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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 49 min 45 sec ago

Urka Bangala dying, farmers worried

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 11:25

Neten Dorji | Trashiyangtse

Farmers in Trashiyangtse are finding it hard to sell Urka Bangala (chili species endemic to Bumdeling gewog) due to disease called blight.

Farmers of Bimkhar usually start harvesting the chili in early July which continues until September. For many chili is the main source of income. Farmers make about Nu 150,000 during peak season.

Tshering Paldon from Bimkhar said many farmers had stopped raising the crop.

A farmer, Dorji Dolma, said the diseases had affected half of her chili cultivation.

“I am really worried. This time I could not sell even a kilogram of chillies,” she said. “I could have made at least Nu 100,000 by selling the chili.”

Another farmer, Sonam Uden, said spraying pesticide did not work after the plants are affected.

“We won’t be able to produce much this time,” she said.

According to Trashiyangtse’s dzongkhag agriculture officer, Kuenzang Peldon, blight was caused by heavy and continuous rain. “It is the worst this year.”

Farmer Tsheringmo said that chili the disease attacked stem and roots which resulted in wilting of the plants.

Sonam Choki from Bimkhar the farmers could have acted sooner had there not been shortage of pesticide.

Yangtse gewog agriculture extension officer, Dawa Dem, said farmers were told to drain out standing water from the field immediately after rain and use fungicide. “Farmers were trained to use preventive methods such as long-term crop rotation and to remove infected plants.”

A farmer said that the people in the past grew chili only self-consumption but now it was the principal source of income for many.

Tang requests additional fund for GC road maintenance

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 11:24

Nim Dorji | Bumthang

The gewogs with long gewog centre (GC) road proposed for additional fund for the maintenance.

The issue was raised by Tang Gup Ugyen Nima.

The GC roads were handed to the gewog administration in January. The must set aside funds annually for the maintenance.

Ugyen Nima said that of the four gewogs, Tang had that longest GC road (17km). “Tang will have to spend more on maintenance.”

It was learnt that the gewogs should keep Nu 33,000 per kilometre for GC road maintenance. For Tang gewog, it will cost around Nu 561,000.

Ugyen Nima said that maintenance fund was not included in the 12th Plan. If the maintenance cost were to be met from the gewog fund, the plans would be affected, he added.

“The thickness of the blacktop on the GC road is one inch. With heavy trucks using the road daily, there will be many potholes soon, “ he said.

Natural Resources Development Corporation has been giving Nu 300,000 since 2018 for the maintenance of Tang GC road as the trucks were carrying logs.

The annual budget for the gewogs is distributed according to the size, number of households and population.

The DT decided to write to the government to review and look into the possibility of allocating funds for the GC road maintenance for the gewog which have long GC roads.

In my first tryst with Bhutan, this is what fascinated me most about the Kingdom

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 11:23

Despite Bhutan and India being strategic neighbours, there is little that the youth of India knows about the youth of Bhutan. In an important youth exchange program organised by Royal Institute for Governance and Strategic Studies (RIGSS), Bhutan and Centre of Escalation for Peace (CEP), India, I had the chance to interact with 11 youth from Bhutan in New Delhi, India. This is where I learned most about Bhutan. Before this, I did not know that Bhutan is a Constitutional Monarchy. Often, when I thought of the word “Monarchy”, I thought of Kings who were despised by the masses. But my perception about Monarchies changed entirely after interacting with the youth of Bhutan. The reverence and awe which they had for His Majesty, was unimaginable. They spoke of His Majesty with respect and humbleness. The way they described the people of Bhutan’s relation with His Majesty showed that there was a community feeling in their interactions.

I learned that the people of Bhutan often saw the King at public ceremonies in the Capital City – Thimphu. While the King interacted with the people in the Kingdom during the ceremony, he was given his space and people never rushed to him or gathered around him. The idea of a public figure like a King getting his personal space was unimaginable to me. Coming from Mumbai, India – The city of Bollywood, celebrities are often surrounded by their fans and media. No politician in India would ever move out publicly without his bodyguards or be given his space by the masses. The way the people of Bhutan interact with His Majesty at public ceremonies depicts the respect they give him and the feelings which they have towards him. The feelings aren’t those of superiority but rather of equality and family. After learning this about Bhutan, I felt a deep respect towards the people of Bhutan and it’s politics as well.

Often the word “Politics” has a negative connotation to it worldwide, it is often perceived to be dirty rather than something productive. I had never imagined politics to be a positive word, fuelled by discussion and public involvement till I heard stories about politics in Bhutan. The youth of Bhutan genuinely trusted His Majesty and believed that he was going to bring positive change to the nation. They deeply believed in the idea of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and the importance of being content rather than simply making money. I realised that there are very few people in this world who are taught by politics and policies in their country to value their happiness and to measure it just like economic outcomes. I was intrigued to see that most of the Bhutanese youth spent time discussing the simpler things in life and what made them happy. I was even more fascinated to learn that a discussion about “happiness” could be “political” in the world.

In an era where we all believe that the personal is the political, very few of us talk about “happiness” in political terms. Understanding the impact of positive policy making which taught citizens to value their happiness made me draw a deeper appreciation of The Kingdom of Bhutan. I realised that His Majesty and the people of Bhutan shared a deeper relationship where he valued the people’s happiness and the people of Bhutan valued the policies which His Majesty incorporated to bring changes in the country.

Learning more about politics in Bhutan made me reflect on the changes which were necessary to bring in the mind-set of people in India. Valuing community, teaching the citizens to respect politicians and people in power as “equals” and not superiors, valuing happiness and creating a space of trust between the citizens and those in power. Never before had I felt so drawn towards a political yet so personal personality from a country like I was towards His Majesty of Bhutan.

Via the India Bhutan Youth Summit, I had gained more exposure towards what I imagine policies in India to be like in the future. My interactions with Bhutanese youth had made me ask myself “If politics is indeed personal, why don’t we all measure contentment, happiness, understanding and respect, instead of simply valuing economic growth?”

I realised the primary difference between the Constitution of Bhutan and that in most other countries worldwide – The Constitution of Bhutan taught people to value what comes from within and made it a Constitutional right, instead of merely teaching citizens to value what can be derived from the external world. On learning more about the policies inculcated in the Constitution, my respect and appreciation for them and politics in Bhutan only grew from within. Indeed, youth from India will benefit by learning about Bhutan’s policies not only from a perspective of shaping India’s future, but also from a perspective of shaping their own values.

Contributed by,

Vidhi Bubna

Last minute goal breaks Paro Utd. FC’s resistance

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 11:19

Thinley Namgay

Thimphu City FC fought until the dying minutes of the game yesterday to snatch a 2-1 win against Paro United FC in the third match of the BoB Bhutan Premier League (BPL) at Changlimithang Stadium yesterday.

Paro United fought hard against one of the top teams in the last year’s BPL. The newcomers snatched the lead at the 39th minute when Orgyen Wangchuk scored an own goal.

Despite the home advantage, the Cityzens couldn’t find an equaliser in the first half.

Viewers watching the game online expressed their frustrations when the live streaming broke down.

BFF stated that it was due to technical issues with the server. However, live streaming resumed when the second half began.

City players mounted more pressure as the match drew to a close. In the 82nd minute, skipper Tshering Dorji headed in a perfect cross from Sherub Dorji and equalised.

The goal added vigour to Thimphu City’s attack and pushed Paro United to their half to defend.  In the dying minutes of the game, Thimphu City’s Nima Tshering scored with a heading to seal the match 2-1.

Thimphu City FC shot more than 14 times, most of which came in the second half. The opponents could fire only two in the second half.

City also got five corner kicks and the Paro United didn’t get any. The visitors committed fewer fouls. One player each from the teams were shown the red card.

Ugyen Academy FC will play High Quality United FC at their home ground in Punakha at 3pm today.

Multi-storey car parks still mostly empty

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 11:17

Chhimi Dema

Thimphu City is grappling with lack of parking spaces; the two multi-level car parks (MLCP) have been empty most of the time since it opened last year.

MLCP I located at Phendey Lam near the Zangthopelri complex has 350 parking spaces out of which only about 40 slots are occupied in a day.

An employee at MLCP I,  Kumar Subba, said that some people who have to park for long hours choose to park by the roadside.

“If they park outside for long hours, when the parking fee collector is not there, they escape.”

He said that MLCP I saw more cars after the commercial spaces were occupied.

A driver who parks his car at the parking lot said that it was hard to find a parking space on Norzin Lam. “I find it convenient to park here [MLCP I].”

Manager Jamyang Tenzin said that people do not park in the MLCPs because they are not aware of it. “Some people are reluctant because they have to generate their tickets at the entrance.”

Business has doubled after the Bank of Bhutan moved to its new city office close to the MLCP II.

“Now, we earn from Nu 3,500 to Nu 4,500 a day. Before, we earned between Nu 1,500 and Nu 2,500.”

Clients visiting the banks said that having the multi-storey car park close to the bank has reduced the hassle of looking for parking space.

MLCP II, which is located near Thimphu Thromde office and has 222 car parking spaces, has about 170 cars park in a day these days, which is an increase by 50 vehicles compared to the previous months.

“People do not park their cars here because they think we charge higher than on the streets,” a MLCP II staff said.

Customers pay Nu 10 for every half an hour.

Both the MLCPs are monitored by closed-circuit television (CCTV) on all floors.

Last minute goal breaks Paro Utd. FC’s resistance

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 11:15

Thinley Namgay

Thimphu City FC fought until the dying minutes of the game yesterday to snatch a 2-1 win against Paro United FC in the third match of the BoB Bhutan Premier League (BPL) at Changlimithang Stadium yesterday.

Paro United fought hard against one of the top teams in the last year’s BPL. The newcomers snatched the lead at the 39th minute when Orgyen Wangchuk scored an own goal.

Despite the home advantage, the Cityzens couldn’t find an equaliser in the first half.

Viewers watching the game online expressed their frustrations when the live streaming broke down.

BFF stated that it was due to technical issues with the server. However, live streaming resumed when the second half began.

City players mounted more pressure as the match drew to a close. In the 82nd minute, skipper Tshering Dorji headed in a perfect cross from Sherub Dorji and equalised.

The goal added vigour to Thimphu City’s attack and pushed Paro United to their half to defend.  In the dying minutes of the game, Thimphu City’s Nima Tshering scored with a heading to seal the match 2-1.

Thimphu City FC shot more than 14 times, most of which came in the second half. The opponents could fire only two in the second half.

City also got five corner kicks and the Paro United didn’t get any. The visitors committed fewer fouls. One player each from the teams were shown the red card.

Ugyen Academy FC will play High Quality United FC at their home ground in Punakha at 3pm today.

Health ministry wrapping up the lockdown protocol 

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 11:20

…in anticipation of a community transmission 

Younten Tshedup 

As residents geared up for another weekend last Friday, a rumour was rife of a Covid-19 community transmission and a possible lockdown of the capital city, quietly.

It was fake news.

Health officials said it could have surfaced following the news of lockdown protocol formulation.

The health ministry would soon complete the lockdown guideline that outlines the roles and responsibilities of every organisation, including the Dos and Don’ts for the public in the event of a lockdown.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that the guideline was developed in preparation of a possible lockdown, should it happen.

“It is important for the public to understand that it is not possible to predict a lockdown, when and how it would happen. Neither the time and location of lockdown can be forecast.”

In anticipation of community transmission of the pandemic, which would mean the activation of the lockdown requirement, Lyonpo said that it was important to prepare the public so that there is no panic when it is actually enforced.

“We want to have a very good, detailed plan on what a lockdown would mean for us so that when it hits us, we would be ready,” she said. “The ministry’s plan since the beginning was to have a good preparedness plan.”

Citing the recent example of the man returning from Nepal who had illegally entered the country and reached Thimphu, the minister said in the absence of such preparedness plan it would be a disaster for the country if such incidences recur.

“Luckily, the person tested negative. Otherwise, it would have been really difficult to contact trace all the people he would have come in contact with.”

Lyonpo said that the probability of a community transmission is increasing every day as the situation in the region and neighbouring Indian states deteriorates.

“So in response to this, our preparations would also have to be heightened. This is how we stay ahead of the epidemic.”

The ministry has also tested over 12,000 people through a serosurveillance in the high-risk areas as of yesterday.

A serosurveillance started on July 30 monitors the presence or absence of a specific substance in the blood.

Lyonpo said that the surveillance would now be a regular feature so that if there were any infections among the population, early detection and interventions could be provided.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering during a recent meet with the Parliamentarians said that although the epidemiological definitions vary, any positive Covid-19 case outside the quarantine facility should be considered as a local transmission for Bhutan.     Lyonchhen said that should there be a local transmission, a lockdown would undeniably be put in place. However, he added that a lockdown would not necessarily mean locking down all the 205 gewogs at the same time.

He said that given that the R0 (read R-nought), which is the effective reproduction number of Covid-19, is very high (as high as six) a lockdown would be the only option to control the spread of the virus.

A Covid-19 infected person in the open can spread the virus to six people who would then infect six more (36 numbers) and so on.

Lyonchhen said that the duration of the lockdown would depend on how effectively the country can identify and isolate the suspects.

Movement of people, he said would be severely restricted during the lockdown. However, designated officials and vehicles that can move during the lockdown have already been identified.

In the event of an emergency, these designated officials would facilitate the services without the general public having to come out of their homes. “The ministry has developed a guideline, and I feel that they have done a wonderful job.”

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said that once the guidelines are finalised and approved by the national task force, it would be available to every individual and public sanitisation on the guidelines carried out.

Meanwhile, clinical microbiologist with the national referral hospital Dr Tshokey said that with increasing cases across the border, if the public continues to be complacent, community transmission could happen and then lockdowns in different scales would have to be enforced to prevent its spread.

“For this, protocols need to be developed and tested at different levels. Therefore, the health ministry with different stakeholders is preparing and developing protocols with different scenarios. Without preparation, it will be chaotic when we’ve to do it.”

Man arrested for rape of a minor 

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 11:19

A man from Trongsa is under Bumthang police custody for allegedly raping a minor.

The case surfaced after the victim, a 17-year-old student was hospitalised at Wangdicholing general hospital with suspected miscarriage in July.

According to the Doctor, various clinical tests were conducted but there was no sign of pregnancy.

Then the girl’s father was informed to lodge a criminal complaint to police on suspicion of rape.  

Later, it was learnt that the two parties had compromised mutually and the girl became the suspect’s wife. The girl visited the hospital and complained of being raped by the suspect earlier this year.

The case was reported to the police and the man was arrested on July 28.

The case will be forwarded to the court soon.

Farmers and vendors need to prove source of chillies, beans and cauliflower

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 11:19

Chiwog tshogpa can authenticate source

Yeshey Lhadon

Despite claims that farmers and vendors need not have “no certification from anyone,” it was found that an authentication letter from the gewog agriculture extension office is mandatory for farmers and vendors selling chillies, beans and cauliflower at the Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM).

The agriculture ministry banned the import of chillies, beans and cauliflowers since July 2016 to ensure healthy consumption. Farmers and vendors at the CFM selling these three vegetables have to produce an authentication letter to prove that the products are local and not imported.

A farmer, Choki selling chillies a few weeks ago was warned by Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) officials that she would not be permitted to sell her chillies if she fails to prove that her chillies are locally grown.

Choki said that she couldn’t bring her chillies to the CFM because she couldn’t visit the agriculture extension officer in Punakha. Choki came to the CFM last Friday without the letter. “It was raining and I couldn’t visit the gewog extension office at Kabesa, Punakha,” she said. “I got warned. They said they will seize my chillies if I don’t produce the letter from the gewog.”

The Director General of BAFRA, Dr Tashi Samdrup confirmed that it is mandatory to produce a source-authentication letter for chillies, beans and cauliflowers.

There were some consumers who complained that the vendors were selling banned vegetables. Thus, the gewog agriculture extension officers started issuing authentication letters.

The chief of BAFRA, Dr Chador Wangdi said that the authentication letter was required in all the markets nationwide and not just in Thimphu. The authentication letter is to make sure that the vendors are not selling banned vegetables.

“It’s difficult to differentiate locally produced chillies from imported ones as they both look the same. But we can make a difference between the Indian cauliflowers and the ones grown in the country,” said Dr Chador Wangdi. BAFRA officials at the markets implement the rule. “BAFRA will not allow anyone to sell chillies, beans or cauliflowers in the market unless the seller shows the authentication letter,” said Dr Chador Wangdi.

Phub Dorji, a farmer from Paro sold 10 bags of beans to a vegetable wholesaler at CFM, Dema Yangzom. He said, “The wholesaler refused to buy my beans until I handed her the authentication letter from my gewog extension officer.”

Dema Yangzom said that the BAFRA officials wouldn’t let her sell the beans to the vendors at CFM without the authentication letter.

Deki Yangzom, another vendor at the CFM said that vendors take the farmer to the BAFRA office if they don’t carry the authentication letter. “BAFRA issues us a token and keeps the authentication letter. The token reflects the quantity of chillies we bought. We will be fined or our goods seized if we can’t produce the letter.”

Whenever farmers fail to show the authentication letter, BAFRA inspectors at CFM call gewog agriculture officers to verify the source of the vegetables.

BAFRA chief inspector at CFM, Tenzin said that one vendor tried to sell illegally imported produce lying to BAFRA inspectors saying that it’s Bhutanese produce. “When we cross checked, the gewog agriculture extension officer found out that the vendor lied,” he said.

“We are trying to help our consumers and local vegetable growers. It might have caused some hassle to local vegetable growers, but the authentication letter is not to discourage our local vegetable growers.”

The agriculture minister, Yeshey Penjor, refuted a similar Kuensel story last week on social media, accusing Kuensel is “full of outdated information.” While the Kuensel story was on local produce, the minister commented on not needing “certification from anyone for all imports are strictly regulated through MDPs.”

The Director of the Department of Agriculture, Kinlay Tshering said that the restriction on the import of chillies, beans and cauliflowers was put in place to protect the health of Bhutanese consumers. She said, “We didn’t do away with the authentication letter. We are relaxed; we don’t instruct people everyday to produce the authentication letter for every local produce other than beans, cauliflowers and chillies.”

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor clarified that the authentication letter is still required. He said that the agriculture ministry once tried to do away with this requirement. “Once we started relaxing, illegal practices were increasing. So, authentication is necessary,” he said. He added that to ease the situation, farmers now need not visit the gewog administration. “They can approach their chiwog tshogpa to get their produce verified.”

DT agrees to blacktop Merak GC from Khardung 

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 11:18

Neten Dorji

Trashigang Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) decided to blacktop the Merak gewog centre (GC) road through Khardung.

Tshogdu’s chairperson, Kinzang Dorji, said: “It was learnt that the government had spent a huge amount of money on maintenance and the road has become stable from Khardung. Moreover, the government has already estimated and allocated the budget from the Khardung route. We also decided to improve the Chaling road.”

In the last two sessions, the DT decided to blacktop the Merak GC road through Chaling via Merak considering it would benefit about 300 households. The people of Merak appealed twice to dzongkhag against the DT’s decision and reached the prime minister.

Early this year, human settlement ministry said that dzongdag must follow directives of the government.

After the ministry decision to blacktopped Merak GC from Khardung side, the representatives of Shongphu and Chaling chiwogs appealed to Trashigang court saying the decision had violated the DT’s decision.

Within three days of appeal, the court dismissed the petition submitted by representatives of two chiwogs considering the case was administrative in nature. The court said that case did not fulfil the requirement of a petition.

The government has approved Nu 128.31 million to blacktop the Merak GC road.

A collective responsibility

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 11:12

The Royal Bhutan Police nabbed yet another person involved in drug trafficking. The image of the young man with a stash of banned substances and wads of cash, police shared, went viral prompting people to ask many questions.

Why are our people desperate? Why are they putting people and the country at risk? How are they getting the substances when the border is sealed? The questions are plenty.

Going by media records, police registered 250 illicit drugs and tobacco cases since the border was sealed in March. This indicates that the illicit trade has not decreased, if not increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. Smuggling of drugs and tobacco is prohibited by law. During the current pandemic, it is seen as the biggest risk of starting a local or community transmission.

The risk is enhanced with neighbouring Jaigaon, the main source of the banned substances, reporting increased positive cases of Covid-19. There is a local transmission confirmed and the town will be locked down from today. The biggest concern is a local transmission and authorities are aware that it could come from the neighbouring towns. That is why all our attention is on securing our porous border, discouraging and penalising people from breaking the border protocols.

Hundreds of volunteers are serving along the border areas in heat, rain and insect and animal infested jungles to ensure that there is no illegal border crossing. All these efforts are to prevent a local transmission, which could overwhelm a small country like ours.

The resounding question is how are the perpetrators getting the illegal substances with the border sealed and guarded. Some are assuming that large stash could have entered the country before the pandemic. If not, how do people get in the substances is a big question to ponder.

From the cases with police, most incidents happen in Thimphu, Paro and Chukha, which means Jaigaon is the main source. Police are aware of the modus operandi. Given their experience, they know where to look for drugs or tobacco. Whether it is in the hood of the car, hidden inside watermelons or under sacks of rice, once police gets a tip off, there is not much escape.

The problem is not being able to stop it coming whether in Phuentsholing, Gelephu or Samdrupjongkhar. The bigger problem today is not only the substance. It is the risk of a smuggler getting in touch with a positive supplier. As it is a crime on both sides of the border, dealings are done underground where the risk of Covid-19 is secondary to the huge money involved.

With the decision to allow the Bhutan Duty Free Corporation to sell tobacco products, the number of illegal tobacco trade should go down. Tobacco smuggling thrived because of the black market. But dealing with drugs is an altogether different issue.

We have an old saying that there is only one route for those chasing and many for the one on the run. Given the risk of smuggling and border crossing on the efforts to prevent a case in our community, it becomes the responsibility of all to help police, DeSuups, and many others trying to keep us safe.

Police are soliciting the cooperation of the public. We need not guard borders, informing police about suspicious activities in our neighbourhood will be a great service to the nation during the pandemic.

The love for noise could cost bikers

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 11:11

Traffic police monitoring if bikes are modified to create loud noise

Chhimi Dema

For many bikers, the charm of biking is in its noise. That’s why there are some who modify the mufflers for maximum noise effect.  For others, it (the loud noise) is intrusive and unnecessary.

If a vehicle creates “undue noise,” a driver must not or be allowed to drive on the road, according to the Road Safety and Transport Regulations (1999). A driver shall also not install or attach any fitting or equipment to either the inside or outside of the vehicle without prior approval of the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA).

The noise of a motorbike is enhanced by removing the stock exhausts and wielding imported exhaust pipes to their bikes. Despite having to pay a fine of Nu 750, if caught by police, workshop owners in Thimphu see bikers still coming to modify their exhaust pipes.

A workshop owner in Olakha said that while young bikers came to adjust or modify the exhaust pipes, some bikes have loud noises even without modification.

A 25-year-old biker said that modifying the exhaust provides better “pick-up” power for his bike. He said, “The beauty of riding a bike is in the sound.”

But residents find it annoying and disturbing. “They are creating a nuisance,” said a Thimphu resident. Some are even sharing pictures of bikes that are disturbing the whole neighbourhood on social media.

Superintendent of traffic police, Lt. Colonel Namgay said that if a bike makes loud noise, they immediately stop the bike and check if they have modified it.

The Environment Standards 2020 states that two-wheeler vehicles with the displacement up to 80 cubic capacity (cc) can have a sound rating of 75 A-weighted decibels (dB[A]). dB(A) is the measurement of the loudness of sounds in air as perceived by the human ear.

For cc above 175, noise limit, as per the standard is 80 dB(A).

SP Namgay said that apart from checking if owners have modified the bike to increase noise, there are no proper equipment to check the noise level. Concerned agencies should provide equipment for better enforcement of the rules, he said.

Police in the last two and a half years fined 18 bikers, nine bikes in the last six months for modifying their motorbikes.

SP Namgay said that the public could help police by reporting to police about vehicles or motorbikes making explosive noise.

Laptsakha PS teachers go mobile to help students

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 11:10

… parents serve free meals for the class 

Phurpa Lhamo | Punakha 

With his tiny fingers holding a pencil, a Class PP student of Laptsakha Primary School (LPS) in Talo, Punakha is learning to write alphabets. He struggles.

His teacher, Khandu Wangmo, approaches to help. She wraps her right arm around him and guides him to correctly write the first alphabet.

Three weeks ago, classes were online and the student struggled with his lessons in the absence of such interactions. Most students were left at home, alone to follow lessons on television (TV) and radio.

Nine teachers of Laptsakha PS in Punakha visit four locations every two days to continue lessons for 104 students of the school

However, since LPS teachers took mobile teaching upon themselves on July 13, the situation has improved. Teachers move in groups to designated places on Mondays and Wednesdays. The four-hour classes begin at 9am.

Students are taught in a dratshang hall, gewog centre hall, and a structure offered by a farmer at Talo.

Mobile teaching would continue until late November.

According to Principal Kinzang Wangchuk, mobile teaching was introduced with the aim to leave no student behind.

“We were not satisfied. We also aimed at reducing the parent’s expenses on online (Internet charges) teaching.”

Today, the school’s nine teachers divide themselves into groups and visit four strategic locations selected by the school: Talo, Nalanda, Laptsakha and the Talo gewog centre office. The school has 104 students.

A teacher at LPS, Pema Deki said although a few students seemed to have been taking online classes, others were out of the touch.

“We dictated when the classes began and we saw that they wrote wrong answers. Others were asking friends,” another teacher, Rinzin Lhamo said.

In Talo gewog, mobile phone networks and television lines are weak.

Although many families in the gewog have access to television, teachers are skeptical of the guidance the students receive from the parents.

Teachers pointed out that with mobile teaching, 100 percent attendance was ensured.

“For young students, being with them makes it easy and helpful to guide them,”  Khandu Wangmo said.

Prior to the introduction of mobile teaching, the school also consulted parents and dzongkhag officials. Strategic class locations with access to water and a clean environment were selected.

Principal Kinzang Wangchuk said that parents were supportive of the initiative.

Yesterday, parents of five students came together to treat the 23 students and the three teachers taking classes at the Talo gewog centre hall.

In Talo, a taxi driver (parent to a child) offers free rides for teachers to reach their stations. For other teachers without a vehicle, the principal uses his car for drop and pick up.

Two Bhutanese bag second position in ‘My Life My Yoga’ competition 

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 11:08

Thinley Namgay

Two Bhutanese, Phuntsho Dema and Chainga Dorji came second in the international ‘My Life My Yoga’ online video blogging competition organised by the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy), India.

Contestants from 130 countries took part in the youth, amateur and professional categories. Of the 97 contestants from the country, 18 local vlogs (short video clips) got selected for the international competition.

The ministry of AYUSH organised the competition to celebrate the sixth International Day of Yoga in June. For the competition, each contestant uploaded a three-minute video on different yogic postures such as pranayama, kriya and asana. Indian yoga experts have assessed the videos.

Phuntsho Dema, 22, from Chali, Mongar said that the result surprised her. “The Covid-19 pandemic kept me engaged in yoga and such recognition is special,” the recent graduate of National Institute for Zorig Chusum in Thimphu said. “This recognition will set the foundation to pursue my future career as a yoga professional,” said Phuntsho Dema.   She did her yoga instructor course at the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana University in India.

The other winner, Chainga Dorji, 31, is a Yoga instructor at the Uma Resort in Paro. “I am happy and the result has encouraged me to do yoga further in life,” said Chainga who has a BSc degree in Yoga Therapy. He said that the awareness of yoga carried out by the Nehru Wangchuck Cultural Centre in the capital was making a positive impact.

Meanwhile, prizes for the winners will be declared soon.

BFF grants Nu 2M each to eight football clubs

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 11:06

Thinley Namgay

To ease the financial burden to football clubs amid Covid-19 pandemic, the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) has granted Nu 2 million each to the eight clubs competing in the BoB Bhutan Premier League (BPL), yesterday in Thimphu.

The eight clubs are Paro FC, Thimphu City FC, Transport United FC, Ugyen Academy FC, High Quality United FC, Tensung FC, Paro United FC, and Druk Stars FC.

BFF also granted an additional grant of Nu 100,000 each to the top four clubs from previous year- Paro FC, Thimphu City FC, Transport United FC, and Ugyen Academy FC. The grant, according to a press release from the BFF, is allocated to pay salaries to players and coaches and also to reduce pressure on the Kidu fund of the government.

“Since most of the club owners are business-driven entities which have been affected by the Covid-19, BFF felt that it was a crucial time for more financial support.”

BFF President Ugen Tsechup said that BFF would support the clubs since they play a pivotal role in developing football and footballers, especially for the national team.

The BFF press release also stated that it was important for the federation to conduct the BPL. “Most of the funding and revenue of the clubs solely depend on BPL, which includes grants, prize money and sponsorship. The league also employs referees since their income mainly depends on the tournaments.”

BFF and the football clubs employed more than 1,000 people as of now.

Boulder export to resume in Samtse

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 11:04

Rajesh Rai  | Samtse

Export of boulders (and aggregates) to Bangladesh and India from Samtse is expected to resume this week, according to dredging companies and exporters.

A dry port has been developed at Sukhreti for this purpose in Samtse.

A 61-acre land has been identified and 29 dredging and mining companies have been allotted the plots to stock their materials.

This dry port is located adjacent to the border gate and serves strategically in terms of Covid-19 safety protocols. Vehicles will not have to enter into the town beyond the gate.

The dzongkhag engineer, Kinzang Dorji said that the dry port was developed on a 60:40 expenditure ratio between the private parties and the government.

“On the government part, we have constructed an office structure for the relevant law enforcement agencies,” he said.

The engineer also said that the land was leased to the private parties and they will not have to pay lease rent for six months, until December this year.

It has been decided that Indian trucks and Indian drivers will be engaged for the export purpose. All safety protocols and procedures will be followed.

Later, should the situation improve, Bhutanese vehicles will be used with Indian drivers with the trucks kept outside. On the third stage, should there be more improvement, Bhutanese trucks and Bhutanese drivers will be engaged in this export.

The private companies have constructed two infrastructures each, one that will be used as a containment area for Indian drivers and the other for Bhutanese operators. The entire port area will function as a containment area. Limited number of staffs will be allowed.

At the dry port yesterday, dzongkhag engineer Kinzang Dorji and technicians were busy with the construction of observation towers. Three such towers will be constructed.

Kinzang said they had to work on the construction themselves because labourers were not available these days.

It has been almost a month since the dry port development started. However, dredging companies have already started to bring in their stocks at the port and are ready to export.

An official with BMML, a dredging company in Samtse, Sangay Tenzin, said that all dredging companies and boulder exporters were strained financially without the export for more than three months. Although there are stocks, without the export, companies and exporters have been idle.

“That’s why this dry port was developed. And now we are going to export,” he said.

Sangay Tenzin said that most of the companies had completed construction of infrastructure at the dry port and were just waiting for the export to start.

“Indian market and the Bangladesh market are ready to take the materials.”

Before the export, it was necessary that every necessary safety and security measures had to be put in place.

“In another two or three days, we will be able to export.”

The export will be on trial basis and the number of vehicles will be limited, it has been learned. The export will be expanded eventually depending on the situation. This month, exporters will concentrate more on the export stablility and issues so that they would resolve in the coming months and look into increasing the export.

The general manager with another dredging company, SKD Construction Private Limited, Chundu Tshering, said that they have completed construction of the containment infrastructures at the port.

He said the export will help the country boost its export figures, which has been hit the hardest due to the pandemic.

“Also, we just have expenditure at the moment,” he said, adding the resuming the export will help both the government, dredging companies and exporters.

Boulder was the second most exported Bhutanese product in 2019, after ferrosilicon.

The total export of boulder last year doubled to Nu 4.9B from Nu 2.1B in 2018. In 2017, boulder export  value stood at Nu 690 million (M), seventh among the top ten export commodities.

Export value of pebbles, gravel, broken or crushed stone increased to a whopping Nu 1.8B and became the third most exported commodities. In 2018, Bhutan recorded an export value of Nu 895M.

Most complaint of public office function  abuse

Mon, 08/03/2020 - 12:08

Rinzin Wangchuk 

Complaints on abuse of functions by the public servants continue to be the highest among 11 broad areas of corruption offences specified under the Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan 2011.

This was highlighted in the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) annual report of 2019, which was distributed to the relevant committees of the Parliament last month.

Abuse of functions, according to the report, indicates that public servants are either committing or omitting to perform acts amounting to favouritism or patronage in violation of laws, rules and regulations in discharging their functions to obtain advantage either for themselves or others.

“Abuse of functions has been consistently the highest alleged corruption offence, indicating the need to enhance ethics, integrity and professionalism of public servants, particularly, integrity in leadership,” the report stated.

Complaints on embezzlement, which came second, was observed to decreasing over the years from 58 in 2015 to 45 in 2016, 30 in 2017, 23 in 2018 and 16 in 2019.

During the reporting period, the ACC received 396 complaints, which is an increase of 63 complaints as compared to 2018.    

The report stated that email continued to be the predominant mode of lodging complaints. Telephone was the least preferred mode of filing a complaint.

Comparative analysis over the last five years, also shows that email is the most preferred mode of lodging complaints. “It may be attributed to increased access to internet and convenience,” stated the report.

The second most preferred mode of lodging complaints by post, however, has been decreasing.

ACC report also stated that the walk-in complaints have consistently remained the third popular mode of lodging complaint.

Of the 396 complaints received, 138 complaints or 34.8 percent were from known sources including 16 complaints referred by agencies, and 258 complaints or 65.1 percent were from anonymous sources.

The report stated that complaints from known sources have decreased while complaints from anonymous sources have increased over the years.

“This increasing trend of maintaining anonymity may be due to fear of reprisals. Therefore, the need to strengthen the protection of witnesses and informers.” the report stated.

The highest number of complaints, according to the report, was in the area of resources followed by contract and personnel. Resources include funds and properties other than natural resources and human resource.

Majority of the complaints on abuse of functions was in the area of resources with 70 complaints, of which 36 were against the local government officials.

As in the past, Thimphu saw the maximum complaints by place of occurrence. Of the 134 complaints against Thimphu, 53 complaints were on abuse of functions followed by embezzlement, conflicts of interest, bribery and false claim.

The report stated that Thimphu with the highest number of complaints may be attributed to complainants’ proximity to the ACC office, a comparatively greater level of awareness, a higher density of population, more economic activities and being the hub of public offices.

Lhuentse dzongkhag had the least number of complaints.

Complaints received agency wise showed the highest number was against the local government (LG) as in the past, followed by ministries.

The 104 complaints against the LG are further segregated by dzongkhag. Complaints against the gewogs of Thimphu and Punakha dzongkhags were the highest followed by Chukha and Wangduephodrang, There were no complaints against the gewogs of Trongsa and 

Domestic tourism in focus once again

Mon, 08/03/2020 - 12:08

Yangchen C Rinzin 

While Bhutan remains closed to international tourists owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a renewed effort in promoting domestic tourism led by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB).

Previous efforts to tap on the domestic tourism potential could not reap the desired outcome.

TCB director general Dorji Dhradhul said that taking the current situation as an advantage, domestic tourism can be upscaled and make local tourism more pronounced.

“If it was not regulated earlier, this time we can streamline and give importance. We want to coordinate and support those ideas that are productive.”

Domestic tourism involved residents travelling within the country. The director general said that when people travel, it propels other economic sectors, which generates employment and other income opportunities.

“Domestic tourism is essential anywhere in the country,” the director general said.

In an effort to promote domestic travel, the TCB invited private tourism partners to register with TCB. Those who are engaged in domestic tourism and others who are interested in engaging in the business.

So far 76 have registered with the TCB and of that, 59 are tour operators followed by hoteliers and others. Three are engaged in domestic tourism while four have come up with packages and rest were expressing interest.

TCB’s deputy chief marketing officer Damcho Rinzin said that domestic tourism has become important, as there is an urgent need to start tourism and engage those in the industry displaced by Covid-19.

“Domestic tourism can help provide tourism engagement when there is no international tourism activity in the country,” he said. “Domestic tourism is usually resilient to external factors, so it’s important for us to focus on it.”

Some of the ideas pitched during a recent meeting were Eco-Adventure Tourism at Manas, a pilgrimage to Singye Dzong, Aja ney in Mongar, Juniper trek in Paro and Haa, Lingdi organic farm and monpa in Trongsa, Jhomolhari trek, Buli Tsho in Zhemgang, and Blue Poppy trek.

Damcho Rinzin said domestic tourism plays an integral part in the overall tourism economy and Bhutan has not been able to tap this potential.

Following the registration, TCB conducted a workshop with those interested groups to learn the challenges and how TCB could intervene.

Damcho Rinzin said many expressed that they need support in the development and promotion of domestic tourism, although it would be challenging to ensure Covid-19 health protocol.

Those at the meeting said that they require dedicated support from the local government officials and the community.

“Since we’ve met and interacted with them, now we’ll develop a platform to feature their domestic tourism packages including creating awareness on such platform,” Damcho Rinzin said. 

“We’ll also have to connect local government officials and relevant stakeholders to promote domestic tourism collectively.”

TCB will also support the promotion of potential places to make it easier for domestic tourism promoters to take local tourists on tours, and help create awareness and market their services.

“We’ll also discuss with public offices to let the private domestic tourism promoters to handle the in-country travel programmes for their offices,” Damcho Rinzin said. “For instance, the organisation of farmers’ study tours and office retreat programmes could be outsourced to private tour operators.”

One of the domestic tourism promoters, Tharchen said that domestic tourism would help contribute to community development, create employment, and facilitate income generation.

He pitched the idea of Lingdi Organic Farm in Trongsa as a local destination.

“We plan to tag our Lingdi farm as an educational tour for students, retreat centres, hike along with indigenous communities and Guru Rinpoche trails,” Tharchen said.

“It’s difficult to make necessary arrangements in domestic tourism, unlike international tourists, where markets and products are already in place.”

Meanwhile, the domestic and outbound tourism survey 2019 showed that 46.82 percent or 210,801 individuals have reported having engaged in domestic overnight travels in the country.

However, the majority of the overnight trips have taken place for visiting friends and relatives followed by health and medical care.

Only a few, which is about 17.95 percent had visited for holiday or leisure, and only about 12 percent visited for pilgrimage, among other reasons. Most of the trips were in Thimphu.

In 2019, the domestic overnight visitors recorded a total expenditure of Nu 5,913 million, which is a significant contribution or spending given the relatively unknown or informal domestic tourism situation in the country.

Two more constitutional post holders complete their tenure 

Mon, 08/03/2020 - 12:06

…along with three commissioners of ACC and ECB  

Younten Tshedup

On completing their five-year term, two more constitutional posts holders and three commissioners demitted their office on Friday, July 31.

The holders of the constitutional offices are the Chairperson of the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), Kinley Yangzom and Royal Audit Authority’s (RAA) Auditor General Tshering Kezang.

Commissioners Jamtsho of ACC and Election Commission of Bhutan’s (ECB) Deki Pema and Ugyen Chewang also completed their tenure last week.

Chief Election Commissioner, Chogyal Dago Rigdzin who would have also completed his five-year tenure on July 31 was recently appointed as the new Chief Justice on June 11.

 

The constitutional post holders in the country comprise of the Chief Justice and the Drangpons of the Supreme and the High Courts, Chief Election Commissioner, Auditor General, Chairperson of the Royal Civil Service Commission and the ACC Chairperson.

Expect for the Drangpons of the Supreme and High Courts, as per the Constitution, the term of these constitutional posts holders shall be five years or until they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.

The Constitution allows the appointment of these post holders based on the joint nomination submitted to the Druk Gyalpo by the Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker, Chairperson of the National Council and the Opposition Leader.

Chairperson Kinley Yangzom and commissioner Jamtsho formed the second commission of the ACC in July 2015.

Kinley Yangzom started her civil service career with the education ministry and has over 21 years of experience as a human resource professional. Prior to her appointment as the chairperson of the Commission, she served as the commissioner of the Royal Civil Service Commission for five years.

During her tenure in the ACC, His Majesty The King appointed her as the advisor of the second interim government, where she was the advisor to the health ministry and six other allied health agencies.

Commissioner Jamtsho joined the civil service in 1993 as a trainee officer in the Royal Audit Authority (RAA). He served 22 years in the RAA in various capacities and was the joint auditor general before being appointed as the commissioner of the ACC.

He is a qualified chartered management accountant and a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants of the United Kingdom.

In a farewell message posted by the Commission, it was stated that during their tenure, the Commission made greater effort in professionalising internal operations and strengthening systems and processes to ensure that the ACC remains astute, credible and conversant with the changing times.

The HR issues faced by the Commission were also substantially reduced with numerous initiatives to brand the ACC as an ‘Employer of Choice’ and a ‘Learning Organisation’, the message shared on ACC’s Facebook page read.

Bidding farewell to the second Auditor General, the RAA in a handing-taking ceremony passed over the charges of the Authority to the acting Auditor General, Ugyen Dorji on July 31.

Tshering Kezang started his career as a trainee officer in 1989. In his 31 years of service, he served in various capacities from assistant finance officer to the assistant Auditor General before assuming the post of Lhuentse Dzongdag in 2007 and later as Pemagatshel Dzongdag until 2015.

He is also a recipient of the Druk Yuegyal medal, the highest military honour of the militia awarded by His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

His Majesty The King reappointed Deki Pema as the ECB’s commissioner in 2015. Along with the reappointment, the former chief executive officer of the National Housing Development Corporation, Ugyen Chewang, was appointed as the other commissioner for the Election Commission.

The ECB under the second commission was awarded the Druk Thuksey during the National Day in 2018 by His Majesty in recognition of its services to the nation and people, through their efforts to inform and educate the people, and in carrying out successful elections, which have helped strengthen democracy in Bhutan.

Meanwhile, Article 31 (4) of the Constitution states that the holders of the constitutional offices shall not be eligible for re-appointment.

Look inward, the time has come!

Mon, 08/03/2020 - 12:04

There were warnings—Covid-19 would come to our doors. 

When the whole nation, led by His Majesty The King is fighting the pandemic, we need to think beyond the borders.

Bhutan is among the few nations today that have tackled the pandemic commendably, even as it is small in all respects. But because we are a small society, we need to be more careful.

Bhutanese people at the borders are flouting the rules and protocols. Killing the local transmission of the dangerous Covid-19 pandemic is becoming .

The real problem is that there are stories but no one feels it is their responsibility  to authenticate the origin and the meaning of the myriad stories.

There is a missing link and this could be our greatest weakness.

This is the time when we can come together as one nation. We have so far, but now is the time to really look inward. The challenge before us is more than just the benefits of globalisation. 

Good things come with bad. We need to be able to decide our own course of action even as pressures will continue to come from abroad.

If a group of people from a small business town with a vested interest is threatening to stifle the relationship between the two countries built over many years, it speaks so much about diplomacy that has shaped the picture of the two nations that are bound together in a common journey that is world politics.

There are voices from Jaigaon that say the whole town is not against the Bhutanese way of dealing with Covid-19 the way country is doing. At the same time, we must know what could happen if local transmission of Covid-19 rages in Jaigaon.

Bhutan-India relation is more than mere associations from small-time towns. In the fight that the two nations are engaged in today, such small games can be counterproductive.

Bhutan will never go the way some merchants across the border want.

We have an advanced strategy in case there is a local transmission of Covid-19. Refine it while we have time; engage people from all sectors, private or public. 

Food is one. We can get it right. Technology and machines is another. We will have to think about it if even a small  border town can threaten us with such unreasonable demands.

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