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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 1 hour 25 min ago

Exported eggs fetch good prices in India

Sat, 12/10/2016 - 15:47

Poultry: The agriculture ministry is going to send more consignments of eggs to Kolkata after it sold the first consignment fetching good prices.

The first batch of local eggs exported to Kolkata on a trial basis fetched Nu 8 an egg, which is Nu 2 short of the best price for eggs in the city, agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji said.

The ministry exported 800 trays of eggs worth more than Nu 0.17 million in its first consignment to Kolkata, India last week.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said the ministry is exploring more markets for the local eggs and negotiating to obtain a better price.

“In Kolkata the best price is Nu 10 an egg. The marketing officer at the Consulate office in Kolkata is working to fetch similar price for Bhutanese eggs,” Lyonpo said.

The egg price in Kolkata is fixed by a commission daily and it fluctuates every day. “This is going to be our challenge,” Lyonpo said.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said poultry is one of the country’s most successful programmes. “However, to supply enough eggs to every individual we’ve to increase our production fourfold,” he said.

The sufficiency rate is calculated based on the required nutrition rate of the World Health Organisation of 200 grams a day.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said the ministry would continue to supply pullets at a discount or for free to maintain the production rate. The ministry is also distributing three native hens and a rooster to each household for egg consumption across the country.

He said one of the challenges with the layer birds is that they have a fixed maximum egg laying period. After 83 weeks, the production of the layer hens fall and gradually they become spent birds.

“We’d this problem in 2013, when most of the layers became spent birds resulting in a huge drop in egg production,” Lyonpo said. “Our target is keeping 220 eggs a year, a bird.”

Egg consumption for every Bhutanese is 92 a year, which is on the higher side in the region. Switzerland has the highest per capita egg consumption of 200 eggs a year.

Health minister Tandin Wangchuk said eggs are a cheap substitute for green vegetables, which most may not have access to.

“For young women below 25, inadequate nutrition will lead to irreversible health conditions,” he said. “If not meat, they should at least eat eggs to obtain enough nutrition.”

The export initiative came after the local vendors faced problems selling their stock.

A tray of eggs today costs Nu 220 for large ones and Nu 150 for small ones. At one time the same amount of eggs costed Nu 400.

The country achieved self-sufficiency in eggs in 2012. Today the country’s 422,648 layer hens lay 251,678 eggs a day.

The two most egg-producing dzongkhags in the country are Sarpang and Tsirang,  and together produce 122,987 eggs a day. The country produced nearly 69 million eggs last year.

Tshering Palden

We can certainly do more

Sat, 12/10/2016 - 15:45

Thousands of Bhutanese participated in a mass cleaning campaign yesterday. Children as young as three were seen tagging along their parents and elders, picking up waste lying by the roadsides and drains. There were powerful people. There were powerless people, too. There were civil servants, bureaucrats, shopkeepers, labourers and expatriates, among others. All with a determination make places where they live clean, healthy and beautiful.

What this collective effort resulted in was indeed amazing. The gullies and alleyways looked different. Our cities and towns looked beautifully clean. So did our villages homes. What was more remarkable was the sense of happiness and satisfaction writ large on the faces of the people after the campaign. In less than an hour, tonnes of waste were collected. Cleaning our pathways and city streets, our backyards and the many parks we have is everybody’s responsibility.

There was a lesson that everyone took home yesterday: If everyone could be a little more mindful and cared enough, there wouldn’t be papers and plastics flying around; our drains and conduits wouldn’t be choked and overflowing and e wouldn’t be dumping our household and other waste by the roadsides. Too, our landfills would not be bursting at the seams, endangering our environment and the many little lives that have made it their home. Our water wouldn’t be poisoned and our crop yields wouldn’t decrease by the year.

Our children are concerned too that waste could be a serious problem to society. This is a good sign of development. What our teachers and parents are doing, teaching our children about cleanliness, waste and their effects, is something that truly deserves our praise. Our children must grow up with the idea that where they live must be not only clean but also safe and beautiful. It is about changing the way we live. It’s a kind of revolution.

And we can certainly do more. We can clean our surroundings everyday without government having to set aside a special day for cleaning. It begins from home. If we can keep our homes clean, waste will not fly out on the streets. We have now begun to take responsibility. Let us do it everyday.

Chilli imports to continue

Sat, 12/10/2016 - 15:45

Agriculture: Come next winter, Bhutan will not face the kind of shortage that has hit chilli lovers this winter, agriculture minister, Yeshey Dorji said at the Meet the Press on December 8.

Although a winter vegetable programme is underway to produce the banned vegetables – cauliflowers, beans, and chillies, – besides onions and tomatoes this winter, Bhutanese will have to adjust as the ministry cannot do much in the short term.

The ministry is implementing a winter vegetable programme to meet the domestic requirement of import-restricted crops and vegetables, which are usually imported in large quantities during winters.

To produce the required quantity, the country has to cultivate at least 771 acres of land considering the present productivity rate of 1.98MT per acre.

Bhutan is sufficient in vegetables for nine months and there are serious challenges to be sufficient throughout the year, the minister said.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji maintained that food safety is the main reason they banned import of chillies.

The price of chillies ranges between Nu 15 and Nu 20 in Kolkata. Adding the transport and handling charges, the cost rises to Nu 40 a kilogramme. The vendors are given Nu 10 as profit on the condition that they will not charge the customers more than the fixed price of Nu 50.

The Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regularity Authority (BAFRA) conducts regular tests for all the major pesticide groups to ensure food safety.

“Even the chillies from Kolkata is tested on arrival,” Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said.

About three metric tonnes of chillies were transported in a chartered flight last Sunday for free by the two airlines.

The chillies were imported to counter sky-rocketing prices. The shortage of chillies is strongly felt in the capital and not much in the dzongkhags, he said.

The minister said that the country was never sufficient in chillies, without the imports.

With the ban on chillies, prices shot up to Nu 500/kg in Thimphu at one time with the shortage growing acute and stretching over a fortnight.

One estimate of the ministry shows that the country’s requirement for chillies during winters is about 1,527MT considering that two thirds of the annual import of chillies which is 2,291MT, is consumed during winter.

Tshering Palden 

Wrong exam paper, BCSEA under fire

Sat, 12/10/2016 - 15:42

Education: Bhutan Council for School Examination and Assessment (BCSEA) has come under criticism this year after they distributed the wrong question paper to class XII students of the School for Language and Culture Studies in Thimphu who were appearing the board examination earlier this week.

Instead of ‘Dzongkha to English’ translation papers, some 200 students were distributed the ‘Dzongkha to Choekey’ translation question papers when only 10 students were appearing the ‘Dzongkha to Choekey’ paper.

While the 10 students continued with their paper, the remaining 200 students were kept in a room for about three hours until the examination authorities managed to photocopy the required question papers.

The examination that was supposed to end at 12pm was delayed until 4pm.

However, BCSEA’s controller of examination, Sangay Tenzin, said that the exam was not delayed because they sent wrong question papers but because of shortage of question papers.

“There should have been more Dzongkha to English papers and less Dzongkha to Choekey papers, but there were more Dzongkha to Choekey papers,” he said.

He explained that the lapses occured while packaging the question papers for numerous examination centres.

Meanwhile, many people criticised BCSEA on social media since the same incident happened to the last year’s class XII students of the same school. While many accused the authorities of incompetency, some said accountability has to be fixed.

However, the controller said that in case of last year, some questions of the paper were missing and BCSEA had to reprint the required question papers.

“Since there was shortage of question papers, we did not reprint but photocopied the question papers this year,” he said.

Dechen Tshomo

99 Bhutanese children to get heart surgery in Thailand

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 17:09

Medical: In deep appreciation and as a mark of respect and goodwill to His Majesty The King for the prayers following the passing of His late Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the Thailand Pediatric Cardiac Surgeon Foundation (PCSF) offered heart surgeries for 99 children in Bhutan suffering from congenital heart disease.

The first surgery is scheduled for December 9, coinciding with the auspicious occasion of the 10th year of His Majesty The King’s Reign.

Children with congenital heart diseases requiring surgery will be referred to Thailand after evaluation in Bhutanese hospitals.

It is expected that after screening, diagnosis and referral, the surgeries will be completed in the next two years.

The first child who has been referred for the surgery left for Thailand on December 5, which marked the Birth Anniversary of King Bhumibol.

Drukair and Bhutan Airlines have offered to sponsor the airfare for the children and their caregivers to travel to Bangkok for the surgery, and the Royal Thai Consulate in Thimphu has offered to waive off their visa fees.

His late Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, King Rama IX of Thailand, passed away on October 13 this year. While Thailand was plunged in sorrow, Bhutan also shared their grief, due to the exceptional relations that exist between the two countries, and the immense respect that the Bhutanese feel for King Bhumibol.

Upon His Majesty’s Command, prayers were performed across the country, including in all the major religious centres in Bhutan, and the national flag was flown at half-mast as a mark of respect.

His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen visited Thailand to pay respects to King Bhumibol as His late Majesty lay in state, on October 15.

Staff reporter

BDFL terminates employees without prior notice

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 17:08

… terminated employees allege that the company violated the labour Act and its service rules

Employment: Bhutan Duty Free Ltd (BDFL) terminated three employees from its branch office in Paro in September and November without  prior termination notice, it is claimed in an anonymous letter written to the Anti-Corruption Commission.

While two female sales executives were terminated on September 9 for travelling to Nepal on September 1 without taking leave, another male sales executive was asked to resign on November 4 for writing an e-mail to the CEO to reconsider his transfer to Phuentsholing.

The Deputy General Manager (DGM) of the company allegedly caused the termination of the two female sales executives to create a vacancy for her cousin on standby. It is alleged that the DGM’s cousin had already joined the office from September 1 when the two sales executives rejoined the office after three days of leave.

The two expelled sales executives also accused BDFL of contravening the Labour and Employment Act by terminating without a prior termination notice. Section 72 of the Act states that either party should give the other party a notice of seven days before termination.

“They didn’t even issue us a prior notice or a warning. The CEO in a meeting with co-workers on September 9 told us that we were fired,” one of the ex-employees said.

The BDFL CEO, who wished not be named, said that the two employees on probation were terminated because of serious misconduct that involved flying to Nepal without applying for leave.

The CEO also alleged the two employees of other misconducts like non-issuing of bills and overcharging customers, and selling private goods from the duty free shop, allegations that both the former employees refuted.

The CEO also said that the employees have barely worked for two months and earned a casual leave of less than two days though they are entitled to 10 days casual leave as per the BDFL service manual. He also said that since the purpose of keeping employees on probation is to test their attitude, the management has the prerogative to either regularise their services or not to, depending on the suitability of the candidates.

The two ex-employees also claimed of being terminated despite verbal permission to take leave from the Paro branch in-charge. But in a letter, the in-charge wrote seven days after the termination of the two employees on September 16, the in-charge declined giving the verbal leave stating she had instead asked them to inform the CEO.

The company on November 4 asked another male sales executive in Paro to either resign or face termination for writing an e-mail to the CEO to reconsider his transfer since the former was posted to Paro only four months back.

To be transferred on short notice, he wrote, was unfair. He also wrote that the company treats its rich and poor employees differently.

As a result, the CEO summoned the sales executive to Thimphu to explain the contents of the letter. The CEO then asked the employee to either resign or face termination.

When the employee went with an apology letter the next day, the CEO told him that another standby candidate had already replaced him.

“I had to resign because I had no other option since it was better to resign than be terminated, which would tarnish my record forever,” the ex-employee said.

When the male sales executive submitted his resignation on November 9, the standby candidate who did not even meet the cut off point of 65 percent was appointed as the replacement on November 7.

BDFL stated that the male sales executive was terminated and replaced for accusing and then failing to give a satisfactory explanation for alleging that the management had ruined his life and for practising discrimination.

“Therefore, he was asked to submit resignation or face termination as such behaviour and attitude would have caused damage to the credibility of the company,” the CEO said, adding that BDFL would continue to transfer employees as frequently as possible in the interest of the company.

As per section 87 of the labour Act, an employer may terminate an employee without notice or payment if the employee has been guilty of serious misconduct which includes fraud, theft, and involvement in serious crimes, habitual irregular attendance and sabotage, among others. The employer should also first take all reasonable steps to ascertain if the employee’s conduct amounts to serious misconduct.

The ex-employees also claimed of not being given an opportunity to defend themselves before the termination.

The DGM also allegedly recruited her cousin as a sales executive in Paro on September 1 by tampering with documents after she joined BDFL in July. The summative score sheet of an interview on June 17 and 18 for the post of sales executives showed that though the 15th ranked candidate with a score of 66.50 percent was already employed, on July 1, she was reflected as a standby. However, the DGM’s cousin placed in the 16th position with 65.50 percent was reflected as selected.

The DGM is alleged to have mistakenly typed her cousin as selected and the applicant before her as standby in the score sheet while tampering the documents. If the documents weren’t tampered with, the complainants questioned why her cousin wasn’t employed in July though she was remarked as selected.

The recruitment of the four standby applicants as replacements in September and November also contravened section 2.6.9 of chapter two of the service manual which states that standby applicants cannot be employed 30 days after the date of interview.

All these standby applicants were recruited 60-120 days after the date of interview. The CEO however said these standby candidates were recruited since its board approved for maintenance of standby candidates for the sales executive posts and other positions for six months to meet its immediate human resource requirements.

The candidate employed on November 7 with a score of 64.75 percent was also recruited despite not meeting the cut off point of 65 percent on the summative score sheet. The minutes of the human resource committee meeting on June 17 stated that the candidates failing to secure 65 percent would not be considered for employment.

BDFL said that the DGM had no hand in termination of these employees or had tampered documents. As per its response, one sales executive was appointed in September, after another rejected an appointment. The other was recruited to replace trained sales executives bound for Phuentsholing.

When it comes to the discrepancy in the ranking of the DGM’s cousin and the employee before her, the CEO stated that he committed an error in the remark column wherein the candidate ranked 15 was marked as standby and the candidate ranked 16 was marked as selected.  He said that it was corrected by employing the candidate ranked 15 and not the DGM’s cousin.

It also clarified that the DGM’s cousin was recruited through the board meeting on August 6. The DGM’s cousin and two other sales executives who joined in early September were not intended as replacements for the terminated employees.

The candidate who scored 64.75 percent was recruited after rounding off the score, the CEO said.

The letter also alleged that the DGM was recruited though she didn’t fulfil the terms of reference that states an applicant should have a minimum of 65 percent in the degree of the relevant field of study with not less than 65 percent in classes X and XII. The DGM had only 60 percent in her degree and just 55 in class XII and 50 in X.

BDFL stated that the DGM was recruited based on the outcome of the interview board conducted. On the alleged verbal assault and harassment, the CEO said that informing of the consequences of non-performance to employees on probation should not be construed as verbal assault.

Tempa Wangdi

Threat from unsafe use of priority industrial chemicals

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 17:07

Health: Sound management of industrial chemicals in Bhutan is necessary to protect people from cancer, according to a report on preventive interventions for priority carcinogens in Bhutan 2016.

Priority industrial chemicals such as asbestos, benzene, formaldehyde and diesel engine exhaust commonly used in the country are known human carcinogens (cancer causing), the report states. These chemicals are classified as Group I carcinogenic chemicals to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The report was shared yesterday at a high-level advocacy meeting on carcinogenic chemicals and human health. Preventing cancer from unsafe use of carcinogenic chemicals at work and home was the highlight of the meeting attended by parliamentarians and officials from various government agencies.

Use of priority industrial chemicals

According to the report, asbestos and asbestos containing material in various forms are used for construction and insulation of buildings while other fabricated asbestos like ropes, woven fabric, clothing, headgear, and footwear, among others, are used mainly as insulators against heat exposure from furnaces in the ferro-alloy industries.

Benzene in its pure form is used primarily in the printing industry and a substantial amount benzene containing products like gasoline, organic composite solvents, paints and varnish remover are imported.

Similarly, formaldehyde is used in large quantities for manufacturing particle boards and furniture while kerosene stoves and firewood used for heating are important sources of formaldehyde.

The significant rise in the import of diesel fuel over the years is also seen as an equal threat.

Threat

The Bhutan Cancer Report 2015 shows an increase in annual incidence of cancer cases from 31/100,000 in 2008 to 86/100,000 population in 2014 highlighting a possible link between industrial exposure and air pollution given the increasing number of vehicles in the country and increasing cancer incidence.

According to the report on preventive interventions for priority carcinogens, implementing preventive interventions for priority carcinogens will enable Bhutan to concentrate on measures that can produce tangible results of priority importance. This was also important with industrialisation and considering the latency period between exposure and the development of cancer and the challenges to ensure accurate diagnosis and reporting of cases.

Health minister Tandin Wangchuk said that cancer is a leading cause of death all over the world and Bhutan is no exception.

Lyonpo said that the increasing incidence of cancer in recent years resulted in substantial deaths, disabilities and economic loss. “The Human Carcinogenic Report also suspects link between industrial exposure from air pollutants and increasing cancer incidence,” Lyonpo said.

In addition, a study carried out in 2012 indicated a high quantity import of industrial carcinogens like asbestos, formaldehyde, benzene, and petrol in Bhutan. There was no information with regards to the extent of occupational exposure to these carcinogens. Therefore, an exposure assessment of identified human carcinogenic chemicals was carried out by the health ministry in collaboration with the labour ministry in selected workplaces in Pasakha, Tala, and Phuentsholing through this project.

“The result of some chemical analysis were found to be alarming as it exceeds the acceptable limit set by the international standard and labour ministry,” Lyonpo said. “The result clearly shows that the relevant agencies need to come together with sound strategies and appropriate measures to make our workplace safer.”

Recommendations 

The report suggested key recommendations both at a national and enterprise level. At a national level, addressing capacity building of relevant ministries is a priority.

The report states that exposure to carcinogenic chemicals in the workplace maybe widespread but most enterprises lack basic capacities to recognise and control hazards. “There is a need to augment human resources and laboratory capacities for workplace monitoring,” it states.

Routine capacity building exercises for broad categories of occupational health and safety professionals working in industry as well as in the labour inspectorate and relevant government agencies were found necessary. Besides, arrangements for periodic medical examinations should be reviewed, among others.

Pre-employment medical examinations should aim to detect medical conditions, which could make the workers vulnerable to specific chemical hazards, states the report. Periodic medical examinations should include hazard-specific medical tests. A concerted advocacy campaign was also found necessary besides improvements in basic industrial hygiene resulting in significant improvements in workplace conditions through additional investments and infrastructure.

Some of the recommendations made at an enterprise level are greater attention required on the storage, handling and disposal of hazardous chemicals, standard operating procedures and greater attention given to basic industrial hygiene activities such as the clean up of spills, handling work uniforms and cleaning of equipment and provision of basic housekeeping measures, and separate dining area and hygiene facilities.

Requirement of proper implementation of occupational health and safety at work regulations with priority to control of exposures at source rather than on relying on personal protective equipment and conducting mock drills as per statutes requirements are other recommendations at an enterprise level.

Meanwhile, the report on preventive interventions for priority carcinogens in Bhutan 2016 is part of the project funded from the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) through the Quick Start Programme (QSP) of the United Nations Environment Programme. The QSP programme is designed to assist governments in identifying their capacity building needs to manage chemicals soundly.

Speaking at the meeting, WHO’s representative Dr Ornella Lincetto said that exposure to chemicals are a critical part of environmental exposures and at the same time a double-edged sword.  While chemicals are useful for economic development and used in many areas, she said chemicals also cause adverse health effects if not properly used.

“Exposure to various chemicals occurs every day and through multiple routes such as food, air, skin contact and from mother to unborn child,” Dr Ornella Lincetto said. “With increasing industries, agricultural activities, and commerce, chemicals production and use continues to increase and so it is in Bhutan.”

The National Environmental Commission and health ministry undertook the project in collaboration with the World Health Organisation country office.

Kinga Dema

5th Annual Bhutan-India Development Cooperation talks held

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 17:06

Cooperation: The 5th Annual Bhutan-India Development Cooperation Talks was held yesterday in Thimphu, according to a press release issued by the foreign affairs ministry.

With Bhutan’s 11th Five Year Plan entering its fourth year, the two sides reviewed the overall progress of PTA and SDP projects. The Indian side endorsed reprioritisation of 30 projects and change of scope in five projects proposed by the Royal Government under the Project Tied Assistance (PTA) component of the Government of India’s  assistance to the 11th FYP.

The Bhutanese side thanked the Indian side for the timely and consistent disbursement of funds and also highlighted the fund release priorities for the remaining year of the 11th FYP.

The Bhutan-India Development Cooperation Talks is the over arching mechanism for discussing India’s bilateral development assistance to the Royal Government. India has committed Nu 28 billion (B) as PTA, Nu 8.5B for Programme Grant and Nu 8.5B for Small Development Projects for Bhutan’s 11th Five Year Plan (July 2013 to June 2018).

India has also granted Nu 5B for the Economic Stimulus Plan. A total of 83 PTA projects and 596 SDPs are being implemented during the current Plan period.

The two sides agreed to hold the next annual Development Cooperation Talks in New Delhi, India in mid-2017, on a mutually agreed date.

“The 5th Annual India-Bhutan Development Cooperation Talks was successfully held in a friendly atmosphere in keeping with the age old ties of friendship between the two countries,” states the press release.

The Bhutanese delegation was led by foreign secretary, Tshering Dorji and the Indian delegation by the secretary of economic relations of the Ministry of External Affairs, Amar Sinha.

Staff reporter

A Decade on the Golden Throne

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 17:05

Exactly ten years ago today, the Great Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck handed over the destiny of Bhutan to His Majesty Druk Gyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Drukyul continued its journey of unprecedented peace, harmony and prosperity.

His Majesty The King’s first ten years of reign will be remembered as a decade of change and tendrels for Drukyul. The Bhutanese who reluctantly embraced democracy at the behest of our Beloved Monarchs are slowly, over the years, realising the profundity, genius and deliberateness to empower the Bhutanese, who are recognised by the Golden Throne, as the true custodians and ultimate guardians of the security, sovereignty and continued well-being of our country.

The decade will also go down in history as the era for the emergence of people’s power and women leadership.

The sweat and hard work, love and care, the generosity and service of our People’s King made Drukyul a land full of hopes and aspirations. His Majesty The King’s trust and confidence in our people of their potential and capabilities have motivated them to work hard and service the country with total dedication. We, the Bhutanese are fortunate to be blessed with successive Monarchs that serve us rather than rule us.

Indeed, the country is living the prophecy made in 2006 by the Great Fourth Druk Gyalpo: “I am confident that a very bright and great future lies ahead for Bhutan with the leadership of a new King and a democratic system of government that is best suited for our country, as enshrined under the Constitution. I have every confidence that there will be unprecedented progress and prosperity for our nation in the reign of our Fifth King.”

It was also an auspicious decade of triple Tendrels: the Coronation of His Majesty The King, the Royal Wedding, and the Birth of The Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck coinciding with the Birth year of Guru Rinpoche and the 400th year anniversary of Zhabdrung Rinpoche’s arrival.

As we march into the 2nd decade of the Golden Reign, may every Bhutanese be reminded of His Majesty The King’s profound words of wisdom and be inspired to service the Tsawa Sum with utmost dedication:

“If, every single day, every Bhutanese respects our culture and traditions, our environment, if we uphold the law, if we safeguard everything that is important to Bhutan and to our future generations, if we do our jobs to the best of our abilities, then we will always continue to build a strong nation according to our aspirations, unique to our own way of life.”

We pray for His Majesty The King’s good health and long life, and may the Drukyul continue to enjoy peace, harmony, security and sovereignty for eternity under the auspices of the Wangchuck Dynasty.

18th session has been very fruitful: NC Spokesperson

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 17:04

Council: The 18th session of the National Council (NC) that concluded yesterday deliberated five bills and as many policy issues and endorsed recommendations.

The bills are the Red Cross Bill, the customs Bill, the civil aviation Bill, supplementary budget and the tax (amendment) Bill.

The House reviewed and suggested recommendations on agriculture, education, teenage pregnancy and sexual harassment, public procurement and regulation of foreigners.

While the National Assembly (NA) didn’t accept some of the NC’s recommendations on the customs Bill, four have been endorsed by both Houses. NC also discussed the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) but voted against its ratification.

Speaking at the post-session press conference, NC’s Spokesperson and Deputy Chairperson Tshering Dorji said the Council had a fruitful session. He said that most of the recommendations on the civil aviation bill were accepted by NA and will be submitted to His Majesty The Druk Gyalpo.

Eminent Member Phuntsho Rabten said the NC recognises the inadequate working environment of teachers in schools.  Teachers work in congested space with poor furniture and limited computers and poor Internet connectivity.

He said the overall national education policy is in a draft stage and added that the House acknowledges the importance of such a policy to provide a broad framework and strategic direction for the future of education.

Phuntsho Rabten said the NC has made eight recommendations to improve the education system. The government has been asked to expedite the approval of the draft National Education Policy to provide strategic direction and effective implementation of education programmes.

Eminent Member Kesang Chuki Dorjee said NC recognises that the government and stakeholders in laying the policy foundation to address social issues related to teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse against children, and sexual harassment. She said that there are also adequate laws and policies in place on all the three issues.

However, she said that the key challenge in addressing these issues is rooted in implementation gaps due to resource constraints. She added that there is a detrimental impact on these issues on the society and said that the House recommends the government should set up nationwide advocacy efforts in tandem with stakeholder agencies for preventive actions and behavioral change to combat teenage pregnancies and health risks and sexual abuse.

NC has recommended the health ministry to collaborate with the education ministry to educate out-of-school youths on sex education, sexual health, sexual abuse and harassment through the existing programmes.

Member from Pemagatshel, Jigmi Rinzin, said agriculture, which is the primary source of livelihood for 70 percent of the population, had experienced insignificant growth to be able to adequately address rural poverty, attain food security and sustain the overall economic growth as indicated by its GDP share, which reduced from 24 percent in 2004 to 16.67 percent in 2015.

He said that NC is concerned about the number of gungtongs and fallowing of land in the country. The House recommended the government to advocate the Food and Nutrition Security Policy of Bhutan 2014 for greater awareness and common ownership amongst the agriculture sector and relevant stakeholders.

NC has also recommended the government to revisit the existing policy instruments to ensure maximum food availability through domestic production and integrate the agriculture policy into the Economic Development Policy and the Fiscal Incentive Policy.

Chairperson of Economic Development Committee, Sonam Dorji, said the NC has asked the government through its recommendations to enact a law for ownership of assets and accounts abroad by Bhutanese citizens to enhance transparency, curb corruption and prevent tax evasion.

Member from Trongsa, Tharchen, said 17.6 percent of the country’s GDP is spent on procurement annually excluding national level budget allocation for mega projects such as hydropower and widening of Northern east-west highway for double lane traffic. Otherwise, the procurement would push the spending beyond 30 percent of the GDP.

NC has asked the government to consider enacting a separate law for public procurement that will ensure good governance and integrity in public procurement resulting in judicious and efficient utilisation of public accounts.

Gasa’s NC member Sangay Khandu said the civil aviation Bill has been endorsed by both Houses. “It does not have to go to a joint sitting as the Assembly has accepted our recommendations,” he said.

He said that the civil aviation Bill is important because of the increase in the number of aircrafts and helicopters.

MB Subba

‘A tribute to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’ opens in Thimphu

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 17:03

Exhibition: An exhibition titled ‘A tribute to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’ portraying four important events; Thailand and Bhutan relations, the biography of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, royal activities and the mourning of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, opened in the capital yesterday.

The exhibition is considered as a token of appreciation from the people of Thailand to His Majesty The King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the Royal Family and the people of Bhutan since the people of Thailand is genuinely moved by the sympathy of the Royal Family and the government of Bhutan.

His Majesty The King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was the first foreign monarch to travel to Thailand to pay His last respects to the Late King of Thailand while monasteries in Bhutan conducted prayers for the Late King.

Her Royal Highness Princess Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck, Her Royal Highness Princess Dechen Yangzom Wangchuck, Her Royal Highness Princess Kesang Choden Wangchuck and His Royal Highness Prince Ugyen Jigme Wangchuck graced the opening of the exhibition.

A 35-member delegation led by the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, General Thanasak Patimaprakorn, Minister for Culture of Thailand and the ambassador of Thailand to Bhutan are in the country to hold the exhibition. The delegation will be in the country until December 11.

Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, General Thanasak Patimaprakorn, said the exhibition features His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s accomplishments and the warm and friendly relations between the two countries.

“The artistic frames and compositions reflect the friendly sentiments of the Thai people to the Bhutanese people. In fact, these colourful photos will allow Bhutanese people to know His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the country of Thailand,” General Thanasak Patimaprakorn said.

The countries have expressed a commitment to lead policies and plans called self-sufficiency, a term coined by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and Gross National Happiness a term coined by His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck, General Thanasak Patimaprakorn said. “In Thailand, self-sufficiency alone is focussed on living a moderate and self-dependant life without the over exploitation of natural resources, all of which supports the ultimate goal of happiness. The two national ideologies are significant parts of the cultural cooperation between the two countries given the unique role in enhancing mutual understanding, trust and friendship.”

Foreign minister Damcho Dorji said it is an honour Bhutan is the first country to be chosen by the Royal Thai Government to hold the exhibition and that the Royal Government deeply appreciates the gesture shown by the Royal Thai Government.

“This reflects the goodwill and importance the government and people of Thailand attaches to the relations between the two countries. The presence of Their Royal Highnesses is a testimony to the deep respect His Majesty The King and the Royal Family have for the Late Majesty and Thailand,” Lyonpo said.

“His Late Majesty is revered not just in Thailand but also in Bhutan. We were deeply saddened by the news of the passing away of a great dharma king of our times. We join the Thai delegation and Thai community to celebrate and remember the noble achievements and contributions of His Late Majesty for the benefit of the Thai people and humankind in general,” Lyonpo said.

“We hope to remember and appreciate some of His Late Majesty’s achievements through the photo exhibition. Bhutan enjoys growing ties and friendship with Thailand. The foundation of this friendship is secured in a common spiritual heritage, shared reverence to the institution of monarchy and the legacy of sovereign independence. Our cooperation in diverse fields such as human resource development, education and trade has further strengthened this enduring relation,” Lyonpo said.

He added that the tribute will remind viewers of the noble contributions and sacrifices made by the Late King.

Lyonpo also congratulated the people of Thailand on the accession to the throne by His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The exhibition, which will go on until the end of this month, is being held at the Voluntary Artists’ Studio in Thimphu. It is open to the public.

The Ministry of Culture of Thailand and the Royal Thai Embassy in Dhaka are organising the exhibition.

Thinley Zangmo

Bhutan observes 32nd SAARC Charter Day

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 17:02

SAARC: To commemorate the 32nd SAARC Charter Day, government officials in Thimphu lit 1,000 butter lamps in Tashichhodzong yesterday.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that the association over the three decades has made significant progress in fulfilling its goals and objectives to uplift the living standards of the people of South Asia and integration of the region.

“We must continue to nurture our spirit of association and collectively promote mutual understanding and good neighbourly relations and strengthen the common bond of friendship among the member states,” Lyonchoen said.

Lyonchoen added that Bhutan reaffirms its commitment and support to  SAARC and said that the country will continue to work closely with every member state in further achieving the goals and objectives enshrined in the SAARC Charter.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was founded in 1985 with seven member states of the South Asian region. Today its has eight member states.

The day also marked the 31st anniversary of SAARC.

Staff reporter

The Power of the Royal Vision

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 17:01

Bhutan celebrates the tenth year of His Majesty The King’s glorious reign. This decade of caring reign has been a period of continued peace, prosperity and marked by a most hallowed sense of commitment to nation building. All of it in the midst of momentous change.

The vision, the wisdom, the compassion and the benevolence of His Majesty The King has steered Bhutan to pursue the national goal of Gross National Happiness (GNH) with a greater clarity of direction, deeper sense of purpose and a stronger bond of national self-confidence. Words fail to sufficiently describe the innumerable ways His Majesty The King’s profound and powerful influence has in nurturing the national consciousness and in empowering Bhutanese society to be a compassionate people, to be responsible Bhutanese and to be sensible global citizens!

This is the King who endears, who empowers and who enables its people to be and do their best. This is the King who cooks for students in the school kitchen, wades into the river to reach out to the flood victims, mourns with the bereaved family who lost a father, spends hundreds of hours signing certificates to encourage civil servants, teachers and students, treks into the highest glacial mountains to reach out to people, sleeps in the home of an impoverished family, patiently hears out every single appeal and many, many more. All of it in selflessness, in sacrifice and in simplicity.

Education is easily the closest to His Majesty The King’s heart. His Majesty The King says: “As I serve my country, I have a number of priorities. Number one on my list is education. Education is empowering – it’s a social equaliser and it facilitates self-discovery, which leads to realising one’s full potential”.

The vision of education that emanates from the Golden Throne is powerful. The ideas are compelling. The Royal Initiatives are profound. In his visits to many parts of the country, His Majesty The King would always visit schools, talk to children and teachers and hear out their aspirations and concerns, and painstakingly explain the importance of education in building the future of Bhutan. There is not a single student or teacher who is not touched or inspired by His Majesty The King’s words and actions.

In a school His Majesty The King commands that the students must learn the traditional etiquette of eating from ‘Phorb and Tora’. In the same breath His Majesty The King commands that the students should learn to eat using fork, knife and spoon. That our education system must be anchored to our rich heritage of culture, tradition and the Bhutanese value system and yet be progressive in its pursuit of science and technology, has been His Majesty The King’s vision of being nationally rooted but globally oriented, so that our students will graduate to be proud Bhutanese and be able to find for themselves a space anywhere in the world.

The many Royal awards and scholarship schemes set up for youth to recognise volunteerism, outstanding achievements and special merits have reinforced the values of service, responsibility, discipline, selflessness and the pursuit of excellence. His Majesty The King’s consistent emphasis on the need to pursue “higher standards”; to strive for “excellence”; to know that “Good is not good enough” have deeply influenced personal and institutional values, character and aspiration. The Gyalpoi Tozay initiative has enabled hundreds of students from disadvantaged families to pursue education and find for themselves a purposeful living in the society.

His Majesty The King’s profound understanding of the inevitable process of change and the need for intelligent adaptation while being anchored to our history, culture and legacy has had a deep and powerful influence on Bhutan’s educational thinking and reform initiatives in the past decade. Change initiatives such as educational policy shifts, school restructuring, curriculum reforms, pedagogical changes, are all, in form and format, rising up to the Royal Vision, Royal Ideas and Royal Challenge.

His Majesty The King’ vision of “building intelligent institutions” has helped shape the education landscape in Bhutan in the past decade. The Royal Academy at Paro shall stand as a beacon for excellence in education. Central schools reform is an initiative towards this Royal Vision of building intelligent institutions where knowledge not only propagates but also is created. His Majesty The King said: “We can dream of a nation of environmental conservation, GNH, a strong economy, a vibrant democracy and yet none are possible or sustainable if we have not already toiled and sweated in the building of a strong education system”.

The past ten years, the Ministry of Education has toiled in bettering our education system. Today a comprehensive reform drive has been launched to ensure the national vision is contained ‘in the pages of the books that our children hold, in the words of the teachers as they lead the classroom and in the education policies of the government’. Reflected in the three pillars of ‘school, curriculum and teachers’, the reform initiatives aim at creating schools as a physical, social and emotional space where learning is enabled for full realisation of every child’s potential; in creating a curriculum that is engaging, enjoyable and enlightening both to the brain and the mind; in nurturing teachers who are committed and competent and who would have what needs to be imparted as ‘you cannot give what you do not have’.

In the midst of much inspiration, encouragement and support that education received from His Majesty The King, the education family is gripped with the courage and confidence to build an education system that is comparable to the finest in the world. As His Majesty The King reminds us often that the question is not whether we have the ability to do it, the question is whether we have the will to do it. We have the advantage of being a small nation. We can be nimble, efficient and fast. Our education system can be nurtured to be the finest in the world. We have the Royal Vision. We have committed teachers. We have a caring society.

The vision of education shines from the Golden Throne, the path towards the greater vision is illuminated, and the journey is compelling. We, in the education family have embarked on the journey. It is a journey that requires sacrifice, simplicity and selflessness. But it is a journey that will leave a legacy of a better future, a greater country and a happier society. We owe this journey to our beloved King, our children and our country.

Contributed by 

Lyonpo Norbu 

Wangchuk

Minister of Education

His Majesty The King granted an Audience to the volunteers attending the 22nd batch of the DeSuung Training Programme

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 17:00

His Majesty The King granted an Audience to the volunteers attending the 22nd batch of the DeSuung Training Programme. The 125 volunteers upon completion of the training will take the total number of DeSuups in the country to 2,641. Since 2011, DeSuups in their orange uniforms have become an integral part of all national events, disasters, or rescue efforts, and are icons of volunteerism in the country.

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