Deprived of tshogpas for more than a year, Rinchending and Pekharzhing demkhongs in Phuentsholing thromde now have new tshogpas following elections conducted on April 18.
Rinchending chose 28-year-old Passang Norbu Tamang, a university graduate.
“I want to organise a meeting with the people of my demkhong and invite the thrompon,” the new tshogpa said.
Passing Norbu Tamang said he would like to understand and know the thromde’s plans and work accordingly.
“I have not said I will do this and that in the campaign,” he said, adding that his main intention is to work together with the public of his demkhong.
Passing Norbu Tamang won 23 votes and his opponent Tshering Wangdi,15 votes. Only 38 voters cast their votes out of the 96 eligible voters in Rinchending constituency.
Tshering Wangdi, a former tshogpa of Rinchending had contested in the 2016 elections and lost. It was his second time contesting for the post.
Meanwhile, in Pekharzhing, two women tshogpa candidates contested for the post. Former tshogpa Tirtha Maya Mongar, who lost in the 2016 thromde elections, obtained 66 votes over Sujata Tamang’s 31 votes.
Tirtha Maya Mongar, a class eight graduate had lost by two votes in 2016. As a lone candidate then, she garnered 64 “no” votes against 62 “yes” votes.
“We have put up many plans in the last five years,” she said, adding that another five years would be an opportunity for her to fulfil the plans.
Pekharzhing tshogpa said there are three major problems she would like to address – drinking water problems and the need for a Basic Health Unit (BHU), and a primary school.
In the gewog by-election of Chukha, Kinlay, the lone tshopga candidate for Dlibkha-Lamjokha demkhong under Geling gewog won 46 “Yes” votes and five “No” votes.
Kinlay, 34, said he can’t say anything at the moment. “I am happy the people chose me and I will fulfil my responsibilities,” he said.
However, Getena’s Darga-Tshebji demkhong in Chukha and Phuentsholing Maed in Phuentsholing thromde are still without tshogpa.
Rajesh Rai | Chukha
Six men and a woman tshogpa were elected in the seven chiwogs of Gasa, Wangdue and Punakha on April 18.
Uesagang chiwog in Dangchu, Wangdue elected 62-year-old Yangka as their new tshogpa with 50 votes over 34-year-old Karma Choden who had secured 38 votes. Yangka is the oldest tshogpa elected in Wangdue.
Yangka said the people asked him to run for the post since many young ones were not willing to participate. He was the chiwog tshogpa from 2005 to 2006. The father of three, lives with his wife in Uesagang and hopes to raise the need to reconstruct Garay Goenpa Lhakhang, as pledged during his election campaign recently.
In Lembi chiwog of Kazhi, the lone candidate Kinley Gyeltshen, 26, won the election with 90 “Yes” votes over 14 “No” votes. Kinley studied until class III and became a monk for two years. After leaving the monastery, he has been working and looking after his parents in the village. “I wish to contribute to the community and serve the people,” Kinley said.
Meanwhile, Pangomo chiwog in Lingmukha, Punakha elected 28-year-old Dawa Zam as their tshogpa. The mother of one said she had wanted to contest in the local government election after five years. But with no candidates coming forward, the people and her friends urged her to contest.
She plans to help the chiwog in resolving their drinking water, irrigation and electric fencing issues. Dawa was the lone candidate and won with 41 “Yes” votes against 16 “No” votes.
Bjimithang chiwog in Dzomi gewog elected 35-year-old Namgay Tenzin after securing 71 votes against his opponents Namgay Bidha’s six and Phub Tshering’s 63 votes.
The Tanag-uesa chiwog in Dzomi, Punakha has elected 40-year-old Kencho.
In Gasa, both the vacant tshogpa posts in Laya gewog were filled. Pazhi chiwog elected its lone candidate Pema Wangchuk with 84 “Yes” votes against 16 “No” votes. While the people of Gyalza-Loongo chiwog in Laya elected 34-year-old Wangay with 59 votes against his opponent Pema Tenzin who won 36 votes.
Even as we strive to build a happy society that maximises and shares contentment among the citizens, we have left certain sections of our society, wittingly or otherwise, out on the fringes. Merits aside, we have missed to communally own our flaws. We are talking addiction problem – one of the greatest scourges of modern times.
We knew that with modern development will come challenges myriad; only we couldn’t pull ourselves to prepare. And as we moved on with grand-sounding policies and programmes, we forgot to nurture and secure our future – the youth. Here is now the reality so: rising youth unemployment that is coming down hard on the dreams and aspirations of many a young individual.
Our young people today are standing on a cliff edge, so to speak. They are faced with a choice. What they need is more than just a call. We need to bring them back in the fold.
Recovering addicts have now taken upon themselves to knock on every door to spread the message of ill effects of addiction. It will not be easy for them because they are standing on the bridge line. What they really need is support from the communities. The proceeds from this programme will provide free treatment to at least 200 addicts who are struggling to kick the habit. They are aiming for a society that is drug-free. As responsible members of society, therefore, it is incumbent on us to render support to them any which way we can.
The least we can do is allow them the space and encourage them to carry on. When persons dealing with addiction problems are committing themselves to bringing about positive change in the society, it speaks so much about the society’s weakness. Serbithang in Thimphu and Samzang in Paro are the only two rehabilitation centres we have yet, but together they are able to take in only about three clients each every three months. Every month, however, at least six clients require the help of rehabilitation centres.
Any one person’s addiction problem is our problem; compartmentalising common problem as here and there will help nobody. We welcome the initiative from the recovering addicts. At the same time, we should give them all the support.
Her Majesty the Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck granted tokha and soelra to around 700 people in Trashiyangtse as part of Her Majesty’s High-Level Advocacy Tour yesterday. Her Majesty later visited Trashiyangtse hospital.
Many Bumthaps, who rely on the potato as their main cash crop, are worried that unseasonal frost will affect their potato yield.
Tshering Dorji, 35, from Changwa village of Chokhor gewog, said he was disappointed to see his potato fields and kitchen garden covered in frost on the morning of April 16.
“The frost froze all the leaves of the green vegetables in my garden,” he said. “The green leaves, including those of potatoes, have become hard.”
Tshering said he grew potatoes on 1.20 acres of land. “Even chilli seedlings in the green house died.”
Another villager, Nado, 53, said he grew red potatoes on 60 decimals of land and the potatoes are growing well. “It was almost weeding time but the frost destroyed everything,” he said. “The smaller potato shoots disappeared.”
He said that while the potatoes will grow again, the yield will not be good. “The frost damaged my beans, cucumbers and pumpkin plants.”
One of the villagers in Jampa Lhakhang said they started experiencing unseasonal frost since last year.
Ugyen Dorji, 57, from Dekiling said that with the main cash crop damaged, he is worried about repaying his loans. He said he availed a loan of Nu 100,000 to plant potatoes. “Potatoes planted on more than an acre of land have now been damaged,” he said.
Some residents of Dekiling also said the frost damaged maize and other vegetables.
Dzongkhag agriculture officials could not be contacted.
Nima Wangdi | Bumthang
As the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, concluded the second of her three-day bilateral visit to the Kingdom, delegates and observers coined a new term to describe a state visit by a head of government: “an atmosphere beyond protocol”. There were good reasons for this.
His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen granted an audience to the Prime Minister, family members, and senior leaders of the delegation and introduced His Royal Highness The Gyalsey to the visitors. Informality as a gesture was unprecedented when Her Majesty arrived early to welcome Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for the joint inauguration of the International Conference on Autism and Neuro Development Disorders (ANDD) on the morning of April 19.
International visitors to Bhutan tend to relax as soon as they land in Paro. The 70-member Bangladeshi delegation, which included Sheikh Hasina’s family members, politicians and bureaucrats, advisors and PMO staff, diplomats, security and media, all said that they had not received such a warm and informal, yet meaningful welcome anywhere at such a level.
His Majesty The King graced the historic unveiling by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of a site for the construction of the Bangladesh Embassy at Hejo, a Thimphu suburb planned as a future diplomatic enclave. Officials of the two countries applauded the occasion which is seen as a significant stride since the first ambassador of Bangladesh presented his credentials in 1979 and an entire diplomatic corps arrived in Thimphu by bus from Dhaka. Bangladesh, both officialdom and the people, has been consistent in appreciating Bhutan as the first country to recognise Bangladesh as an independent sovereign nation in 1971.
The exchanges between Bhutan and Bangladesh is currently characterised by trade, education, health, tourism, agriculture, and communications. Three agreements signed during this visit expands the relationship to cooperation in cultural activities, including the arts, and streamlines the taxation system on cross border commercial activities.
Four Memoranda of Understanding were also signed to facilitate water routes in the two countries for transport, collaboration between academic institutions, develop and certify standards on products, and ensure that the trade of food and agricultural products between the two countries are safe and meet the requirements of the importing country.
When the media attended a press conference by Bhutan’s foreign minister, the Bangladesh media zoomed in on two issues: progress in the discussions on a trilateral agreement between Bangladesh, Bhutan, and India, on hydropower and the sub regional Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal sub regional agreement on transport. These issues, currently under active discussion, are likely to dominate sub regional talks for some time.
Compassion assumed a strong tone during the visit with the ANDD conference where autism, a disability which is little known in Bhutan, and neuro developmental disorders received close attention. It was inspiring to look beyond the normal stigma and fear connected with the disability, and at some inspiring examples of autistic people who reach out for recognition “for quality and not charity”.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been advancing the agenda of autism and other disorders in the region and globally, and her daughter, Saima Wazed Hossain, is WHO’s regional champion for autism in South Asia.
In Bhutan, autism and other special needs in the country, are gaining attention because of the patronage of Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen who is also the Royal Patron of Ability Bhutan Society inspired by the vision of His Majesty The King who advocates a compassionate and just society, an underlying goal of Gross National Happiness.
It was the spirit of peace that the members of the delegation described in several ways. A group of journalists said that they wished the visit was longer. A delegate who has accompanied the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for several state visits, said that he had never seen her so relaxed. At an informal dinner last night, a senior member of the Bangladesh delegation said that the visit was exceptional but that was only to be expected in Bhutan.
Contributed by Dasho Kinley Dorji
Former Information and Communications Secretary
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s three-day visit in the country was a success, foreign minister Damcho Dorji said at a press conference yesterday.
The Prime Minister unveiled the foundation stone plaque for the construction of the Bangladesh embassy at Hejo yesterday morning. His Majesty The King, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and other senior government officials were present at the ceremony.
During the event, the foreign ministers of Bhutan and Bangladesh signed an agreement between Bhutan and Bangladesh on the Allotment of User Right of land under Hejo Samtenling LAP. Through the agreement, Bhutan grants Bangladesh User Rights of the land measuring 65,340 sq ft or 1.5 acres for construction of the Bangladesh embassy. The Deed for the User Right of the land between the two governments was also signed at the event between the Bangladesh ambassador and National Land Commission secretary Pem Chewang.
In 2014, Bangladesh granted Bhutan land measuring 321.895 sq. metres in Baridhara Diplomatic Enclave, Dhaka for the construction of the Bhutanese embassy in Bangladesh.
PM Sheikh Hasina together with Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen inaugurated the three-day International Conference on Autism and Neuro Developmental Disorders yesterday.
Bhutan and Bangladesh signed four MoUs and three agreements including the User Rights agreement for the embassy land. The two governments held a bilateral meeting on issues of trade, culture, agriculture, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal (BBIN) motor-vehicle agreement.
Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said progress on the tripartite hydropower project has reached a final stage with numerous draft MoUs exchanged between the countries. “We’ve more or less come to an understanding on the trilateral MoU for production of hydropower,” he said.
The issue was also discussed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India earlier this month.
“This MoU will be signed at an appropriate time when the leaders of the three countries meet and we’re hopeful that it will get through and contribute immensely to cross border export of electricity in the region especially in the BBIN region.”
However, Lyonpo said that the MoU discussed at present is broad with details yet to be worked out. A steering committee formed under this MoU will discuss the details such as the modality of power export.
“Bhutan had several discussions with Bangladesh and India and is very keen to export electricity to Bangladesh,” Lyonpo said.
The BBIN, Lyonpo said, is a good initiative. “The BBIN motor-vehicle agreement is very important for connectivity in the region, which is one of the non-tariff barriers for trade,” Lyonpo said. He said the region is way behind in trade compared to the ASEAN region. The net worth of inter-trade in the region is five percent of the trade by SAARC countries with others.
“For Bhutan, a landlocked country, we know the value of connectivity,” the minister said. “Therefore, we have been supportive of the BBIN agreement.”
However, Lyonpo said the public and the parliamentarians had some serious concerns because the implementation of the BBIN motor-vehicle agreement could result in seeing a huge influx of vehicles including passenger cars. But Lyonpo said there are certain provisions in the agreement and protocols, which will protect the interests of the respective countries.
The minister said that infrastructure concerns include damage to environment, waste management and extra import of fuel, which is already a burden on the national exchequer.
Bhutan also reiterated its interest to establish a third gateway for internet connectivity from Bangladesh during the bilateral talk with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. “As Bhutan is developing its ICT, there will be huge requirement for quality international broadband,” Lyonpo said.
In trade, Lyonpo said Bhutan exempted 90 products from Bangladesh and the latter exempted import duty on 18 products from Bhutan. Bangladesh is the only country with which it has a trade surplus. In 2016, Bhutan exported goods worth Nu 2.3 billion and imported goods worth Nu 268 million.
“We have assured the government of Bangladesh that we’ll explore ways in which we can increase imports so as to ensure there is no substantial trade difference between the two countries,” he said. “We’re also discussing import duty exemption for 16 products with Bangladesh.”
Bangladesh and Bhutan established diplomatic relations on April 12, 1973.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina leaves today.
Although Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects an estimated 1 in 160 people globally, it is an often overlooked and misunderstood public health issue, regional director for WHO South-East Asia Region, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said at the international conference on autism and neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs), yesterday in Thimphu.
Stigma, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said is one of the reasons. “Part is fear and part is even the diverse symptoms of the disorder itself.” But the most dominant reason, she said, is the lack of awareness of what ASD is and how it can be managed.
“This applies as much to health systems and health care workers as it does to the general public,” she said.
Given ASD’s impact on individuals, families and communities, positive change is needed, both socially and systemically, she said.
Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay graced the inaugural session at the Convention Centre in Thimphu. The Gyaltsuen also launched the Guideline for Differently Abled Friendly Construction developed by the ministry of works and human settlement.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said autism and other special needs in Bhutan are gaining attention due to the gracious patronage of Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen who is also the Royal Patron of Ability Bhutan Society.
Lyonchoen said there is sympathy for autistic children. “But that is not what they need. More than sympathy, they need our love, understanding and support at all levels at home and in schools by teachers and classmates,” he said. “On the part of governments, we need the right polices which puts people at the centre of all development policies.”
In the age of innovations, speedy technological developments and miracle drugs, Lyonchoen said that the hope is on science to find answers to treat autism and NDDs.
“In the mean time, your hard work and dedication; your love and compassion; your generosity of spirit constitute effective treatment for the wellbeing of the people and their families living with autism spectrum disorder and neurological disorders,” Lyonchoen said.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said it is encouraging to see many great clinicians, researchers and policy makers convened together for the betterment of individuals and families with ASD and NDDs. “No matter where on the spectrum they are, they all deserve to live in dignity and be loved by people around them,” she said.
Since its clinical recognition as a developmental disorder in 1944, ASD continues to be a significant health issue around the world today, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said.
“Based on studies conducted over the past 50 years, ASD can be termed as the fastest growing serious developmental disability,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said. “This warrants us to look at the core issues related to ASD comprehensively.”
Some 350 participants including senior government leaders, policy makers, experts and activists, among others from around the world attended the first day of the three-day conference. The theme of the conference is to develop effective and sustainable multi-sectorial programmes for individuals, families and communities living with ASD and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
Health minister Tandin Wangchuk said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has brought together government leaders, policy makers, experts and activists from around the globe to spread awareness on autism.
“With Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen as the Patron of ABS and with Her Majesty’s leadership, we are confident that we can integrate and mainstream disability friendly environment in Bhutan,” Lyonpo said.
Lyonpo said that Bhutan’s collaboration with WHO on disability dates back to the late 90s when the country initiated the Community Based Rehabilitation Programme.
Lyonpo also acknowledged the contribution of Ms Siama Hossian, Chairperson of Shuchona Foundation in advancing the agenda of autism.
The health ministry, Bhutan and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Bangladesh are hosting the conference with technical support from Shuchona Foundation, ABS, and the World Health Organization South-East Asia Regional Office. The conference ends tomorrow.
After securing 85 votes of the total 104 votes cast through the electronic voting machine (EVM), Sonam Choden was elected as the tshogpa for Doongchilo-Kholomri demkhong in Dechheling gewog yesterday in Pemagatshel.
Pemagatshel now has five female tshogpas and a female mangi. Winning by a landslide, Sonam Choden defeated two male candidates, Choni Dorji who secured eight EVM votes and two postal ballots and Thinley Tenpa, who got 13 votes including two postal ballots.
Sonam Choden had resigned as a teacher in 1996 due to domestic problems and have been living in the village since then.
The election for vacant demkhong was conducted after three demkhongs in Pemagatshel remained vacant during the second local government election last year.
After losing the post for mangmi last year, Tashi Dorji yesterday secured 22 Yes Votes of the 27 and is now the tshogpa of Woonborang demkhong.
Winning 36 ‘Yes’ and seven ‘No’ votes through EVM and six postal ballots, 25-year old class XII graduate Rinchen Tenpa is the new tshogpa of Namdaling demkhong. The demkhong had remained vacant after the people voted out their former tshogpa.
However in Samdrupjongkhar, three demkhongs still remain vacant with no candidates contesting for the election. The three demkhongs are Tshoduen and Damsagang Toed in Samrang gewog and Tshothang in Lauri gewog.
With 10 ‘Yes’ votes, Yoezer Dorji was elected as the new thromde tshogpa for Samdrupjongkhar toed constituency. His election has now filled all six constituencies in Samdrupjongkhar thromde.
Securing 91 votes, Chojay Norbu defeated Sangay Dorji to become the tshopga for Rikhay demkhong in Dewathang gewog while Pema Gyeltshen with 62 yes votes and five no votes, is the new tshogpa of Martang demkhong.
Rinzin, who had lost in the second local government election, secured 57 ‘Yes’ votes and 51 ‘No’ votes to become the tshogpa of Nabar_Philooma demkhong in Orong gewog.
Yeshi Wangchuk is the new tshogpa of Betseling_Doongmanma demkhong in Lauri gewog after securing 106 ‘Yes’ votes and eight ‘No’ votes.
Meanwhile, Dzongkhag election officer Norbu Wangdi said another round of election would be held for the vacant demkhongs if candidates come forward to contest.
Yangchen C Rinzin | Samrupjongkhar
Namgay Dorji, 51, was elected as the Mongar thromde ngotshab (representative).
He secured 41 votes while his opponents, Dema Yangzom and Damcho Dema secured 13 and three votes each.
Namgay Dorji worked as a civil servant before turning to business in the town.
He said that with his experience in dealing with the public of Mongar thromde, he can bring development in the area. He was the thromde chimi for three years from 2005 to 2007.
He said that Mongar thromde faces drinking water shortage, sewerage problems, lack of street lights and traffic congestion. “I would install a CCTV system in the town.”
The two other contestants, Dema Yangzom, 43, and Damcho Dema, 40, are also businesswomen in the town.
Of the 193 registered voters in Mongar thromde, 57 cast their votes in the Mongar Lower Secondary School polling station yesterday.
Meanwhile, four tshogpas were elected for chiwogs in Gondue, Silambi, Saling and Tsakaling gewogs.
Daagsa-Kumadzong chiwog has elected Rigzang. He secured 51 votes while his opponent Sonam Wangchuk secured 50 votes.
Pema Dorji was elected as Daag-Silambi chiwog tshogpa. The lone candidate secured 36 ‘Yes’ votes.
Seng-Gor chiwog elected Sonam Wangchuk with 56 ‘Yes’ votes. Of the 184 eligible registered voters, 67 turned out to vote.
In Drongtoed Tormazhong chiwog, Karma Dechen was elected as tshogpa with 68 ‘Yes’ votes. Of the 382 registered voters, 77 turned out to vote.
In Lhuentse, two tshogpas were elected for Jarey and Tshenkhar gewogs.
In Yumche chiwog, Sangay Chophel was elected after he secured 21 ‘Yes’ votes. Forty people from the chiwog voted.
Tshering Tobgay was elected in Dekiling Tshochen chiwog. Four candidates contested for the post.
Tashi Phuntsho | Mongar
With the up-gradation of Autsho Middle Secondary School in Lhuentse to a central school, more students have been seeking admission which is straining the school’s already congested hostel.
Of the 472 students in the school, 303 are boarders, and some students also have to share a single bed.
A class 10 student said that the number of boarding students is increasing with more opting to join the central school. “When the number increases, it puts pressure on the limited rooms and beds.”
Another student said that the rooms are so congested that odor has become a problem. “We can’t study,” the student said.
The students said the condition of their hostel has been poor for the last two years.
The school’s principal, Chador Tenzin, said the school was upgraded in 2015 and students have been living in congested hostels. “But the problem will be solved once construction of a 120-bed hostel is completed,” he said.
Construction for new hostels for boys and girls, six more classrooms, a dinning hall, two toilets, and teacher quarters are ongoing.
The principal said only students from pre-primary to class III share beds. “The other students have their own beds.”
The Khartsa construction company manager, Tenzin, who is carrying out the work, said 90 percent of the hostel is complete and they will handover the hostels by the end of July this year.
The Government of India funded the Nu 73 million hostel construction.
Tashi Phuntsho | Lhuentse
With tshogpa elections held yesterday in three chiwogs of Thimphu’s Lingzhi gewog, the gewog now has a tshogde. The gewog was without a tshogde or decision-making body.
The three tshogpa-elects are Samten from Khangkiyuel, Ugyen Penjore from Gangkiyuel and Dechen Tshomo from Chakphu.
From the total of five constituencies the gewog is made up of only one tshogpa was elected in the second local government elections that concluded in September last year.
There were only three elected members in the gewog – the gup, the mangmi and a tshogpa. Only one chiwog – Chuzarkha – does not have a tshogpa, but the gewog tshogde now has a tshogde quorum.
Lingzhi mangmi Tenzin Zangpo said the chiwog’s tshogpa candidate was disqualified. “The election commission found that the candidate was a party member,” he said.
There should be at least five elected members to constitute a quorum for a gewog tshogde. A gewog administration is handicapped without a quorum since important decisions must be endorsed by a tshogde.
Gewog budgets have to be endorsed by a tshogde. Lingzhi gup, Wangdi, in an earlier interview with Kuensel said the gewog administration faced difficulties when it came to allocation of gewog development grants (GDG).
In absence of tshogpas, chiwogs were not represented properly in a gewog tshogde. Most gewogs had gewog tshogdes but they did not have tshogpas in all chiwogs.
The election commission last month announced yesterday’s elections. With the yesterday’s election, the local government is expected to take its full shape.
There were four thromde ngotshab posts, equivalent of the mangmi post, up for grabs in Gasa, Mongar, Pemagatshel and Paro towns. Another 52 chiwog tshogpa and five thromde tshogpa posts remained to be filled.
The video clip of a vehicle hitting a traffic signpost at high speed in Thimphu, and then flipping over twice before settling in a flower bed is currently viral on social media. The occupants of the accident escaped relatively unharmed. Fortunately, no one else was injured in the accident. It could have been much worse.
The cause of the accident: driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
It is ironic that the accident occurred in front of the police headquarters in Thimphu.
In spite of the police’s “zero tolerance” measure on the weekends, there is an impudence on display. People continue to tolerate drink or drunk driving and ignore the risks and potential consequences, both in terms of penalties and accidents.
In 2016, there were 2,470 registered cases of drink driving in the country. So far this year, there have already been 466 cases going by records provided by the Road Safety and Transport Authority. Last month, there were 137 violations related to drink driving which averages to around four violations a day.
In 2014, there were 160 accidents related to drink driving. This increased to 195 of 574 accidents in 2015, which was 34 percent of all accidents.
With vehicle and pedestrian traffic increasing, drink driving will only get more dangerous, not only to occupants of vehicles but pedestrians as well. Many lives could be destroyed or lost because of one single impaired driver.
We must get a message across that drink driving will not be tolerated.
The police chose to upload the video clip of the recent accident. The question is whether drivers will change their habits by seeing such footage. Some police agencies abroad have gone further and adopted controversial naming and shaming policies of drunk drivers. There are supporters and there are critics of such an approach. There are legal issues and there is also no clear evidence that such policies have been effective in deterring the drunk driver.
While we would not encourage the police to resort to such an extreme measure for now, however, we would like to see stronger penalties.
Going by the numbers, the current fine of Nu 1,750 is not enough of a deterrent. The fine has to be increased. However, only increasing the fine is not enough.
Those who are caught driving under the influence of controlled substances should also have their driving privileges suspended for a certain period and made to undergo counselling, perhaps also be made to raise awareness on the dangers of drink driving or aid the police during their “zero tolerance” days. Repeat offenders should be dealt with harshly and have their licenses permanently cancelled.
We would also like to see the police conduct more surprise checks. For instance, most drivers are now aware on which days and at which spots the traffic police will be stationed to conduct breathalyser checks, and therefore avoid these areas. The police need to be more dynamic in how they enforce the law and conduct random inspections throughout the week.
Lastly, the responsibility falls on us the public to drive responsibly and ensure our family and friends also do so, and prevent unnecessary death and destruction from occurring.
MoU gives Bhutan alternative sea routes through the ports in Chittagong and Mongla
Bhutan and Bangladesh signed six memoranda of understanding including two agreements in the presence of the two prime ministers on the first day of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit yesterday.
Renewal of the Agreement on Culture Cooperation between the two countries is expected to encourage hosting of cultural art exhibitions, provide support through scholarships, and training and research in the field of art and culture. “It will strengthen cooperation in the field of culture, promote mutual understanding and knowledge between the peoples of the two countries,” a press release from the foreign ministry stated.
The agreement for Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income will clarify the taxing rights of both countries on forms of income flows arising from cross-border business activities. The agreement is expected to minimise the double taxation of such income, which is expected to reduce barriers to cross-border investment and boost trade and economic flows between the two countries.
The MoU on Use of Inland waterways for Transportation of Bilateral Trade and Transit Cargoes between the two countries serve as an instrument to initiate the use of feasible inland water transport routes for trade.
The Royal University of Bhutan (RUB), Bhutan and Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD), Comilla, Bangladesh, through the MoU signed yesterday, would establish mutual collaboration and reinforce the academic relationship between the two institutions and strengthen capacity for sustainable development.
The MoU between Bhutan Standards Bureau (BSB), and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI), will assist the two agencies in the development of standards, exchange information on product certification, recognise test certificates and support each other in the field of metrology and calibration services.
Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA), and the Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh will ensure that the trade of food and agricultural products between the two countries are safe and meet the requirements of the importing country.
The inland water route, stretching from Indian territory through the Brahmaputra river until Mongla and Chittagong in Bangladesh, will soon be accessible to Bhutan.PM Sheikh Hasina arrived at the Paro International Airport on a Drukair flight yesterday PM Sheikh Hasina inspects the Guard of Honour Well wishers on the Paro-Thimphu highway display an offering of fruits to the visiting prime minister Students welcome the prime minister along the Paro-Thimphu Highway
While Bangladesh has allowed Bhutan to use its inland water transport routes for cargo since in 2012, the two countries were sharing and working on the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and protocol until now. The agreement was expected to be signed in 2012. To date, Bhutan has been using the Kolkata seaport for export and import of goods to third countries. The realisation of this agreement is expected to provide Bhutan with alternative sea routes. The ports in Chittagong and Mongla have inland water connectivity, which will reduce the time and cost of transportation.
The secretarial level meeting between Bhutan and Bangladesh held in March this year also decided to work on the MoU between the Bhutan Standards Bureau (BSB) and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) to recognise each other’s standards and classifications. The meeting also decided to come up with a MoU between the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) and the agriculture ministry of Bangladesh to accept each other’s testing and certification. This MoU is a move to remove non-tariff barriers.
Secretary in-charge of the Bangladesh commerce ministry, Shubashish Bose at the meeting last month said the two countries have immense potential in trade but not much has been explored. He cited the example of Bhutan’s hydropower potential and its benefit to both the countries.
Bhutan’s major export items to Bangladesh are mineral products, food items, fruits, beverages and oat. Bangladesh’s exports to Bhutan include garments, computer accessories, dry food, pharmaceuticals, toiletries and textile items.
In a landmark trade agreement signed between the government of Bangladesh and Bhutan on November 7, 2009, the government of Bangladesh had agreed to eliminate tariff on 18 major agricultural products Bhutan exports to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is the only country with which Bhutan has a trade surplus. Total trade between the two countries has grown from Nu 1.98 billion in 2015 to Nu 2.62 billion last year.
On the invitation of His Majesty The King, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has arrived in the country yesterday on a three-day state visit yesterday.
His Majesty The King granted an audience to the Prime Minister and her family members at the Tashichhodzong. She was escorted in a traditional chipdrel ceremony and presented a Guard of Honour by the armed forces at the dzong before the audience.
Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay, cabinet ministers, the ambassador of Bangladesh to Bhutan, and senior government officials received the Prime Minister at the Paro International Airport. Hundreds of school children and residents greeted PM Sheikh Hasina along the highway to Thimphu.
The Prime Minister also met with Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay in the evening and held wide ranging bilateral discussions on the aspects of bilateral relations including trade, education, health, tourism, agriculture and connectivity.
Lyonchoen hosted a banquet in honour of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh at the Royal Banquet Hall after the signing of Memoranda of Understanding between the two countries.
PM Sheikh Hasina will join Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen to inaugurate the three-day the International Conference on Autism and Neuro Developmental Disorders today. The Prime Minister will also chair a high level discussion on “Enabling countries to successfully address autism and other neuro developmental disorders as part of their sustainable development goals” of the conference in the afternoon.
The Prime Minister will also unveil the foundation stone for the Chancery of the Bangladesh embassy at Hejo today.
In her first visit to the country, PM Sheikh Hasina visited Bhutan with a 48-member delegation on a four-day state visit in November 2009. It was also her first bilateral visit in the South Asian region since she was elected as prime minister in December 2008. The two countries signed the Bhutan-Bangladesh bilateral trade agreement on November 7, 2009.
Relations between Bhutan and Bangladesh go back to 1971 when Bangladesh emerged as an independent country. Diplomatic relations between the two countries was established in 1973 and resident missions were set up in 1980. Bhutan was among the first countries to recognise independent Bangladesh.
The visit is expected to provide an opportunity to renew and further strengthen the existing bonds of friendship and cooperation between Bhutan and Bangladesh.
“These visits are important because they will provide further impetus to the close ties of friendship and cooperation and understanding between the two countries,” foreign minister Damcho Dorji told Bhutanese media in a recent meeting. “So we attach a lot of importance to this state visit.”
Firefighters and volunteers are currently battling a forest fire in Khotokha, Wangdue that began around 3pm on April 16. It is not known how many acres have been destroyed so far. Those fighting the fire include Royal Bhutan Army and Royal Bhutan Police personnel, forest rangers, dzongkhag and gewog officials, local leaders, Desuups, and local community members, among others.
The Bhutan Standards Bureau (BSB) approved the standards on road signage in the country on April 7.
The Department of Roads (DoR) will now implement the road signage standard through out the country.
The standard, ‘Road Safety Signs and Symbols’, according to DoR and BSB officials, was developed to standardise road safety signs and symbols to ensure its consistent use since there was a need for a common method to communicate safety information with continued growth in international trade, travel and mobility of workers.
Officials said that generally, road signs contain instructions that the road users are required to obey and other necessary information such as to warn about hazards, provide directions on routes, and destinations, among others.
DoR’s chief engineer, Dorji Tshering, said DoR had a consultative meeting with all the relevant agencies, which includes officials from Bhutan Telecom, Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), traffic police, project DANTAK and the information and communications ministry on April 14.
The road safety standard, which is now being printed, is expected to be distributed throughout the country within a week or two.
The standard, officials say, prescribes the general requirement for development and layout of road safety signs and road markings to be used in Asian/national highways, dzongkhags, thromdes and gewog roads.
The standard states that the colour of the mandatory or regulatory sign shall have a white background with a red border and black graphical symbol. “The signs shall be with white legends on standard green backgrounds,” the standard states. “Green for highways and blue for thromde and other roads with black or white legend.”
It also states that the Dzongkha words shall be larger in size than English words and Dzongkha words are to be placed above the English.
Officials from BSB and DoR say that the standard will then be made a mandatory document. “The standard will prohibit the use of other signs that are not mentioned in it,” BSB’s research officer, Tashi Tenzin said.
He also said that the standard was developed by BSB’s graphical symbol technical committee, which not only develops standards on road safety signs and symbols but also has plans to work on standardisation of sign boards, signs and symbols for different areas like trekking routes, sacred sites and other areas for uniform application of signs and symbols that concern public safety as per international standards.
Dorji Tshering said that the standard is a regulatory document. “Any standard by itself is not regulatory but only when an agency choses to adopt it, it becomes a regulatory document,” he said. “MoWHS, as the relevant agency, will make it a mandatory document.”
Meanwhile, DoR officials in Paro replaced the wording on a project DANTAK signboard that states “DANTAK welcomes you to Paro” to “Paro welcomes you to Bhutan”.
DoR officials said that while they replaced the wording of the signboard on Friday, they had to redo it yesterday after receiving online feedback on grammatical errors.
An official said that the change of wording on the signboard is a temporary measure and the works and human settlement ministry will take a permanent measure later.
Power tiller hiring services suffered delays last year mainly from the organisation change, as Agriculture Machinery Centre handed the mandate to the newly established Farm Machinery Corporation Ltd (FMCL), officials said.
Of the 2,667 acres targeted for farm mechanisation last year across the country, the FMCL achieved only 14.08 percent, which is 375.4 acres in its four regional centers in Paro, Sarpang, Trashigang, and Wangdue.
In Paro and Sarpang dzongkhags, where it has farm mechanisation projects, it achieved a progress of 22 percent of the 6,372 acres that would benefit 908 households between July 2016 and March 2017. Paro centre could only achieve 13 percent of the 3,690 acres so far covering only 279 acres. Sarpang covered 24 percent of the initial target of 2,682 acres to date.
“Since the FMCL was in transition period we could not focus,” FMCL Chief Executive Officer, Karma Thinley said yesterday in Paro during the third joint coordination committee meeting of the Strengthening Farm Mechanisation Project Phase II, which is supported by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Other factors for the poor achievement were long procedure for spare parts procurement, new staff recruitment, and that the target period started after the paddy cultivation season was over.
He said that the corporation hopes to do better in the up coming paddy cultivation season. The corporation will distribute 200 liters of fuel for every gewog in time for the paddy cultivation season this year.
Karma Thinley said that mechanics would visit the gewogs once a month for maintenance. FMCL has recruited 10 graduates as its dzongkhag focal persons, and 87 power tiller operators.
The FMCL has distributed 435 units of power tillers of which 70 are Kubota, 331 are Yanmar, and 39 sets are mini power tiller sets. There will also be spare parts distributed to all gewogs by the end of this year.
Karma Thinley said farmers would not need to import ploughs and die, parts of power tillers required to till the fields. “We have enough stock to last for two years,” he said.
He said FMCL would soon have enough stock of rice and wheat thrashers to meet local demand. “These are the most significant outputs of FMCL,” he said.
JICA chief representative Koji Yamada said farm mechanization would not only help the growing aging population in the farms in rural parts of the country but also make agriculture attractive to the youth.
Agriculture secretary Rinzin Dorji said the AMC has to be mindful of the safety aspects. Distributing pamphlets on the use of machines have to be in Dzongkha as most farmers are not literate in English.
The corporation is also asked to look into the possibility of developing a mobile application, which has information on how to repair the machines or maintain them.
“This way they can save a lot of time and money for they need not come all the way to Paro or regional machinery centers and could allow farmers to do small repairs on their own,” the agriculture sectary said.
Rinzin Dorji said land development is going to be a major activity in the 12th Plan and that farm mechanisation is going to play a critical role for the program.
Karma Thinley said given that both the Agriculture Machinery Centre and FMCL need support to train their staff and infrastructure, the ministry and JICA have to discuss of continuing support after the technical cooperation project completes next year.
The eToken mobile app was selected as the best idea pitched at the third edition of Startup Weekend (Technology edition) held at the Thimphu TechPark in Thimphu, according to an information and communications ministry press release.
The eToken mobile app is a digital solution for token systems in institutions like banks and hospitals. The first runner up was REACH Bhutan, an online platform for Bhutanese CSOs to sell their products online, while the third runner up was Bhutan Taxi, a mobile app for hiring taxis.
Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event, which brings aspiring entrepreneurs together to allow them to share and generate ideas, create sustainable business models and solutions to real world problems, test their ideas and meet potential partners, and launch the idea.
The event was hosted in collaboration with Techstars, the Department of IT & Telecom and the Department of Employment.
Information and communications minister DN Dhungyel awarded prizes to the participants.
The event ended on April 16.
The construction of a second gate that will connect Phuentsholing and Jaigaon will be completed by the end of this month.
The gate will function as an entry point between the two bordering towns.
The additional district magistrate of Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, and Bhutanese officials visited the construction site of the concrete gate at Bau Bazaar a month ago.
Phuentsholing Drungpa Karma Rinchen said the Jalpaiguri district magistrate verbally assured that the gate will be completed and launched by mid April.
“We want it to be ready as soon as possible,” the drungpa said.
Karma Rinchen also said that the director of the Department of Law and Order (DLO) and the home secretary, during their visits, advised the drungkhag office and the thromde to expedite all the required tasks without delay.
Meanwhile, the second gate is expected to allow two-way entry and exit once it is completed.
The gate is expected to help in decongesting traffic in Phuentsholing.
Heavy vehicles are expected to ply through the second gate and join the highway at the existing Omchhu bridge.
Although another bridge near the present crocodile farm has been approved by the Phuentsholing thromde in order to divert heavy vehicle traffic, it is likely that construction of the bridge will take time to complete, as the work has not yet started.
As the second gate will also have to go through Omchhu at the confluence of Amochhu near the YDF area, construction of another major bridge has been approved. “The construction was halted because the bridge design had to be changed.”
The thromde is constructing a submersible bridge so that the second gate will have road access.
Thromde officials said they floated a tender to establish offices for police, customs, forest, and the Bhutan Agriculture Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA), which will be funded by the government.
Meanwhile, the construction of the gate at Bau Bazaar in Jaigaon is ongoing. A gate from the Bhutanese side has already been installed.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing