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Updated: 1 hour 24 min ago

World renowned mathematician speaks on the universe’s language

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 17:02

There is more to mathematics than the regular numeric calculations and textbook interpretations. Mathematics is the language of the universe, explained Professor Marcus du Sautoy during the 18th Friday Forum at the Royal Institute for Governance and Strategic Studies in Phuentsholing.

Sautoy is the Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.

“It helps us to understand the universe,” he said. “Nature is doing mathematics.”

One of the simplest examples of mathematics people always come across, Professor Marcus du Sautoy pointed out was the universally popular shape of the hexagon.

A beehive and a snowflake are hexagonal and there is a modest reason to why it is like that. In the case of the beehive, it is a costly matter for the bees to make wax. It takes a lot of time and energy. But the hexagon uses the least amount of wax. The professor explained that this tactic was nature’s way of working in the most efficient manner.

Elaborating further on nature and mathematics, Sautoy described nature as a “lazy person” as it is always looking for the most efficient techniques so that less energy is consumed.

The sphere is another example of how nature is using mathematics to save energy. The sphere has the smallest surface area of all shapes so that the energy used is the lowest.

It was Sautoy’s childhood dream of travelling to different parts of the world that led him to mathematics. Initially, he wanted to learn as many languages as he could and signed up for numerous language classes.

However, a teacher later introduced him to mathematics and recommended a book. There was no stopping him after that.

Sautoy has also authored books such as The Music of the Primes and Finding Moonshine. His latest work is What We Cannot Know which was published last year.

“I was surprised to know mathematics as a language,” Sautoy said, adding that math is linked to the secret of efficiency.

The human race understands that nature uses less energy, and so humans can and have been exploiting this.

There are geometric and numeric expressions of mathematics. Symmetry in terms of geometry, for example, is the language to communicate. A symmetric arrangement of a flower, for instance, attracts bees.

“Perfect symmetry in a face is a sign of beauty,” Sautoy said. “Symmetry communicates information among people.”

Citing Carl Jung’s explanation of the mandala as the psychological expression of the totality of the self, Sautoy explained that the mandala is “full of symmetry.”

During the forum, the mathematician also dwelled on the Fibonacci numbers and prime numbers, which he said were nature’s favourite numbers. Even before humans discovered these numbers, nature was always using these numbers, he said.

Sautoy pointed out that the insect, magicicada septendecim, cleverly uses prime numbers to avoid predators for survival. This insect hides in the ground and emerges only every 17 years. It breeds and dies after coming out of the ground.

There is also another insect species that comes out only once every 13 years.

Prime numbers are also used in decoding messages on the internet. “If you know your math, you survive in this world,” the professor said.

Answering a question from the audience in regards to mathematics and women, Sautoy said that it was important to break down the stereotype that only men are good at maths. Some of the best mathematicians in the world today are women, he pointed out.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

First basketball All-Star game sees high turnout

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 17:01

From jaw dropping dunks, to smooth alley oops and creative layups, the All-Star basketball match on March 18 had it all.

The Swimming Pool Complex in Thimphu was filled to capacity to witness the first ever All-Star game in the country. But more than the game, the excitement was for the three complementary contests: the 3-point shoot out, and the dunk and freestyle layup contests.

The contest had the audience on their feet the whole time. Over the years, basketball in the country has evolved and on Saturday, the All-Star game was another milestone in the game’s evolution in Bhutan.

Much to the surprise of the spectators, a handful of players pulled off some of the most stupendous dunks that left many on the edge of their seats. A two-handed dunk by Chundu of team RBA could not be matched by his competitors.

In the 3-point shootout, the nimble Lhendup D Dorjey bagged the Nu 2,000 prize. In the freestyle layup contest, Jigme Yonten from Jumpers was unanimously declared the winner for his reverse layup.

Of the 10 clubs participating in the on-going Pepsi A-League, two players from each team competed in the All-Star game. Team-A consisting of two players each from Wizards, Phojas, RBA, Drukpas and Effects defeated Team-B –Thimphu Magics, Jachungs, Pazaps, Jumpers and Jaguars – 77-60.

The main event of the day was an equally matched game with the elite players in the country battling out for supremacy. However, it seemed that there was no pressure on the players to win the competition, as the game was more of an exhibition of individual skills than the final score.

Nevertheless, the game managed to entertain the spectators with some remarkable moves and at times with a few funny moments. Jamyang Namgyel of Team-A from Wizards made 16 points, the highest in the game. With 11 rebounds, Karma Wangchuk of Thimphu Magics pulled down the most rebounds. He was also declared the MVP (most valuable player) of the match.

The highest number of steals in the game came from Kesang Phuntsho (Phojas) of Team-A with seven.

Jamyang Namgyel made the highest number of assists during the game with seven.

The climax of the day however came when an eight-year-old student won the open free-throw contest. Kinley Wangyel, a class II student of Changangkha middle secondary school shot a series of baskets to win a pair of Nike basketball shoes.

Younten Tshedup

His Majesty The King grants Audience to scholarship students

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 17:00

His Majesty The King granted an Audience to 160 undergraduate scholarship students from across the country, who will be pursuing their education in diverse fields in colleges around the world.

The students are class 12 toppers, who will be studying medicine; pharmacy; microbiology; speech therapy; audiology; agricultural sciences; food science technology; veterinary science; civil, electrical, mechanical, chemical, water, mining and aeronautical engineering; avionics; architecture; construction management; geology; telecommunications; geographic information system; statistics; software development; meteorology; chemistry; actuarial science; hotel management and catering technology; culinary arts; tourism management; fashion design; interior design; animation; cinema; film and media production; marketing; herbal production; naturopathy and yogic science; mass communication, journalism and advertising; and fine arts, in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

His Majesty shared the national vision of Bhutan, and described how the students can play their role in nation building.

Focus point

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 15:16

Picture story

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 15:14

Her Majesty the Queen Mother Tshering Pem Wangchuck who is the president of the Youth Development Fund (YDF) graced the inauguration ceremony of a bridge, named the Kuenphen Zam, in Tshaluna yesterday. The bridge connects Thimphu and the Chimithangka community, and YDF’s new rehabilitation centre in Chimithangka. The bridge was constructed by Project DANTAK at a cost of Nu 5 million.

Bhutan’s national goals aligned with SDGs

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 15:14

As Bhutan strides into the last mile of its graduation from the Least Developed Country (LDC) category, the country needs to share its stories and innovations that allow policy makers around the world to take happiness seriously,  Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said during the Round Table Meeting that concluded two days ago.

The Gross National Happiness (GNH) Survey 2015 that reaches out to the people in an effort to gauge their well being, the drive to protect the country’s unique but vulnerable culture, the fact that Bhutan is ahead of the world when it comes to the environment; fighting climate change, free education and health care facilities despite the limited resources, are all but examples of local innovations that must be shared with the world, according to the Prime Minister.

While LDC graduation could result in reduced concessional loans, higher membership fees to global organisations and limited assistance, if the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are truly sustainable then Bhutan is on the right track.

This is because the country’s development plans are closely integrated with the SDGs, which in turn are in resonance with the principles of GNH.

The SDGs, officially known as “transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” is a set of 17 aspirational global goals with 169 targets.

Speaking on the linkages between the GNH principles and SDGs during the Round Table Meeting, the foreign ministry’s director of the multilateral affairs department, Doma Tshering said Bhutan’s transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to the SDGs and integrating those into the national plans has been a fairly seamless process as there is much complementarity between the SDGs and GNH.

She said that both advocate a holistic, people and planet centric, and poverty eradication approach. One SDG goal that does not fit directly into the national plan is pertaining to the goal of protecting oceans, seas and marine resources. “But the country fully appreciates that goal,” she said.

As far as the 11th Plan is concerned, she said that the rapid integrated assessment conducted by the United Nations reveals that 143 of 169 SDG targets are relevant for Bhutan in 11th Plan. Of the 143 targets,134 were found already integrated into the 11th Plan, illustrating a high level of alignment.

“It is not surprising that the GNH survey also revealed an increase in the level of happiness among the people,” she added.

The 16 national key result areas of the 11th Plan are also harmonised with 14 SDGs.

More synergies are pointed out in the 12th Plan as the 16 national key result areas are directly correlated to 16 out of 17 SDG goals.

For Bhutan, she said GNH is clearly the way forward as it enables the country to work resolutely in realising the SDGs.

While the country may face development challenges as it graduates from the LDC category, participants attending the meeting said this approach ensures a transformative change that is sustainable.

The country’s national plans, which is GNH based, are not only aligned with SDGs but other global development agendas such as the MDGs, Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA), the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the Beijing Platform, among others.

Tshering Dorji

Education ministry to reinvestigate Tendu Central School party

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 15:12

The education ministry will reinvestigate whether a karaoke party held on the Tendu Central School campus involved a bar and smoking zone following the availability of new information.

Education minister Norbu Wangchuk said that the ministry has called for a reinvestigation. “A ministerial level investigation will be conducted,” Lyonpo said.

The minister claimed that new information has been received from Samtse. “The new information is that as per our informants initial allegations did actually happen,” he said, adding that the ministry is taking the matter seriously.

Just a few days back, the ministry’s investigation refuted all the allegations an anonymous user Bhu Drukpa posted on Facebook. Bhu Drukpa claimed that a bar and smoking zone were in place for a karaoke party organized from March 5-7.

Kuensel also received information and photographic evidence disputing the findings of the investigation.

The minister has also asked to recall the Tendu Central School principal immediately to the ministry. “A special inquiry will be conducted on the principal,” Lyonpo said.

Department of School Education director general, Karma Tshering said that the letter summoning back the principal has already been sent. “In the letter we have asked the principal to report immediately to the ministry,” he said

Until then, the minister said that it is unclear what will happen. The ministry will evaluate the new information and take action accordingly.

The director general said that another investigation team will leave for Tendu on March 20.

Lyonpo said that during the absence of the principal in the school, the vice principal will officiate.

The karaoke party was held during the three-day Tendu tshechu in the multi-purpose hall of the Central School.

The party was apparently organised for the school’s faculty and officials involved in the tsechu to interact and relax.

According to the findings of the education ministry’s first investigation, the party was monitored by police and army personnel.

Tempa Wangdi

12 arrested for suspected choeten vandalism

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 15:11

Mongar police have detained 12 men for allegedly vandalising around 100 choetens and three lhakhangs in Mongar, Zhemgang and Lhuentse since October last year.

Police sources said the men were arrested after a man from Tsakaling in Mongar left his shoe at the site after vandalising  a choeten in Gyalpoizhing, and Lingmethang in October last year. Following that incident, others involved were traced and arrested.

Police also alleged that the 12 men vandalised about 98 choetens in Mongar, one in Zhemgang and one in Lhuentse. The men are from Mongar, Trashigang and Lhuentse.

Police also alleged that the 12 men started vandalising choetens since 2003.

“Of the 12 men, two men vandalised more than 40 choetens each,” a police official said.

Police will forward the case to the Office of the Attorney General for prosecution.

Staff reporter

An important message

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 15:09

The narrative of Bhutan’s development journey has reached a critical point. As a late starter, we had so much distance to cover in terms of achieving our development priorities and national goals. But we did. In a span of less than 50 years, say, we have achieved by much more than what other countries could in hundred years. While recognising this feat born of our true ambitions, it would be unfair if we did not count the hands of our development partners in this nation’s extraordinary journey.

We have now arrived at a crossroads; Bhutan will soon graduate from the group of Least-Developed Countries. What this means is that we will be among the comity of lower-middle income economies. While we celebrate the news, we must not forget that we have got to do some serious thinking. At a time when some of our development partners are pulling out, we are still largely an aid-dependent country. The journey ahead, as Foreign Minister Damcho Dorji put it, is one of transition and sustainable growth. “If we can’t graduate, it’ll be a disservice to the donors and, if our graduation is not sustainable, it will be a disservice to our future generations.”

UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP regional director for the Asia and the Pacific, Haoliang Xu, put the reality into perspective. Bhutan has a few more difficult years ahead and it is not the time for the donors to withdraw their support. Long-time development partners like India and Japan have committed to support Bhutan transition to lower-middle income economy. We also have the commitments of Australia, Japan, the European Union, World Bank, Austria, Thailand, and the UN systems.

But the message is clear. We must stand prepared.

For Bhutan, the time of reckoning has arrived. As a country with small resource pool, Bhutan now is compelled to look at using available resources the best possible way because we cannot forever rely on the generosity of our development partners. As Prime Minister said, we must prepare to graduate with dignity and stability.

OAG reviews Chang gup’s illegal land transactions

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 15:08

The sitting gup of Chang, Kanjur, has been implicated for alleged encroachment of government land, deception and forgery in connection with the illegal registration of more than three acres of Tsamdro (pasture land) in Chang Debsi, Thimphu.

The findings of the investigation conducted by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) from September 19 to December 30, 2016, which was forwarded to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for prosecution, also charged Thimphu dzongkhag’s former land record officer, Karma Jamtsho, for facilitating Kanjur to process illegal registration of 2.82 acres of Tsamdro.

Both the charges are being reviewed by the OAG.

“We are still reviewing the ACC’s report and going through facts to establish grounds for prosecution,” an OAG official told Kuensel.

ACC’s investigation revealed that the Debsi community owned 388.6 acres of pastureland in Kumdra and Seudrak. ACC found that there were two plots – Chakazhing and Dzomdrak Choetenjab – measuring 90 decimals and 2.82 acres respectively, belonging to Kanjur’s mother, Tenzin. Later, these two plots were fragmented and sold to 18 individuals.

The modus operandi
The investigation determined that sometime between 2000 and 2005, the accused had fraudulently registered these two plots on tsamdro in the name of his mother. He was accused of inflating the acreage from 15 decimals to 2.82 acres and, from six decimals to 90 decimals, taking advantage of the excess land claim being allowed at that time.

The findings stated that the chain of evidence proved that the plot Dzomdrak Choetenjab was actually located in Punakha and already declared as land in Punakha during the separation of Thed-Thimphu in the mid 1980s. Survey records proved that the landowner was unable to locate this plot during the 1988 survey. Although Tenzin had a plot called Chakazhing in her old chazhag thram, the actual location was found to be near Babesa, not at Debsi where Kanjur with intention to encroach government land in collusion with the then Gup Naku, had deceptively claimed and measured as his mother’s land.

During investigation, both Kanjur and Tenzin admitted that the two plots in question were not originally located there. The boundary of the community tsamdro as described in the tsamdro thram, according to ACC’s findings, clearly shows that the tsamdro had been encroached.

The investigation also determined that in trying to conceal and make it appear on official records that these plots originally existed in Debsi and were surveyed in 1988, the accused had forged and tampered the detail survey map, the New Sathram Compilation (NSC) field Kappa form and arranged falsified the community’s clearance.

Kanjur, according to ACC, had illegally been enriched by 3.72 acres of land.

“Since Kanjur was the sole beneficiary, the accountability of altering the Kappa form and map should be borne by him,” the report stated.

ACC found that former Chang Gup Naku, in his capacity as gup, knowingly assisted Kanjur in the illegal registration after receiving 50 decimals free of cost from the same area. Karma Jamtsho, who was then the land record officer in Thimphu dzongkhag administration, had also allegedly facilitated Kanjur in processing the illegal registration despite his knowledge that one plot was officially declared by the landowner herself as being in Punakha.

Karma Jamtsho was accused of initiating the letter of 2000 validating that Tenzin’s Zomdrak Choetenjab plot is not in Thimphu and accordingly remarked in the dzongkhag Chazhag thram. However, in the pretext of plot correction the same plot had been forwarded to the erstwhile department of survey and land records for approval on June 30, 2006 without referring to the previous records.

During investigation, Kanjur initially claimed the Debsi land to be substitute land granted against his ancestral land taken over by DANTAK in Bebasa. In absence of any evidence to support his claim, he eventually conceded to having illegally measured on Debsi Tsamdro.

According to the Land Act 1979, like Sokshing, any private individual did not have proprietary right over tsamdro and was essentially deemed to be government land leased to cattle owners on permit basis. Encroaching or transacting government land is an offense under section Ka 6.20 of the Land Act.

Speaking to Kuensel last evening, Gup Kanjur said his comments are the same that he shared with Kuensel earlier and statements submitted to the ACC. He reiterated that he made it very clear that if he committed the crime, he is ready to face legal consequences.

“However, one should understand that the alleged illegal transfer took place when I was serving as Chang Mangmi, and had no authority to transfer thram and register government land other then Gup and concerned dzongkhag officials,” Kanjur said.

Alleged gratification
The commission also concluded that former gup Naku had no reason to receive 50 decimal plot from Tashi Pem as a gift as reflected in the court verdict. The findings stated that although Naku claimed that he bought from Tashi Pem, there was no proof to substantiate his claim. Tashi Pem’s husband told the investigators he had gifted one-acre land to Kanjur and that he doesn’t know what transpired between Kanjur and Naku.

However, Kanjur claimed that Naku had solicited 50 decimals promising that he would help him register his two plots at the tsamdro area.

Although former gup Naku’s signature was alleged by Kanjur to be there at the end of the no objection letter from the public of Debsi, Naku refused to admit that it was his signature. He said that he does not remember signing the document.

“Hence, the commission could not draw a strong conclusion that Naku had been criminally involved in encroachment of Tsamdrom and forgery of public documents, since the only evidence was based on Kanjur’s claim,” the report submitted to the OAG stated. “The commission is not fully convinced that the 50-decimal plot of Naku, which was directly transferred from Tashi Pem, was necessarily a gratification to Naku. However, the OAG may look further into the possibility of charging Naku based on the facts of the case, circumstantial evidences, arguments, and additional evidences provided by Gup Kanjur himself.”

De-registration of private thrams
The commission recommended the OAG to de-register private thrams and restitute them back to the state in line with the Land Act. The investigation determined that Kanjur had subsequently sold the illegally acquired government land to different individuals.

The report stated any aggrieved individual who bought land from Kanjur and is currently holding the ownership title may be, at best, advised to resolve the case among themselves. If the land is to be resituted from 19 individuals who have already constructed permanent structures, the Kashos dated November 19, 1984 may be applied and government may be required to reimburse expenses through appropriate process.

In addition to restituting the government land, ACC stated that the offender should be liable to pay the cost of the land as penalties as per the Land Act.

“In determining the amount of fine, Nu 35,000 per acre may be applied as a base rate since this rate was used for collecting excess land costs by the government during that relevant period. Gup Kanjur had already paid for the excess land and also the land tax in October 2006,” the report stated.

The commission recommended that whatever amount had been paid by Kanjur to the state as excess land payment and land tax should be forfeited to the state in lieu of the fine payable.

On December 21 last year, the commission froze transactions and developmental activities in 19 plots of land, measuring 3.72 acres bought from Gup Kanjur.

Rinzin Wangchuk

PM to personally investigate Korphu gewog centre road

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 15:07

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said he would personally investigate the construction of the Korphu gewog centre road in Trongsa. He said this while meeting with the people at the gewog centre yesterday.

Lyonchoen said people must be concerned looking at the slow progress of the gewog road. It has been more than a year since the work was awarded to the contractor but black topping is yet to start. “I am more worried than you,” he said.

Lyonchoen reminded the people that government has paid Nu 86 million (M) which is some Nu 0.4M per household if the cost is broken down. He expressed concern that such a huge amount of fund may be going to waste. There are 218 households in the gewog.

During the meeting, Korphu’s ex-Gup Wangda also requested Lyonchoen to investigate what could have lead to the poor performance of the black topping work. “I don’t know who has failed, the dzongkhag, gewog or the contractor,” said the former gup.

Wangda also said it has been more than a year since the work was awarded to the contractor. The work progress we see today is barely five percent.

Responding to this, Lyonchoen said the actual work progress is at 19 percent currently and the time of the contract completed is 56 percent. Going by this rate of progress, there is a high chance that the contractor might fail, Lyonchoen pointed out.

“We should terminate the contractor if he fails and definitely will have to award the work to another one,” Lyonchoen said, adding that he will return to Korphu this autumn to inspect the work progress.

Local Chengala said he feels relieved that the Prime Minister will personally investigate the blacktopping progress. “We were worried and dissatisfied with the work progress,” he said.

The 19.5km gewog centre road starts from the Trongsa-Zhemgang highway at Reotala. The contract period for blacktopping the road is 24 months. The contract period started from April 2016.

The contractor is yet to start blacktopping work.

With three gewog centres falling on highways, the Korphu gewog centre road is one of the last gewog centre roads to be black topped in Trongsa. Blacktopping of the Nubi gewog centre road is ongoing.

Lyonchoen got delayed in meeting with the public of Korphu gewog as his helicopter could not fly over some high passes due to the weather. Lyonchoen left for Bumdeling in Tashiyangtse in the afternoon.

Nima Wangdi | Nabji

30 years later, farmers of Samrang to cultivate paddy again

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 15:02

The villagers of Samrang vividly remember the last time they planted paddy in their fields. It was in 1985.

An acute shortage of water caused them to stop cultivating paddy. But before they were able to solve the water shortage problem, the 1990s security issue arose causing many to leave their lands.

Now, nearly three decades later, the farmers of Samrang will plant paddy in the gewog once more.

This is because the ongoing integrated livestock farm project in the gewog has construct an irrigation canal for Samrang.

The canal has been handed over to the gewog administration. However, the gewog administration will have to construct an earthen irrigation canal to connect it to the villages as the project did not construct it all the way.

The earthen irrigation canal is expected to be completed in another week. Most farmers have already cleared their paddy fields and are readying themselves to begin cultivation as soon as water arrives. The paddy cultivation season starts from May.

“We’re happy and ready to take up the paddy cultivation, we’re just waiting for the water,” said Madan, a farmer.

The irrigation canal is expected to allow villagers to cultivate paddy on about 100 acres. The 3km-canal will also benefit 32 households in three chiwogs.

Samrang Gup Tara Bir Bista said the canal would help revive fallow land. He explained that to encourage farmers to cultivate paddy, Nu 500,000 was kept aside from budget allocated for maintenance of a football ground.

Tara Bir Bista added that gewog officials will visit farmers to encourage them to use the canal.

Although the rice harvested will be for self-consumption, the gewog administration will look for marketing opportunities so income can be generated.

Yangchen C Rinzin | Samdrupjongkhar

The practice of PchiruShelni (Night Hunting): Coercion or courtship?

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 15:00

Not much is known about Bhutan abroad. Even more scarce is literature on gender and sexuality studies. Much of the scholarly works relate to Bhutanese customs and culture. PchiruShelni, involves men having sexual relations with women by stealth, with or without consent, typically by sneaking into a woman’s bed or breaking into their houses under the cover of darkness. PchiruShelni is a sexual practice in rural Bhutan that is entrenched culturally and socially. It is popularly known as ‘Night Hunting’ among people who are literate. The term ‘pchiru’ means night and ‘shelni’ means to wander around (that men wander in search of women).


This PhD research is the first major study on PchiruShelni in Bhutan. PchiruShelni has been mentioned under the name of Night Hunting in smaller studies and was linked to sexually transmitted diseases, promiscuity, multiple sexual partners, early sexual experience and widespread extra marital affairs. The research is aimed at understanding the traditional concept of PchiruShelni that was seen as harmless and mostly positive and a cultural custom.  Besides these, there have been recent questions raised in the public arena (traditional and social media for example) that point to a conflict of opinion between those wanting to treat it as an entrenched and socially acceptable practice and those who maintain it is a form of sexual coercion and systemic violence against women.

This study found that PchiruShelni is an accepted form of rural courtship. However, the traditional concept of PchiruShelni has also been misused to perpetrate or excuse sexual coercion. While the women involved are always from rural areas, men come from different backgrounds such as from within the community, neighbouring communities and urban areas.

The popular term ‘Night Hunting’ is likely to have been coined around the time when literate urban men began participating in PchiruShelni and who saw themselves as adopting a traditional form of practice. Thus, there is a difference as well as an overlap between PchiruShelni and Night Hunting practices: the former taking place between rural men and rural women and the latter between urban men and rural women.

Almost all women participants experienced some form of coercion and most of it occurs before women settle down in a marriage. Though some married women are involved, it is largely single women who experience sexual coercion. The most targeted group of women are those who are single and their vulnerability may be exacerbated by poverty and other circumstances such as lack of relative support and women’s inability to understand their rights. The most common form of coercion employed is verbal coercion followed by physical aggression. Women suffer from several negative consequences as a result of coerced sexual relationships.

Sexual coercion in PchiruShelni

Sexual coercion is ‘any situation in which one party uses verbal or physical means to obtain sexual activity against freely given consent’.

There are three primary types of sexual coercion: physical aggression, non-physical and verbal coercion. This study has found that all the above forms of coercion are present in the practice of PchiruShelni.

Risk factors of perpetration and victimisation

Contemporary scholarship documents show that a range of risk factors are associated with violence perpetration and victimisation. This research finds similar factors at work, as follows:

Courtship: Acceptance of PchiruShelni as a rural form of courtship allows sexual coercion under the guise of tradition.

Negative discourses of masculinity: The belief that men have to prove their authority over women through their sexual performances is one of the causes for coercive behaviour. Men have reported that they face peer pressure to demonstrate their sexual prowess through multiple sexual partners.

Socially and culturally condoning attitude: Acceptance of PchiruShelni as part of culture facilitates sexually harassing behaviour. The belief that PchiruShelni is part of a tradition that can lead to a belief that it is justifiable to carry on the practice irrespective of methods involved.

Promiscuity: Belief that women are sexually promiscuous if she had two or more sexual partners regardless of whether the relation was coerced, consensual or based on hearsay and blames women for the perpetration.

Being single: Remaining single for women is a risk factor for being targeted for both consensual as well as non-consensual sex in PchiruShelni and Night Hunting. Continuing to be single seems to contribute significantly to being pursued by men for sex. Many men think single women are more sexually available than married women. This concept arises possibly because of the premise that because a woman cannot protect herself she is inherently ‘available’. Thus ‘singleness’ for a woman is a state where she is not ‘owned’ by a man and the very ability to be without men is seen by some men as alluring and enticing and even tempting, and certainly a reason for that particular woman to come to men’s attention.

Poverty: Women with poor financial backgrounds are easier to pressure into unwanted sexual relationships with the false promises of marriage and gifts.

Lack of support from relatives: Women who do not have strong family backgrounds are harassed more because of the smaller likelihood of charges being pressed in case of negative outcomes from sexually coercive relationships.

Labour shortage: The matrilineal system of inheritance in many parts of Bhutan is both empowering and disempowering for women. While property ownership ensures livelihood security, labour shortages become a problem for women with lack of labour power in the villages. Therefore the most manipulative tactic that men use to coerce women into having sex is the false promise of marriage. Owning a farm is not enough to produce crops. It needs labour: both men and women. Farm work is especially labour intensive where men are needed for the very physically challenging work such as plowing and digging. Women make up for the shortage of men at home by getting married and having the husband take charge of men’s share of work. Thus single women and single mothers comply with men’s demand for sex during PchiruShelni in the hope of acquiring a husband to be able to help around the farm. For many rural women, love becomes secondary and necessity becomes practical.

Impacts of PchiruShelni on women

Women who experienced PchiruShelni (whether voluntarily or through coercion) reported a range of negative impacts. Some are associated with sexual coercion, while others are associated with unwanted pregnancy, single motherhood and other factors. Emotional ill-health, health issues, increase in single motherhood, loss of working opportunities and jeopardising marriage prospects, loss of educational opportunities and marriage break-ups, domestic violence and poverty and citizenship issues also follow suit.

Implications for policy

Some of the recommendations from this research are:

Disassociate PchiruShelni from culture: There should be more awareness reporting by the media as well as communication campaigns by concerned organisations to enable women to differentiate between accepted normal form of sexual relationships and coercion that occurs in the name of tradition. The association of PchiruShelni with traditional practice means that many rural women believe that as a part of that tradition they cannot avoid consensual or non-consensual participation and must allow men to continue to engage in PchiruShelni. Changes in media and communication will allow better reporting of sexual crimes against women.

Amend citizenship law: The most important change that needs to be made in the citizenship law concerns the need to have the father’s name in order for a child to be registered in the census.  Irrespective of whether women are victims of sexually coerced relationships in PchiruShelni or victims of other sexual crimes, women should not be made to go through the hardship of tracking down missing fathers of their children. Women as citizens of Bhutan should have the right to register their children as citizens irrespective of who the father is or whether they can be identified, as long as they are born in Bhutan. Bhutan, known for its Gross National Happiness (GNH) philosophy that places people’s well-being before everything and claims that gender discriminations are subtle, fails in its very principle if children cannot enjoy this as a birthright and women cannot have the peace of mind unless their children become confirmed citizens of the country.

Establish social welfare system: There is also a need for the government to introduce social welfare system especially for struggling single mothers whose sexual partners have abandoned them and who do not have reliable relatives to support them.

Increase women’s participation in decision-making roles: Political gender inequalities are created when there is lower participation by women at the decision-making level of government policies. Women’s representation in decision-making roles can empower women in two ways when it comes to PchiruShelni. Firstly, a stronger representation of women in the decision-making process means tougher policies that protect women’s rights which in turn deter men from making unwanted sexual advances towards women. Secondly, women who hold important positions of influence will have more agency, control and autonomy and as research has shown these results in less sexual violence towards women.

Contributed by 

Tshering Yangden (PhD)


Police detains man for alleged rape and murder

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 10:57

The victim and suspect were Facebook friends and had never met prior to the incident

A single mother in Gomtu, who lost her only daughter recently after a man she met on Facebook allegedly murdered her, said girls should be careful of who they meet on social media.

The 19-year-old girl went missing since March 1 but the mother suspected that she eloped and would return one day. The mother lodged a complaint with the police only on March 6.

But to the dismay of the mother, Gomtu police informed her that they found a dead body below a cement factory on March 9 and required her to identify the body. “I couldn’t even look at the body. My neighbors identified it.”

A press release issued by the police stated that a Gomtu resident spotted the decomposed body. “A hand towel measuring about 70cm long was found tied on the deceased’s neck with single knot.”

The press release also stated that there was a wound on the head and neck and that the right fingertip was also missing.

Police said they detained a 23-year-old man from Phuntshopelri gewog in Samtse in connection with the murder on March 10.

Police alleged that they narrowed him as suspect, after the deceased’s friend told them that she went to meet a Facebook friend with whom the deceased was in contact over phone.

The deceased’s friend, a class VIII student, told police that the deceased visited her house in the evening of March 1 and then they walked towards the cement factory at around 8pm after the deceased shared her plan of meeting her Facebook friend.

The friend also told that the deceased received a call when they were waiting at a football ground below the cement factory after which the deceased asked her to go back home. The deceased then left towards Gomtu town.

Police claimed they learned that the suspect was constantly wooing the victim to come alone to meet him at different places.
Police also claimed the friend knew the victim’s Facebook password and they found out that the suspect used a fake account to woo the victim. They were in touch since February 24.

Police searched the mobile number the victim received call from on WeChat and the WeChat account belonged to the suspect.
The deceased had also uploaded a picture similar to that of the suspect’s profile picture on her Facebook account.

The friend told police that she had been calling the deceased since March 1, since the deceased left her phone charger at her place but the phone was switched off.

The friend told police she then asked her sister who works in the same company with the deceased to check if she came for work the next day. After finding out that she wasn’t at work, the friend informed the deceased’s mother, who searched for her daughter for the first few days.

Police claimed that the suspect confessed to the crime and that he also confessed that he and the deceased knew each other since childhood. He also admitted that he has two Facebook accounts.

Police, in their press release, said the suspect who works in another cement factory in Gomtu was on duty from 10pm onwards on March 1. The deceased and the suspect agreed to meet at Chautara, a resting shed near the cement factory’s parking area at around 8:30pm.

According to the suspect’s statement to police, he tried to hug the deceased on their way towards Sukti river but she resisted.

After reaching about half a kilometre above the river, he made sexual advances but she again resisted.

The suspect told police that he strangled her when she said that she would tell his wife and then shouted for help.

“The suspect raped her when she was unconscious and then again strangulated her with her hand towel and then fled the scene,” the police press release stated.

Police said the suspect had cleared all his chat history with the deceased and then blocked her. He also deleted his call logs.
The deceased, a class VI dropout, was temporarily working for a private company since February 3.

The mother, who worked as road side labourer, said she cannot believe that her daughter is no more. “She was the only one I had after I lost my husband when my daughter was one year old.”

The 50-year-old woman said her daughter always told her to stay at home when she would work and earn money. “She promised to look after me.”

Dechen Tshomo

Hydro delays upset 11th Plan’s self-reliance goal

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 17:09

The country will not be able to achieve self-reliance, which is one of the main themes of the 11th Plan.

“Self-reliance and inclusive green socio-economic development,” the overarching objective of the 11th Plan is dampened by delays in commissioning of three new hydropower projects.

This was highlighted in the 13th Round Table Meeting that concluded yesterday. Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay in his concluding remarks also acknowledged that in the era of interconnectedness and irreversible globalisation, to say that one is self-reliant is a sort of  arrogance.

As per the Plan document, self-reliance is defined as the ability to meet all national development needs articulated through Five-Year Plans by 2020.

Energy security, fiscal balance and food self-sufficiency are the key instruments to realise self-sufficiency.

However, the three new hydropower projects that are supposed to add another 2950MW of power to the existing 1606MW in the 11th Plan have been deferred to the 12th Plan.

While this target will not be met, the implications cascades onto the fiscal balance. Because the fiscal targets are projected based on estimated earnings from the hydropower projects, the delays affects the fiscal balance.

The target in the 11th Plan was to generate about 80 percent of the country’s expenditure on its own. Currently it is only 65 percent. This means that the country is still donor dependent, as the remaining 35 percent of the expenditure has to be met through grants and loans.

In terms of food self-sufficiency, the target was to achieve at least 75 percent of national food self-sufficiency, which includes cereals, vegetables, dairy products and meat. Although the current rate is about 70 percent, the self-sufficiency rate of rice, the staple diet is only around 50 percent. “This is a concern,” said the Gross National Happiness Commission secretary Thinley Namgyel.

“The fact that the country will not be able to achieve self-reliance in the 11th Plan reflects our economic vulnerability,” he said.

In fact, it was the hydro debt that contributed to the debt to GDP ratio of 113 percent in the last fiscal year.

The finance secretary, Nim Dorji said more than 70 percent of the external debt is attributed to the hydropower projects, which are highly viable.

Should the hydropower projects commission as scheduled within the 12th Plan, he said that the external debt stock could decrease to 50 percent of GDP.

The delay, he said had resulted in a downward revision of domestic revenue in the 11th Plan. This had a direct impact causing a downward revision of current expenditure.

He said that increase in grants has helped in maintaining the fiscal balance of the country.

The fiscal balance without donor support, he said, will turn out to be high, and for the government to maintain the fiscal balance below 3 percent of GDP, loans and grants will play a critical role even in the 12th Plan.

With regard to inclusiveness, another 11th Plan objective, the GNHC secretary highlighted that the country is well on track to reduce multi-dimensional poverty. In fact the country was able to half multi-dimensional poverty.

However, the result of income poverty and Gini coefficient will be known only after the conduct of the population and housing census and the living standard survey later this year.

The target was to reduce the income poverty from 12 percent in 2012 to less than 5 percent by 2018.

Good progress has been made in terms of other parameters to achieve inclusiveness, such as education enrollment, gender parity, stunting, immunisation, infant mortality rate, access to improved drinking water and sanitation, among others.

The “green” element is also well on track as the country absorbs three times more carbon emissions than it produces, while the country has 71 percent of forest coverage against the Constitutional mandate of 60 percent.

“Economic diversification and financial inclusion is the key to achieve macro-economic stability,” said Nim Dorji. He also announced that the government is looking into the possibility of introducing a goods and services tax (GST) to broaden the revenue base.

He said the economic stimulus plan of Nu 5B has helped increase the domestic productive capacity.

With the commissioning of the hydropower projects, the current account balance of the country is also expected to improve.

The introduction of minimum lending rates through monetary policy, he said, will also provide greater access to finance while making financial institutions competitive.

Tshering Dorji

ACC drops case involving foreign minister

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 17:08

After six months of extensive investigation on the alleged bribery case in connection with the reduction of a sentence from life to 10 years, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has dropped the case involving foreign minister Damcho Dorji for lack of evidence.

It was alleged that the former drangpon of Mongar, Damcho Dorji, the incumbent foreign minister, was bribed by a contractor to change the prison term in connection with two choeten vandalism cases in Lhakhang Dogorba and Hongri, Chaskhar gewog in 2002.

Sources said that ACC could not establish that the then drangpon was bribed to reduce the sentence.  When bribery cannot be proven the case then becomes an administrative issue.

If Lyonpo Damcho Dorji was a serving judge, an administrative action as per the prevailing law of the then Thrimzhung Chhenmo 1957, could be imposed on him. However, since he is not a serving judge even administrative action can’t be taken.

During the course of the investigation from September 2016 to February this year, ACC officials interrogated 17 people, including the former superintendent and officer-in-charge of the Mongar police, constables, the convict, a DCM truck driver, former bench clerks and the messenger of the dzongkhag court. Of the 17 individuals, the bench clerk was detained for around two weeks to establish facts as the conviction order to the police was allegedly prepared by him and signed by the drangpon.

ACC officials reportedly also consulted informally with professionals in the legal fraternity and sought their legal opinion for probable prosecution of Lyonpo Damcho Dorji. It was concluded that the case doesn’t merit for prosecution.

The commission’s investigation however found that, in November 2002, Rido from Chaskhar, was found guilty of choeten vandalism and was accordingly sentenced to life imprisonment under section THA 1-11 of the Thrimzhung Chhenmo.  However, contrary to what had been explicitly stated in the judgment, the drangpon wrongfully communicated to Mongar police to imprison the accused for 10 years from March 8, 2002 to March 7, 2012. Subsequently, Rido was released on serving the prison term.

Lyonpo Damcho Dorji, during the Meet-the-Press on February 3, accepted responsibility and accountability for the oversight. He explained that the procedure by law is that courts have to wait for 10 working days to give time to appeal and only after it is confirmed that the person is not appealing, the bench clerk will prepare a form for the police saying that the person is convicted and has to be imprisoned.

Lyonpo explained that he had to sign more than 100 documents daily including the summons orders for 20 dzongkhags and 12 dungkhags. He said that when the letter was sent to the police, the sentence instead of life imprisonment became 10 years. Lyonpo admitted oversight and accepted responsibility.

In an anonymous letter sent to ACC and media houses, it was alleged that Ugyen Tshering, a contractor from Chaskhar who was the main suspect behind the choeten vandalisms was concerned that Rido may reveal his name at the higher court and  get him convicted. Therefore, the complaint letter stated that Ugyen Tshering bribed the drangpon to change Rido’s prison term. The issue was reportedly unearthed in 2014 when there was a mass conviction in choeten vandalism cases. Ugyen Tshering was one of the accused to receive life imprisonment.

Meanwhile, the commission on March 10 wrote to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court regarding discrepancy in the enforcement of judgment and stated that the ACC is of the view that, except for the conviction order, the judgement per se had not been altered. Sources said that the commission as required by the Anti-Corruption Act 2011 had communicated the matter to the judiciary for an appropriate course of action regarding enforcement of the judgment for the convict.

The Supreme Court’s registrar general was not available for comment.

Rinzin Wangchuk

Farmers will be refunded agriculture minister assures

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 17:07

The farmers were made to pay membership fees to join an initiative that promised to help them avail loans

Farmers in Tsirang are not happy with an initiative that encouraged them to form cooperatives and apply for membership. Once members, the initiative promised the farmers that it would help them acquire loans from the Rural Enterprise Development Corporation Ltd.

A total of 73 groups, composed of 407 farmers, became members of the initiative calling itself “agro-cooperatives”. All the groups applied for loans.

However, most of the farmers are not happy that they were each made to pay a fee of Nu 300 to obtain application forms. The initiative also did not provide them with receipts.

The issue was raised during agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji’s gewog visit to Tsirang on March 16.

A Mendrelgang farmer who formed a group and applied for the loan, Tshering Dema, said that when her group enquired why the Nu 300 was collected, they were told that it was to run the office and pay staff. The initiative was run out of the People’s Democratic Party office in Tsirang.

“We fail to understand why the amount was collected and why does the burden of staff payment fall on the farmers,” she said. “If it’s an application fee, Nu 300 is quite expensive.”

Another applicant Gatu said that it has been almost a year since they applied for the loan but they’re yet to receive any information on the status of their application.

The initiative was begun by a former civil servant residing in Dagana, Gopal Waiba Lama. He said that the initiative was started following the approval of the agriculture minister, to encourage farmers to form cooperatives.

The initiative was conceptualised following discussions with the agriculture department and cooperatives, as directed by the minister, he said. The initiative sought to help farmers go large scale so that the vegetable demand in the country can be met with local produce.

He added that the fees were collected to meet expenses incurred in getting the forms filled by unemployed youth and other expenses such as printing and photocopying.

It has been learnt that the collected amount was used to pay two volunteers who were involved in filling the application forms. The money was also used to pay electricity bills and the rent of the space.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji, however, ensured that the collected amount will be returned to the farmers. “While we encourage farmers to avail REDCL loans, we didn’t give any directive to collect fees,” he said.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang

Who are they?

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 17:07

As a Buddhist society, we believe in giving, being kind, caring, and compassionate. We take into account, quite automatically, our intention while trying to be helpful to those in need of our help. The underlying wisdom is: If we give with good intention, there invariably is spiritual merit to be gained from it.

We have come a long way as a society. Times have changed. Today, we live in an age when some of the values and beliefs that we deeply hold still have started to be wholly meaningless.

This much we can say about our present without even flinching – the age we live in today is the age of prosperity. Wading through the challenges of being small and underdeveloped with little resources, we made it to the shore. We are today a by much confident and forward-looking nation. However, challenges we have many to deal with, which will require fundamental shift in the way we look at things. Otherwise, it might not be long before we become a prosperous nation with increasing number of beggars. That is, as if we do not have too many ironies already to grapple with.

We are today regularly visited by gangs of maroon-clad youths knocking at our doors at odd hours. They are all young and able-bodied, going about alms begging for easy living. And they are rude. If your fail to open the door, they lock you from outside and, going the down the steps, they throw malevolent curses.

It is wonderful why our young and able-bodied people are resorting to alms begging when they can be our partners in our nation-building narrative. Why are they drawn to this profession that is so belittling to themselves and our culture? Some of them could be real spiritual practitioners, but they don’t come knocking on our doors every other week. The question is: who are these gangs of beggars roaming in the city corners?

We might be influenced by our culture and spiritual beliefs to not see such groups of people going about begging as a problem. But the fact is it is already a serious concern. There is a possibility that such a way of life can become more organised and go underground to give rise to serious crimes in the future.

There is a need to find who they are. If our plans and policies are leaving a large number of young and able-bodied Bhutanese in the fringes of our society, we need to bring them back. One way or the other, we sure can enable them to live honourable and dignified life.

Fire in Mongar razes 200 acres of forest

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 17:06

A fire in Mongar destroyed more than 200 acres of forest at Konbar and Takchu villages yesterday.

The fire started at around 12pm.

Since the fire is occurring on cliffs and steep slopes, the forest officials, police, civil servants and locals could not contain the fire. Strong winds also fanned the fire.

Firefighters, however, managed to save two traditional houses and Takchu Lhakhang.

According to the chief officiating forest officer, Norbu Wangdi, two tankers from RBP and Kurichu Hydro Power helped to save areas at risk. Forest officials said the fire started from a stream below Wengkhar village.

Norbu Wangdi said people claim the fire started from boulders rolling off an excavator from a waste disposal construction site.

He, however, said they are yet to establish the exact cause and an investigation is underway.

Staff reporter

Call for sensitive social media users

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 17:05

It is a common practise today to share questionable images on social media platforms like WeChat.

Recently, social media users were sharing a graphic image of a woman who had her throat slit. Information accompanying the image claimed that the woman’s husband murdered her in Punakha.

While some social media users are aware that information circulating online has to be questioned and verified, many tend to accept the information without question.

The Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) maintains that the information accompanying the image is not true and that no such incident took place in Punakha. “We even verified throughout the country and found it untrue,” a police official said.

A 30-year-old corporate employee, Sonam Kezang said that the gruesome picture of the woman was disturbing. “Whether the incident is true or not, posting of such pictures is not healthy,” he said.

He also said if the incident is true, people should not share it since it would impact the deceased’s family. “People who share such pictures may not have the intention but they are causing more damage to the family.”

Dechen Wangmo, 31, said she could not look at the pictures. “I get affected when I see such horrifying pictures,” she said. “

A corporate employee, Tashi, said it was disturbing to see a picture of a man suspected of murdering his mother in Dorokha, Samtse being circulated among social media users. “I don’t know if he was the man who murdered his mother but until the court convicts him, he is innocent.”

Police officials said that awareness should be created on the use of social media for the public. “We don’t have authority to take action on those who circulate such images,” a police official said. “There should be a victim or a complaint if we have to take action.”

The director general of the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA), Chencho Dorji said there is no law or rules framed for the use of social media.

“We don’t have directives of social media policy but once we get the directives than it will be easier for a regulator agency like us to implement it,” he said.

However, the social media policy 2016 was approved and the Department of Information and Media will be conducting advocacy on the social media policy at all levels.

Yeshey Dema