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Updated: 2 hours 10 min ago

Stores in short supply of wheat flour and related products

Sat, 09/03/2022 - 16:18

Thukten Zangpo 

The import of wheat flour both atta and maida stopped after the Indian government prohibited its export on August 27.

A grocery wholesaler in Thimphu said they could not import atta and maida  for almost 10 days now. “The export has been stopped by the Indian government.”

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He said that his store imports about 100,000kg of maida in a month.

Some bakeries in Thimphu closed with the shortage in the market. 

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An official from the economic affairs ministry said that the government had already taken up the issue and requested the Indian government to consider exports to Bhutan. “We are expecting anytime soon.”

India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade notified: “Export policy of items (wheat or meslin flour, maida, semolina, wholemeal atta, and resultant atta) is amended from free to prohibited.”

However, the export of these items would be allowed subject to permission of the Indian government in certain cases.

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The notification stated that the provisions under the foreign trade policy 2015-2020, regarding the transitional arrangements, would “not” be applicable.

The Indian government placed restrictions on the export of wheat flour, maida, semolina and wholemeal atta to curb the rising prices of the commodity.

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After the Indian government put up the restriction on the export of wheat in May, the demand for Indian wheat flour increased.

Russia and Ukraine conflict has led to global wheat supply chain disruptions since these two countries were major exporters of wheat.

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The increase in demand for wheat flour overseas led to a significant price rise of the commodity in India.

Media reported that wheat flour export from India shot 200 percent from April to July this year compared to last year.

According to Bhutan Trade Statistics 2021, Bhutan imported 8.9 million kg of wheat and meslin flour from India accounting for Nu 275.61M in 2021.

Coming of Age

Sat, 09/03/2022 - 16:16

Bhutan is negotiating a new era of history, so we think hard and reflect deeply on what it means. For a society that has had it good, it is no surprise that we feel the pressure of transformation. It is understandable that some of us are shaken and anxious, but we have reason to be optimistic and excited. The perception of change is beginning to dawn on us, sometimes in flashes, sometimes more gradually.

This month, a UN Peacekeeping Contingent of 180 Bhutanese soldiers leaves for the Central African Republic, a region torn by war, instability, poverty, and other human distress. This is a “light quick reaction team” in the service of the UN, a Bhutanese force trained to respond quickly in the fast pace of conflict. More than that, it is another stride in Bhutan’s growth process.

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In a Royal address to the UN contingent, His Majesty The King emphasised the nobility of serving the world as a Blue Beret and the honour of representing Bhutan as a soldier answering the call of duty. This takes us beyond the perception among many people, including Bhutanese, that soldiers from developing countries become UN peacekeepers only for the international salaries that they do not get back home. Even some governments see military action as a source in income.

The real essence of the Royal message is that our society, as a whole, must shift to a new mindset. Bhutanese soldiers take on an international assignment in perilous faraway places. Bhutan has the mandate of becoming a successful nation in the comity of nations. This is a powerful reminder that we must shed the psyche of being a developing country dependent on international aid. 

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Many of us are yet to grasp the broader realities and challenges of the new era unfolding before us today. Bhutan’s transformation is no longer just an aspiration. We are committed to a vision that specifies the critical need to reform government and citizens – the need to restructure the bureaucracy, revolutionise the education policy, build a 21st century economy, professionalise the legal system, and initiate other momentous endeavours in all areas of Bhutanese life. 

There are many of us today who ask what has become rhetorical question. We see before us an exciting vision unfurling but can we implement it? The real question should be why can’t we, after six decades of modernisation, the exposure, education, and skills, and resources from both within and from outside? As His Majesty himself has reminded us, time and again, we must draw on the values and resilience that have kept us surviving and thriving. 

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True change means discarding old mindsets and adopting new ways; we are realising that this is not easy. It requires clarity, discipline, stamina, and sacrifice. Having attained maturity as a society, and as a nation, we assume the responsibilities with urgency and total commitment. As a democracy with sovereign prerogatives, we move with the 21st century nation or we get left behind. 

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His Majesty The King has spoken for every Bhutanese in every corner of the country and soldiers and citizens living and serving abroad. We will not rest as we continue to chart the path to a strong and prosperous nation. The task before us is that we achieve all our aspirations, not in some distant future, but in the next few years. There is no other option.

Compensating detention

Sat, 09/03/2022 - 16:13

With the closure of the criminal defamation appeal by the High Court, the issue of compensation for pre-trial detention is brought to end too.

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Most legal systems do not have compensation for detention. Bhutan has a legal system that provides the legal right to compensation in case of pre-trial detention under certain conditions.

Section 212A of the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code Amendment 2011 states that “a person detained and acquitted thereof or subjected to unlawful detention is entitled to be compensated for the loss of income caused by the criminal proceedings or unlawful detention and to be reinstated at the former place of work”.

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This provision protects the rights enshrined under Article 7 (16) of our Constitution, the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in every criminal trial and Article 7 (20), the right not “be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.”

If a person is detained and subsequently is acquitted, or the accused is unlawfully or arbitrarily detained, such wrongful prosecution or detention is remedied through compensation, at least their loss of income.

Section 204 of CCPC requires that the court must acquit the defendant “where guilt beyond reasonable doubt has not been established to the Court’s satisfaction for the charge.”  Further, Section 96 (2) imposes the burden of proof on the prosecution to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, to be called acquittal, there must be a full criminal trial and the prosecution fails to prove beyond reasonable doubt the charges framed against the person. Acquittal brings an end to the case and the same case cannot be opened anymore under Section 115 – res judicata.

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Similarly, Section 186 requires that any person so detained must be done only after obtaining an order from the court to keep under police or judicial custody provided there exists a reasonable cause of perpetrated a crime. Section 191 authorises law enforcement agencies to detain a person for investigation by keeping them in detention before prosecution for up to forty-nine days if satisfied that adequate grounds exist for doing so or one hundred and eight days, where the investigation relates to a heinous crime. If these provisions are violated, it can constitute a violation of their constitutional right and statutory protection for which compensation exist.

Thus, compensation under Section 212A of CCPC can be only in case of acquittal or arbitrary detention.  

For example, in Penjor Penjor’s defamation case, unless his detention was arbitrary, the court dismissed the case and there was no prosecution. When a case is dismissed, the defendant is neither acquitted nor considered innocent since there was no criminal trial. Dismissal can be under varying reasons including lack of evidence at the preliminary hearing, suppression of evidence, prosecution failing to establish a prima facie case or other reasons. If Penjor was detained during the defamation case, he could seek compensation as he was acquitted after full trial.  

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Alternatively, the accused can file a case against the state for cantankerous prosecution (malicious prosecution to embarrass or harass) under Section 371 of the Penal Code of Bhutan and seek appropriate compensation including defamation under Section 317 of the PCB or a civil suit against the state. Thus, there are other ways to get compensation.  These alternatives will prevent the state agencies from abusing their authorities. Equally, the courts must be vigilant while granting any remand order to prevent abuse of such authority.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.

Jigmeling industrial wastewater poses flood risks to residents 

Sat, 09/03/2022 - 16:11

Choki Wangmo | Sarpang

Wastewater from the Jigmeling industrial park in Sarpang drained into the settlement below poses flood risk to more than 80 households in the chiwog.

Without interventions, residents said that the problems have worsened in recent years as the water floods homes and washes away farm roads and land during the monsoon.

Residents have forwarded the issue to the gewog administration. It was also discussed in the recent Sarpang dzongkhag tshogdu (DT).

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Dekiling mangmi Leki Gyeltshen said that water from the industrial area drained into hume pipes overflowed into the village.  It wreaked havoc in Dekiling. “It endangers our livelihood. We need immediate interventions,” he said.

In the past, although the problems persisted for a decade, it was not a threat as the water seeped into the forest and thickets. However, to ward away wild animals, villagers had to clear the bushes.

A Jigmeling resident, Penjor, said that in the past, residents could adjust but the problems have intensified recently. 

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“If it rains for three hours, my land would be washed away. The water flow increases and can wash away young children even,” he said.

The drain water forms two streams and flows through more than three acres of his dryland. He lives 800 metres away from the industrial area.

Recently, the excess drain water during a rainy day flooded Sangay Wangmo’s  automobile workshop. “The threats are increasing each monsoon. It doesn’t rain but pours. We are at the risk of getting washed away,” she said, adding that the residents had submitted an application to the gewog administration about the issue.

She said that earlier the industrial area’s wastewater was supposed to be drained into Burkhola, located 2km away from the Park area but the plan did not materialise. “There is a need for a proper drainage system,” she said.

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“My home was flooded and a landslide washed away part of my land,” said a resident, Chochong Wangmo.

We cannot use the road during the monsoon, she said, adding that lives in the village have become more challenging for farmers. “We have to fight man-made disasters and wild animals. Farming is an arduous job.”

Jigmeling tshogpa Sonam Norbu said that the risks might be grave in the future if there were no interventions. There are more than 100 households in Jigmeling.

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An official from the Jigmeling industrial park said that the wastewater from the park was supposed to be drained to Burkhola after constructing a proper drainage system along the Gelephu-Sarpang highway. “But we couldn’t get clearance from the Department of Roads (DoR) as there are plans to expand the highway in the future.”

The DT last time instructed the dzongkhag and gewog administrations, DoR, and the industrial park to discuss the way forward. The discussion is yet to start.

The settlement is below the industrial area. The park is 90 percent complete.

Shifting tradition medicine hospital is a policy blunder: Opposition 

Sat, 09/03/2022 - 16:09

Nima Wangdi 

The Opposition Party objected to the government’s move to relocate the national traditional medicine hospital (NTMH) to the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck national referral hospital (JDWNRH) premises through a press release yesterday.

The party stated that the move would be a major policy blunder by the government. “It would also lead to serious negative implications on the future of traditional medicine.” NTMH is presently located at Kawangjangsa.

“The Opposition has come to learn that the government is seriously working on shifting and merging the NTMH with JDWNRH and we are deeply concerned about it,” the party said.  “Our traditional medicine is a unique system based on the combination of spiritualism and science and forms a vital part of our national identity, culture, and spiritual practice.”

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According to the party, the Constitution also requires the State to place equal importance on both modern and traditional medicines. It stated that the successive visionary leaders have placed high importance on traditional medicine and it remains in a vibrant and progressive state today playing a vital role in our health system, and complementing modern medicine.

The Opposition also claimed that the hospital now enjoys high administrative and management autonomy at a department level. It also has independent hospital infrastructure, medical facilities, and amenities. “The hospital enjoys high convenience in terms of delivery as well as the accessibility of services.”

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According to the press release, the teaching hospital and training institute being together under the current setup has benefitted the hospital. “Shifting the hospital as a division under JDWNRH will completely undermine traditional medicine putting its survival at stake in the future.”

The Opposition urged the government to keep the hospital at its present location and invest in promoting and strengthening traditional medicine rather.

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Health Minister, Dechen Wangmo presented during the last parliament session on the plan to shift NTMH to JDWNRH premises. She then said that the ministry’s primary objective of shifting the hospital is to provide both traditional and allopathic medicine services from one hospital.

Lyonpo also said that the hospital faces parking space constraints at the present location and shifting it to JDWNRH will help inform more people about the traditional medical services.

Driving behavioural change in public service

Sat, 09/03/2022 - 16:07

Challenges in the Bhutanese public sector, from civil servants not being motivated or poorly trained to citizens not being happy with the mediocre public services and cumbersome administrative processes, have grown notably over the years.

His Majesty The King has constantly shared the vision for a developed Bhutan and what Bhutan’s public service should strive for in numerous Royal Addresses, culminating in the issuance of a Royal Decree in 2020 to reform Bhutan’s civil service.

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Citizens’ frustrations with the system’s inefficiency resulting in days, weeks or even months of running from one office to another to get a job done have been shared even by public servants. The call for public servants to reflect on the efficiency and quality of the services we provide and our role and behaviours as public servants is greater than ever.

In a Polis conversation with over five hundred Bhutanese public servants and private workers on “What are the desirable behaviours of public servants?” the respondents noted the most desired behaviours among public servants as having a high moral and ethical standing, being polite to clients, being accountable for one’s action and dealing with the public fairly and efficiently.

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While we seem to know the desirable behaviours as public servants, the bigger question is whether our day-to-day actions at the workplace translate to such behaviours.

Driving behavioural change is crucial in enabling the civil service as an institution to grow and achieve the level of excellence and sophistication necessary to support the larger national vision of becoming a developed country. It is high time that we realised the importance of keeping pace with global developments and be reminded of His Majesty’s concern as thus stated: “If we are passive, slow, and daunted by the speed and complexity of innovation and change, we will not only fall behind others but our economy also risks being terminally dependent on foreign aid and loans.”

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A study on “The Neuroscience of Goals and Behaviour Change” cites two dimensions that give rise to behaviours – the way to achieve (skills or abilities) and the will to engage (motivation) in a behaviour (Berkman, 2018). For an employee to engage in the desired behaviour, he/she must possess the relevant skills or abilities backed by the right motivation. This would require not only a fundamental shift in the skillset and mindset of public servants but indeed a re-engineering of our organisational processes and systems to drive the necessary behavioural changes.

Building a positive organisational culture is key to driving behaviour change in any organisation. Creating conducive work environments that nurture healthy team dynamics and collaboration, and regular and meaningful conversations between the leader and subordinates are important for employees to thrive at work and foster motivation to achieve the larger goals. This is where the role of leaders becomes pivotal; a leader who provides vision, inspires purpose-led actions, drives results, mentors and coaches, and ignites passion in their subordinates is integral to organisational development.

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On the other hand, a growth mindset is one of the key factors that enhance lifelong learning, workplace engagement and productivity. For instance, Joshi (2021) describes, a positive mindset as “the tendency to focus on the bright side, expect positive results, and approach challenges with a positive outlook.” While there are a lot of uncertainties during the change management process it is important to maintain a positive outlook. The Polis survey respondents also acknowledged the importance of a positive mindset and highlighted that the seeds of a positive mindset must be cultivated at home and in schools.

Similarly, nudging can create positive and lasting change in the workplace. Improved punctuality among employees with the introduction of the biometric attendance system is a common example. Nudges could also be used to change public behaviours by agencies. A simple example of a nudge with great success is the significant rise in tax compliance in the United Kingdom after a reminder letter was simply reworded to say that most people pay their bills on time (Simmons, n.d.).

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Additionally, research suggests that positive non-financial incentives like rewards or recognition, new projects, time-off, praise in public etc. for hard work and achievements, will likely produce the most motivation in employees. It also helps team members to be accountable. Further, inculcating spiritual values in professional life would help employees in finding purpose and driving more ethical behaviours in the workplace. Studies have shown a strong correlation between spirituality and resilience (Smith et al., 2013). According to Sarkar et al., (2017) collective research on psychological resilience suggests that enhancing resilience presents a viable means of preventing the potential negative effects of work stress and enhancing wellbeing and performance in the workplace.

Another powerful driver of behavioural change is training and continuous learning and development. Training enables an individual to acquire new skills, knowledge and abilities. To impart relevant training programmes, it is first essential for organisations to understand the current skill gap of their employees, and the practical realities of daily work. Continuous assessments and post-training engagements are ways to drive behavioural change in the training culture.

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In the face of a fast-changing world and the stiff competition for growth and survival, governments and the larger public sector are understandably expected to perform and deliver at a higher level than ever before. In Bhutan too, the many reforms that we are currently undertaking aim to achieve just that, to enable us as a nation to keep pace with, or better still, stay ahead of the global forces of change.

While so much can be envisaged in terms of the macro-level structural and systemic transformation, a fundamental tenet of change remains the human behaviour, driven by one’s mindset, skillset and motivation. Hence, driving a sustained behavioural change in people working in mega state machinery such as the bureaucracy to make them more competent, motivated and performance-oriented is crucial in the pursuit of our larger national goals. Effecting the right behavioural change should not just be an integral part of the current transformation initiatives, it should indeed be the cornerstone of our pursuit of excellence in public service and progress as a nation.

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Contributed by 

Sonam Lhamo and Kinley Zam

(The writers are programme officers at RIGSS and this article is a summary of an upcoming report on a study they conducted on “Driving Behavioural Change in Public Service”)

Tourism service providers complain about draft rules and regulations 

Sat, 09/03/2022 - 16:05

Dechen Dolkar 

Service providers say that the draft tourism rules and regulations that the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) has shared with the stakeholders for their feedback are ambiguous.

TCB shared the document with the stakeholders for feedback.

Executive Director (ED) of the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO), Sonam Dorji, said that the feedback submitted to TCB were brief. “We want to discuss more during the consultation meeting on what basis the rules and regulations were formed.”

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The rules and regulations, he said, are more restrictive and do not create a conducive environment for the service providers.

Sonam Dorji said that the time given for the feedback was not enough.

One of the tour operators said that the stakeholders should have been consulted during the drafting of rules and regulations.

The draft rules state that the vehicle for tourists should be luxury SUVs (above 1,900cc), luxury buses (above 2,400cc), or electric vehicles (40kWh of battery pack).

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With these requirements, only Tucson, Santa Fe, Land Cruiser and Prado are eligible as luxury SUVs tourist vehicles.

For a vehicle to be certified by the TCB as a tourist vehicle, it will have to be certified and registered with the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) and has to meet all the requirements of commercial passenger vehicle specifications.

According to the draft rules and regulations, vehicles for tourists should not be older than seven years from the date of registration with the RSTA.

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Many tourism service providers have bought second-hand buses in preparation for the re-opening of tourism.

One of the tour operators said that as long as roadworthiness is certified and issued by the RSTA, it should suffice. “Why is TCB interfering with tourist vehicles?”

The tour operators said that tourist vehicles in the country are in good condition even if they are 10 to 15 years old.

“For the safety of the tourists and for the company’s reputation, the vehicles are provided in good conditions,” the tour operator said.

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A tour operator claimed that smaller cc SUVs are more fuel efficient and go in line with the plan to use less fossil fuel.

With the new criteria, 90 percent of the tourist’s vehicles in the country will not be eligible.

A transporter who owns more than 30 tourist vehicles said that with the new regulation, only one to two vehicles are eligible.

He said that most of the tourist vehicles in the market were purchased in 2018.

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“Banks will not provide loans and the government is also not providing incentives to buy these luxury SUV vehicles,” the transporter said.

For instance, if a tour operator purchases a Hiace bus which costs around Nu 5M on loan, he or she has to repay the loan of Nu 59,600 per month for seven years, excluding interest. The operator will be able to earn Nu 59,600 if the vehicle is on duty for 20 days and make Nu 3,000 a day.

A tour operator said that most vehicles used in the tourism industry are those purchased using civil servants’ vehicle quota.

Tour operators and hotel owners have to provide a business bond of Nu 500,000 when setting up the business, according to the draft Tourism Rules and Regulations 2022.

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The tour operator said that the government is blocking money in the market by requiring a business bond. With this money, the company could invest in the market.

He said that now they are asked to deposit a business bond which is not relevant as the tour operators have no authority to apply for visas on behalf of tourists.

Bhutan to host WHO high committee meeting next week

Sat, 09/03/2022 - 16:02

… the committee will discuss various health issues 

Nima Wangdi  

The 75th Regional Committee Meeting (RCM) of the World Health Organization (WHO) starts on September 5 in Paro.

The committee will discuss policy and technical matters such as Universal Health Coverage (UHC), non-communicable diseases (NCDs), health emergency preparedness, Tuberculosis (TB), disease elimination and control efforts, and progress towards achieving health-related sustainable development goals (SDGs).

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A joint press release from the WHO and health ministry stated that the RCM will also discuss environment and climate change; the Male Declaration on Building Health Systems Resilience to Climate Change; and the reduction of the double burden of malnutrition in South East Asia, among others.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said: “Most importantly, the thematic area for this year’s ministerial roundtable meeting, which is mental health, is expected to yield major policy and programmatic outcomes.

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She said that the agenda aligns well with the ongoing national efforts to address mental health issues, especially the initiation of the Pema, an apex agency for mental health under the benevolent and selfless patronage of Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen.

“Under the patronage of Her Majesty, we shall strive to champion the mental health agenda,” the minister said.

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WHO Representative to Bhutan, Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus, said that the meeting was a high-level diplomatic event and that the RCM was the highest governing body in the South-East Asia Region. The decisions it takes will guide WHO offices in the region for the next year.

“This year’s meeting takes place as the region starts coming out of Covid-19 restrictions, and the meeting will be a good opportunity to discuss future health emergencies,” Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus said.

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The meeting will also address several key issues such as mental health, climate change, and Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

The South-East Asia Region of WHO is home to a quarter of the world’s population. The RCM meeting is the highest governing body for health in the Region. The Regional Committee meeting will be attended by Health Ministers and senior health officials of the Member States of the Region, UN Agencies, partners, donors, and civil society representatives.

About 300 people are expected to attend the meeting and the five-day meeting will end on September 9.

Black-necked crane summering in Haa

Sat, 09/03/2022 - 16:00

Chhimi Dema 

Black-necked cranes aren’t summer birds in Bhutan. Flying over the mighty Himalayan mountains, they come home in winter for a brief sojourn. As mid-February warms up to early spring, they are gone, back over the tall, snow-capped mountains to the great Tibetan plateau.

These beautiful and majestic birds keep impeccable timing and are known for taking the same sky route back and forth. There is also something so very ritualistic about their arrival and departure. These birds so are loved, adored and respected like we do no other aerial gliders.

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But the times must be changing and with it the bird’s habitats. When forestry officers of Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve (JKSNR) on August 22 sighted three cranes at Lhangzab, Haa La Jula area, it came as a bit of shock. Herders in Lhangzab informed the park officials about the cranes in May this year.

JKSNR’s chief forestry officer, Ugyen Wangchuk, said that the sighting of wintering cranes in summer was unusual.


“The pristine environment of the strict reserve could have encouraged the birds to stay behind in Bhutan,” he said. It could also have been that the birds could not fly back to Tibet because of some injury.

Records with the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) show that 545 cranes visited Bhutan last winter.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Back in May when herders in Lhangzab informed the park officials about the cranes, the foresters confirmed the presence of two cranes.

“During the recent snow leopard survey when the foresters visited again, they saw a juvenile with the cranes,” Ugyen Wangchuk said.

The cranes, he said, seem to be in good health.

Herders say that cranes were spotted in the summer of 2021 as well.

Lhangzab is located at 4,108 metres above sea level, and it is about seven hours’ walk away from the road.

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Ugyen Wangchuk said that the herders have been told to monitor the cranes and take pictures if possible to monitor the growth of the juvenile.

“We have also asked RSPN and bird experts to visit the site,” he said.

A researcher at the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment Research, Sherub, known popularly as Bird Sherub, said that the presence of the birds in Haa indicates good wetland habitat and food resources suitable for the cranes.

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“It is nice that Bhutan has a crane breeding area,” he added.

He said that it is possible that the cranes that are seen today could be from those in 2021. “Animals often scout and look for habitat. The pair last year could have found food in the area and used it for breeding.”

Spiritual attractions in Lhuentse Dzongkhag

Sat, 09/03/2022 - 15:59

Most places in Lhuentse are associated with the revered spiritual pioneers of Buddhism like Guru Rinpoche and Terton Pema Lingpa

Guru Nangsey  Zilneon Statue 

The magnificent Guru Rinpoche (Guru Nangsey Zilneon) Statue in Lhuentse is said to be one of the world’s tallest statues. Located at Takila, the statue is about 157 feet tall and perches atop a 38-foot lotus. To see the statue, one has to travel over 13 kilometers away from Tangmachu Village. The statue is revered as the fulfillment of a prophecy made by treasure hunter Lerab Lingpa (1856–1926) and well-known yogi Sonam Zangpo that Bhutan will require the physical structure of Guru Padmasambhava to preserve peace and prosperity. To fulfill the prophecy, the Druk Odiyana Foundation led by Khenpo Karpo built the world’s largest Guru statue in Takila. Other spiritual sites near Takila are Karney Goenpa, Barkha Lhakhang, and Rawabi Lhakhang.

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Khawchung and  Kidlung

On the way to Kurtoed Gewog, there is a well-known Khawchung Lhakhang, located above Zhamling village. It is believed Terton Pema Lingpa prophesied and instructed his son Khedrup Kinga Wangpo to establish his seat in the hamlet, which is located opposite of Khenpajong where a ridge resembling the trunk of an elephant is being hung. As instructed by his father, Kinga Wangpo traveled from Bumthang to Zhamling and constructed a temple in the 14th century, from where the Khowchung Chhoje lineage emerged. The stone bathtub and footprint of a horse can still be seen there. The main relic present in the temple is the Guru Rinpoche statue discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa and later gifted to his son. 

While one travels to Kurtoed Dungkar, you spectate another sacred site at hilltop Kidlung, overlooking the Khurichu river. The local people here believed that Kidlung Lhakhang once hold a Tshepamey statue (longevity) discovered by a fisherman. The caretaker narrates that despite the statue having been put in the iron chain mall, it flew three times from there. The three holes on the iron chain mall are still visible to the visitors. Today, the escaped statue is housed in Lhuentse Dzong and it is the main relic. 

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Kamphu Ney and  Nyag Lhakhang

As one travels from Dungkar to Jasabi village, there is cave Lhakhang near the river known as Khamphu Ney. It is one of five Phu (meditation caves) associated with the visit of Guru Rinpoche. Local people believed that Guru Rinpoche blessed the site and hidden many sacred relics underneath the rock. Among many sacred spots and objects, the stupa blessed by Terton Pema Lingpa is one prominent.  

Nyag Lhakhang is another place blessed by Terton Pema Lingpa along with Khamphu. It is located 5 hour’s walk from Jasabi village. The main relics of the Lhakhang are the Buddha statue and stupa built by Terton Pema Lingpa. 

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Yamalung Lhakhang

It is located far from the settlement on the top of a ridge overlooking the valley of Ungar village, Maedtsho Gewog. It is believed of having a similar amount of blessing to visiting the Yamalung monastery in Tibet where Guru Rinpoche meditated and achieved immortality. The Lhakhang houses a statue of Guru Rinpoche as the main relic and it is surrounded by significant spots. 

Ruins of Bangtsho  Gyalpoi Phodrang 

According to oral history, during the 8th century, there came a king from Tibet who was neither human nor animal so-called Khikha Rathoe, later he was known as Bangtsho Gyalpo after he settled in Bangtsho village. He was here because he was exiled from his own country by the Tibetan king. During that moment he brought all his belongings and properties along with him. When he reach Bangtsho, he built his palace under the ground to protect it from Tibetan attack and settled there.

According to the local people, there are nine stories underneath the ground, on contrary, some say there are nine compartments. Today we see seven doors from the top. While constructing the palace, it is said that the king brought stones from the place called Dongchen under Tshochen village with the help of a mule and horses. Today we see the leftover stones at the quarry site. After the completion of the palace, he constructed the tunnel till Khepachu which is underneath the ground for drinking water. The water was also transported with the help of mules and horses. Today, Khepachu lies between Wambur and Umling village. One can still see the sacred words ‘Om Ma Ni Pad Med Hum’ written on a slate that hid the exit doorway of the king’s palace. 

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Stone Mortars 

Stone mortars that appear to have been carved hundreds of years ago are all over a location in Minjey village. According to the locals, the number is approximately 108, which is a lucky number in Buddhism. The inhabitants have no idea who carved them or why. Though some say that the stone mortars date back to the ninth century when Khandro Yeshey Tshogyal used them to prepare Tshog (ceremonial meal) offerings for Guru Padmasambhava or it may perhaps be older.


Phuningla- Aja trails

Phunyingla is located on the mountaintop southeast of Lhuentse Dzong under Tsaenkhar Gewog. It is also a sacred place blessed by Guru Rinpoche. From Phuningla it takes one day to reach Aja Nye one of the sacred places also blessed by Guru Rinpoche. It is considered as one which is exactly located in the center of other mountains; thus, the mountain is known to be Phuningla-the center of the mountains. 

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Ruins of  Khenpajong house

Baeyul Khenpa Jong also referred to as the “Hidden Paradise” of Khenpa Jong, is located in northern Lhuentse. Legends has it that King Trisong Detsen’s demonic son Khikha Rathoed was exiled from Tibet in the seventh century. He made a pledge to destroy Buddhism, and Khenpa Jong came to be the ruler of his awful realm. Guru Padmasambhava chased him covertly to Khenpa Jong, where he addressed the king while pretending to be one Haranagpo. The King agreed to Haranagpo’s plan to jointly overturn Tibet’s governing elite after being astounded by his magical abilities. The Guru flew the king from Khenpa Jong into an unknown region in a flying wooden object using cunning and divine talents. He kept Khenpa Jong hidden so that the king would never discover it again. After being rediscovered by Terton Pema Lingpa in the fifteenth century, Khenpa Jong rose to prominence as a sacred location in the Himalayan Buddhist tradition. From 1939 through 1961, Lama Sonam Zangpo resided at Khenpa Jong. It was a neighborhood of roughly 62 homes, all of which were devoted to religion. However, due to the tensions brought up by the Sino-Indian war of 1962, the settlement was completely abandoned.  

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Namdroling Goenzin Dratshang 

Nam-droling Goenzin Dratshang is built at the sacred location of Guru Drakmar and is situated in Autsho, Tsaenkhar gewog, which is regarded as the entrance to Lhuentse Dzongkhag. The Dratshang’s construction started in 2002 and took almost two decades to finish. His Holiness Trulku Jigme Choeda, the 70th Je Khenpo, blessed it. The monastery is the home to a Chenrezig Ri-Nga Thongdrel, among many other holy artifacts. The 35-foot tall appliqué is the nation’s first of its sort. Each year in January, a week-long Guru Drakmar Drupchen is celebrated. There are numerous monks and instructors at the Dratshang. As one goes few kilometers up from Namdroling Goenzin Dratshang, there stand a magnificent Dragmar Lhakhang attached to the hill.  

Lhuentse is one of the most visited districts in the country by domestic tourists because of the district’s rich spiritual significance. 

Contributed by 

Tshewang Zangmo, 

Asst. EDO, Lhuentse

RCSC reconsiders, promotes 53 civil servants of Pemagatshel

Fri, 09/02/2022 - 11:43

Dechen Dolkar  

The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) has overruled its initial decision and promoted 53 civil servants of Pemagatshel with effect from July 1 this year.

The civil servants were earlier denied promotion after the dzongkhag human resource officer missed the document submission deadline on the RCSC online system.

According to the RCSC, on August 30 the Commission deliberated the appeal from the civil servants based on new evidence submitted.

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An official from the Commission said that it was decided based on the evidence that individuals had submitted all the required documents and the Human Resource (HR) section of the dzongkhag verified them on time.

“The agency completed the promotion process, including the HRC meeting within the month of June, this year,” the official said.

As provisioned in Section 13.6.20 of the BCSR 2018, the RCSC or agency will not promote civil servants mechanically based only on the completion of the minimum four/five years’ criterion without properly assessing their capability, performance, allegiance, and the need of the agency.

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The official said, “Therefore, the promotion has to be deliberated in the HRC of the agency for proper assessment and completion of the promotion process.”  

RCSC revoked the promotion of 53 civil servants of Pemagatshel, which was due on July 1, because document submission in the Zhiyog Electronic System (ZESt) was not completed before the deadline.

The affected civil servants have submitted all the documents to the dzongkhag human resource office before the deadline. The HR office failed to punch their documents into the system before the deadline.

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The affected civil servants had appealed to their respective sector heads to request reconsideration. The dzongkhag administration had also appealed to the RCSC to reconsider its decision. They had also appealed to the Prime Minister.

However, Kuensel learnt that the assistant HR was recruited in January this year after completing a one-year postgraduate diploma program from the Royal Institute of Management.

It was also learnt that HROs were provided training on the ZESt.

The dzongkhag HRC members for promotion were reprimanded. The dzongrab being head of the dzongkhag administration and HR being directly accountable for delaying the document submission, the RCSC withheld their annual increments for three years.

GBCL inaugurates Issuna Recreational Park in Paro

Fri, 09/02/2022 - 11:41

Yam Kumar Poudel  

A 6.6-acre recreational park for local communities and tourists was launched yesterday near Issuna village, Paro.

With the country opening up to tourists in a few weeks, the park expects tourists and visitors from other dzongkhags.

Visitors can come to the park between 9 am and 10 pm throughout the week. The park management will charge a nominal entry fee which would be used to develop and maintain the park.

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The recreation park, constructed by Green Bhutan Corporation Ltd (GBCL), has swings, a mini-swimming pool for kids, a children’s playground, beach volleyball ground, khuru ground, a beach football court, hammocks, camping ground, public restrooms, and walking trails.

A press release from the corporation stated that with rural-urban migration, the urban population is increasing steadily. “There are mental health issues in towns and cities without green recreational areas in and around urban areas. Therefore, such recreational parks are very much required across the country for physical as well as mental health.”

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GBCL has plantation programs across the country to encourage eco-tourism and conservation efforts and develop and manage landscapes and greening. It also works with private sectors and FDIs to implement landscape development and commercial plantations.

GBCL is a registered company under the Companies Act 2016 with government equity of Nu 33.33 million.

A coerced confession is inadmissible in court: Jabmi

Fri, 09/02/2022 - 11:40

… both defendants convicted in a bribery case are waiting for bail

Rinzin Wangchuk 

The two individuals, including a former senior agriculture ministry official, convicted in a Nu 1 million bribery case have appealed to the High Court.

The High Court (HC) is expected to conduct a miscellaneous hearing on September 5 to assign a bench for review and hear the case, according to their legal counsel.

The legal counsel of the former senior livestock production officer of the livestock department (DoL), Tshewang Tashi and the chief executive officer of Sai Trading Partner (STP), Samten, stated in the appeal letter that the lower court had failed to consider their submissions.

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“Despite their objections to the evidence submitted by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) based on the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) findings, the lower court without validating and verifying confessions convicted both defendants,” stated their appeal to HC on August 24.

Both Tshewang Tashi and Samten were found guilty of passive and active bribery in connection with the supply and installation of the modern hatchery in the National Integrated Livestock Farm (NILF) at Samrang, Samdrupjongkhar in 2016.

They alleged that ACC had not only taken their statements under “duress, coercion and undue influence” but also denied their right to a jabmi (legal counsel).

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As per the criminal confession under evidence act 2005, the court shall not consider any confession to be valid unless the confession is proven to be made voluntarily; given independently; and made without duress, coercion, undue influence or inducement.

It also stated that if he cannot afford a jabmi, the government will provide him with a jabmi. “However, ACC denied defendants’ request for a jabmi or witness during custodial interrogation,” Jabmi stated in their appeal letter. “We requested the court to dismiss their statements as per the principle of ‘Miranda Warning’ since the coerced confession is inadmissible in the criminal justice system.”

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The court’s ruling

The lower court passed the judgment on August 22 stating that Samten paid Nu 1M to Tshewang Tashi after getting the payment for the installation of layer equipment at Relangthang, Sarpang. ACC’s investigation also established that the payment was a “sweetening process” to steer and secure the next contract in the pipeline – supply, installation, and erection of a modern hatchery.

The court stated that Tshewang Tashi shared privileged information about the project with Samten soon after he was bribed with Nu 1M.  Samten then explored the hatchery market and received a technical specification of the hatchery equipment from a Canadian company called Jamesway Incubator Company and the drawings of the hatchery from Dhuma Metal Pvt. Ltd.

Samten then submitted the technical specifications and the drawings to Tshewang Tashi on a USB drive. The technical specification and the drawing given by Samten to Tshewang Tashi appeared in the Standard Bidding Document (SBD) of DoL for the hatchery project. The comparative study of the two documents proved that minute details of the specifications shared by Samten with Tshewang Tashi matched the technical specifications in SBD.

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The court also stated that collusion between the duo started almost a year before  notice inviting the tender. ACC’s probe also confirmed that it was the mastermind of Tshewang Tashi, who is the poultry expert in DoL and looks after all the poultry projects under the department, to secure the contract for STP for Nu 1M he received from Samten.

However, Tshewang Tashi claimed that the money was part of Nu 2.5M borrowed from Samten to buy a car. Of the Nu 2.5M, he paid back Nu 1.5M to Samten on October 17, 2016 and the remaining amount on March 15, 2018. “Having all the proper receipts which were submitted as evidence, the court had failed to look into that evidence,” stated in the appeal letter.


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Case background

ACC launched the investigation after the Commission received an anonymous complaint against Tshewang Tashi on October 11, 2016. The Commission also received an additional anonymous complaint on December 26, 2017, and May 7 2018.

The investigation found that DoL under Accelerated Livestock Development Programme (ALDP) had initiated 11 meat production projects in the fiscal year 2014-15. The government with a budget of Nu 675.72M funded these projects.

Under broad classification, two of the projects under ALDP included a poultry farm in Sarpang with a proposed budget of Nu 71.68M and a Broiler Parent Stock Farm with a hatchery at Samrang with a proposed budget of Nu 72.88M.

ACC found that the work on the supply and installation of layer equipment at Relangthang was awarded to the lowest and the lone bidder STP at the evaluated bid of Nu 1.286M.

During the investigation, ACC found that DoL had made a payment of Nu 5.203M to STP for the installation of equipment and for the completion of six sheds on April 11, 2016.

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Dropped two charges

However, the court dropped two charges of false asset declaration and possessing unexplained disproportionate wealth against Tshewang Tashi. The court stated that OAG could not prove that he derived profit from the Youth Business Cooperative (YBC). The defendant proved that funds accumulated in his accounts were sent by relatives residing in the USA and his earnings from foreign training.

ACC’s investigation found that Tshewang Tashi established YBC in the guise of helping the unemployed youth. He personally invested Nu 1.522M in cash and others in kind in the cooperative and profited with Nu 0.682M from his investment.

The investigation also unveiled cash deposits in the four bank accounts operated by Tshewang Tashi. Considering the amount that Tshewang Tashi alleged was sent to him by his siblings, the Commission gave the benefit of the doubt and considered all the conditions under which USD could be sent and deposited.

Meanwhile, both legal counsel and representatives of Tshewang Tashi and Samten requested the HC for bail.

Beyond food on the table

Fri, 09/02/2022 - 11:39

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests’ efforts to strengthen the country’s food security is a development that deserves our praise.

Asian Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative’s support through knowledge sharing and technical support is expected to play a vital role in the development of Bhutan’s agriculture sector.

The Initiative is already six projects in the country. Since Bhutan a member of the Initiative in 2016, supports in the fields of sustainable organic farming technology, managing plant genetic resources, migratory diseases and insect pests control, post-harvest technology of horticulture crops and improving animal genetic resources, among others, have been a major boost to ailing sector.

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The conference that Bhutan hosted between August 29 and 31, which was attended by 15-member countries, passed a joint resolution to form a collaborative action to support the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal target to end hunger, food insecurity, and all forms of malnutrition by 2030.

More importantly, the conference recognised that Bhutan might need an enhanced effort to relieve food security. That means the country might need to go beyond the ministry’s eight-fold pathway to increase the country’s food production and security.

Put simply, Bhutan must revolutionise the foundations of the agriculture sector such as developing comprehensive plans for soil fertility, land use, and land lease, secure investments and technology to stem wildlife conflict, and secure inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and machinery, among others.

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Agriculture officials say that for this kind of transformation to take effect, the sector will need all manner of support that the Initiative can lend, knowledge and seek technical guidance being the main.

This gives us a snapshot of where the sector is and also where the sector must aim to go. On a positive note, the Initiative has decided to work with Bhutanese experts to identify the agriculture challenges in Bhutan so that they can find the most suitable solutions for the country.

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The result of this collaboration has the potential to change the sector that is as yet beset by several problems. Understanding the core issues the sector is grappling with is perhaps the first step. But without prompt and earnest actions, agriculture development could flounder.

In the face of increasing population and import figures, not forgetting the inherent challenges such as emptying rural households and rising unemployment among the country’s young people, the time has come for agriculture development must take a new turn.

Samtse begins recultivating fallow land

Fri, 09/02/2022 - 11:38

Rajesh Rai | Samtse

Thousands of acres of paddy fields are left fallow in Samtse.

So, the dzongkhag administration began leasing of the land left fallow to increase rice production in the dzongkhag.

This year, a total of 170 acres of private land left fallow in Tashichholing (Sipsu) have been leased out.

The dzongkhag agriculture officer (DAO), Chogyal Norbu, said that paddy cultivation has been initiated in close to about 100 acres of land that was left fallow.

“Our aim is to recultivate about 160 acres. But we have to do some land development work.”

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Chogyal Norbu said the rest of the land would be developed and readied for winter vegetables.

JK Farming, a private firm, has taken much of the fallow land in Tashichholing to grow paddy. The dzongkhag agriculture office linked JK Farming to over 150 thram holders whose lands were uncultivated.

JK Farming will not have to pay these thram holders for three years.

The dzongkhag administration is helping the commercial farming firm with fencing, irrigation and direct-seeding methods, meaning no labourers were used during the transplantation.

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A total of 1,200kg of rice is expected to be harvested from an acre of land.

The assistant agriculture officer NK Acharya also said that another group, Norbu Cooperative, has begun cultivating the land left fallow in Samtse town area. Norbu Cooperative is an agro-based upcoming business venture in Samtse.

Not less than 10 acres of fallow land was also cultivated in Yoeseltse gewog this year.

As per records with the dzongkhag administration, Samtse had 1,261 acres of wetland left fallow in 2019. The dzongkhag had 2,500 acres of dry land left fallow in the same year.

According to the agriculture officers, elephants are the biggest problem for the farmers of Tashichholing and Samtse gewogs. Further, in the events of crop damage, farmers are not compensated for the loss, which further demotivates farmers.

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“If farmers lose staple food like maize, we provide free seeds the next season,” NK Acharya said.

The shortage of manpower is also one of the major problems that lead to large-scale fallowing of land.

The in-charge at the JK Farming in Tashichholing, Sacha Wangmo, said that farm mechanisation is a problem because of small terraces in some areas.

“But the biggest problem is the elephant,” she said.

Crop depredation is the biggest problem facing Samtse farmers.

Under-20 men’s team in Bahrain for AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers

Fri, 09/02/2022 - 11:37

Thinley Namgay  

The under (U)-20 men’s national football team will land in Bahrain today to play in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-20 Asian Cup Qualifiers on September 10.

The U-20 team is participating in the AFC tournament after almost eight years. The team has been practising for a few months.

Unlike the U-17 football team that is in Sri Lanka for SAFF Championship, the U-20 team has players from different clubs including Thimphu City FC, Tensung FC and Ugyen Academy FC.

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The U-20 team practised in different venues depending on the convenience of the players, unlike the U-17 team who trained at their football Academy at Changjiji.

Officials said the beauty of the U-20 team is that the players were also trained by their respective clubs.

In Bahrain, players will undergo intensive training and also expected to engage in a few friendly matches before the tournament begins.

The U-20 team will face Qatar, Bahrain, Nepal and Bangladesh in group B.

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Bhutan will face Nepal on September 10, and Bangladesh on September 12  at the Khalifa Sports City Stadium.

The following matches are against Qatar and Bahrain on September 14 and 16, respectively at the same venue.

If the U-20 team goes through, the boys will represent the country at the 41st edition of the 2023 AFC U-20 Asian Cup in Uzbekistan from March 1 to 18 along with the top 15 teams from Asia.

The U-20 AFC tournament has teams from 44 countries who are divided into 10 groups and games will take place in 10 different host countries.

The tournament will end on September 18.

Govt. declares more austerity measures

Fri, 09/02/2022 - 11:36

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The government yesterday announced more austerity measures to curb spending and ensure prudence of scarce resources as the country faces increasing financial pressures.

The printing and publication sector will be hit the most as all government agencies will immediately discontinue printing of annual, quarterly, and monthly reports and eliminate paper publications.

“All such reports and information should be posted on agencies’ websites and distributed electronically,” the finance ministry notification stated.

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Further, all office orders, circulars, notifications and intra-office memos will have to be circulated electronically through emails, official web page, official social media pages, and other possible virtual platforms unless absolutely required to observe confidentiality. However, office copies must be maintained in PDF.

The head of the agencies will also ensure the procurement of dedicated printers per employee must be discontinued and promote the use of network printers or initiate consolidation of printers in offices.

Those involved in the printing sector say the move will worsen their already dwindling business situation.

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A proprietor of a private printing press in Thimphu said: “The decision to discontinue the printing of reports and publications from the government agencies will have an adverse impact on the whole of the printing industry in the country.”

“If we are to break it down, almost 80 to 90 percent of the printing jobs are from the government agencies and remaining from other sectors. The decision comes at such a time when the entire private sector is struggling with the after-effects of the pandemic.”   The printing owner said printing presses generate a lot of employment and the decision might force some of the presses to either reduce their workforce or close down their business in the coming days.

Another printing proprietor said he is worried about the 11 staff he has.

“We solely depend on the government projects,” he said, adding there are not many private works in the printing sector.

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“I am confused right now. If we don’t have jobs, we will not be able to keep our staff and office going.”

Kuensel’s printing manager, Tshering Pelden said that the government had already started cutting down on printing and publication.

“If they went for 1,000 copies before, they were going with 100 to 200 last year,” she said, adding that the government agencies were printing at least 20 to 25 copies just for their office this year.

“Today’s notification means even this is out.”

Tshering Pelden said the tourism sector used to print brochures and posters, which are not there anymore, adding that other corporate and private offices also don’t spend much these days.

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Another area the government has targeted as a cost control measure is ex-country travel. Under this, foreign travel will be restricted to unavoidable official engagements. Agency heads must prohibit study tours, participation in seminars, workshops, conferences and training funded by the government except for formal meetings of bilateral or multilateral bodies approved by the Lhengye Zhungtshog.

In case of unavoidable international meetings, the agencies must use the diplomats in the mission abroad to represent the agencies to reduce the size of the official delegations.  The notification also said that agency heads must rationalise the serving of working lunch and refreshments during the internal meetings.

Utmost austerity will also be observed in regards to in-country training, conferences, workshops and meetings. All such activities must be adequately substantiated and justified to be approved by the head of the agencies.

Birds strike cost Drukair dearly

Thu, 09/01/2022 - 12:02

Chhimi Dema 

A flock of pigeon flying mid-air hit Drukair’s airbus 319 on August 13 while taking off for New Delhi. The flight was grounded and passengers flew off in another plane.

The airline replaced five fan blades of the airbus that were affected by the incident.

Fan blades are critical to producing the thrust that propels the plane forward, while also cooling and quietening the aircraft engine.

Drukair in an email response said: “The actual cost can be ascertained only after the damaged parts are inspected and repaired, if necessary.”

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According to sources, it would cost the airline about USD 90,000 to replace a blade made of titanium.

The airline has sent the parts for inspection and repair to France.

Records with Drukair show that similar incidences were recorded in 2017, 2018, and 2021.

The airline said that the aircraft is so designed that bird strikes will not result in catastrophic damage and even if an engine fails. “The aircraft can fly and land with a single engine ensuring the safety of the passengers and crew.”

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The maintenance on the seven-year-old aircraft, with the capacity to carry 85 to 90 passengers, was carried out on the same day.

The Department of Air Transport’s Director General, Karma Wangchuk,    said that the department has a wildlife hazard team monitoring the airport area.

“It is difficult to control birds in the air or on the ground because the airport is surrounded by paddy fields and villages,” said Karma Wangchuk.

When the birds fly around the villages, they hit or are likely to hit the planes, he said.

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The department has put in place various measures to control wildlife from entering the airport.

Before the aircraft takes off, two ambulances and officials on bicycles are sent on the runway to scare away birds or other animals such as dogs.

Karma Wangchuk said that firecrackers and bird deterrent equipment are used to chase away birds.

The department last week held a meeting with the dzongdag and gups of the gewogs close to the airport and requested them to notify villages not to feed the birds.

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The department is requesting for a budget to buy electric bikes to scare the birds.

Karma Wangchuk said that so long as people live around the airport vicinity there will be a threat from bird strikes.

On the ground, he said, the department is trying every measure to reduce encounters with wildlife.

New WFP country representative presents credentials

Thu, 09/01/2022 - 11:55

The new Country Director and Representative of the World Food Programme (WFP) to Bhutan, Carrie Morrison  presented her credentials to the Foreign Minister, Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji, yesterday. 

Carrie Morrison, a Canadian national, was appointed as the WFP Country Director by

Executive Director of WFP, David M Beasley in July 2022.

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Her appointment as the WFP Country Director in Bhutan, after a gap of more than a decade is indicative of WFP’s renewed commitment to support Bhutan, a press release from the foreign ministry stated.  

WFP’s assistance in Bhutan began in 1974. Today, WFP partners with the Royal Government in areas of climate change resilience, disaster risk reduction, food systems strengthening and nutrition security. 

WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian organization and it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020 for its outstanding contributions to combating global hunger.

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High Court dismisses Penjore’s appeal in defamation case

Thu, 09/01/2022 - 11:34

He wants to appeal to Supreme Court   

Thinley Namgay    

The High Court (HC) dismissed Penjore’s appeal for compensation in a defamation case against the police yesterday.

The court upheld the Thimphu dzongkhag court’s judgment and denied compensation.

Penjore says he wants to appeal to the Supreme Court seeking compensation,  official misconduct and failure to report a crime by the  Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and Bhutan National Bank Limited’s (BNBL) officials.

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Penjore appealed to the HC in June this year requesting for compensation from police for detaining him for 16 days and for the official misconduct and failure to report the crime by the OAG and the  BNBL executive committee members.

HC’s judgment stated that the Constitution guarantees the right to every Bhutanese to express the truth about the government, agency and department.

“The reputation of government institutions is of diminished interest and public in nature,” the judgment stated, adding that even if the information is wrongly disseminated, there is room to correct it.

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The HC’s judgment said the legal representative of the police couldn’t provide reasonable justification in both the courts on how the defamatory post of Penjore has affected the OAG and BNBL officials.

Regarding not penalising BNBL officials by the OAG, the HC says that OAG couldn’t find out whether BNBL officials knew the documents were fake or not. “The documents of RAA, BNBL and its regional offices were not matching. There was no conflict of interest between BNBL officials and the applicants.”

HC said that Penjore does not have enough evidence to prove that the officials should be punished. “OAG has the right to verify the documents sent by police.”

As per the HC, Penjore won’t get the compensation as the detention was solely for the investigation. “Moreover, there is no effect on his body and the amount of compensation wasn’t mentioned.”

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On May 4 last year, Penjore posted on his Facebook page a write-up: “Shocking Bigger Crime at Bhutan’s OAG level- A guilty Secret Cheating Case through Collusion- A National Shame”. He asked the Attorney General  and BNBL officials to resign over the staff recruitment case that was reported in the local media.

The Royal Audit Authority during auditing found lapses in staff recruitment. The case was then forwarded to the Anti-Corruption Commission  which after its investigation sent the report to the police. Police sent it to the OAG.

The 12 supporting staff who were recruited by the BNBL in 2017 produced fake class VIII certificates. The BNBL management made them resign. No action was taken against BNBL executives by the OAG.

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Police arrested and detained Penjore in May 2021 for 16 days before the OAG charged him for sedition. The Thimphu Dzongkhag Court acquitted him. Then the police charged him for defaming the OAG in November last year.

Thimphu dzongkhag court on May 31 this year acquitted him saying that the information he wrote on his Facebook account was not fake. “His posts were in the interest of the public.”

Penjore claimed compensation for his arrest. However, the dzongkhag court ruled out that Penjore will not get the compensation as police arrested him to investigate the case.