurs, we can make up from it,” he said. “The machine will be restored and put on the grid in the next two days.”

AK Mishra said that the power project in Bhutan is designed for 30 years, the project will not close after 30 years, so the power generated beyond that will be the surplus created and is all profit.

The loss will be possible when something happens within the lifecycle of the product or in this case the project.  He said, “So for the power project, the water volume and the machine not working is a loss is a wrong concept.”

However, a source close to the project said that if restoration prolongs, it will hamper revenue and power generation. “Each unit produces 190MW as of now, so when one unit is not functioning, it is losing 190MW a day,” he said. “The extra 10 percent MW generated by three turbines cannot compensate for the total energy lost by a turbine.”

It was learnt that on May 31, a fault developed in the stator of the turbine, Unit III, after successfully repairing the stator, another fault was detected in the router while checking all the electrical components of the generator. Two poles were taken out and repaired. 

Electro-mechanical and transmission Chief engineer Kaushik Maulik said that since the monsoon has already started they are trying to minimize the downtime by working round the clock.

Meanwhile, the project authority is expecting to hand over the project to the government on July 31. The discussion for the handing taking has been deferred by six months which according to AK Mishra was for confidence building. 

MHPA has generated around Nu 1.28B in May due to Cyclone Amphan.

Two confess to Jaigaon double murder

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 11:40

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

In a major breakthrough, Jaigaon police have deciphered the brutal murder case of two Bhutanese women.

Two men, Yogesh Lama and Salman, who were arrested on June 15, have confessed to the crime. They used a knife (khukuri) to kill the women.

The police sources in Phuentsholing also confirmed that the Jaigaon police intimated them about the outcomes.

On the early hours of June 14, two Bhutanese women, 22-year-old from Lokchina, Chukha and a 26-year-old woman from Chuzergang, Sarpang were found brutally murdered at Mechia Basti, Jaigaon.

Some local news outlets posted the news along with pictures that shook the Bhutanese across the nation to the core.

Yogesh Lama was the one who attacked the women first.

The victims were known to the suspects. The suspects, sources said, consumed N-10 capsules and one of them, Yogesh Lama, raped one of the victims. He reportedly attacked the women when they threatened to inform the police.

Initially, on the same day (June 14) when the gruesome murder was discovered, Jaigaon police also had arrested two men as the prime suspects.

It was alleged that one of the two men was blackmailed by the women concerning an intimate video clip with one of the victims. Jaigaon police had arrested these suspects based on the eyewitnesses that they were seen harassing the women just one day prior to the murder.

However, they were not the real culprits, sources have confirmed.

Police are also yet to ascertain where in Jaigaon and for how long the victims lived.

 

The 22-year-old victim from Lokchina

The body of the victim from Lokchina was cremated at Toorsa on June 16.

“I didn’t know much about her whereabouts,” her cousin Harka Man Limbu said. “I saw her last year in Lokchina.”

Harka Man Limbu said that the victim was taken as a babysitter a long time ago. Police sources confirmed this. The woman who took her as a babysitter also had even enrolled her in a school.

The victim was a class nine graduate. Sources also say that she had worked in a beauty parlour in Phuentsholing.

 

The 26-year-old victim from Chuzergang

The body of the 26-year-old woman from Chuzergang, who worked at a drayang in Phuentsholing two years ago, has been taken by her ex-husband to Thimphu for cremation on June 16.

“We stayed together for three years after we married in early 2016,” he said. “Our relationship was not that bad. We separated mutually because of trivial issues.”

He said that news of video clips and drug abuse by the victims surprised him. He said that he never saw his wife do drugs.

“The killers should face the full weight of the law.”

DHI profit increased by 62 percent in 2019

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 11:40

MB Subba

Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) Group had an exceptional year in 2019 as it declared a Profit After Tax (PAT) of Nu 6,705 million (M).

This was an increase of 62.32 percent compared to the group’s PAT in 2018 of Nu 4,131.4M.

The increase in PAT is attributed to increasing in PAT from energy and resources segment (18.76 percent), communications and transport segment (25 percent), and finance segment (15.57 percent). But manufacturing segment suffered loss in 2019.

“Financial year 2019 was an exceptional year for the group companies. Almost all companies reported much higher level of performances as compared to any previous financial years,” a press release from DHI stated.

The DHI’s revenue grew by 8.69 percent to Nu 39,632M, while the expenditure grew by 3.85 percent only. The total revenue earned by the DHI Group for the year was Nu 39,632M compared with previous year’s Nu 36,462.89M.

The increase in expenditure, according to the press release, is primarily because of the increase in employee cost.

On the corporate governance (CG) front, DHI in 2019 streamlined the ‘term of references’ of board committees and continued with the capacity development and re-orientation programmes for directors and senior executives, according to the press release.

“A testament to being a CG champion, DHI for the fifth year in a row maintained clean accounts and no adverse audit observation was issued in its audited accounts for FY 2019,” it stated.

DHI, the press release stated, recognises that digitalisation is not an option, and its shareholders deserve all the potential efficiency gains, resource dividends, and economic returns that digitalisation delivers.

“We are wary that our country in general and the DHI group, in particular, is falling behind in terms of digitalization and digital transformation. Building a digital culture in the group is a key challenge in the coming years,” it states.

One of its future priorities is investment abroad. “Investing in markets beyond Bhutan requires expertise, and support from regulatory agencies as well as enabling policies.”

The DHI has committed investment of more than USD 14.5M in markets outside Bhutan.

“While challenge related to expertise is addressed through planned capacity building of our staff, regulatory issues within as well as regulatory issues of the country where we decide to invest remains an elusive challenge.”

The DHI states that amid Covid-19 DHI companies are braving challenges associated with the pandemic, from disrupted supply chains to losses in revenues. It states that the preliminary assessment of the impact of Covid-19 showed grim projections for 2020.

“Overcoming the pandemic with a similar performance like in FY 2019 would be a humongous task for the group,” the release stated.

Damphu to Changchey road to be resurfaced soon

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 11:39

Chimi Dema | Tsirang

After more than a decade without any major maintenance, the 11-kilometre stretch of the road connecting Damphu town and Changchey in Tsirang will be resurfaced soon.

Resurfacing the road is expected to begin by mid of the next month, the Dzongkhag Chief Engineer, Kintu, said.

The road was first blacktopped in between 1985 and 1987, according to Gosarling gewog officials. Only minor maintenance was carried out since.

Today, just past the Damphu Central School junction, the entire stretch leading to Changchey is filled with potholes.

Gosarling Gup Ram Bdr Karki said that maintaining the road would help boost the local economy. “The farmers from across seven gewogs take most of their agricultural and dairy products to the nearest market in Damphu and also to other districts.”

If the road condition improves, it could help cut down transportation cost besides saving time, he said. “It would also benefit other commuters including dzongkhag officials visiting the field.”

A resident in Gosarling, Damber Bahadur Mongar, said that he was happy that the road would be restored now. He said that it also came as a motivation for farmers to increase farm production.

Given the poor condition of the road, he said that it was challenging for villagers to take their produce to the market.

Residents said that it was also difficult to hire a taxi due to pathetic condition of the road. They said that they either have to wait for a bus or bolero to travel currently.

Taxi drivers said that restoring the road could help them cut down expenses, which are spent to maintain their vehicles. “It would be convenient for both drivers and travellers if the road is maintained,” one said.

Indiscriminate littering blamed for clogging drains in Thimphu 

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 11:38

Chhimi Dema

Every summer, roads in Thimphu thromde are flooded with wastewater. With the onset of the monsoon this year, the flooding has started and the social media is flooded with pictures of clogged drains and flooded roads.

Angry residents blame the thromde for the inadequate infrastructure and not clearing the drains. Often the overflowing water damages roads, private properties, and create an unhygienic surrounding.

Thimphu thromde officials are blaming the city’s residents for disposing of wastes in drains that is the main reason for clogging drains.

Thromde’s Officiating Chief Environment Officer Shera Doelkar said that residents dumped waste in drains assuming that the drain water would wash them away. Sand from construction sites is washed into the drains which add to the clogging, she added.

Sanitation inspectors from thromde said that when residents miss the truck collecting garbage, they throw them from their verandas and windows at odd hours.

Inspectors check for receipts and recharge voucher cards (RVC) in the waste to trace those defaulters. The two telecom operators have now stopped providing details on the user of RVC to protect their customers’ rights.

“If the garbage is disposed of illegal then customers’ rights cannot be protected,” Shera Doelkar said.

When thromde receive complaints that garbage collecting trucks do not come on time, GPS (Global Positioning System) tracker installed in trucks are examined to check if they went for collection.

“We do not ignore complaints. We attend to every complaint,” Shera Doelkar said.

CCTV cameras are also used to monitor to trace illegal waste disposal.

According to the Wastes Prevention and Management Regulation, dumping of wastes into drainage systems or other water bodies is fined Nu 1,000 and dumping of wastes in places other than approved sites gets a penalty of Nu 500.

“Fines charged are meagre amount. It should be increased for defaulters to feel a pinch,” she said. Even after the issuance of receipt, some people did not come to pay their fines.

Additionally, without service duct where cable and power line can pass through, drains are used as service ducts and causes blockage.

Wastes dumped in a higher location are washed to lower areas and accumulate when it cannot pass through drains. The waste get entangled in the cable and water pipe lines which lead to flooding in an area, the official said.

Other problems are buildings owners, mostly on private land, making access roads which cut across drains but do not construct drains nor instal pipes for the water to pass. The drain water flows on to the roads.

Old drainage systems lack provision to add catch pit also causes flooding. Catch pit functions to collect silt and other debris which are washed by the drain water before it flushes out.

Some people have not connected their sewer line to septic tank and it flows into the drains. Workers have to unclog these drains which are mixed with faeces and wastes, Shera Doelkar said.

A resident from Centenary Farmers’ Market area Sonam Rinchen said that some building owners have installed gutters on the roof and water collected directly goes to sewer line which then overflows the septic tank. Thromde has issued a notification to remove gutters he said.

The city is divided into seven zones, for each zone a sanitation inspector, site supervisor and minimum of 10 labours are assigned to clean the drains and pick wastes daily.

Shera Doelkar said numbers of sites to clean are increasing because of new road connections and houses, stretching the manpower of thromde. Additional labours would be recruited to increase their workforce.

“People should be mindful of their wastes and dispose of in proper places. Only if we work together can the issue be solved.”

Zhemgang fears what might extended lockdown bring to people

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 11:36

Nima | Zhemgang

The continued lockdown for over three months has kept Dema, a shopkeeper in Zhemgang town, worried about sustaining her business for rest of the year.

It takes over two months to sell goods worth Nu 150,000 today. Before the lockdown, she had sold the same amount of goods within two weeks. Dema also runs a bar attached to her grocery shop. The bar is empty and dry.

“There is no return from the shop. I wonder how I would be able to pay the rent for the remaining months of the year,” said Dema.

She said the number of people purchasing goods had decreased drastically.

Every monsoon, the small town of Zhemgang experiences similar situations. Only this year it is lockdown for over two months because of Covid-19. In other times the roadblock hampers their business only for one or two months.

The supply of essential items does not come because of frequent roadblocks at Ossey and box cutting in Gelephu and Rewtala in Trongsa.

Many have begun to worry that the situation could become dire.

The business community and shopkeepers struggle to convey the required stocks and materials. The sales are dropping, they say. Many have already run out of stocks.

Ritham Chhetri, a shopkeeper, said she could not get hardware items. However, her hardware shop received same number of customers like in the past year. “The lockdown is getting stretched. We face shortage of stocks for two or three days only earlier,” she said.

The most affected are the ones running restaurants and grocery shops due to 7pm closure time.

Another shopkeeper, Sonam Choki, said that it was difficult to purchase required supplies during monsoon. “The sale is down by almost 30 percent,” she said.

Thromde Thuemi Tashi Choden said the town was affected more this time. “The shopkeepers worry how they would be able to sustain their business.”

She added that the municipality office also received several complaints from the business community about the worsening situation in the town. “Many from the town could not get relief Kidu,” she said.

Covid-19 and beyond: six lessons to keep us going

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 11:36

Covid-19 has killed hundreds of thousands and upended the lives of millions more. However, it is also teaching us lessons, while revealing the strength of our people and inspiring fresh thinking about our nation’s future. I listened to people from all walks of life regarding this unprecedented pandemic; from friends, relatives, families, office colleagues and people on the streets. I wish to share with you the five most inspiring stories I encountered. Their stories made me realise some things with relevance not only to our country’s current struggle with the pandemic, but also to our country’s future. To these five insights, I also add a sixth: My own thoughts on the raging debate about reopening schools in Bhutan as this is the most discussed topic today, not only in our local streets but all the way to the parliament.

I will start with Pema Yangchen, a school teacher in Paro, who shared that Covid-19 has given her the opportunity to teach her students through digital platforms. “Suddenly the efficacy of e-learning is on everyone’s lips. Now we need to build this practice into our education system. ” I am reminded that His Majesty the King of Bhutan has emphasized the need to apply digital technologies to improve our people’s lives. This is an opportunity for our country’s brilliant minds in the technology and education sectors to provide solutions that will serve Bhutan and countries beyond, thus answering His Majesty’s call to bring the benefits of digital technologies to the people.

Meme Phuntso from Trongsa feels that this has been the best time of his life. Though he did not understand the purpose of closing schools for so long, he is happy seeing his grandchildren siting around him all the time to listen to his folktales. His grandchildren reinvigorate his memory by demanding more stories and bombarding him with questions. According to Meme Phuntsho, the bond he has developed with his family during this time is a memorable part of his life, and it shall remain close to his heart. His story reminds us of two important things: First, that even as our younger generations busily pursue progress, we should always reserve time for the older members of our families and communities. Our communal and familial bonds keep our nation strong amid challenges. And second, our folktales can still captivate our youth despite competition from digital entertainment. We should cherish these nuggets of our rich culture even as we transition to a future dependent on digital technology.

According to Lam Gayleg from Zhemgang, the Covid-19 crisis reminds us about the fickleness of life. “It’s only through awareness and inner psychology that we can handle such uncertainties. Covid-19 is a reminder to invest not just in your body (physical training) and intellect (books), but in mastering your inner psychology.”  On shortages of foods and essential items in the markets, Lam Gayleg reminds us to develop a mindset of abundance, not scarcity. Uncertainty is a cold, hard truth of life.  As Bhutan’s economic status improves every year, our younger generations are less exposed to past hardships that toughened prior generations of Bhutanese, whose resilience allowed Bhutan to weather many storms. Our nation benefits if we can encourage everyone, especially the youth, to see this pandemic as an opportunity to develop inner strength.

A young nurse Lhamo from Lunana shares how she was able to convince the villagers on the importance of hand washing, which has been so difficult to promote there before. “People are very open to health awareness now and the situation has transformed their thinking about healthcare. Scientists and doctors all across the globe are striving hard to discover a vaccine for Covid-19 with no success so far.  I wish people continue to practice this good habit. A simple hack for making your health twice better,” she concludes. Crises can result in something positive when they encourage people to accept good reforms that they rejected before. Inspired by Lhamo’s story, I enjoin people in all fields to ponder: “That great idea I had before that people did not accept, what if I try it again for the good of all?”

Ten-year-old Lhazin Tshomo stayed home during this lull period. However, she has discovered a new and fascinating passion, the art of weaving colorful kira. She proudly explains to her friends the key elements of techniques used to weave kira from threads. She can now describe the art of operating weaving tools, including the intricacy of blending colorful threads to produce beautiful patterns.  Without the noise and pace of “normal” life, the pandemic is a chance for us to reconnect with the marvels of our rich culture.

These stories show our tremendous success in rising to the hard situation and transforming the crisis into something positive. This is possible because His Majesty the King continues to lead our fight against this pandemic. And we have blessings of the compassionate Je khenpo, and the solidarity of the masses rising to the call of the nation in such difficult times. Under the firm guidance of the Prime Minister, Dr Lotay Tshering, who is himself a doctor, the government has succeeded in strengthening the trust of our people in our medical institutions.  Thus, the public obeys government recommendations. Through an effective quarantine system and border control, Bhutan is doing well so far. We have an epidemiologist in our Health Minister to keep us informed on the ways to prevent spreading Covid-19 in communities. Their dynamic leadership deserves our gratitude.

However, a critical issue that remains unresolved is whether we should reopen schools. We need to balance between the risks and opportunities. I offer two points to think about. First, if the government decides to reopen schools, I believe it must restructure the school syllabus, which is designed for a full academic year, to suit this short academic session. Otherwise, having to teach so much in so little time will undermine the ability of our education system to deliver quality education. Second, if schools reopen, the mantras issued by the Health Ministry regarding physical distancing and disinfection, among others, must be strictly followed. Schools must plan new systems and implement practical measure to ensure that government guidelines are followed. It would help to require prior site inspections done by local authorities to ensure that the plans and practical measures of each school are up to par. There should also be continuous monitoring by authorities to ensure that schools and students continue to strictly follow the systems in place. This communication between schools and authorities also ensures that schools can voice out their difficulties and authorities can then respond to help. These measures are not only important for the safety of our schools, but for the health of the nation. There is no perfect strategy, and we can only make do with the information we have today. However, adhering to these practices will enable schools to stay open and complete the remaining academic year. Otherwise, we will have to close the gates midway and the students will not finish the academic year – and all of this will be for nothing.

Some of us may notice that the youth do not easily accept the traditional values and cultural teachings promoted by our old G’s, such as observing rituals and maintaining strict discipline while eating, talking, and dressing, among others. Judging by that trend, there may be cause to worry whether our youth will strictly follow all the guidelines from the health ministry. However, one thing is for certain in Bhutan, our hearts will beat together when we hear our king. Regardless of each person’s difficult situation, the resounding line we hear from the mass today, especially from the youth, is “we are emotionally, mentally and physically prepared to serve the king.” The unprecedented rise in the numbers of youth rushing to register for Desuups is one of the many outstanding examples demonstrated by our youth.  With the right care and guidance, our youth will not disappoint us. Come what may, this GNH country is set to move forward undeterred beyond Covid-19.

Contributed by

Samphel Norbu

PHPA-I, Wangdue

Tshachu closure affects businesses 

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 11:35

Phurpa Lhamo | Gasa

Business at Gasa tshachu has been hit hard and the management expects income to drop drastically in the next financial year if Covid-19 pandemic does not end soon.

The tshachu closed on March 22 for safety reasons and today it is used as a quarantine facility.

In the 2018-2019 financial year, the tshachu earned Nu 2.5 million (M). The income fell to Nu 2.2M this financial year.

According to Gasa Tshachu manager Tandin Dorji, revenue this financial year was expected to be better than the previous financial year. “The income has been increasing over the years and we expected around Nu 2.6M this year.”

There are 78 rooms at different rent to visitors at different rates.

The tshachu during peak season, between December and February, gets over 1,600 visitors renting the guesthouses every month.

Lack of customers has also affected the four shops at the tshachu.

A shopkeeper, Karma Yangzom said that she used to earn at least Nu 5,000 in a day when the tshachu was open. Today, her shop is as good as closed.

“I pay Nu 11,000 monthly rent. I receive Nu 8,000 as relief kidu which helps a lot.”

Today, Karma Yangzom is exhausting her savings paying rent and for her daily expenditure.

The homestays in Gasa also share similar woes.

A homestay owner, Tashi, said that earlier he earned an income of Nu 15,000 monthly. This increased when the dzongkhag had festivals and celebrations.

“I have a loan but with the three months loan deferment, I am at ease. I just hope that situation improves.”

Without an income today, Tashi has been focusing on agriculture to at least ensure self-sufficiency.

There are 20 homestays in Gasa.

Taking advantage of the closure, Gasa dzongkhag administration is maintaining the tshachu.

The dzongkhag spent Nu 1.4M to install streetlights in the area.

Beautification of the area was carried out with the support of Nu 1.5M through the Small Development Project (SDP) grant.

Tandin Dorji said that trees were planted, the roofing was replaced with black slates, mini ponds made, and bridges built and toilets were also maintained.

Blacktopping the tshachu parking area and pavement of footpaths are underway and would be complete next week.

The work is executed with the budget of Nu 1.5M from the dzongkhag development grant.

The Gasa tshachu committee is also in discussion to widen the road to tshachu. The road witnesses landslides in monsoon.

Overflowing drains, shortage of policies

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 11:33

With the start of monsoon, a common sight across the capital city, whenever there is a downpour, is clogged drains and sewer water overflowing on roads. Sometimes, wastewater on roads becomes ankle-deep disturbing traffic flow and troubling pedestrians.

Such sight becomes perfect pictures for social media where the thromde office is barraged with angry comments and sometimes insult. However, at a closer look or digging deeper into the drains, the fault is with the people, the residents of the city.

For years, the thromde had been improving the drainage system laying bigger and or digging better drains, but it has not solved the problem. A heavy downpour and most part of the city are flooded with incidents of flooding basements increasing. With the city’s population on the rise, the infrastructure is overwhelmed. This is not helped by our habit of making drains dumpsites for garbage.

Recently, a team of thromde workers trying to clear a storm drain fished out plastics, pet bottles (plenty of it), slippers and even a deflated basketball. The drain is big enough to handle the storm water, but these non-degradable waste dumped into the drains have blocked it.  This is not a rare incident. Thromde workers complain of waste dumped in drains all the time. Then the numerous pipes and cable lines that pass through drains block the flow of water and waste brought along. A thromde official said it is illegal to lay pipelines and cables. But almost all the drains have them.

The need to rid ourselves of non-biodegradable waste is becoming urgent. Plastic has become a threat. It cannot be entirely banned when nearly every consumer good is wrapped in plastic. Alternative to original packaging is rare. It made sense, therefore, that the National Environment Commission initiated a ban on items like the carry bags given by shops and the small bags used for home made sweets, snacks and doma. But the ban is ineffective at its best and not helped a good initiative.

It is not that people are not aware. There were enough public awareness and almost every other week, there is a cleaning campaign organised. The thromde had also provided garbage collection services and cleaners. From the ineffectiveness, the idea of heavy penalty has necessary among the rapidly growing urban population. It will not be an easy task for the thromde, but it has to be done.

Given that most of the non-degradable wastes are poly ethylene terephthalate PET (poly ethylene terephthalate) bottles, those importing or manufacturing bottled water, alcohol and beverages should be roped in to help get rid of PET bottles from towns, villages and our mountainsides. Simple initiatives like buy back bottles, glass or PET, could encourage people to take care or collect them.

Such companies declare profits in the millions, but their indifference to the environment could be costing a lot more. The damage on the environment is difficult to monetise. Investing a small portion of the profit in getting back their waste should be effective. It could be done, for instance, by paying local municipal or thromde offices a substantial fee to help them leave no trails of their products in the form of waste.

PET and glass bottles are recyclable. The money could lead to job creation besides helping the thromde manage drains better.

NA rejects NC’s recommendation to handover mines to SMCL

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 12:44

MB Subba

The National Assembly (NA) yesterday criticised and rejected the National Council’s (NC) recommendation to allocate mines to the State Mining Corporation Ltd. (SMCL) until a new Mines and Minerals Act is enacted.

The House of review had come up with the recommendation during the deliberation on the annual budget 2020-21.

Only two members of the House—the home minister and MP Ugyen Wangdi—supported the NC’s recommendation. While the home minister reasoned that mines belonged to the state, Ugyen Wangdi compared mines with hydropower resources, which is managed by the government.

MP Passang Dorji (PhD) said that allocating all the mines to the state-owned corporation would contradict with the policy of private sector development. The government’s role, he said, was to formulate rules, monitor and collect taxes in an efficient manner.

“The development of the private sector would naturally help the growth of our economy,” he said.

MP Kinley Wangchuk countered the NC’s argument that only a handful of people had benefited from mines, saying that the private operators were paying various forms of levies and taxes to the government.

MP Duptho said that it would not make sense for the government to allocate the mines to SMCL temporarily as recommended by the NC.

“Although the new mines and minerals Act is yet to be amended, we have agreed in principle that non-strategic mines should be left open for the private sector,” he said. 

The NC had commended the government for handing over the Chunakhola dolomite mine in Samtse to the SMCL after cancelling a scheduled auction where private companies were supposed to participate. However, some members questioned the rationale behind the government’s decision on the mine.

MP Jurmi Wangchuk said economic development was impossible without private sector development. The private sector, he said, had given overwhelming support to the government in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

The SMCL performed well in 2019 making a profit after tax of Nu 336.35 million (M). However, MPs said that it was equally important for the government to see the revenues private mines are contributing to the state.

MP Dorji Wangdi cited the example of Jigme Mining Corporation, which had paid Nu 194M and Nu 235M in 2018 and 2019 respectively in taxes alone. Mining companies are pay royalties and rents.

He added that the Eastern Coal Company, similarly, had paid Nu 205M in 2017 and 180M in 2019. Issues, he said, were found both in the private mines and government-operated mines.

MP Ganesh Ghimiray said that the government should operate only strategic mines and that the rest should be left open for the private sector.

Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma said that mining works should not be halted, as mining was one of the major sectors that could help the government revive the economy affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said that disruptions in mining activities could further worsen the employment problem.

The economic affairs minister said that until the new mines and minerals Act is enacted, the government would continue to allow private participation as per the Mines and Mineral Management Act 1995.

The House endorsed the budget 2020-21. The closing ceremony of the session will be held today.

Snooker operators in Thimphu appeal to Govt. to reopen

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 12:42

Younten Tshedup

A group of snooker operators in Thimphu have written to the Prime Minister to allow them to reopen businesses pledging strict safety measures, last week.

Citing a major financial crisis with the closure of business, the group consisting of more than 40 operators have proposed reopening from next month.

The group made a similar plea in April, as they started to feel the brunt from the business closure.

“After three months of the shutdown, we have been facing a lot of difficulties in paying our rents, utility bills, and even for food. And meeting the needs of our children,” states the letter addressed to the Prime Minister.

For many, the letter stated that the business was their only source of income to raise their families.

Operation of businesses that involved a mass gathering of people such as snooker clubs, drayangs and discotheques, among others, were temporarily suspended as a precaution to Covid-19 pandemic in March.

One of the operators in Thimphu, Jigme Nidup, said that paying rent for the club has become a big challenge. “Although the building owner has considered certain concessions on the monthly rent, it is still difficult to pay the remaining as there is no income.”

With Nu 10,000 discount, Jigme Nidup pays Nu 20,000 every month for renting the club in the Hong Kong market area.

He started driving a taxi to earn to pay the rent. “I can barely make enough to pay for the rental of the taxi. Since we can take only two passengers, it’s difficult to make any profit.”

He has recently employed his eldest son near the Centenary Farmers’ Market to help shops load and unload goods. “He makes about Nu 9,000 that goes in paying the house rent and for groceries.”

With the final month of the rent discount, loan and interest waiver coming to an end, Jigme Nidup is worried. He said he pays Nu 9,700 monthly for the loan he took to buy the club.

“I wanted to sell off the place, but the owner had asked for a two-month advance if I wanted to do that,” he said. “With no other option, we decided to approach the Prime Minister.”

He said that while few of the operators received the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu, the majority of them did not qualify.

On an average, Jigme Nidup made Nu 1,500 to Nu 3,000 daily from the two snooker boards he has at the club.

Other operators said that more than the snooker clubs, places like restaurants, hotels and mobile shops attracted bigger crowds.

“While these businesses can operate, as usual, it would be only fair if we are allowed to do the same,” said another operator.

The group has also assured in the letter that if the government allows them to reopen, some safety and preventative measures would be in place.

From cleaning the site and equipment regularly to providing hand sanitisers on all tables and at the entrance, allowing a limited number of people on each table, ensuring clients to wear masks and closing the business by 7pm, the operators guaranteed strict measures.

Should any club be found in breach of the guidelines, operators said that they would be liable to close by the relevant authorities.

Meanwhile, according to the officials from Prime Minister’s Office, the government is studying the status of all restrictions imposed against the present Covid-19 situation, on all fronts.

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