The Office of Attorney General charged Tenzin Dorji, 24, for voluntary manslaughter, and three others for their involvement in a gang fight to the Thimphu dzongkhag court on March 17.
Following the gang fight near the Clock Tower Square in Thimphu on January 28, Maniraj Subba, 22, from Karmaling gewog, Dagana succumbed to a head injury at the national referral hospital the next day.
The deceased, a freelance assistant cook was allegedly stabbed in the head by Tenzin Dorji who is a class XI student from Bumthang. The deceased was rushed to the national referral hospital by his friends. The hospital informed the police about the incident at 8.15pm.
The dagger had penetrated the victim’s skull and left an 11cm cut. There were also numerous cuts on the left thigh of the deceased. Police arrested the suspect on January 29.
According statements given to the police, the deceased’s younger brother, Bagiraj Subba had some issues with Sangay Namgyal, a friend of the suspect. Bagiraj along with a cousin went to settle the conflict with him. When confronted, Sangay Namgay who was with a friend shouted abuse at the two, following which the cousin and his friend Dechen Sangay physically assaulted him.
The incident escalated and more people got involved as Sangay Namgay’s friends including the suspect, Tenzin Dorji heard about the physical confrontation.
They gathered together and went around looking for the duo, who belonged to a gang calling itself the ADA Boys group. They found the cousin with the deceased and two other friends. The groups clashed near the Cloud Nine Karaoke and began throwing stones at each other.
In the melee, Tenzin Dorji hit the deceased. The suspect in his statement to police said that it was an act of self defence. According to the suspect, the deceased tried to hit him when he reached the scene and that he stabbed the deceased in retaliation.
The OAG charged Tenzin Dorji under the Penal Code section 140 on voluntary manslaughter and is liable for a second degree felony conviction for which the imprisonment term ranges from nine to 15 years.
Sangay Namgyal, 16, is charged for aiding and abetting the crime, which is classified as a fourth degree crime, and is liable for prison term ranging from three to five years.
The cousin of the deceased, Bikash Subba, 20, and his friend, Dechen Sangay, 16, are charged for getting involved in the fight and are liable for prison terms ranging between one month and a year.
Except for Bikash Subba, the three are students.
Of a total of 163 lhakhangs interested to install CCTV (closed circuit television) cameras, only nine lhakhangs in Bumthang have installed the cameras as of yesterday.
Of about 1,800 registered lhakhangs in the country, only 163 lhakhang owners and caretakers volunteered to bear the installation costs of the cameras in their lhakhangs. A total of 321 CCTV cameras are required by these lhakhangs.
Owners and caretakers of 11 lhakhangs in Bumthang had deposited the money to the Royal Bhutan Police’s bank account to install CCTV cameras in their lhakhangs. Two lhakhangs are yet to install the cameras because they are currently being renovated.
The former chief of police Kipchu Namgyel initiated the work to install CCTV cameras in lhakhangs in the country as one of the crime prevention measures.
The RBP has been sensitising caretakers and owners of lhakhangs in the country about the benefit of having CCTV cameras in lhakhangs since 2015.
The former police chief, during a press conference held in May last year said that individual and respective lhakhangs have to bear the cost of installing CCTV cameras while the RBP will collaborate to float tenders to install the CCTV cameras.
A police official said that the RBP is collaborating with the lhakhang owners to float tenders to ensure that the cameras are of high quality and have good resolution. “We want to help the lhakhangs have the right CCTV cameras in them,” the official said.
However, none of the lhakhang owners in Punakha, Gasa, Chukha, Sarpang, Dagana, Mongar and Trashiyangtse volunteered to bear the costs of installing the cameras.
The official said that some lhakhang owners in these dzongkhags said that they couldn’t afford it.
It cost about Nu 50,700 to install two cameras, a dome camera and a fixed camera in a lhakhang, including the accessories.
The official said that the company who got the work to install the cameras in the lhakhangs doesn’t charge an installation fee.
Thimphu police detained nine school students on March 17 for an alleged burglary.
A shopkeeper in Simtokha lodged a complaint with the police after his friends had apprehended a suspect who was caught while breaking into his shop on March 17 at around 1:30pm.
The suspect was identified as a 15-year-old boy from Samtse and currently studying in Thimphu with his parents.
After an interrogation, police found that eight other boys were also involved in the crime.
All the suspects are under 18 years and are from low income backgrounds.
Police said further investigation revealed that the boys were also involved in three other burglary cases in Simtokha in February and March this year.
Police said the number of youth getting into conflict with the law is increasing every year.
A police official said he personally feels that with development, the needs and wants of children are increasing and when parents cannot afford to provide them their wants, they resort to such crimes.
He also said with people becoming more ambitious and when parents are busy with work, the children are neglected and come into conflict with the law.
The official also said that they can’t blame the children for committing such crimes, as they lack guidance. “We don’t know whose responsibilities it is to take care and give necessary advice to children; parents or teachers.”
However, children who come into conflict with the law are sent to the Youth Development Rehabilitation Centre (YDRC) at Tsimasham after a court convicts them. They also have the opportunity to continue education.
As of now there are two girls and 28 boys at the YRDC.
The plot owners of new Doksum town in Trashiyangtse are running out of time to construct houses that the Kholungchhu Hydroelectric Project Authority (KHPA) would require for its employees and workers.
The plot owners have just about a week to decide to begin construction.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay met with the residents on March 19 and said that not everything can be done by the government. Land, design, wood and water were given free.
However, plot owners are not happy with the house designs provided by the KHPA.
With the integrated housing colony at Khetsang town, KHPA will rent 200 housing units during its construction phase.
KHPA officials presented the project and work plans to Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay. The officials also highlight edcorporate social responsibility initiatives undertaken on health, community vitality, the environment, organisation of social events, education, farm road connectivity and water supply at the Doksum township area.
There are 40 commercial and 150 residential plots in the new town area. The town development works began in 2013 to relocate the existing Doksum town.
Tashi Phuntsho | Trashiyangtse
An expatriate worker died after falling off a building that he had been working on in Phuentsholing earlier this month.
Perhaps, the unfortunate incident could have been prevented if the worker had on a safety harness, or if other safety requirements were followed.
However, construction safety requirements are blatantly ignored nation wide, even on government construction sites. This is especially true of building construction sites.
It is the spring season when most building constructions begin and already you can see workers, mostly expatriate, working without any safety gear on.
Construction sites are dangerous areas, not only for the workers on site, but the public as well.
If safety requirements are ignored, there are risks to both workers and the public.
The rules are already in place and monitoring on compliance is carried out periodically. However, safety remains an issue.
The problem here is mindset. Most expatriate workers do not want to use safety gear and complain it is uncomfortable and hampers their work, among others. Another problem is that construction foremen, site managers and owners do not strictly enforce the rules. This is likely compounded by lack of more stringent monitoring by the agencies concerned.
There is clearly a need to change mindsets at all levels.
This could perhaps be achieved by having expatriate workers go through a crash course on personal and site safety. This must be then followed by safety briefings every morning by the site in-charge. It must also become the responsibility of the site in-charge to ensure that safety requirements are followed throughout the day.
Expatriate and local workers must realise that to work in Bhutan, their safety along with the public’s is not taken lightly. This message must be made clear with the concerned agencies conducting more regular inspections of construction sites. These inspections must not only assess if workers are using personal safety gear but also whether their employer has ensured that the construction site is safe for the workers, in terms of providing them with the essential necessities like hygienic toilets, clean water, and acceptable hygiene.
Inspection teams could also begin rating contractors on their safety compliance, and use these scores to determine the award of contracts later on. It is also important that employers who fail to ensure safety of their workers on site, of fail to convince their workers to use protective gear are penalised.
It is evident that safety is lacking in the construction sector. It is time we begin changing that and provide a model of safety in the region.
Three years after Dechen Yangzom, 22, from Jakar village in Bumthang left school, she sees some scope in her life.
Undergoing a tailoring training in Bumthang that started yesterday by Respect, Educate, Nurture, and Empower Women (RENEW), she said she can now open a tailoring shop in Chamkhar town.
Dechen had to drop out of school in 2014 after she could not qualify for higher studies. She stayed at home with her parents.
She said she could join the training after her former women teachers, who are members of the community based support service (CBSS) of RENEW, recommended her.
Dechen Zangmo said she could not help her parents since she was unemployed for a few years. She is optimistic that she can open a tailoring shop in Chamkhar or work at home.
She expects that with so many festivals in Bumthang, the tailoring shop will do well. She said the training would impart the most necessary skill.
There are five tailoring shops in Bumthang today.
Like Dechen, there are 15 other women from different dzongkhags who are currently undergoing the second batch of skills development training.
Lemo, 36, from Chapcha is another trainee.
She said tailoring doesn’t require much money to start with.
She also said that the benefit of the training should be measured in terms of monetary income. “If we could stich our house members clothes, it will benefit us.
Lemo said she is also committed to impart the skill to others interested.
Another trainee, Choki Dema, 35, from Bumthang said she plans to stitch tegos, kiras and wonjus since there is more demand today. “I can keep working at home if I cannot not open a tailoring shop,” the mother of three said.
The three-month training, coordinated by the multi-sectoral task force and CBSS, is conducted in a house belonging to the dzongkhag administration. Fida International is funding the training.
Bumthang dzongdag Phub Tshering, during the inaugural address, told the participants that they should make the most of the opportunity. “RENEW is conducting the training with the aim to make women self-reliant. If women benefit, society benefits too.”
CBSS coordinator, Pema Choki said RENEW trained 22 women in the first batch of which 16 have formed a cooperative and started working. “They work in turns due to inadequate space.”
She said the second training was initiated based on the results of the first batch.
Pema Choki said there were many who actually registered for the training but a committee conducted a selection. “The training would continue in the future depending upon the availability of fund and the need felt among the people,” she said.
She also said training is aimed at empowering and enhancing livelihood skills of women in the community
Meanwhile, Bumthang dzongkhag officials also pledged to support women empowerment activities in the dzongkhag.
Nima Wangdi | Chamkhar
The Bhutan Power Corporation office (BPC) in Wangdue restored electricity in Daga by the afternoon of March 21 after the gewog suffered power blackout since the night of March 18.
This, according to the residents, was the second power blackout they faced within this month, with the latest one on March 11. Power was restored on March 13.
Beginning a few years ago the power blackouts became frequent, locals said sometimes they even had to approach higher authorities to get the power restored.
Daga gewog officials said they only wanted BPC to improve the situation, and not complain about their work. “When there is a blackout, it affects the villages in the gewog, Taksha primary school and the gewog office,” said a gewog official.
Gewog officials said Taksha school has boarding facilities and when the power goes off, it affects the students and teaching staff.
Officials also said the school authority always calls the gewog whenever there is a blackout.
Gewog officials pointed out that such blackouts also hamper the gewog office in providing required services to the people. “Without power, the office can’t even send a single official letter or make phone calls,” an official said.
Wangdue’s BPC manager, Dilli Ram Adhikari, said the power blackout this time was caused by falling trees on the power transmission lines near the Punatsanghhu II dam construction site in the forest.
“We immediately deployed our people to clear the trees and restore the power but since it was a huge tree it took some time,” the manager said. “The power cut happened at around 11pm.”
He said they took several days to restore the power the last time, as two transmission poles were damaged due to falling trees caused by a heavy windstorm. “The frequent blackout in and around Daga gewog is mostly caused due to falling trees on transmission poles and lines.”
The manager said more human resources are needed and more time to restore the power in the area, as most of these problems occur in the forests. “Most problems were also caused because the trees were taller than the transmission poles, he said. “We are trying our best to restore the power back whenever there is blackout.”
Gewog officials also said another transformer will be installed at Kamichu which should help to address the blackouts.
Meanwhile, gewog officials said despite requesting BPC and raising the issue during dzongkhag tshogdus, Wogay chiwog is yet to be electrified. The chiwog with just 14 households is one of the remotest areas in Wangdue.
Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue
The 2016 Human Development Report entitled ‘Human Development for Everyone’, of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), calls for stronger focus on those excluded and on actions to dismantle the barriers urgently needed to ensure sustainable human development for all.
On the 2016 Human Development Report (HDR) entitled Human Development for Everyone, of the UNDP, Bhutan has been ranked 132 out of 188 countries positioning the country in the medium human development category along with India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and 41 other countries.
According to a press release from UNDP, Bhutan’s Human Development Index (HDI) has increased by six percent anchored by a 17.4 percent increase in life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling by 0.8 years and expected years of schooling by 7.1 years. The Gross National Income per capita also increased by about 236.2 percent between 1990 and 2015.
The HDI is a summary measure for assessing progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.
The 2016 HDR, which was launched by the UNDP administrator, Helen Clark, and Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, in Stockholm on March 21, focuses on how human development can be ensured for every one – now and in future, states the press release.
The report explores who has been left behind in human development progress and why. “Human development progress over the past 25 years has been impressive on many fronts. But the gains have not been universal,” states the press release, adding that the report makes clear that progress in the Asia and Pacific region has not benefited everyone.
Despite a steep drop in poverty between 1990 and 2013 – in East Asia, the proportion of people living on less than USD 1.90 a day fell from 60 percent to under four percent, and in South Asia from 45 percent to 15 percent – some 54 percent of the world’s multidimensional poor live in South Asia, as measured by the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).
According to the press release, although Bhutan’s HDI for 2015 stood at 0.607, the index spirals down by 29.4 percent due to inequality in the distribution of the dimension indices to 0.428. “This is fuelled by Bhutan’s inequality coefficient which is equal to 28.4 percent as compared to 27.7 percent in South Asia and 25.7 percent for other medium HDI countries.”
“But those gains are a prelude to the next, possibly tougher challenge, to ensure the benefits of global progress reach everyone,” said Helen Clark.
Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Haoliang Xu, said: “This report uncovers a deeper story behind the statistics,” adding that, “Even in a region that has made such remarkable progress, pockets of exclusion continue to prevent millions of people from fulfilling their true potential.”
The report shows that the disparities disproportionally impact women, ethnic minorities and people living in remote areas and can suffer deprivations both overt and hidden, according to the press release.
In Bhutan, 29.4 percent of the population are multidimensionally poor while an additional 18.0 percent live near multidimensional poverty. The breadth of deprivation (intensity) in Bhutan, which is the average deprivation score experienced by people in multidimensional poverty, is 43.5 percent, states the press release.
The MPI, which is the share of the population that is multi-dimensionally poor, adjusted by the intensity of the deprivations, is 0.128. Maldives and Nepal have MPIs of 0.008 and 0.116 respectively.
“We place too much attention on national averages, which often mask enormous variations in people’s lives,” stated Selim Jahan, the director of the Human Development Report Office. “In order to advance we need to examine more closely not just what has been achieved, but who has been excluded and why?”
According to the report, Asia-Pacific has the largest gender gap of all developing regions. The report shows that gender-based inequalities linked to patriarchal social norms afflict women over their entire lives.
The press release stated that such disparities, manifests in higher malnourishment, morbidity and mortality for women; lower labour force participation rates for women, but higher workloads and less rest among many more.
Country-wise, Bhutan has a Gender Inequality Index (GII) value of 0.477, ranking it 110th out of 159 countries. Women hold 8.3 percent parliamentary seats and 5.8 percent adult women have reached at least secondary level education compared to 13.4 percent men.
For every 100,000 live births, 148 Bhutanese women die from pregnancy related causes and adolescent birth rate is 21.4 births per 1,000 women between the age of 15 and 19 years. Female participation in the labour market is 58.7 percent to that of 72.8 for men, according to the press release.
Over 241 students from schools in Thimphu, Paro and Wangdue are undergoing medical treatment for chilblain.
These include students of Wangbama Central and Genekha Lower Secondary School (GLSS) in Thimphu, Betekha Middle Secondary School of Paro, and Phobjikha Central School in Wangdue.
Medical teams from respective dzongkhags and Basic Health Units have confirmed that the students are suffering from chilblain, which is a medical condition that cuases painful swelling of the skin that occurs in response to repeated exposure to cold weather.
Thimphu district health officer, Gyembo Dorji said that the outbreak was reported on March 17 from Wangbama Central School (WCS). However both school and health officials claim that the outbreak need not cause concern. “Students affected with chilblain are already being treated with symptomatic treatment since the report of the outbreak,” Gyembo Dorji said.
This is the first report of a chilblain outbreak in Thimphu schools.
The dzongkhag health officer said that no case of complication has been reported yet. “It is a non-communicable disease and should be cured through proper medication and keeping the body warm,” the dzongkhag health officer said, adding that the school authority and the health officials are monitoring the situation in the schools.
However, as of yesterday WCS still had few students suffering from chilblain.
Health officials attributed the outbreak to the cold weather, which became harsher with the recent snowfall.
WCS principal, Dorji Wangchuk said that there is nothing to worry about. “Everything is under control now,” he said.
As a preventive measure, the school has started providing heaters and water boilers in its classrooms. “We have also allowed students to wear jackets, mufflers and gloves, and for boys the school has even encouraged them to carry blankets to the classrooms to cover their limbs,” Dorji Wangchuk said.
The school is also conducting the morning, evening and night studies in the hostels instead of in classrooms.
Of the total 83 students suffering from mild chilblain in WCS and GLSS, 83 percent of them are girls. Betekha Middle Secondary School also reported an outbreak on March 17 with 72 students reportedly suffering from swollen hands and feet and rashes, all symptoms of chilblain.
Paro dzongkhag health officer Choki Wangmo said that the high altitude, snowfall, wind and extreme weather conditions led to the outbreak. “We have provided the affected students with treatment and educated them on the importance of keeping themselves warm,” she said.
A medical official said that the school was advised to ask the children to refrain from using cold water and playing in the snow. “We also asked the school to immediately provide heating systems, which was one of the reasons for the outbreak,” the health official said.
In Betekha, 90 percent of the 108 students suffering from chilblain were boarder students. “Boarder students were affected since there were no proper heating system,” the health official added.
As an interim measure, the school has been advised to allow students to wear jackets to keep themselves warm. In Betekha six new cases were reported yesterday and 30 on March 20.
In Wangdue, at least 50 students from Phobjikha Central School (PCS) were also reportedly suffering from chilblain. But in Phobjikha, the outbreak unlike Thimphu is not a new occurrence.
“At the moment we do not know the exact number since the medical officials are still examining the students,” a teacher from PCS who wished not to be named said.
But he said that the outbreak is not unusual since students have been suffering from chilblain for the past few years.
He said that at least 100 students suffered from chilblain in 2015 and 2016. “But nothing severe has happened to any of the infected students with timely medication and prevention measures,” he said.
Health officials were treating the infected students yesterday. In PCS, the school is providing students with salted hot water in the mornings and evenings for students to immerse their feet and hands. “We also advise children to wear socks and gloves to keep their feet and hands warm,” the teacher said.
The school also provides open fires to the children in the evenings since it does not have a proper heating system. “Some of the affected children and whose parents can afford to drop and pick up their children have been allowed to travel to school from home,” the teacher said.
Standardising the usage of construction safety gear by workers in Phuentsholing could take a few more years.
Construction workers in most construction sites in the commercial hub can be observed working without any of the required safety gear.
At a government construction site yesterday, construction workers had hung their safety gear and equipment on window bars. Not a single worker had on a construction hard hat or safety helmet.
Only after this newspaper asked why no one was wearing their safety gear, the workers hurried to put on their hard hats which had been discarded all over the construction site.
Similarly, in other private construction sites, construction workers were seen standing on bamboo scaffolding without helmets or safety harnesses.
On March 8, an expatriate worker died after falling off a building he was working on. The contractor of the building has not reported to the labour office yet.
A site engineer on a construction site in Phuentsholing, Purnima Tamang said that they provide safety gear such as gumboots, helmets, gloves, and jackets.
“We told our labourers to use the gear,” she said, adding that labour officials had also briefed the labourers about safety and the penalties for not using the safety gear.
However, the site engineer said that the labourers are not used to using safety gear. The engineer pointed out that the labourers argue that they are not comfortable wearing safety gear.
Ensuring worker safety in construction areas is one of the major challenges the regional labour office is facing in Phuentsholing.
Labour’s regional director in Phuentsholing, Sonam Tenzin, said that most labourers are not willing to use safety gear. “But there are some employers who think of the direct cost in procuring safety equipment,” he said.
“They do not think about the future consequences.”
Sonam Tenzin also said that it is better to invest on safety equipment than to later pay penalties or risk a fatal accident.
The labour office also carries out awareness programmes in Phuentsholing. Construction sites and workplaces have safety signs in place. At present the labour office team is assessing occupational health standards in Chukha.
Sharing his experience, a private contractor Anand Pradhan said that although construction firms provide safety gear and advise employees to use it, the advice is ignored and the gear remains unused.
The contractor said workers complain that the hot temperature is not suitable for using hard hats and gloves.
From 2016 until now, about 11 accidents have been reported in the Phuentsholing (including Samtse) region.
In Phuentsholing, two deaths have been reported in the past year with the most recent occurring on March 8.
According to the Labour Act 2007, an employer shall provide and maintain a working environment for employees that is safe and without risk to health. An employer shall provide accident compensation for all the employees.
As per the Act, an employer shall immediately notify the chief labour officer in the event of death of an employee due to an accident at work. If the employer fails, the employer will be liable to pay a fine of a maximum of one year’s daily national minimum wage rate.
Further, if an employee dies, compensation has to be provided. The employer has to pay the national wage rate for 1,080 days and 70 percent of one year’s basic salary.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
Chaos runs extreme the moment one enters the periphery of the Lungtenzampa taxi stand in Thimphu. Taxi drives rush for customers; the hunt is almost anarchic.
More than the rush for passengers, taxi divers at the stand are now struggling for parking space. While some drivers spend more than six hours finding passengers during off-seasons, those with quick reflexes take less than an hour to fill their vehicles. The faster a taxi exits, it creates space for those waiting in the queue.
The taxis at the parking are those coming from places other than Thimphu. Cabbies are seen circling in the area hunting for a space to park their vehicle. Recently, taxi tshogpas from five dzongkhags gathered to discuss the issue of space crunch at the parking.
Paro taxi tshogpa, Namgay, said that with the limited number of parking spaces allocated for the taxies at the stand, drivers are finding it difficult to operate. “Before this new rule came in, at least 200 vehicles could easily adjust in the parking,” said Namgay. “Now hardly 26 taxies can be accommodated in the space allocated to us.”
The problem started about two months ago when the parking space was redesigned to accommodate a limited number of taxies. The challenges of the limited space were taken to the traffic division of the Royal Bhutan Police and the thromde for further discussion.
However, Nidup Tshering of the Phuentsholing taxi tshogpa said that neither of the two parties formally acknowledged their involvement in the new design. “We are confused on who is responsible for this new design and whom should we approach to discuss the matter with,” he said.
Previously, taxies from other dzongkhags were allowed to park in the parking space below Yangchenphug and Lungtenzampa schools. However, the practise has also been stopped said Kinley from Wangdue.
“There are at least two traffic police deployed at the YHSS parking. If our vehicles are seen parked in those areas, we are straight away issued a transport infringement notice (TIN),” said Nidup Tshering. “If they allow, there is enough space for us to park our taxies at the stand.”
The tshogpas said that having to circle around the parking area until a space is created becomes an expensive affair for the drivers. “Some drivers have even started to sell the spaces, thereby, making an income without having to drive around,” said Namgay.
More than 200 taxies from Wangdue and Punakha alone come to Thimphu daily.
Meanwhile, traffic officials said that the new design was being implemented with an objective to decongest traffic in the area. It was also done in order to keep the area clean since the area was polluted with garbage and human excrement.
The official said that since most of the regional and international tourists visit the place, keeping the area clean is a social responsibility of all. “The area was congested before and for the safety of both the drivers and passengers we had to make space for smooth traffic flow,” he said, adding that the traffic division is just there to enforce the law and they don’t have the jurisdiction to address the issues raised.
Thimphu Thromde’s executive secretary, Passang Dorji, said that since a choeten is located near the taxi stand, the growing garbage issue in the area was destroying the sanctity of the choeten.
Therefore, an area near the choeten was identified for plantation of flowers. In order to keep the area clean, Passang Dorji said that the thromde will soon start the plantation in the area, which will discourage the public from littering there.
Unlike in the past, the people of Korphu gewog in Trongsa no longer have to go to Zhemgang and Gelephu to buy household necessities.
This is because a Sanam Tshongkhang or farm shop was opened in the gewog a few months ago.
People of the three villages of Korphu, Nabji and Nimshong benefit from the Sanam Tshongkhang.
Villagers are happy that they have the Sanam Tshongkhang from where they get most of what they need in their day-to-day lives.
Civil servants working in these villages also buy their necessities from the shop. More people come to the shop especially during functions and public meetings at the gewog centre.
Chimi Dorji, 61, from Korphu said the farm shop has eased their lives. Villagers can buy everything here including sickles, knives, hammers, spades and seeds besides grocery items like milk powder, salt, rice and sugar.
Chimi Dorji, who usually bought grocery and other items from Gelephu and Zhemgang said the prices of the goods at Sonam Tshongkhang are the same as the price in Gelephu. “Some items like milk powder are sold at an even cheaper rate here,” he said.
Karma, 40, who was looking at the vegetable seed packets on the shelf of the farm shop said the benefit is huge especially as it sells agricultural tools and seeds.
“It was a problem as we had to go to Zhemgang to buy things,” she said. People do not get vehicles when they have to travel to Zhemgang and even walk to Zhemgang sometimes. Zhemgang is a day’s walk from the villages.
Villagers said they could not afford to travel by taxis.
Karma also said the gewog usually remains cut off from Zhemgang for weeks due to landslides during the summer and rations had to be stocked. “We don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
There are two women operating the farm shop today. They open the shop at any time when there are people coming to purchase commodities.
Damcho Zangmo, one of the two women, said it is convenient for them to open the shop any time as they live in the same apartment. “We even open the shop during the weekends,” she said.
Damcho said it is spring and most of the villagers are buying seeds and agricultural tools today.
During the recent visit, Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay urged the villagers to sell their products to the shop besides buying imported items from the shop.
Nima Wangdi | Trongsa
The ongoing work of installing sewer pipes in Changangkha and Motithang in Thimphu is causing inconveniences to residents and motorists.
A resident in Motithang, Phuntsho Wangdi, said that the digging is causing a lot of inconveniences especially in the morning during peak hours. “The traffic moves at a snail’s pace and it takes 30 minutes for a distance that usually takes only five minutes.”
He said that the trenches are not levelled evenly after the pipes are laid and that cars are getting damaged as a result.
The digging work along the roads in the area is also causing inconveniences to pedestrians due to dust and traffic congestion. “I feel that it would have been much better if the work is carried out in phases,” he said.
The thromde’s executive secretary, Passang Dorji, said that the office is aware of the inconveniences caused to the people especially during peak hours.
“We have asked the contractors to stop the work for a few hours during the peak hours,” Passang Dorji said. The contractors were also asked to level the excavated area as soon as the sewer pipes are laid so that vehicles can use the full width of the road.
Passang Dorji said that installing a sewerage system is difficult and it requires repetition of the work. He pointed out that most of the time, the alignment and gradation of the pipes require correction.
He added that continuous water seepage into the trenches is another problem being faced. In some areas, the pipes had to be laid in narrow spaces where there is no place to keep the excavated soil.
“All these delay the completion of the work but we are trying our best to complete the work,” Passang Dorji said.
Thimphu Thromde started installing a sewerage system in the area last month to improve sanitation in the area. A total of 4km of sewer pipes are being laid and will collect all wastewater except roof water in the area.
Passang Dorji said that the thromde frequently receives complaints related to sewage from residents in Changangkha and Motithang.
He said that old septic tanks, over the period of time leak causing seepage of wastewater into neighbouring property, creating misunderstandings among neighbours. However, there is nothing much that can be done to curb the issue because of the gradient of the area, he explained.
“All complaints are genuine because one cannot control the flow of water from a higher gradient to the lower. There is also no measures to collect the leaked waste water,” he said.
According to the thromde, the new sewerage system will curb all the problems related to sewage in the area.
Passang Dorji said that potholes on the resurfaced roads are created when there is water seepage underneath and vehicles ply above. “We have been asking the contractors to fill the dents on the resurfaced road with soil.”
The thromde’s sewerage division head, Samten Lhendup, said that the work is divided into two packages and contracted out to two contractors so that the works are completed before the monsoon.
Samten Lhendup said that the thromde officials are working on the estimates to resurface and blacktop the roads.
A Changangkha resident, Kunzang Choden, said that while the work is being carried out for the benefit of the community, the thromde should expedite the blacktopping of the roads given the inconveniences caused.
Samten Lhendup said that if the roads are blacktopped immediately after it is covered then there would be depressions in parts of road because the filled soil will not have set properly.
The work is costing a total of Nu 15 million for the two packages, excluding the road resurfacing and blacktopping.
The work is expected to be completed by May.
Bhutan observed International Day of Happiness (IDH) yesterday with the lighting of a thousand butter lamps at the National Memorial choeten, according to a press release from the foreign affair ministry.
Foreign minister Damcho Dorji led the commemoration. The event was attended by senior officials of the Royal Government, representatives of the diplomatic community, international organisations, and civil society.
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 20 as the International Day of Happiness in June 2012. The occasion is observed internationally, including through educational and public awareness raising activities.
Based on the GNH approach to development, a resolution entitled, “Happiness: Towards a holistic approach to development”, was introduced by Bhutan at the United Nations in 2011. The resolution recognises the pursuit of happiness as a fundamental human goal as well as the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the wellbeing of all people.
In his keynote address at the Global Dialogue on Happiness in Dubai on February 11, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay affirmed that governments should recognise happiness as a public good, rather than relegating it as an individual pursuit.
Health ministers of 11 WHO Southeast Asian region (SEAR) member states including health minister, Tandin Wangchuk signed the “Call for Action” on March 16 in New Delhi, India.
The member states committed to scale up efforts and end tuberculosis (TB) by 2030 with innovative, multi-sectoral and comprehensive measures.
TB is the leading cause of death in the region, reportedly claiming around 800,000 lives in 2015 from the productive age group of 15-49 years. The Southeast Asian region bears nearly half the global TB burden of the total 10.4 million estimated cases of TB in the world. Around 4.7 million cases (45.6 percent) of the TB cases are from the Southeast Asian region.
Though the member countries are making constant efforts to reduce the annual TB incidence, which currently has fallen by 1.5-2 percent, it is insufficient.
According to WHO SEAR, the decline in the incidence rate needs to be scaled up to at least 10-15 percent for the member countries and the region to meet the End TB targets of reducing TB mortality by 90 percent and incidence by 80 percent by 2030.
During the meeting, WHO SEAR called for exceptional action and high-impact interventions in the region to lead implementation of national TB responses in the member countries. The meeting called for setting up of regional innovation to implementation fund to accelerate sharing of knowledge, intellectual resources and innovations to reach out to treat all cases.
The meeting also talked about emulating best practices in taking up comprehensive TB treatment and prevention programmes while improving quality and making facilities people-centred. The need to accelerate progress with rapid adoption of advanced diagnostics and treatment were also discussed in the meeting.
The WHO SEAR highlighted that investments in ending TB are expected to give huge returns, with more than 11 million lives expected to be saved. By 2035, nearly 60 million infections could be prevented in the region. This will also translate to social and economic growth by averting nearly 300 million Disability Adjusted Life Years.
19 families affected
A fire razed 14 temporary sheds to the ground leaving 19 families homeless in Tsenkari, in Nganglam, Pemagatshel early yesterday morning. A Bolero pick-up and an Alto car parked in front of the shops were also destroyed by the fire.
An infant and an elderly man suffered minor burns. They were discharged from hospital after treatment. There were no casualties.
The fire is suspected to have broken out after an electric short circuit at around 2:30am.
Army and police personnel, Desuups, shopkeepers, and volunteers from the Dungsam Cement Corporation Ltd and nearby villages managed to control the fire in about two hours.
Fifteen students from the households could not go to school yesterday as most of their belongings were destroyed by the fire. The Nganglam dungpa, Karma Jurme, said that the children will resume their classes today. “They will be admitted as boarders in the Nganglam Central School and we’ll buy them their uniforms and other necessary items,” he said.
The dungkhag administration served meals to victims of the fire yesterday. RBA personnel built temporary sheds out of tarpaulin and corrugated iron sheets with the help of volunteers near the razed town.
The dungkhag disaster office distributed emergency kits, consisting of basic household items, to all the victims.
This is the second fire incident in the area. The first one occurred a few kilometres away at Kangziri.
Agriculture minister encouraging farmers to kill wild boars is a picture of a desperate situation of human-wildlife conflict in the remote villages. However, this measure should not be seen and adopted as a long-term solution.
More than 60 percent of our people are in the agriculture sector, depending directly or indirectly on livestock and crop production for their livelihood. And, we also have some of the most stringent conservation laws on earth. What we must understand is that most of Bhutan’s vulnerable farming communities reside close to protected areas.
This reality has not been very advantageous to the farmers. Probably this is the reason why more and more Bhutanese are leaving their farmlands and moving to the city centres. Finding balance between economic development and conservation is, therefore, of critical importance.
While as a conservationist society we must consider protection and growth of wide-ranging habits of plants and animals, we cannot forget that loss of crops and livestock in the rural pockets of the country can have a devastating impact on the farming households.
Retaliatory killing of wildlife, as seen as option by agriculture minister, is at the best, a short-term measure. Long-term conservation and maintenance of national biodiversity and growth of the sector that supports more than half the population requires more.
Cash compensation has not worked with farmers for obvious reasons. Equity is the issue. Culling of one group of crop predators, on the other hand, can cause serious imbalance in the ecosystem. We have our own example from the past to refer to. Killing wild dogs led to the proliferation of wild boar population. Nemesis has returned.
The simple lesson is: food chain disturbance can have far-reaching impact on the agriculture. That’s why there is today the need to look at long-term, all-inclusive and sustainable agricultural practices, rather than going straight to killing crop predators.
We need a management approach that involves making people, wildlife, livestock and habitat, safe. What about mitigation measures that have proved successful, such as sound and light repellent and electric fencing? How about encouraging farmers to take up crop rotation, for instance?
Culling is a short-term measure. We need to look beyond because agriculture is Bhutan’s mainstay. Agriculture minister’s approach has great potential to disbalance a lot of other elements in the society. Unemployment fuelled by rural to urban migration is already a serious problem.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay met the people of Samkhar gewog in Trashigang yesterday evening. Lyonchoen told the gathering that he is impressed with the 146 households who have invested in the bio-gas venture and added that others who are interested will also receive support from the government. Lyonchoen highlighted that roads are essential for development and that Samkhar gewog has constructed more than 70km of farm roads which paves the way for Samkhar’s development. Lyonchoen however added that the community should maintain the roads without fully depending on the government. Lyonchoen also commended the people for maintaining the five irrigation channels, having 257 dairy farms and 55 poultry farms. The dairy products from Samkhar are sold in the markets of Trashigang town, Kanglung and Rangjung. Lyonchoen added that the gewog has received only one power tiller from the government till now and promised to provide two more power tillers immediately.
Lyonchoen is accompanied by the education minister and cabinet secretary. (Source: Prime Minister’s Office)
The Langchenphug gewog administration in Jomotsangkha is still waiting for a response regarding the army colony in Jomotsangkha not paying taxes for the last three years.
The issue was raised during the last Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT).
Stating the importance of the Land Act of Bhutan 2007, Gup Gumu Singh Gayal said that the land, which the gewog administration owns, has not received land taxes for the past three years despite several reminders to do so.
“We’re just raising the issue just to make sure the Act is followed, which spells out that all registered land is subject to land tax,” he said. “Prior to the last three years, the tax was paid annually and on time.”
Gumu Singh said the colony occupies about 50 decimals of dry land and that Nu 12 per decimal should be paid, which comes to about Nu 2,800 in a year.
“Although the amount is minimal, it is revenue for the gewog and an Act is an Act, we need to follow it,” he said.
The gup informed tshogdu members that the gewog administration felt it is important to raise the issue and seek clarification if the army is liable for the land tax and also to uphold the land rules and regulations of the country.
He said the gewog still receives land tax from other institutions like the Royal Bhutan Police, forest department, financial institutions and individual landowners, except from the army.
“We’re just waiting for a response because we haven’t received any letter or notification whether to discontinue collecting the tax,” the gup said.
“They might have their own reasons but they should clarify.”
According to the Land Act, if land tax for both private and government land is not paid for three consecutive years, the local authority shall serve a notice to the landowner and levy the tax with arrears.
Section 396 of the Land Rules and Regulations state that failure to comply with the Act, the gup should submit the report to the secretariat on the non-payment of tax along with the relevant documents.
Dzongkhag land record officer, Sangay D Zam, said that although there is no specific clause that states the army is exempted from tax, they have not received any complaint on the issue. “If we receive a complaint, we would first forward it to the National Land Commission to seek guidance on how to deal with the issue as well as seek further directives.”
The DT resolved that they would further look into the issue.
However, an army official said that as per the “user right certificate” the army camp is not liable for land tax and there are no records of it paying tax to the gewog office. “We confirmed from the land and property division that an army camp anywhere is not liable for land tax,” the official said.
Meanwhile, the gup added the same issue was also put up during the last gups conference, but it did not make it to the agenda.
Yangchen C Rinzin | Samdrupjongkhar
Tarphel village is a five-day walk from the Bumdeling gewog centre in Trashiyangtse. The remote village in the mountains bordering India has 80 households and a population of around 600.
Villagers say life is tough. A family has to travel all the way to Bumdeling to deliver a baby or in case of serious injury admit the patient in the Basic Health Unit, which is also located there.
So when Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay visited their gewog last week, the villagers seized the opportunity to ask for a farm road to their village.
A villager from Tarphel, Leki, said: “If the government could provide us with a farm road, it would uplift our lives.”
Another villager at the meeting with Lyonchoen, Karma, said: “When they come to buy basic food and other items from Yangtse town, it takes them a week or more to get back home.”
Like many farmers in rural parts of the country, the villagers of Tarphel like Thukten , depend on farming for their livelihood. Their main crop is maize.
Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay said that the government will look into the feasibility of constructing the road.
Thukten also requested the government for more budget to blacktop the 8.5km gewog centre road that began from Yangtse town this year. He added that Lyonchoen intervene so that enough budget is available for the blacktopping. Lyonchoen said the budget could be adjusted from the dzongkhag development grant or from the ministry.
Villagers also raised other issues during Lyonchoen’s routine gewog visit. Villagers asked if the government could upgrade Bumdeling Middle Secondary School to a Central School.
“The school today has 300 students and if it is upgraded to a Central School it would benefit the gewog,” a villager said.
Lyonchoen said that in the 12th Plan, there will be many Central Schools in the country where thousands of children will be accommodated in boarding facilities.
A college graduate from Bumdeling, Phurpa Dorji, said that there are many pilot projects underway in other dzongkhags. If the government could provide or implement such projects in the dzongkhag, it could help the youth there.
Lyonchoen said such projects could materialise in the future.
Tashi Phuntsho | Bumdeling