… there is much more to do
Yangchen C Rinzin
Bhutan has achieved primary school enrolment by 8-year-old, access to Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD), however, has remained limited for younger children impacting their school readiness.
Age, hard to reach groups, family income and special needs is some of the key challenges for access and equity, according to a UNICEF report on ‘An Evaluation of the ECCD programme in Bhutan’.
The report launched yesterday recommends access for all children to quality and equitable ECCD services, as the empirical evidence has shown that it has a positive effect on the child’s outcome.
Enrolment in the ECCD was found low in nomadic and remote settlements, rural and growing number of poor children in urban areas where most ECCD centres are private and not affordable.
This was also prevalent where many education stakeholders shared the need for additional ECCD centres particularly in remote areas while those with centres indicated a need to upgrade.
“Equity in services offered intersects with access challenges. Children from wealthier families’ have access to private ECCD provision and have better educational and health outcomes,” the report stated.
With many agencies establishing creches that are mostly funded by parents, it was noticed that some children have transitioned directly from creches to school affecting children’s readiness to join school.
Three fourth of the primary teachers interviewed said that those children who went to an ECCD were ready for school compared to those who didn’t attend ECCDs.
The report is the first comprehensive national evaluation of ECCD that has focused on ECCD services in the country through multi-sectoral lenses. It also assessed the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability of the provision of existing ECCD services in Bhutan.
It also recommended that all children should have the opportunity to access fee-free ECCD. For instance, community-based ECCD centres should ensure free services for children from vulnerable backgrounds.
Children with disabilities also have limited access to ECCD and have been missing out early intervention like lack of therapeutic services and facilitators with specialised training, and compounds the risk of this vulnerable group.
The report pointed out that there is a need to develop a referral-and-reply system for the early identification and provision to support children with special needs.
The evaluation was based on samples from nine dzongkhags from east, central, west with survey responses collected from about 1,036 respondents, 584 children and 54 interviews.
Although there is evidence that there are many children with disabilities, many service providers lacked the necessary knowledge and experience to provide services to these children.
“Only four health workers from total interviewees reported on providing care to children with disabilities.”
Bhutan targets to increase ECCD enrolment rate to 50 percent by 2024 and 100 percent by 2030. To achieve such a target, the report recommended that the government must increase the establishment of the centre-based programme and mobile ECCD facilitator programmes and other alternatives.
Poor centre infrastructure and staff qualification are some of the major challenges. Facilitators today have to pass Grade 12 and attend only 13 days training.
The report recommended raising the minimum qualification for ECCD professionals including crèche caregivers. Interviewees also indicated they want opportunities for targeted professional development.
While the Royal Civil Service Commission approved an increase in salary from Nu 11,400 to Nu 16,000 in July 2019, salaries still remain low. A case study of investment in ECCD indicated that about Nu 47 million was spent between 2001 and 2016 with an average operational cost of Nu 8,300 per year per child.
However, the evaluation showed that conditions at many centres do not cover the cost of establishing a safe and stimulating ECCD environment like sufficient human, materials and financial resources. Many interviewees said that budget was insufficient to cover daily operation.
The report recommended a need for multi-sectoral coordination and implement a whole-system approach to ECCD. The stakeholders lacked a common understanding of ECCD and its definition.
Education Minister JB Rai said the findings of the report and experiences from the facilitators would give the ministry and its partners, a solid foundation to look forward and achieve the targets set by the government.
“The findings call for collaborative effort for effective ECCD programming at different levels. This would address quality issues, which is one of the findings of the study and the professionalisation of ECCD programmes,” he said.
UNICEF Representative Dr Will Parks said while some countries are considering opening ECCD later others are considering to open early and prolonged lack of access to pre-school is likely to have a high impact on children’s brain development.
“Given the role ECCD serves to support parents and caregivers return to work, the relaxation of lockdown means that families need care options, as they return to work,” he said.
The education ministry has proposed to reopen both public and private ECCD centres after it was closed due to Covid-19 pandemic. It is waiting for a response from the Cabinet.
“We need government’s direction and we are ready to reopen anytime,” an education official said.
ECCD closes in November end during normal times. There are 379 public and private ECCD centres with 9,488 students and 903 facilitators.
The High Court yesterday upheld the lower court’s judgment that convicted Home Minister Sherub Gyeltshen to two months in prison for claiming false vehicle insurance worth Nu 226,546.
The home minister’s attorney and other defendants appealed to the court arguing that the lower court erred in the application of legal provisions.
The High Court judgment stated that after a thorough review, the lower court’s decision was upheld.
According to the lower court’s judgment, the statements shared by Lyonpo on claiming insurance for his vehicle were inconsistent.
Lyonpo Sherub Gyeltshen in his intimation letter to Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Ltd (RICBL) stated that his Toyota Prado met with an accident at Lamperi on the Thimphu-Wangdue highway on July 21, 2016.
In another statement, Lyonpo claimed that his car engine malfunctioned when it was on the way to Mongar. There was no proof to indicate the accident actually happened, the judgment stated.
The former executive director (ED) of RICBL, Sonam Dorji offered his help to claim insurance for the repair. Lyonpo Sherub Gyeltshen was convicted with fraud under section 311 of the Penal Code of Bhutan.
The offence is graded a petty misdemeanour and can pay thrimthue in lieu of prison terms.
He was also asked to refund the full amount to the insurance company through the Office of Attorney General (OAG).
The former executive director, Sonam Dorji was convicted with two offences of misusing his position. He changed the insurance cover of Lyonpo’s vehicle insurance from third-party to the comprehensive scheme. He had also asked his subordinates to change the scheme without inspecting the vehicle and giving Lyonpo Sherub Gyeltshen a claim of Nu 226,546.
For the two counts of misuse of position, Sonam Dorji was convicted for one year, which is graded a misdemeanour.
RICBL’s general manager, Sangay Wangdi was also sentenced to six months in prison for solicitation and asking inspection officer, Ugyen Namdrol to get blank cash receipts from an automobile workshop to adjust the claims.
Ugyen Namdrol was convicted with forgery and deceptive practice. He was convicted for fetching a blank receipt to adjust claims of Nu 125,746. He was also a member of the claims committee and signed the resolution deceiving the committee to pay the claimant. He was sentenced to one year in prison.
Another RICBL official, Sangay Dorji was sentenced for a month in prison for aiding and abetting as he signed the committee resolution despite knowing that the claim violated the company’s rules.
The proprietor of Dagap workshop, Yonten Phuntsho was also convicted for aiding and abetting as he gave the cash receipt to Ugyen Namdrol despite knowing that it is not allowed. He was sentenced to six months imprisonment.
The Office of the Attorney General had appealed to the High Court that the penalty on the home minister be raised to the maximum sentence for the offence. However, the High Court dismissed it.
The defendants can appeal to the larger bench of the High Court in the next 10 working days.
China is the second-largest import market after India
Bhutan’s trade deficit declined by 32 percent in the first half of 2020 compared to figures for the same period of last year, provisional statistics published by the finance ministry show.
In absolute figures, the trade deficit decreased to Nu 12.84 billion (B) from Nu 19B.
The improvement in trade deficit is partly due to a decrease in imports, according to the statistics. The international border with India remains closed since March 23 and imports have largely been restricted since.
Imports decreased to Nu 30.84B in the first half of this year from Nu 32B for the same period of last year.
Officials say that a decrease in imports does not necessarily mean good for the overall health of the economy. A decline in imports normally leads to not only a decreased consumption, but also a decline in the export of manufactured goods.
Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma, however, said that the import decline was a good indicator when it came to balance of trade. “But the manufacturing capacities of our factories would be reduced and the overall business would be down,” he added.
Exports on the other hand increased to Nu 18B in the first half of this year from Nu13B for the same period last year.
The increase was driven mainly by the increase in the export of electricity to India due to the commissioning of the Mangdechhu hydroelectric project in June last year. The project started to generate revenue in the second half of last year.
The project generated Nu 6.807B worth of electricity in the first half of the year, according to figures with Druk Green Power Corporation.
Among the top imports, petroleum products such as diesel and petrol dominate in terms of value.
Until June this year, the country imported about Nu 2.876B worth of light oils and preparations, which is the highest among imports in terms of monetary value. The country also imported Nu 1.569B worth of rice.
In terms of exports, ferro-silicon emerged as the top export commodity with more than Nu 2.913B in value. Export of boulders amounted to Nu 899.9M.
Country-wise, goods worth Nu 26.96B were imported from India. This is 87 percent of the total imports.
Bhutan imported goods worth more than Nu 1B from China. This makes China the second largest import market after India.
The country imported goods worth Nu 132.76M from Bangladesh, which is one of the closest trading partners.
Countries that Bhutan imported most of the goods from include Singapore, Germany, Thailand, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Denmark, Vietnam, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United States of America.
In terms of exports, Bhutan exported goods worth Nu 7.191B to India making it the biggest market in terms of both exports and imports.
Bangladesh was the second largest market for Bhutanese goods. The country exported goods worth Nu 1.744B to Bangladesh in the first half of this year.
Top export destinations included Vietnam, Italy, Nepal, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Netherlands, Belgium, Hong Kong, Thailand and Taiwan.
A young woman buys a couple of grocery items in Khasadrapchu,Thimphu, shows a screenshot of payment details on mBoB. She does it again, and, again. She started small but outgrew herself. The tricks up her sleeves failed her one day—and badly.
Blame it on her lust for money. She started with Nu 3,000. When she went big she got caught. That was when she bought a MacBook Pro for Nu 120,000 from a Thimphu shop.
How did all this happen?
Ingenuity is one. Lack of financial knowledge is the other. This is, perhaps, the true picture of a changing society. The direct question is: why are Bhutanese increasingly falling prey to scams and deceptive practices?
Each time she made a purchase, the woman produced screenshot of a transaction record on mBoB that was manipulated.
Rumours were rife that customers could be cheating the shopkeepers. So they started taking down the mBoB journal number on every purchase. That wasn’t enough to head off deceptive debit records from customers.
Two weeks ago, the same woman buys a MacBook Pro from a Thimphu shop. She pays and disappears. Here her trick fails. The shop found that there was something wrong in its sales report. Nu 120,000 was missing. The shop reported the matter to the police. CCTV showed the woman’s face clearly.
The Thimphu police apprehended the woman on October 1.
Officer in Command (OC), Gembo Penjor, said that the police received verbal complaint from a shop in Khasadrapchu and the search for the young woman had begun. “Most shops were not aware of such practices and the police did not receive many complaints against her until that day,” the OC said.
The police said that she had targeted big, crowded, and busy shops.
What happens now?
The woman will be charge sheeted by the police to the court according to the Penal Code of Bhutan section 309 for deceptive practice.
Section states: “A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of deceptive practice, if the defendant possesses, uses, or sells a false weight, measure or other device for false determination or recording of quality or quantity of a good.”
The High Court yesterday upheld the lower court’s decision to sentence the Home Minister to two-month imprisonment term for claiming false vehicle insurance before he joined politics.
This is the latest development in the prolonged case that started two years ago. The curious public and those following the case have the same question—what will happen? Will the home minister be removed from office? Will the home minister appeal to higher courts, in this case, the larger bench of the High Court to the Supreme Court?
What is clear is that the appeal system is not exhausted and, if not happy with the judgment, the minister will appeal. It would mean a few months more or even a year before a final decision is reached. It would be by then, for the minister, the third in year in governance with a criminal case hanging over his head.
The laws are clear. Should the home minister decide not to appeal, he would be disqualified. Section 179 of Election Act of Bhutan states that a person shall be disqualified as a candidate or a member holding an elective office under the Constitution, if he or she has been convicted for any criminal offence and sentenced to imprisonment.
The home minister is convicted for criminal offence and sentenced for imprisonment. The Constitution, the “mother of all laws” states the same. The length of the imprisonment term is immaterial. The provision in the Constitution is to protect the public from tainted candidates in all instances.
The home minister’s case started from a false insurance claim. He has knowingly or unknowingly become a victim of a system that is deep rooted in our society. The minister’s Toyota Prado met with an accident. He met with an official of the insurance company where his car was insured and they manipulated the claims. Had he not expressed political interest, not many would have dug into the loopholes or the flawed systems.
Some may say he is an unfortunate victim of the system. Others say it is a blatant case of collusion or corruption. The bigger problem lies in our system. Let us be honest. If the collusion between the insurance company and the owner didn’t involve a political candidate, not many would have made an issue out of it.
We can surmise that if the owner of the car was an ordinary citizen, a civil servant or a businessman, it would have passed. If it was a lower staff like a clerk or taxi driver, it would not even raise an eyebrow of the insurance company or the antigraft body. A minister is involved, there is political interest. A system was taken for a ride by its own people.
The case is in the limelight because an elected leader, who is supposed to lead by example, is involved. Punishing the home minister by disqualifying him will not end the systematic fault lines. Whether it is with an insurance company, businesses or in the civil service, there are so many things that need cleansing. We have to get to the root of our systems. It is so well established that unless a reform is initiated, it will not go away.
Whether it is claiming a few days extra TA/DA, using connections, nepotism and favourtism, our systems from civil service to corporate bodies to the private sector are cursed by it. The so-called common man is angry against the system because it is not fair. When it comes to insurance claims, it is said that the inspectors call the shots.
Meanwhile, independent and autonomous body like the judiciary’s role becomes crucial in such cases. Could we take a case involving an elected minister in his second year in power as an urgent case? The public needs a verdict.
There is public interest in such a case. One political party wanted to stop the candidate from contesting on valid grounds. When justice is delayed, suspicions start growing.
The news of “demand for abortion pills rise in Thimphu” in Kuensel this week deserves our attention. The horrifying stories of abandonment of human fetuses and informal reports of unsafe abortions taking place across the border are sadly not uncommon in Bhutan. The issue of abortion is sensitive and controversial because the very nature of abortion is emotional, often against one’s social values and spiritual beliefs. It is also of moral and ethical dilemma among physicians.
Section 146 of the Penal Code of Bhutan (PCB), 2004, criminalizes abortion except when the mother’s life is in danger or of unsound mental condition or when pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. This provision is discriminatory itself as abortion is a crime only if certain criteria are not met violating the rights of both the mother and fetus.
Article 7 (1) of the constitution of Bhutan guarantees the right to life, liberty, and security of all persons. If a fetus is recognized as a person, the moment a woman conceives, both the mother and fetus have an equal right under this Article. An American Court said that the mother also has a right to privacy including “activities relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, child-bearing and abortion.” Supporting this view, some scholars argued that the fetus’s mere presence in the womb is unjust because the fetus is a stranger and burden the health of the mother.
While Bhutan has not witnessed any legal battle challenging the law, there is jurisprudence on this matter around the world. The Supreme Court of Canada held that “state interference with bodily integrity and serious state-imposed psychological stress, at least in the criminal law context, constitutes a breach of security of the person. Forcing a woman, by the threat of criminal sanction, to carry a fetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations, is a profound interference with a woman’s body and thus an infringement of security of the person.”
Some courts have also concluded that “a person is vested with human rights only at birth; an unborn fetus is not an entity with human rights and hence mother has the right to control their own body and fertility and motherhood choices should be left to the women alone including the right to autonomy and to decide what to do with their own bodies, including whether or not to get pregnant and stay pregnant.”
The WHO Safe Abortion- Technical and Policy guidance for health systems urges states to “decriminalize the provision of information on legal abortion” to ensure access to legal abortion which is safe for both the mother and the fetus. The WHO studies revealed that criminalization of abortions instead of a reduction in abortion, compelled women to risk their lives along with the fetus by seeking an unsafe abortion.
Although deciding on such a subject is extremely challenging, we, as a Bhutanese society, must find a better solution than the current mechanism to protect both the mother and the fetus. For example, while some countries completely ban abortion, many have legalized abortion during the first trimester, and WHO recommends the same. The first trimester is considered ethically and morally acceptable and safe for the mother. Otherwise, our women especially young mothers may continue to resort to unsafe abortion either by taking illegal abortion pills or going to clandestine operated clinics across the border.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.
Starting sometime next week, the bus fares are going to increase by 1.5 times.
For the transport services the routes to the country’s southern region are the most lucrative. With the advent of Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions to region, the transport services are hard-pressed to keep the business going.
Travel restrictions to and from Samtse, Phuntsholing, Samdrupjongkhar, and Gelephu continue.
A 36-year-old woman from Thimphu, at the ticket counter, said that in a day only about 10 people come for the tickets.
She said that even with the carrying capacity of 50 percent, the buses do not get enough passengers.
“If the business income keeps dropping, I might not even get my salary,” she said.
Sangay Dorji, a public transport owner, said that there was no income since the pandemic.
A public transport owner in Thimphu said that it was difficult to meet the operational cost when they are allowed only to carry 50 percent of passengers.
“But we have not shut the service to retain our staff,” he said, adding that maintenance cost has escalated.
“Some of us have availed loan to pay the staff,” he said.
Transport service owners have reportedly proposed to the Road and Transport Safety Authority (RSTA) that the cost of passengers that the bus cannot carry should be divided among the 50 percent of the passengers.
“We have not heard from RSTA yet,” the owner said.
Officiating director general, Ugyen Norbu, said that the operators proposed to earn 100 percent from the 50 percent of the passengers they can carry.
The new fare for a passenger would be the current fare times 1.5.
For example, an individual travelling to Lobesa, Punakha, pays Nu 100 now, but after the revision they would have to pay Nu 150 (Nu 100 x 1.5).
“If the rate was increased by 1.5 times then the operators would get 75 percent income that would enable them to sustain their business,” he said.
Nima | Gelephu
Primary schools will remain closed for the rest of the year.
At Kencholing in Sarpang, a fifth standard student Nisha Rai, wishes her school had opened by now.
She helped her younger brother in Kencholing extended classroom complete his assignments for the past six months. Nisha spent most of her day helping her parents on the farm.
“Learning is much better at school with teachers and friends. I get to talk with them,” she said.
However, she is confused as to whether she would be able to follow the required health measures while returning to school.
“Everything would be like a new beginning. I am worried thinking about returning to school after a long break,” said Nisha Rai.
Despite schools remaining closed for months, the siblings made sure they completed assignments sent to them on WeChat and messenger.
A teacher from Kencholing ECR visited the siblings once a week as a part of the home visit initiative started in the dzongkhag to help students continue learning while schools remain closed amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The teacher-in-charge at Kencholing ECR, Tenzin, said the home visit for e-learning purposes was relevant only to the students with smartphones and television at home.
Self-instructional material has helped students who had no access to television and smartphones.
“There were parents who told us that they wanted their children to discontinue studies. We had to convince them. It is better when a family has an elder sibling studying in higher grades,” he said.
Visiting students door-to-door as the country witnesses an increasing number of Covid-19 cases is difficult.
Tenzin said the pandemic could hurt the quality of education. “Distance learning is not so relevant to families that are without smartphones and television,” he said. “Almost half of the students are without the required facilities and parents not literate. This makes a home visit and learning through self-instructional material less effective.”
The dzongkhag education office encourages teachers in Sarpang to reach to students who do not have access to e-learning. The students from the same villages are called to gather in small numbers with the help of tshogpas.
Chief dzongkhag education officer, Thinley Dorji, said the dzongkhag tried to reach all students with home visits in place.
“However, there are some that could not be covered,” he said.
It’s like facing 10,000 people when you have a camera pointed at you.” a well experienced man tells me as I wait for my turn to record a 25 minute lesson to telecast as TV Lessons for the Bhutan eLearning program. Soon I was going to become a camera teacher! I have seen many enjoy the sweat of facing the cameras for the first time and teaching a lesson without any students in front of them. Friends shared how they felt and learned by the day. Even the most confident colleagues shared their stage fright moments. Through the V-TOB initiative, teachers received the opportunity to volunteer to develop lessons that were to be aired on BBS for students across the nation during school closures.
And there I was, waiting to realise and experience it too. I was prepared for the lesson and it was a lesson I have been doing for a long time. However there was something interesting, maybe an apprehensive mood. A kind lady comes and does a simple make up, which I tried to refuse initially. The make up is a necessity, even for the post shoot editing.
I ran through my slides many times and prepared myself mentally. I never felt that sort of excitement before, not even during my Mathematics examination days. The setting was simple – a green wall, an empty table, many lights, a nice camera, a computer station and few smiling familiar faces in the room. I was at iBEST Studios to do my recording. I was supposed to stand behind that neat table, facing the camera along with all those encouraging faces and to teach a 25 minute lesson to the camera.
Before the magic time, I was briefly briefed with a lot of motivation. I gathered my confidence, mentally prepared and started to teach the camera. It was a “No” right away because I was speaking too fast. I could feel my face reddening and getting sweaty. I was more nervous. I tried a couple of times until it was acceptable. Honestly, I forgot all the supposedly easy lessons and was quite blank.
With a lot of encouragement, trials and patience from the technical team, I was able to record my first lesson. It wasn’t an easy job at all. I took more than an hour, gobbled down more than a litre of water and made the technical team practice their patience through a lot of ahh, uhh and presentation mistakes. At the end, I have successfully recorded more than 10 short videos to make up the whole video lesson.
Well the job isn’t done there-the more taxing and tedious job happens later. The video editing expert takes my 10 takes of short videos, voice clips and the script to do the post production job. This takes a long time. Luckily I had to redo only one voice clip and few minor edits in the video. Sometimes this task takes longer than our patience can hold. I was told that one video took a day and half to record and an equally longer time to produce it as a final video.
After few days, I was called to review my draft and I was honestly not confident to watch it. I sounded different and looked different but at the same time I was happy that I did it. I reassured myself that as long as the content is accurate and the lesson is good, I will swallow the way I sounded or looked. I suggested a few additions and deletions before it was taken to the Quality Assurance Team for a detailed review. Every lesson goes through this process before it’s aired.
The Quality Assurance Team passed the video and it was scheduled for airing. I was excited in a very unique way. I waited patiently. On the day of the airing, I sneaked out to a silent corner to watch the lesson on the B-Trowa App. This app has been a life saver for me as I had some humble responsibilities to watch every lesson aired and report accordingly. I was happy to see myself teaching the children across the nation, a sense of fulfilment was felt within. During the whole lesson time, I was equally nervous and getting a bit warm as I watched. As I was enjoying the lesson, I received a lot of messages and photos from family and friends-all were too generous with their compliments.
Just like me, more than 300 teachers went through this experience of a lifetime. Teachers volunteered to teach on Television. As the pandemic forced schools to be closed and students stayed home, continued education was the next step to take. Owing to the current status and as the fastest way to start, teaching through television was Bhutan’s first step in delivering continued education.
V-TOB is grateful to the Prime Minister, Ministry of Education, Royal Education Council, BBS, all relevant stakeholders and well wishers for the opportunity to offer our services as teachers and citizens too. During this beautiful journey, we have seen a strong sense of dedication, harmony, resilience and creativity. A harmonious family-like working environment was created by the Ministry of Education amongst the ministry, REC and teachers, who were strongly supported by numerous stakeholders. Motithang HSS became the centre of Education in Emergency-everyone tried their best. The team saw teachers and individuals helping us through other platforms too.
Through the months of this lifetime opportunity, we have experienced the true potentials of teachers in every field. Personally, I have seen a few cry too. Some gave up after days of trying. Most became professional camera teachers – teachers do learn fast. Some stayed in Thimphu for months but with all the same passion. Few didn’t mind traveling from afar and we all didn’t stop because of Covid, though we were cautious.
Teachers can adapt, adjust, sacrifice and deliver if they are given the platform. Teachers are ready to transform challenges into endless opportunities and support with our services beyond the self. Let us also motivate ourselves to come forward to empower, inspire, innovate, be resilient and be our best because the teaching profession touches all lives and generations.
We can become camera teachers overnight too!
Lobesa LSS, Punakha
To mark the Day of the International Girl Child on October 11, UN agencies in Bhutan, NCWC and RENEW highlight the critical need to address the shadow pandemic of gender-based violence that Covid-19 has exacerbated.
Bhutan’s preparedness and response to the Covid-19 pandemic has shown the world that science alone is not enough to keep people safe. It has shown that guided by science, compassion and decisiveness matters as much in the response, as do resources and divine interventions. It has shown that a nation’s preparedness and response to a pandemic or any emergency hinges on leadership. With His Majesty The King personally overseeing the response and the Government’s relentless efforts to ensure the wellbeing of the people, Bhutan has built the collective action needed to respond to the demands of the pandemic.
The pandemic’s impacts, as we have seen, manifest in various forms. From health-related complications to economic shocks; the pandemic’s socio-economic effects are severe and many a times, invisible. As measures such as lockdowns and restricted mobility to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus were implemented, countries across the globe have reported that parallel to the pandemic, another “shadow”, opportunistic pandemic gains strength, such as violations to freedoms, liberties and rights, exacerbating deep-seated discriminatory practices and inequalities. Gender-based violence (GBV) is a case in point.
Economic stress and uncertainty have led to heightened tensions at home often leading to increased alcohol consumption and substance abuse. Evidence from helplines and media reports in Bhutan, just as around the world, are showing an increase in violence against women and girls and violence in homes more frequent, severe and unsafe during this period. The hardships triggered by the pandemic pose a greater risk to society’s most vulnerable – our women and girls. The pandemic has unfortunately compounded already existing deep-rooted inequalities and harmful practices against women and girls, the effects of which will linger long after the pandemic is over.
Bhutan’s response to the pandemic’s social impacts is commendable. In June, UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, Her Majesty the Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck, addressed the nation alerting the need for policy-makers to prioritize gender-based violence prevention and survivor support in the Covid-19 Response. Her Majesty spoke both to policy makers and the communities, raising awareness to this hidden pandemic. The National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) and the Ministry of Health are leading efforts to address gender-based violence and child protection issues. From the civil society organisations, RENEW is on the ground bringing much needed assistance, including shelters to survivors. Protection Officers, Social Welfare Officers and Volunteers have been providing referral and other support to women and children needing care and support during the lockdown and throughout the Pandemic period.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the NCWC and CSOs like Nazhoen Lamtoen and RENEW with the support of the UNICEF, UNDP and UNFPA have trained responders including front liners on how to prevent GBV, provide psychosocial support to survivors and refer them to response services. The NCWC spearheaded development of the GBV Contingency Plan, provided PPEs to those rendering services to the vulnerable and supported 24-hour telephonic and online case management and psychosocial support services. Dissemination of advocacy messages through mass and social media have helped raise awareness on the occurrence and proliferation of domestic abuse and violence against women and girls during the pandemic. Training of front liners on the GBV SOP is expected to contribute to better preparedness on dealing with GBV cases in the Dzongkhags and Thromdes.
While much has been done to address and hopefully eradicate the scourge of gender-based violence, the specialized institutions working on this important area need further support including funding to sustain its efforts. There is as much a need to collect and update data to better understand the differentiated experiences of Covid-19 as to develop tailored and targeted responses. GBV needs to feature high in the Covid-19 Response, if we are to ensure that “no-one is left behind” as called for in the Agenda 2030.
These services are necessary for a society to prevent and respond to GBV cases. The establishment of hotlines, internet access, SMS services, and/the transition of GBV response from face-to-face to remote mobile phone solutions are an important solution that must continue and require investment. It is also clear that an over-reliance on any one system of support for reaching GBV survivors is not effective. Alternative solutions must be found to safely complement hotline/remote services and to expand assistance to survivors, who, for whatever reason, cannot access services delivered through the existing means.
Gender-based violence risks during the pandemic and the responses to it are still evolving. This means that responders, working in all sectors, must continually adapt to meet the needs of survivors and to help mitigate risks. To ensure continuity of services, the social service workforce must be able to work even during lockdowns and pandemics, so that they are able to provide support.
In many countries, social services are not recognized as essential services because of which organizations providing services for women and girls face innumerable challenges to ensure continuity of these services. They even struggle to provide effective PPE to their frontline workers, many of whom are women. In some settings, programmes that combat gender-based violence are unable to operate or are simply not allowed.
The UN has advocated that services to address gender-based violence be “..recognized as lifesaving and officially designated as ‘essential’ for the Covid-19 response and that staff providing such services are equipped with the necessary protective equipment to operate safely…” The zoning system introduced during the lockdown to respond to the needs of the people provides an opportunity to institute GBV response services in each zone and community across the country. This would support institutions like the NCWC to not only respond but also assess and update referral services available in every district and identify the gaps that exist.
Experts anticipate that gender-based violence services will see an unprecedented level of reporting from survivors seeking help once lockdown restrictions relax and eventually end. Services must be prepared and strengthened to respond to this surge through adequate planning and long-term funding and for a nation that has institutionalized compassion in its response to the pandemic, we are confident that securing the wellbeing of our women and children will remain a priority.
While the NCWC combines efforts with CSOs in combating GBV, the UN country team in Bhutan remains committed to partner with the Royal Government of Bhutan to ensure that each and every woman and girl in need receives help and support so that no one is left behind.
A contribution from
UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, NCWC, RENEW
Within 10 days, more than one million people across the world participated in the digital running challenge—Run Wild—that lets users run with Tendrel Zangmo, a wild tiger in Bhutan being researched by the Bhutan Tiger Centre (BTC).
Tendrel Zangmo, a Royal Bengal Tiger, is a lactating mother with two cubs in the Royal Manas National Park.
The challenge also includes Adjany, an elephant and Pamoja, a pangolin.
Tendrel Zangmo had the highest number of competitors (565,197 runners), followed by Pamoja (308, 892), and Adjany (145, 430).
The campaign which ended earlier this month was aimed at giving a voice to one million species that are under threat of extinction at the UN General Assembly Biodiversity Summit. The summit, which ended on September 30, calls on heads of state to put forward ambitious actions to address biodiversity loss.
“We are one million runners in favour of a more sustainable planet where humans, animals, and everybody else on the web of life can thrive,” according to Runtastic, an Adidas running app used for the campaign.
In Bhutan, foresters, students, Bhutan run clubs and civil servants, among others, competed with Tendrel Zangmo.
There were 79 registered runners. A forester from Gelephu range, Dee Dorji ran the longest distance of 267.11km.
A forester who participated in the campaign said that within six days, he ran 50km. “To take up the challenge, one has to download the app and also read about the challenge so it informs the people about the cause, creates awareness amongst wider audience.”
Head of the BTC, Tshering Tempa (PhD), said that the predator-prey dynamic project with BTC, funded by Bhutan Foundation,provided information about Tendrel. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) helped to get the platform on Adidas runtastic to tell the story of tigers and Bhutan’s conservation efforts.
The participants were encouraged by BTC to outrun Tendrel Zangmo’s daily distance, whose running statistics is featured in the app.
UNEP and Adidas Runtastic in collaboration with Internet Elephants and other conservation organisations challenged the runners to outrun iconic endangered wild animals in a bid to rally support for biodiversity protection worldwide.
One million runners symbolised one million animal and plant species threatened with extinction, as reported by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), stated the press release from UNEP.
The first Run Wild challenge last year saw 500,000 participants try to match the distance covered over 12 days by the tracked wild snow leopard called Uuliin in Mongolia.
IPBES found that 75 percent of the land-based environment and about 66 percent of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human activities such as deforestation and land use change for agriculture, pollution and unsustainable consumption, contributing to species’ extinction.
Scientists say that there is only a short window of time to reverse the current trajectory that is inflicting wholesale human-induced environmental degradation on the planet and its web of life.
Chimi Dema | Doonglagang
With the cardamom yield almost tripled than last year, farmers in Dangereybu Maed chiwog in Doonglagang gewog, Tsirang are expecting a good income.
Purna Bahadur Pradhan, a farmer who planted cardamom on 2.5 acre-land could harvest about five mons (1mon is 40kg) this year. Last year, he harvested only around two mons.
Given the good yield this time, he said he was planning to sell the spice only after drying. He is expecting to sell at Nu 500 for a kg.
“In the previous years, I sold fresh cardamom for Nu 70 a kg,” Purna Bahadur Pradhan said.
About 100 metres climb up the bushes from his house, there is his neighbor Dhil Ram Dhimal’s cardamom orchard amid fruiting orange trees.
It is his third time harvesting from his 1.5-acre land orchard. He made around Nu 45,000 from three mons of cardamom last year.
“I am expecting around five mons this time. The yield is comparatively better than last year,” Dhil Ram said.
Another farmer, Rupa Maya Suberi, could harvest about 40 kg of cardamom from 50-decimal land.
An elderly farmer, Gopal, who is harvesting the produce is expecting about three mons.
In addition to shade canopy providing a suitable environment for cardamom, farmers attribute the good fruiting to excessive rainfall that the region received over the past months.
The gewog agriculture official, however, said that the cases were different in other chiwogs in high altitude.
“While the incessant rains have helped fruiting of cardamom in low-altitude areas, it affected flowering of spices in chiwogs of Norjangsa,” an official said. “This has affected the yield.”
Meanwhile, Dhil Ram said that although his cardamom plants did not suffer fungal diseases until now, wild animals raiding the crop is a major problem.
“I have lost about 50 kg of cardamom to wild boar this time,” he said. “We have tried various measures to protect our crops.”
Nima | Gelephu
Sarpang’s vegetable market shed, located in old Sarpang town area, lies abandoned.
Despite being centrally located, it was not poplar among farmers of Gakiling, Chhudzom, Singye, and Dekiling.
Shompangkha Gup Suk Dorji Yonjan said the farmers preferred to sell their produce in Gelephu.
The gewog hopes to revive the market with construction of a road connecting Kencholing village which has huge potential for agriculture farming.
Suk Dorji Yonjan said that the road leading to the village was frequently damaged during monsoon.
The gewog is encouraging farmers to start backyard farming.
“This is to ensure uniform farm produce from the gewog. We hope this would help make good use of the vegetable market which is underutilised today,” he said. With support from gewog, almost all the households in the gewog have started farming on at least one-acre land to encourage mass vegetable production.
This would make the best use of the structure that remains empty today.
The Nu 8 million market shed was constructed with support from the dzongkhag administration in 2014.
Gakiling Gup Nim Dorji said that the vegetable shed was constructed after the farmers were seen selling vegetables in makeshift sheds in the old Sarpang town. “The vegetable shed remained underused after people started to move to Gelephu, Sarpang Tar, and new town area in Gakiling gewog.”
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
Although the import volume is increasing with lockdown relaxation in Phuentsholing, flow and consistency is yet to pick up.
The mini dry port’s (MDP) handling capacity, many say, is the main contributing factor.
Recently, the trade office in Phuentsholing initiated an online registration of import vehicles transporting goods into Bhutan. This was introduced to maintain transparent registration procedure. Importers must register the vehicle details online a day before bringing in the goods.
This has left importers desperate, as they are not able to register their information. The online registration system, which starts at 10am and closes at 2pm allows a quota of only 40 vehicles per day.
The main reason behind this problem, importers say, is the shortage of loaders at MDP. The port is already crowded and with more vehicles coming in, there is a significant backlog.
Hem Kumar Ghalley, a retailer, said that he tried to register online five times but to no avail.
“The daily quota exhausts within two minutes after the registration opens. This problem will linger if the number of loaders is not increased at the port,” he said.
“There is internet traffic congestion, as too many people log into the system at a time.”
He has three truckloads of goods waiting in Jaigaon and demurrage (money that must be paid when goods are collected later than the agreed time) goes up. Depending on the vehicles, importers must pay up to Nu 3,000 per night.
This, Hem Kumar Ghalley said, could lead to a shortage of essentials in shops.
Large businesses such as Zimdra Impex and Tashi Commercial Store also have their goods stalled in Jaigaon.
An official of the Tashi Commercial, Subash Rana said they have 17 truckloads of goods across the border.
“Many loads coming from nearby areas such as Silliguri and Hasimara have been sent back because exporters have to bear demurrage and they fear goods will rot. Goods coming from Kolkata are still there,” he said.
Subash Rana said they were able to register yesterday. However, he said it is unsure when the goods will enter Bhutan.
A shopkeeper said the regional trade office could avoid the glitch by registering all the incoming vehicles every day and letting goods enter the country in light of the larger implication on the businesses.
The MDP’s handling capacity has also been affected by increased activities. The export of potato and apple has also begun at MDP which keeps the loaders engaged. Currently, loaders are capable of clearing just about 35 to 40 truckloads in a day.
An official from the labour office in Phuentsholing said that there are about 160 loaders now, which is more than the number prior to lockdown.
“Handling capacity is mostly affected because loaders are engaged in apples and potatoes,” he said.
“Otherwise, there is no shortage of loaders.”
The trade’s officiating regional director, Sonam Dhendup, said the primary reason behind this problem was the MDP’s handling capacity.
“Today, it has more than 100 loaders but their maximum handling capacity per day is 60 trucks.”
During the lockdown, only stranded vehicles were allowed to enter Phuentsholing. Eventually, other essential items such as food stocks, fuel and LPG, and medical supplies were allowed.
“But with relaxation, all imports were allowed. People seem to assume that the ‘normal days’ have returned,” Sonam Dhendup said.
Sonam Dhendup said before the online registration system, registration was done manually.
Many people have suggested that a separate entry point be established at Pasakha’s Allay Land Customs Station (LCS).
Sonam Dhendup said that the plan was being discussed.
“Once the containment zones are ready at the LCS, goods and commodities going to Thimphu and Paro can be done from there,” he said.
He added that congestion would be eased if importers have their own warehouses. Warehouses, he said, would have their own containment area and the importer can directly take the load to the warehouse without having to take to the MDP. The warehouses will have their own loaders.
“We are trying our best,” Sonam Dhendup said.
Out of the 80 applications they received for construction of warehouses, the trade office has already approved 49 applications.
The Task Force On October 7 issued a notification to importers, which states online registration of import vehicles will remain open from 10am to 12pm for two days (October 8 and 9). Only one registration per importer will be considered.
This change in registration applies only to “other imports”—imports that do not fall under import from third countries, import of fuel and LPG, and construction materials, and hardware items.
The date of entry of the vehicle will be based on the sequence of the registration, submission of necessary documents and handling capacity of MDP.
The online registration system will reopen once the vehicles registered on the said days are cleared.
PDP says MLCP not fit as a business place
The Thimphu thromde is rushing to meet the two-month deadline to construct vegetable markets across the city to enable vendors of the Centenary Farmers’ Market to resume business.
Construction works are going in the identified zones such as Motithang, Chang Gidaphu, and two in the Babesa area. Construction of mini vegetable markets began on September 15 and would be completed within two months. The Thromde has also started to refurbish the area identified for vendors at the two multi-level car parking (MLCP). The MLCP would be readied with platforms or counters for vendors to sell their vegetables by next Friday.
Despite criticism from various quarters, Thimphu Thrompon, Kinlay Dorjee said that as an interim measure for Covid-19 safety protocol, the CFM would remain close and the vending facility at the MLCP would remain as one of the vegetable markets in the Upper Norzin Lam zone. “MLCP is being redone and after completion of the platforms/counters there would be no dust and MLCP had enough ventilation, Thrompon said. “One should come and witness.”
The government’s decision to close the CFM had come under a lot of criticism. The latest was from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Yesterday, the party through a press release stated that if Covid-19 was the reason for closure of CFM, the MLCP was not the right place due to poor ventilation. The party’s press release stated that the abrupt closure of CFM has affected the vendors with women the most affected.
The party called upon the government to open the CFM immediately.
“CFM is a landmark and it should not close down even after satellite vegetable markets are constructed. It could operate with half the capacity and constructing satellite vegetable markets should be completed as soon as possible so that livelihood of vendors are not affected,” the press release stated.
The party also recommended spreading out customers at the CFM by increasing trading days. “We propose that the market be open seven days a week and even keep it open for night shopping,” the press release stated. “Shopping can be done based on the newly established zones on specific day and timing (morning, afternoon and evening).”
Most of the vendors who lost their business after the closure of the CFM are at home. Yesterday, a vendor was seen at the MLCP to follow up on the counter construction progress. She said that once everything was completed and all vendors move in, business would pick up. Vendors who came to sell from the MLCP complained about the dust and didn’t continue selling after a few days.
On the vendors not having space to sell, Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee said that the thromde gave vendors the choice to continue selling at CFM before the mini vegetable markets were completed, but vendors couldn’t agree among themselves. “Vendors said it was not fair for some to sell at the CFM and others at the MLCP. “So the plan was dropped,” the Thrompon said.
The CFM was abruptly closed on September 14 reasoning that the area was a high-risk area for Covid-19.
Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar
Samdrupjongkhar Covid-19 task force declared all the 11 gewogs in Samdrupjongkhar as high-risk areas yesterday.
People can now travel within the dzongkhag without restrictions.
The decision was made to ensure access to services, essential goods, and ease of doing business, among others.
According to the notification, people exiting Samdrupjongkhar to the low-risk areas would have to complete a weeklong facility quarantine and test negative during the RT-PCR test at the end of the quarantine.
The notification stated that people can travel from high-risk to high-risk areas without having to undergo a weeklong quarantine. “But they would have to undergo and declare negative during the antigen rapid test conducted within the 24 hours before their travel,” the notifications stated.
Those travelling in emergency approved by the dzongkhag and regional Covid-19 task force would have to test negative during the rapid diagnostic test (RDT) and share information with the incident commander (IC) and medical desk for surveillance.
Samdrupjongkhar dzongdag, Tharchin Lhendup, said people in the gewogs would now have to undergo mandatory facility quarantine for a week and register online for travel if they go to the low-risk areas because Samdrupjongkhar is now considered a high-risk zone.
“The gewog administrations and health officials in the basic health units (BHU) would have to arrange for the facility quarantine, and Covid testing should anyone be exiting from the gewogs henceforth,” the dzongdag said.
Meanwhile, the business community in the Samdrupjongkhar thromde are pleased with the task force’s decision as it would help revive their businesses. People were not allowed to enter the thromde from Pinchina (charkilo) until yesterday.
A shopkeeper, Namgay, said that it was challenging for them to earn Nu 1,000 a day as there were no customers. “The decision is timely and would help revive our business.”
Shopkeepers said that since most of the shops in the thromde are on rent, they were worried about the rents and loan repayments. “It would also help if the task force could increase the existing time to 9pm,” one of the businessmen said. Today, businesses have to close by 7pm.
Parliament will kick off its much-delayed fourth session on November 26, the National Assembly secretariat notified yesterday.
The National Assembly has notified ministries and agencies to submit issues of national importance latest by November 6 to the secretary of the House for deliberation and selection in the preliminary.
The House would not accept any issues if agencies fail to submit them within the given time, it added.
“It is an auspicious day to begin the upcoming session,” Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel stated.
The National Assembly, however, did not reveal the closing date. Officials said that the closing date would depend on the agenda that would be finalised by a preliminary that will be held at a later date.
The budget session was held from June 1 to 17. The National Assembly had officially said that the budget session was a continuation of the third session.
Officials said that the agenda for the upcoming session will be decided later. But the two of the items in the agenda are the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2019 (CCPC) and the Bhutan Penal Code (Amendment) Bill 2019 (PCB).
Joint committees on the two disputed bills are holding discussions on the disputed clauses of the Bills, which will be deliberated and put to vote in a joint session.
The delayed session comes at a time when crucial bills and issues are awaiting Parliament approval.
For instance, the National Council (NC) would have completed discussions on the Mines and Minerals Bill 2020, which was passed by the NA in January this year. In the absence of a new Mines and Minerals Bill, a debate has been raging over whether the state or the private sector should operate the mines and minerals businesses.
Similarly, the NA would have concluded deliberations on the Lhengye Zhungtshog Bill and Entitlement and Service Conditions (amendment) Bill for the Holders, Members and Commissioners of Constitutional Offices, which were passed by NC in the last winter session.
Bumthang court convicted two men with a non-compoundable sentence for poaching and killing a musk deer at Wangchuk Centennial National Park in Bumthang in October last year.
The men from Sephu in Wangdue, aged 30 and 38, were found making musk deer trap at Gangtseza and Labi and had killed a musk deer in the trap they made.
The defendants in the court confessed to the crime. They appealed that this was their first time. They pledged that they will not repeat and pleaded the court to pardon them.
The 30-year-old has been sentenced to three years and three months in prison.
The 38-year-old was convicted to four years 11 months and 29 days, as he was a repeat offender. He was involved in a similar poaching case in 2016.
He was released on bail last year, but he did not report to the court nor his guarantor could not trace him. He was convicted in absentia.
The court has issued an arrest warrant to police stations across the country
The musk pod has been seized from them.
A joint patrolling team of foresters and security forces intercepted them last year while they were exiting the park from Chhoekheor gewog.
The Royal Civil Service Commission’s inability to stick to its mantra – small, compact and efficient is not a surprise. It might have been the objective, but it has not worked. Contrary to what it aspired for, the size of the civil service has been growing over the years.
It is today still the biggest employer. There are 31,278 civil servants, about 4.05 percent of the total population. In a country where everybody aspires or is convinced that a government job is the most secure and the sure way to success, it has always been difficult to keep the civil service small.
Not many can look beyond a government job. That is the truth. A government job is so attractive that those working in the private sector are seen as second-class employees or unsuccessful graduates if one has not got through the civil service entry examinations. The corporate sector is growing and in some cases, more attractive than a government job, but it is always the second preference.
If we have not been able to keep the civil service small or compact, forget efficiency. Like the commission revealed, the strength of the civil service will depend on government policies. Every change in a policy would mean re-staffing or even creating new agencies. We have seen this in the last Plan. The growth in the education ministry alone was about 2,667 new recruits.
The Royal Civil Service Commission is a constitutional and an independent body, but when it comes to managing human resources, especially recruitment, it is dependent on the policies made by elected governments. The strength is directly proportional to what an elected government decides. A new agency an elected government finds important would mean a dozen more recruits.
The civil service or policymakers need not worry about the increasing number or not being able to keep it small or compact.
What they should be concerned about is efficiency.
The RCSC strives for “Excellence in service.” This is what the people need. They are concerned about efficiency in service delivery, not about the strength. If there are more people, it should translate into efficient service delivery. Is it the case? This should be the new concern.
For every 23 people, including expatriate workers, we have a civil servant. This is a manageable situation and should result in efficient service delivery. It is not. Even with focus on technology, e-governance, initiatives like government to citizens, the kind of service ministries, departments or agencies deliver is still being questioned.
The number has increased. Public service delivery, it seems has not. There are hard working civil servants and there are those who just get by without doing much. The image, however, is the latter.
There is not much the RCSC could do to restrict the number. However, it could stick to its slogan of “Excellence in Service”. This could lead to development in other sectors. It could be the answer to divert jobseekers from the government to the private.
If we could reduce the web of bureaucracy, the red tape or the lethargy developed by the job security, the study tours and the TA/DA misconstrued as source of income, it would be an automatic process where we will envy those in the private sector. The only concern for many civil servants during the pandemic is the lost opportunity of earning through TA/DA. Some even use that to bargain for a discount on school fees.
In many countries, it is quite the opposite. Many look forward to a corporate job or opportunities in the private sector if not starting their own and become employers. A government job is for the lazy and seen as the last resort. How do we change this mentality is a bigger concern than worrying about the size of civil servants.
Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue
A flash flood in Ruecheykha village, Ruebisa gewog has damaged more than three acres of ripe paddy belonging to 11 households.
According to Ruebisa gup Karma Wangdi, the flood occurred past midnight on October 4.
He said that the disaster had damaged paddy fields at a time when the harvest season was a few days away. The same flood has also damaged farm roads to Jala village.
Ruecheykha village didn’t have electricity for two days as the flash flood disrupted power lines.
Ruecheykha tshogpa Kado said that the households were provided temporary water supply as the existing water sources were damaged.
“Kitchen gardens and around 30 litchi trees and other fruits were also damaged,” he said.
Excessive rain for two days had triggered the brook above the village to flood.
Kado said that the mudslide flowed through Ruecheykha village, and damaged over five road turnings to Jala. “Then the flashflood flowed straight to the river.,” he said.
Today, the Punatsangchhu Hydroelectric Project I (PI) is clearing the roadblock between Jala bridge along the Wangdue-Tsirang highway and Ruecheykha village.
PI has its butterfly valve chamber (BVC) at Ruechyekha.
Gup Karma Wangdi said that damage report was filed to the department of disaster management and other relevant officials.
“We were hoping that PI would continue to clear the blocks to Jala. I have talked with PI officials. I hope they would help us like in the past.”
Ruecheykha village is located around 10km away from Jala. Numerous landslides along the Ruecheykha-Ula road were also reported the same night. Ula is also cut-off from the gewog today.
Tshogpa Kado said that the farmers were currently using an old path to commute.
“PI might clear the road from Jala bridge to Ruecheykha, which is around 7km. From there, if farmers are to clear the road, it would take some time.”