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Founder and CEO of Samuh wins Rise award

Fri, 12/02/2022 - 11:48

Nima Wangdi

The founder and Chief Executive Officer of Samuh, Nyema Zam won the Rise Award 2022 for the Females Leading Business Operations in the Media, Broadcast and Technology Sector on November 30.

It was held in London, the United Kingdom. There were top seven nominees in the category, which comprised women leaders and trailblazers from around the world.

Rise Awards is a celebration of the outstanding talent, skills, expertise and achievements of exceptional women leaders across the broadcast technology and service sectors. There were 16 categories for the fourth-year annual awards.

The award was given in recognition of her achievements as a woman leader running a business within the broadcast industry and her outstanding leadership whilst achieving remarkable business growth.

Nyema Zam, who took part in the award ceremony virtually said women Chief Executive Officers in technology, media, and broadcast in the world are significantly lower than men. The numbers are even lower in developing countries.

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She said women leadership is only possible when people, communities, policy-makers, and governments support women-led businesses and initiatives. “In Bhutan, I have been particularly fortunate and blessed because our King and Queen are the biggest patrons of the creative and technology sector.”

A non-profit organisation based in the UK, Rise organised the award. Rise advocates for a diverse and gender-balanced workforce across the broadcast media and entertainment technology sector, specifically within the areas of engineering, technical operations, sales, marketing, and business.

A press release from Samuh stated that Samuh’s technical partner Benchmark Broadcast Systems in Singapore nominated Nyema Zam for the Rise Awards 2022. Rise received over 300 applications from around the world for the Awards 2022.

Nyema Zam said that she hopes this award would inspire more women in Bhutan to lead businesses increasing women leadership in the business world, especially in the technology, media and broadcast space.

Samuh is also one of the finalists in the Movers & Shakers Award 2022 in the category of ‘Best Initiative to Grow the Local Creative Industry’ that will be held on December 7 at the British Academy of Films and Television Arts in the UK.

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Early January this year, Samuh also won the JICA Global Awards, which included a grant of Nu 2 million and mentorship by global experts on overseas business expansion and digital marketing.

Samuh is Bhutan’s first mediatech company and OTT platform that streams Bhutanese films, series, documentaries, short films, music videos, and animation content. Officially launched in July 2022, Samuh is accessed in more than 117 countries around the world.

Many apply to replace travel documents

Fri, 12/02/2022 - 11:47

YK Poudel

The crowd at the passport division has surged again with the division facilitating the replacement of temporary travel documents with ordinary passports beginning yesterday.

The foreign ministry (MFA) notified the general public that the division would facilitate the replacement of travel documents issued in place of ordinary passports from December 1 as it notified earlier on November 2.

According to the ministry, the replacement would be facilitated without the requirement of any payment or a separate application.

On November 30, the MFA notified on its website that daily 100 applications will be accepted for the replacement of the travel document with ordinary passports through an application system.

According to the notification, the individuals interested to replace the travel document must hand over the travel document to the passport division with a form filled out for a replacement.

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An official from the division said that interested individuals must have a valid security clearance certificate and the applicant would receive a notification through text message (SMS) to the contact number provided. “The travel document will be returned to the individual, upon cancellation of the replacement if required.”

Sonam Wangmo, a recent class 12 graduate, who applied for passport replacement said that she waited until December to get her travel document replaced.

“I was hoping that the division will get the applications a day before and facilitate the replacement within a day or two but the division asks us to wait for a text message after six working days,” she said. “This will create a delay in processing the tickets and necessary procedures for us as passport details are a must.”

Another applicant, Dorji Wangdi, who went to get his children’s passports replaced said, “I went to the division with five passports in hand. Being illiterate, it is cumbersome for people like me.”

“I asked one of my grandchildren to apply as per the link provided on November 30 at the given time but the link got closed within no time, the system to make an appointment did not work well as the server was down,” he said.

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He said that he has to replace the travel documents at the earliest. “We need to attend a program in Nepal soon.”

The division accepts 100 appointments in a day for the replacement of a travel document with an ordinary passport.

A corporate employee, who has been trying to get a passport said that it has been over a month since he applied for a passport through the website but did not get any confirmation message.

“Weeks later, I received a message stating that the application has been rejected without any reason stated. After several days when I checked the status of the application, it showed under process, and still, I have not received any text after more than a month.”

The details provided, he said, are correct for which he tried to enquire on the given helpline number for several days yet the division failed to respond.

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“With 100 applicants for travel document replacement and the division asking to wait for a message after six working days, there will be a backlog of more than 500 cases by the time the first group of applicants get the passport replaced,” he said.

Another applicant said, “The ministry should make use of both printers and help the public with efficient service especially when they are in need.”

Many said that the division has to make the replacement process efficient without people having to wait for long.

Mega Night leaves football turf in bruises 

Fri, 12/02/2022 - 11:47

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The five-day Mega Night Show that ended yesterday was one of the biggest entertainment events Phuentsholing saw in decades.

It saw hundreds of people from neighbouring dzongkhags as far as Thimphu and across the border crowd at the Phuentsholing Sports Association (PSA) football turf to enjoy live music and shows. However, many sports enthusiasts and residents mourn the state of the turf.

Despite being cleaned, the turf is filled with cigarette buds, chewing gums, canned beer lids, and pet bottles. The turf has also been burnt in many spots. Stains of doma and vomit are also seen. Drains are left choked with pet bottles.

The ground was littered with all kinds of waste

Some areas outside the turf boundaries stink of urine.

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According to the general secretary of the PSA, Sonam Lhagyel, they inspected about 20 spots where the turf was left with burns.

“We haven’t even checked the whole ground,” he said. “At least 45 square metres of the turf will be needed to cover these up.”

However, covering the damaged turf in patches will make the turf look untidy. For replacing the entire turf, PSA will need about Nu 10.7 millions (M).

Mega Night, the country’s biggest-ever musical live show, was a five-night event held from November 25 to November 29. Although the show didn’t see many regional tourists, PSA ground was filled with thousands of locals. The last night of the event saw more than 10,000 people.

A total of 19 local bands performed. People indulged in live songs, drinks and eateries until 3am.

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“On the last day, because the crowd was so huge, I had personally requested about 15 groups to not smoke,” the PSA general secretary Sonam Lhagyel said.

PSA had written to the thromde office requesting not to allow smoking and chewing gum, he said, explaining adding it was uncontrollable due to the crowd.

Meanwhile, Phuentsholing Thromde, the event organiser had placed dustbins but they were filled too quickly. Every day, the ground was left littered. Broken wine bottles were also found on the morning after the last show.

A resident said that the turf must now be thoroughly brushed up.

“Otherwise, it will be risky for players,” he said.

PSA is going to resume the departmental football tournament as soon as possible.

PSA football turf was inaugurated in 2017. Due to the pandemic, the turf remained mostly idle in 2020 and 2021.

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Bringing NCDs into sharp focus again

Fri, 12/02/2022 - 11:45

One of the most significant findings from the free health screening in Thimphu is that the government and corporate employees need more physical exercise and are advised to improve their dietary habits.

Of the 2,088 employees screened until Tuesday, 331 were found to be living with at least one or more comorbidities. The screening included tests for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, HIV and H. pylori, among others. Twenty-three percent had hypertension and 31 percent had signs of pre-hypertension; 48 percent were found to be overweight and 20 percent obese.

NCDs are a serious and growing problem and one of the biggest killers in the country today.

The endorsement of the implementation roadmap for prevention and control of NCDs in the region 2022–2030 by the member countries of the 75th session of the regional committee meeting of WHO South-East Asia Region (SEAR) in Paro in September this year so should receive a special focus.

The roadmap provides strategic directions to speed up the national NCD response through primary healthcare and universal health coverage to improve access, coverage and quality of NCD prevention and control interventions. At the meeting then, regional director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said that the region must build on the progress made thus far in the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases. “Though trends are in the right direction, we need to accelerate efforts to achieve global, regional, and national goals.”

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NCDs, including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes account for almost two-thirds of all deaths in the region, according to the WHO.

We cannot, therefore, overlook the dangers of NCDs—both in terms of human suffering and referral costs. Our lifestyles have changed dramatically over the years. Nearly half the deaths due to NCDs occur prematurely between the ages of 30 and 69 years.

The meeting in Paro called for the need to strengthen policy and legislative frameworks besides advancing primary health care, universal health coverage, human resources, accountability and quality of national health information systems.  Data and information systems, at all levels, will play a crucial role to promote accountability.

As the resolution of that meeting noted, decisive leadership and political commitment have the potential to provide policy and legislative frameworks needed to integrate high-quality and comprehensive programmes in the country.

What we also know from the health screening, perhaps not sparingly, is that most Bhutanese, young and old, are into the habit of consuming alcohol and tobacco. Such habits, without sensible dietary routines and lack of physical exercise can give rise to detrimental consequences in people’s health.

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Budget shortage ends MoE’s decision to transfer principals en mass 

Fri, 12/02/2022 - 11:44

Dechen Dolkar 

The education ministry issued a notification last month on its decision to transfer 154 principals and 58 vice-principals (VPs) who have served more than nine years or more in the current dzongkhags or thromdes.

It was decided during the ministry’s human resource committee meeting in September. It was learnt that the ministry wanted to reshuffle the principals as a part of its reforms. However, the ministry had to cancel the decision since the government has no budget to pay transfer benefits.

According to an education ministry official, the ministry yesterday received a notice from the Ministry of Finance stating that it has no budget for transfer grants.

If all 154 Principals and 58 Vice-Principals agreed to go on transfer, it would cost around Nu 13M.

During the HRC meeting, it was decided that the Principals who have one year or less to superannuate would be retained in the same school as per the BCSR 2018.

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However, the duration of the EoL was deducted from the number of years calculated and the study leaves up to 18 months were counted as active service in line with BCSR 2018 and will be not included.

The duration of the secondment was considered active.

The modalities of transfer will be placed in the order of merit ranking based on the parameters.

The choice of placement was to be based on merit ranking.  However, the candidate must fulfil the qualification criteria and cannot choose the place of posting in the same dzongkhag or thromde.

The ministry decision was that schools having Vice Principals at P1 level can only be opted for by a Specialist Head (ES level Principal).  Vice Principals at P1 level will choose the school having a Specialist Head.

Principals or VPs currently serving in Bhutan Baccalaureate (BB) schools will choose only BB schools.

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The ministry has also mentioned that the transfer of their spouses will be based on the subject requirement for teachers and position requirement for principals, VPs, counsellors and support staff.

ACC finds risks in dredging and surface collection

Thu, 12/01/2022 - 12:08

Rinzin Wangchuk 

The 2021-2022 year was mired with controversies in the allotment of dredging sites and surface collection in Samtse and Phuentsholing. Some proponents even complained to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) seeking investigation since they suspected possible policy corruption within the government agencies.

In its annual report 2021-2022 released to the media on November 29, ACC highlighted some key findings from the system study conducted on the management of surface collection and dredging of RBM.

The commission found risks of regulatory corruption due to overlapping mandates and ambiguities in certain provisions of rules and regulations, collusion and bribery in the identification and assessment of the sites due to a lack of guidelines that provide a technical method and clear set of criteria.

The study also revealed that due to a lack of transparency, competitiveness and fairness in all the allocation methods adopted by the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS), there are risks of abuse of function, conflict of interest and favouritism in site allocation.

Among the other risk factors the anti-graft agency highlighted were embezzlement and fronting in the exporting process as a result of non-maintenance of proper books of accounts by the exporters, lack of online payment system, standard measurement and standard measurement unit.

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Arbitrary fixation of the selling price and risk of fronting, calculation of service charges and variations in the royalty collection, and lack of safe passage for export of boulders were other pertinent issues stated in the report.

The ACC also found that lack of collaborative monitoring with relevant authorities resulted in non-operation of awarded sites and non-monitoring of weighbridge offices, poor implementation and management of corruption prevention tools such as code of conduct, conflict of interest, gift, and grievance redressal mechanisms.

ACC conducted the study to examine the processes, procedures and practices instituted for surface collection and dredging of riverbed materials. It covered the related agencies including the DoFPS, Divisional Forest Offices in Gedu, Samtse and Sarpang, and other relevant stakeholders such as the Department of Geology and Mines (DGM), and Regional Revenue and Customs Offices in Gelephu, Phuentsholing and Samtse.

ACC’s recommendations

The Commission recommended the DoFPS reallocate all the existing and unoperated sites using the open auction method and rationalise the area of sites for allocation based on the resource potential, location of the sites and operational capacity.

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It also recommended developing clear procedural guidelines for processing export approval, permits and related services to improve service delivery, fairness and transparency. “The DoFPS must explore ways to institute a standard and uniform system of RBM quantity measurement for efficient service delivery, reducing administrative burden and preventing corruption,” the report stated.

To resolve issues of overlapping issues, the ACC recommended the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and the Ministry of Economic Affairs review the legal framework such as acts, rules and regulations and guidelines to draw legal coherence.

The Regional Revenue and Customs Office (RRCO), Department of Trade, Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and Bhutan Export Association were recommended to institute a proper system to ensure the selling price declared in the commercial invoice is the actual price received by the exporters.

The report also stated the RRCO must reinforce implementation and compliance with mandatory maintenance of proper books of accounts by all the RBM exporters and facilitate trade routes for the export of stones and boulders in collaboration with the Indian counterparts.

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The DoFPS also recommended developing clear procedural guidelines for processing export approval, permits and related services to improve service delivery, fairness and transparency and adopt a uniform quantity measurement unit of RBM to reduce administrative burden and prevent corruption.

There are around 110 dredging sites under active operations across the country. Of that, 86 sites are handled by the Natural Resources Development Corporation Ltd (NRDCL).

BTT applies for registration as a political party to ECB

Thu, 12/01/2022 - 12:08

Dechen Dolkar 

An aspiring political party formed by the former National Land Commission secretary Dasho Pema Chewang submitted its application for registration to the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) yesterday.

The proposed name of the party is Bhutan Tendrel Tshogpa (BTT). In a simple ceremony on November 29, 2022, the party held their first pre-registration convention in Thimphu.

Dasho Pema Chewang, 56, was unanimously elected as the Party President at the convention. The party also elected its two Vice Presidents, General Secretary, Treasurer and Executive Committee members. A party spokesperson said that the details would be released at a later date.

The election was held following ECB guidelines and electoral officials from ECB conducted the election. Dzongkhag coordinators, party supporters and members from 20 dzongkhags, youth groups, women representatives and some of the party’s candidates attended the convention.

The party will hold a nationwide convention after its application has been approved by the ECB. During the convention, the party will announce its candidates, reveal its symbols and share its ideology with the public.

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The ECB spokesperson, Phub Dorji, said that after receiving the application from the applicant the commission formed a committee yesterday.

He said that the committee will be meeting by Monday since some of the members are out of the station.

According to Phub Dorji, the committee will be verifying documents and requirements against the checklist of the new party registration process.

He said that there is no Act specifying the turnaround time for the registration process of a new political party.

“If the new party is able to furnish the required information, the commission will do registration as soon as possible without compromising the quality,” said the spokesperson.

The party will hold a nationwide convention after ECB approves its registration.

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If ECB registers the party, Bhutan will have six registered political parties contesting in the parliamentary elections next year.

“We’ll emerge as one of the cleanest parties”

Thu, 12/01/2022 - 12:07

The proposed Bhutan Tendrel Tshogpa’s president, Dasho Pema Chewang, talks to Kuensel’s Rinzin Wangchuk after applying for the party’s registration as a political party to ECB yesterday.

Why did you decide on Bhutan Tendrel Tshogpa?

In our culture tendrel marks the onset of a journey and it is aimed at cultivating an auspicious and effective beginning. It marks the onset of the process in tandem with the proper conditions such as time, place, company, motivation, and intention. One cultivates the right intention and aspirations to kick off the process. Bhutan is at a cusp of change and a new era has begun. We intend to consecrate this new era with tendrel and move with the change for a prosperous Bhutan.

You are going to be the only Party President from the eastern region. Is it a deliberate strategy of your party?

I think it’s more appropriate to say that I represent a political party of Bhutan in the offing. Bhutan Tendrel Tshogpa is formed with the vision to fulfil the aspiration of the Bhutanese people and for national progress.

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Your party has decided not to recruit any candidates who were affiliated with other political parties. Who would be your ideal candidate? Will there be enough candidates given your conditions and the Election Commission of Bhutan’s (ECB)  new rules on candidate qualification?

That’s not true. We are looking for candidates who are not only capable but humble and especially those who can empathise with common people. We have been receiving quite a number of interested candidates but we are being very careful in choosing our candidates. We already have a good set of representation in all constituencies from diverse background and expertise yet sharing a common vision for our country and one who can feel the pulse of the nation.

In the past elections, people say that name-dropping has been used by a few political parties to gain an advantage. What is your stand on this? How would your party behave should others continue to resort to this strategy?

I can’t say about other parties. As far as Bhutan Tendrel Tshogpa is concerned we will emerge as one of the cleanest parties in the political fray. We will fight the elections on the grounds of our pledges, ideology and more importantly by fair means.

Where will your party headquarters be based? In Thimphu or Trashigang?

We will have our head office in Thimphu but we will soon be establishing our offices in the dzongkhags as well.

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How many of your candidates would be women and youth?

We have a good representation but it is extremely difficult to find women candidates. However, we don’t intend to give seats based on sex and ethnicity but purely on merit.

Being a new party, how would your party fund the campaign and party’s activities?

This is challenging for the new party with a small membership base. We will have to optimize the use of state funding and maximize the impact.

Completion of farm roads to be included in the next five-year plan

Thu, 12/01/2022 - 12:07

YK Poudel

At the question hour on November 29, Minister of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS), Dorji Tshering, said that the Local governments (LGs) and the concerned dzongkhags should coordinate and prioritise the farm roads.

This was in response to MP for Khar-Yurung, Tshering Chhoden, who asked about the inclusion of farm roads construction connecting Khengkhar in Mongar to Denchi in Pemagatshel and Kerung in Nganglam to Woongborang in Dungmaed gewog in the 13th Five-Year Plan (FYP).

“Connecting these two farm roads will not only reduce the distance but it will also have immense benefits for the people socially, culturally, and economically,” she said.

The road construction was given priority in the twelfth five-year plan.

Lyonpo said the LGs and the dzongkhag administrations should identify and prioritise impactful programmes and apportion the budget accordingly.

“Dzongkhagz and gewogs must consult with other relevant agencies such as the Department of Roads under MoWHS and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest,” he said.

Lyonpo mentioned that the provisions and discretion in prioritizing viable and impactful programmes and projects will be continued in the next plan.

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A similar concern was shared by MP for Sombaykha, Dorjee Wangmo.

“Selela farm road plays an important role and is indispensable for the people of four chiwogs under Samar Gewog and one chiwog under Gakidling. The request has been made to Gross National Happiness Commission for budgetary support,” she said.

Prime Minister Lotay Tshering said that the two benefitting gewogs should resolve the issue bilaterally, including a modality for implementation to execute the activity within FY resources.

“Haa Dzongkhag Administration has executed the construction of a farm road from Selela to Sektena under Gakidling Gewog through the Government of India (GoI), Small Development Program (SDP) in FY 2016-17. The administration, he said, completed the construction of around 10.5km from Lamjigang until Selela in FY 2017-18 and incurred a total expenditure of Nu.12.387 million in the FYs 2016-2018,” he said.

The total length of the road is approximately 35km.

The Royal Audit Authority also issued an audit memo citing non-compliance to the Farm Road Guidelines and stated that the farm road did not benefit the public of Gakidling Gewog since it was not pliable and left incomplete.

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Lyonchen said that when the dzongkhag’s engineering sector visited the site and had undertaken the survey, only about 12km stretch could be surveyed.  The rest had to be halted due to land disputes among the community members.

“It has been reported by the dzongkhag administration that there have been no new updates or requests from both the gewogs since the DT was held in August 2022,” he said.

Thimphu records cases of canine distemper

Thu, 12/01/2022 - 12:06

Chhimi Dema

The National Veterinary Hospital in Thimphu recorded 25 cases of canine distemper infection in dogs last month, which is at least one case a day.

Although the viral disease does not pose risk to people or animals in other families, pet owners are advised to isolate the infected dogs.

Canine distemper is a viral infectious disease affecting the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of canines.

The veterinary hospital’s senior veterinary officer, Dr Nima Wangdi, said that there is no anti-viral or medicine to treat the disease. The hospital is providing treatments based on the symptoms the infected dogs develop.

The infected dogs develop pus-like discharge from their eyes and eventually develop fever, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy, reduced appetite, and vomiting.

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As the virus attacks the nervous system, infected dogs develop circling behaviour, head tilt, muscle twitches, convulsions with jaw chewing movements and salivation, seizures, and partial or complete paralysis. The virus is also known to cause the footpads to thicken and harden.

Dr Nima Wangdi said that timely treatment ensures recovery of the infected dogs. “More than 90 percent of the infected dogs are recovering in Thimphu.”

He said that isolation of the infected dogs is critical to stop the spread of the virus; and to protect pet dogs from such viral diseases, vaccination is important.

He said that pet owners should vaccinate pets with the DHPPi vaccine when a dog is 45 days old and a booster dose after 21 days after which the vaccine is given annually.

DHPPi is a combined live vaccine against canine distemper virus, hepatitis type 1 and 2, parvo virus and para-influenza virus.

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The Livestock Rules and Regulation 2017 states that the pet owner is responsible to register their pet animals and ensure timely vaccination, deworming, and care of the pet animal.

If the owner fails to vaccinate the pet, they will be “liable to pay either the whole treatment cost and money equivalent to production losses suffered, or the market value of the livestock or animal lost through deaths.”

Bhutan’s first disability-friendly training centre opens 

Thu, 12/01/2022 - 11:58

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

With the inauguration of inclusive facilities yesterday, the Professional Development Centre (PDC) in Tsirang is the first training centre that is Persons with Disabilities-friendly (PwD) in the country.

The main building, training hall, computer lab, dining room, and three-room dedicated hostel of the centre are now equipped with ramps with handrails, wide wheel-chair accessible sliding doors, furniture, unisex toilet, and tactile flooring. The modifications are made to the emergency exit doors, existing doors, and the reception counter.

Auditor General Tashi, the Head of the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) Gerhard Adam, and officials from Tsirang dzongkhag inaugurated the remodified structures.

Modified at the cost of Nu. 3.8 million with fund support from Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the centre is expected to receive increased numbers of participants in the training programmes, including the PwDs.

Professional Development Centre in Tsirang

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Deputy Auditor General Minjur Dorji said that the need for such facilities was realised after a colleague with PwD couldn’t access training and development programmes due to unfriendly structures.  “We hope that this facility benefits PwDs in availing training and development,” he added.

Tashi Phuntsho, 36, works as an auditor in Tsirang. He was left wheel-chair-bound after a fatal accident. He said that he couldn’t join most of the professional development training due to his disability.

According to the Population of Housing Census of Bhutan 2017, 2.1 percent of the Bhutanese population has some form of disability.

PDC’s programme director, Cheki Dorji, said that though there were inclusive schools like Muenselling institute, Khaling, and Changangkha MSS, among others, Bhutan did not have a training centre that was PwD-friendly.

He said that the capacity development programmes for the PwDs will be conducted  in line with other programmes. “It is also in line with the government’s policy of ensuring that all new buildings incorporate universal designs and features that make it accessible to all people.”

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Bhutan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010, with a commitment to provide rights and social inclusion for the PwDs.

Gerhard Adam said that “Leave No One Behind” is at the core of ADC’s development policy and a fundamental principle in the Austria-Bhutan Country Strategy. “I hope that any trainee passing by PDC will reflect on the retrofit and take back the reflections to the trainee’s organisation for a sustainable yet humble beginning in making all public infrastructure PwD-friendly.”

Bhutan and Austria share 35 years of bilateral cooperation. Royal Audit Authority (RAA) and ADA started their first cooperation in 2012.

To date, ADA supported RAA with EUR.655,422 (Nu.51.577 million). Most of the cooperation was in capacity development.

As Bhutan graduates from the Least Developed Countries’ list next year, Gerhard Adam said that the bilateral cooperation between the countries will come to an end too. “But it doesn’t mean that there won’t be relations between the two countries.”

Losing professionals in important sectors

Thu, 12/01/2022 - 11:55

Going by the number of people going abroad for study or work, the public apprehension that Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) in Thimphu might soon not have enough health professionals is a legitimate concern.

Both the government and private sectors in the country are today faced with human resource shortage. In some quarters, staff shortage is acute. While not all offices and service providers will be affected equally, sectors such as health and education can ill afford to not plan for possible repercussions in the future.

According to the hospital’s management, about 70 nurses resigned between 2021 and 2022; close to 50 nurses are reportedly on extraordinary leave (EOL). The hospital currently has 136 doctors (general and specialists) and more than 500 nurses.

Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan (KGUMSB) maintains that going by the internationally-accepted standard of nurse-bed ratio of around 1:3 in teaching hospitals and 1:5 in general hospitals, JDWNRH has a nurse-bed ratio of 1:6. This is perhaps why health service delivery has not been impacted seriously yet. However, the situation could change, leaving us at a serious disadvantage.

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Although doctors and nurses are better paid compared with other jobs and professions in the country, we know that some countries in the region and beyond are running severely short of health professionals. When these countries offer to pay more than three times what we pay our health professionals currently, the bargain can be irresistible.

Similarly, looking at the teachers, more than 345 teachers have left the school system in the past six months. Some schools are making do without specific subject teachers, especially in STEM subjects. Between 2020 and August 2022, 710 teachers resigned from the system. Thimphu Thromde alone has received at least 51 applications for voluntary resignations, excluding EOL, so far.

What we must bear in mind is that the problem is not just schools and health centres in Thimphu.

While we may rely on the possibility and availability of new recruits, the loss of highly trained professionals will continue, leaving us ultimately with a dwindling pool of experts and talents.  The current shake-up in the civil service is a new beginning; there is much more we need to do, and very quickly.

NC supports retaining communication allowance 

Thu, 12/01/2022 - 11:54

…communication allowance provision was removed by NA

Thukten Zangpo

National Council (NC) yesterday retained the communication allowance (CA) as proposed in the Pay Structure Reform Bill 2022 contradicting the National Assembly’s (NA) decision to remove it.

However, since it is a money Bill the recommendation of the National Council on the provision is not mandatory for NA.

The National Council adopted the Pay Structure Reform Bill with 19 Yes votes and 2 abstains of the 21 members present for the voting.

NC’s Chairperson of the Good Governance Committee and Bumthang MP Nima said that the committee has found it feasible to provide the CA.

He said that the allowance was provided as per the responsibility of the officials and was work-related, which even tshogpas are eligible for the allowance.

NA decided to remove the allowance after Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering made the submission to the House to discontinue all communication allowances including internet data charges. The Bill was forwarded to the NC for deliberation.

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Supporting Lyonchhen’s submission, the NA’s Economic and Finance Committee’s Chairperson and MP of Gangzur-Minjey, Kinga Penjor also proposed to remove all CA including for other public servants. “Discontinuing the CA could save the government Nu 2 million annually.”

However, the NC’s good governance committee supported Section 16 of the Bill which entitles the Prime Minister to a CA on the actual expenses incurred per month.

Ministers, chairperson of the NC, speaker of the NA and opposition leader are entitled to a CA of Nu 5,000 per month.

Heads of Constitutional Offices, the Attorney General, drangpons, deputy speaker of NA, the NC Chairperson and MPs are entitled to Nu 2,000 per month.

Similarly, CA of Nu 500 per month for Dzongrab, Drungpa, Drangpon Rabjam. The principal secretary, communication specialist, personal secretary, and personal assistant of the prime minister are entitled to Nu 1,500 per month.

Personal secretary and personal assistant of the Cabinet ministers and equivalent positions are allowed CA of Nu 1,000 per month.

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Thrompons get Nu 1,000 per month; tshogpa and thromde thuemi get Nu 200 and Nu 100 per month respectively.

Bumthang MP to NC, Nima said that the recommendations on discontinuation of CA from the NA do not include civil servants. The House adopted that the CA for civil servants would be included in their monthly salary.

The Cabinet and government secretary are eligible for Nu 2,000 as CA, and civil servants between EX-3 and above, Nu 1,000 monthly.

As recommended by the NA, the House supported doing away with the internet data charges.

As per Section 17 of the Bill, the Prime Minister, Cabinet ministers, Chairperson of the NC, Speaker of the NA, Opposition Leader, heads of Constitutional Offices and the Attorney General (residing at Lhengye Densa) are entitled to internet allowance based on the actual expenses.

Nima said that the committee recommended that the chief justice and chairperson would be entitled to only Nu 5,000 as CA without Nu 2,750 as data charges.

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The House also made recommendations under Section 20, professional allowance for nurses, clinical staff, teaching allowance, and aviation staff on an experienced basis for nurses and clinical staff.

For designated vehicles for MPs, the House recommended maintaining the designated duty vehicle as existing level to position level EX-3 and above until reviewed and rationalised by the government.

However, the House included a new section that stated that each MP shall be provided with a designated duty vehicle or a one-time lump sum grant for the purchase of the vehicle along with the driver, and fuel and maintenance allowances.

The House recommended an SUV vehicle with FWD up to 2,800cc or Nu 20,000 allowance per month for the driver, fuel, and maintenance with a lump sum Nu 1M vehicle purchase allowance.

The House reverted disputed sections to discuss during the committee’s internal meeting by involving relevant members.

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Royal Textile Academy launches books and resource centre to promote traditional textiles

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 12:06

Jigmi Wangdi 

Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck launched three national survey reports, a colour reference booklet and a Design Resource Centre (DRC)  at Royal Textile Academy (RTA) yesterday. 

The resources are in support of Bhutanese weavers, the textile industry, and the creative and designing sector. 

The Theory of Colour booklet will assist Bhutanese weavers to enhance and expand designing skills beyond their traditional colour schemes. The booklet documents traditional colour schemes of Bhutanese textiles while serving as a reference for future weavers and others. RTA will distribute them to weavers across the country and also train them. 

The resource centre is a physical space where design books and resources will be available to all who are involved in the creative sector. There are around 200 books covering a wide range of topics including graphic design, branding, fashion history, pattern cutting and biographies of different designers. Weavers and fashion designers can access more than 100 different types of fibres, yarns, dyeing materials and sample fabrics for reference, review and detailed examination.

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The survey reports provide an update on the status of the textile sector in Bhutan and offer insights into the textile practice.

The data and findings are expected to help policymakers, industry stakeholders, practitioners and interested parties with a better understanding of the textile sector, which can also be guidelines during the formulation of policies and programmes pertaining to the development of the textile and design industry. 

The surveys conducted are National Textiles Purchase and Consumption survey, Bhutan Hand-woven Textile Industry survey and on Youth Attitudinal survey on Weaving, Designing and Textile Culture in Bhutan. This is the first time RTA has conducted three surveys together. 

The RTA received support from the Centre for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (CFCH) of the Smithsonian Institution and the William H Geiger Family Foundation Inc. USA for the survey report and the Theory of Colour booklet.  

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Landowner moves ACC after court refuses to reopen case

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 12:05

Complaint against court for unfair judgment

Nima Wangdi

After the courts refused to reopen the case even with new evidences gathered, a landowner from Taba, Tashi, filed a complaint last week to the Anti-Corruption Commission requesting an investigation into the case.

The letter stated that the 15-decimal land under the joint ownership of two brothers, Tashi and Chencho was illegally changed to single ownership and then was given to the defendant.

Representing Tashi, his brother-in-law Ugyen said that the case went until the Supreme Court, which upheld the judgments of the lower courts.

He said the High Court ordered the then Thimphu City Corporation (now Thimphu Thromde) to verify the legitimacy of the land ownership as they questioned the change in ownership of the land.

“Thromde wrote back to the court saying that the land was still under the joint ownership and the Thromde officials had transferred the ownership by mistake,” Ugyen said that Thromde had also apologised to the court for the mistake and the land transaction be stopped. The documents he has also stated the same.

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The land was initially mortgaged by Tashi’s cousin who borrowed Nu 2,400,000 from the defendant. Later, the cousin fled the country and the defendant took the land.

“We didn’t have any evidence to prove then.  But now we have the money receipts showing that the person who fled paid all the money back before fleeing,” Ugyen said that the land should remain with the landowner and it should not be given to the defendant.

Ugyen gathered all the evidence and registered the case with the Thimphu district court in April this year but was dismissed in July after a few hearings.

The judgment that the district court passed on July 5 stated that the courts have already heard the case before and judgments have been passed. “The litigant registered the same old case to the court and had to be dismissed,” the judgment stated.

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Ugyen said that the court was aware of several irregularities in the evidence that the litigant was basing on during the process of hearings. The agreement did not even reflect the amount of money borrowed. “It also did not contain signatures of all the signatories but the Court still accepted.”

The land was mortgaged without Chencho’s consent. Tashi has also signed the agreement as guarantor.


Can court cases be reopened? 

A criminal case can be reopened even after the court has passed the judgment, according to law professionals. They said that section 37 of the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code (CCPC) Amended Act of Bhutan 2011 provides the provision.

The section states that the prosecution may move the Courts for new trials based on newly discovered evidence or on other grounds.

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However, civil cases cannot be reopened if the subject matter of the case between the same parties is the same as that of the previous suit on which there is a valid and final judgment. “This is based on the legal doctrine Res-judicata and is well prescribed in section 115 of the CCPC of Bhutan 2001.”

The section states that the person shall not be entitled to file a subsequent suit if the cause of action or claims involved in it is the same as the prior suit on which there was a valid and final judgment on that cause of action based on the merits.

Another law expert said that the case could be reopened if somebody makes the issue with the concrete prima facie evidence that the court has erroneously decided the case. “In fact, it is not within the interest of the court to reopen the case that was already decided but the strong external factors will make things happen.”

ACC should collaborate with ECB to monitor electoral corruption

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 12:05

Dechen Dolkar

The National Assembly (NA) yesterday recommended the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) monitor and ensure corruption-free elections both at the national and Local Government (LG) elections.

Member of Parliament (MP) from Bartsham Shongphu constituency, Passang Dorji recommended this in addition to the Good Governance Committee’s (GCC) five recommendations to enhance the effective and efficient functioning of the ACC to prevent corruption.

Chairperson of the GGC, MP from Khatoe Laya, Tenzin, presented the Committee’s review report on the ACC’s annual report 2021-2022 November 28. The committee recommended the ACC enhance awareness and advocacy programs for the LG leaders to prevent abuse of functions in the LG.

The committee recommended ACC submit a report to the Parliament on the follow-up actions taken by concerned agencies and ministries in the next reporting year. It also recommended concerned agencies submit a report on the implementation of the ACC’s recommendation on surface collection and dredging of river bed materials in the next session besides conducting system assessments like Youth Integrity Assessment, and Social Accountability Assessment in the future.

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The House supported the committee’s five recommendations and the additional recommendation with 41 Yes votes out of 43 members present at the session.


Complaints to ACC

In the year 2021-2022, the ACC received a total of 435 complaints with an average of about 36 complaints per month.

The maximum number of complaints pertained to the abuse of functions with 151 followed by embezzlement 23, bribery 13 and five false claims.

The review report also states that  LG constituted the highest number of complaints with 107 accompanied by ministries with 34 and dzongkhag administration with 24.

The highest complaints were lodged against the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest followed by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Information and Communication.

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Thimphu dzongkhags administration had the highest number of complaints with 37 accompanied by Paro with 37 and Chukha with 23. Samtse and Haa Dzongkhag had the least complaints with one and two respectively.

Second airport in eastern Bhutan being explored

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 12:04

Staff Reporter 

Dramitse-Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi asked if the government has looked for other sites since the proposed Pongchula airport was deemed not feasible at the National Assembly yesterday. 

“We have heard there are alternative sites in Yangbari and Chaskhar and one international airport in the east would help bring about balanced regional development besides creating employment opportunities,” he said.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering answered the question on behalf of the information and communications minister who is out to India to launch the Indo-Bhutan Satellite.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering clarified that Pongchula Airport is much sought after and demanded by the people of Mongar and are not satisfied with the report. The preliminary report found that runway was not adequate in length  against the minimum requirement of 2.5km for international standard and 1.5km for smaller planes.

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It was also reported that the airport has bad wind direction as it has a crosswind which is dangerous for flying and landing. “Experts recommend a minimum of two to three years to observe and study the wind direction. The terrain has 103 metres difference between the top and the lowest points which either need a wall and levelling or cutting and involve huge expenditure,“ Lyonchhen said.

“Although there are no sites identified we are planning to look for other sites in the east,” he said.  “We’re also thinking of asking experts to redo the survey to confirm as requested by the people of Mongar.”

Lone youth runs the mustard oil processing firm in Dagana

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 12:03

Lack of resources hampering production

Choki Wangmo | Dagana

A CGI-sheet shed, an oil expellant, and few bottles of mustard oil on a tiny shelf at the corner of the room.

Sonam Dorji Subba, 24, runs Dagana’s only mustard oil production firm at the post-harvest sub-centre in Dagapela.

Domestic circumstances forced Sonam from Gozhi to look for income sources while attending to his father who was ill. He had been back home with his father after completing high school.

“The former group which ran the mustard oil business had abandoned the venture. I saw the machines lying idle and approached the dzongkhag agriculture sector,” Subba said,who has been operating the firm for the past month.

He invested Nu 50,000 in the business.

He works as an accountant for the farmers’ sales outlet located below the sub-centre and sells his products there.

Subba said that there was a high demand for the mustard oil due to the clean and organic process of production, but was not able to meet the local demand. “I want to expand the business and make the products available across the country. Mustard oil has medicinal values too.”

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Mustard growers have dwindled and he has to go look for resources in the villages. He currently procures mustard from Lhamoidzingkha and Drugeygang in Dagana.

“If there is a subsidy for mustard growers, farmers could be encouraged to grow the crop,” he said.

Currently, he can get only 500kg of mustard seeds in a month, which is enough to produce just about 175 litres of oil.

The firm uses two types of mustard plants— Sarshong and black. The black species is mostly used for the oil production.

Mustard leaves can be harvested after three weeks of planting and the seeds are dried for about five weeks. The seeds are then heated and pressed, after which it is filtered and extracted.

The residues are used as feeds and as nutrients in the field.

A 900ml of mustard oil costs Nu 250. The cost is at par with the imported mustard oil.

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With plans in the pipeline with the gewog administration to supply mustard seeds to villages beginning next year, this could help address Subba’s challenges. Access to access to loans could help him expand the business, he added.

There are only a few mustard oil processing firms in the country. Most edible oil firms import ready-made oil and package the product at Pasakha.

Cooking oil is a heavily imported commodity in Bhutan along with rice, meat and dairy products. According to Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited, the country imported more than Nu 250M worth of edible oil in 2020.

Bhutan is an exemplary country when it comes to gender equality

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 12:03

Nima Wangdi

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering during the National Assembly yesterday said that Bhutan does not have gender inequality.

This was in response to MP for Khar-Yurung Tshering Chhoden’s question.

Tshering Chhoden asked Lyonchhen what is being done in preparation to achieve the gender goal of 50 percent women leadership representation by 2030. She said that the minutes of the world conference of women in 1995 in Beijing set this goal.

She also said that Bhutan has only 16.5 percent women representation in Parliament, 12.6 percent in Local Government, 39.8 percent in civil service, and 18 percent at the executive level.

Lyonchhen said that increasing women’s representation in leadership should be seen through capacity building and creating a conducive environment for women to enhance their participation or through the introduction of a quota system.

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He said that women’s representation is increasing in the country and there is no need to change existing policies.

“Those countries that set quotas for female representation in leadership have not been able to achieve anything yet,” Lyonchhen said.

Bhutanese schools in the 1980s had fewer female students but the number is picking up, according to Lyonchhen. “Except for Sherubtse College and College of Science and Technology, other colleges have almost equal male and female students.”

Lyonchhen also said that the country enacted a National Gender Equality Policy. “Bhutan is an exemplary country when it comes to gender equality.”

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Haa-Samtse highway blacktop to complete in next fiscal year

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 12:02

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Applying blacktop on the last 19-km stretch between Haa-Samtse Secondary National Highway would complete in the next fiscal year, according to the Works and Human Settlement Minister Dorji Tshering.

He said this in response to the query from Sombaykha MP Dorjee Wangmo during the question hour session in the National Assembly yesterday.

Although the blacktopping works, which started in 2019 benefited many people and those pilgrims visiting Rangtse Nye, the MP said there were problems in many areas during the summer.

“There are many portions between Jenkana and Sangbay drungkhag and Namchukhola that have not been blacktopped. It has been some time now. Small and medium vehicles find it difficult to ply in the summer,” she said.

Lyonpo Dorji Tshering said that the remaining 19km road falls between Namchukhola and Rangtse. “It will be blacktopped in the next fiscal year.”

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Lyonpo also said that this remaining stretch is left from the a total of 140-kms Samtse-Haa national highway.

Besides this stretch, Lyonpo said the government had spent a huge amount to develop and upgrade the road from Weezirgang in Samtse to Namchukhola in Haa. “Bigger vehicles can ply on that stretch now.”

The minister also said that there is a potential for a bypass road from Dorokha to Samtse, according to Dorokha drungkhag.

“We are preparing for the funds. After this bypass, the 140-km Haa-Samtse road will be reduced by 30km.”

Meanwhile, Lyonpo also stressed the importance of the Haa-Samtse road.

“If Thimphu-Phuentsholing road comes across a problem, Thimphu and other places will face a big problem,” he said. “Keeping this in mind that there might be problems on the Phuentsholing-Thimphu highway, Haa-Samtse road was initiated.”

Lyonpo Dorji Tshering said the former governments understood the significance and importance of this road and prioritised it. “The current government understands and prioritises it.”

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