Chimi Dema | Tsirang
Every year, Dorji Penjor Drukpa, a retired forester in Lhamoidzingkha, Dagana visits his home in Punakha to meet his wife and children. He could not do so last year because of the pandemic.
When the government initiated nationwide vaccination programme last week, Dorji Penjor eagerly came forward to take the vaccine shot in the hope of visiting his home without risk.
In order to ensure that every eligible person gets vaccinated, the Ministry of Health adopted a home-based vaccination strategy for those people who have mobility issues and elderly population who cannot make it to the vaccination sites.
Aged 104 years, Dorji Penjor was the oldest person to receive the vaccine jab in the country. He got the first dose of the Covishield vaccine on April 3 through a door-to-door vaccination service.
Speaking to Kuensel, his eldest son, Migma Drukpa, said that his father decided to take the vaccine to protect him and to curb the risk of transmitting the virus to others. “Being in the high-risk zone, we could not go to the village last.
When Dorji Penjor heard about the arrival vaccine from India and the mass vaccination drive in the country, he kept asking how soon would the shots be administered. For him, it was a long wait. He wanted to go to Punakha desperately.
“I miss my wife and daughter. I haven’t seen them for long,” said Dorji Penjor.
Were you worried about side effects of the vaccine?
Dorji Penjor said he was but he was determined to take the shot. He did not experience any side effect and is fit and fine.
Dorji Penjor could have gone to Punakha to meet his wife and son if he wanted to. But the seven-day mandatory quarantine would be difficult for him.
Migma Drukpa said that his father would have found quarantine very challenging.
In 2002, Dorji Penjor suffered a stroke due to hypertension. Even after the recovery, Migma said that his father still had a problem with movement. He has been on medication since.
“We hoped that the mandatory quarantine for travellers from high-risk would be lifted after the vaccination,” Migma said. “Looks like my father won’t be able to go to Punakha for some time.”
The week-long vaccination programme covered more than 90 percent of the eligible population in Dagana.
Of the 17,583 registered populations, about 16,000 including a few pregnant women and lactating mothers were vaccinated.
… a recent earthquake is suspected to have triggered the slide
Phub Dem | Paro
As usual, Dobji Lam Yeshi completed the night study and was on his way to the toilet when something nearby rumbled.
It was at around 9.30pm. Some of them at the shedra (monastic school) ran to the exit door of the courtyard. By then, Lam Yeshi said that the landslide took away the retention wall and a temporary store constructed near the exit door. The incident happened on April 12.
In 2013, a similar landslide incident happened, and the gewog built a 50 metre retention wall adjacent to the utse (central tower).
The shedra built the temporary store to house essential items as the utse was being renovated.
Essential items such as clothes of mask dancers (cham gho), utensils, mattresses, thongdrel items were lost in the landslide.
According to Lam Yeshi, the retention wall had bulged after the recent earthquake and the constant rain in the past few days caused rainwater runoff from the dzong over the loosened soil above the wall.
Monk’s toilet near the store hairline cracks. The lam said that the bathroom has to be relocated.
No casualties were reported.
Dzongkhag officials, police, and experts from Thimphu assessed the damages yesterday.
Dogar Gup Lhap Tshering said that the gewog had requested both dzongkhag and the Department of Culture to build a retention wall at the earliest. He said that if the sliding area was not fixed, rainfall and windstorm might affect other structures.
To divert the rainwater runoff from the rooftop, he said there was a need to construct a gutter. Otherwise, he said that there could be more landslide due to incessant rainfall.
A group of volunteers from Dogar will start clearing the debris from today. Dobji Dzong under Dogar Gewog in Paro is considered as one the first Dzongs in the country.
Paro dzongkhag disaster focal person, Naphey said that the main dzong was intact.
He said that the dzongkhag was awaiting a directive from DoC to build a retention wall. “Dzongkhag engineers will estimate the cost which will be forwarded to the finance ministry.”
He said that the dzongkhag was working in collaboration with DoC experts to build a proper wall to prevent landslides.
Ngawang Chogyal, the brother of Drukpa Kuenley, popularly known as the “Divine Madman,” built Dobji Dzong in 1531.
Neten Dorji | Trashiyangtse
Trashiyangtse Dzongkhag is known for many sacred pilgrimage sites (nye) scattered across the dzongkhag. Gomkora, Chortenkora, Omba, Pemaling, Dechenphodrang, Kharchendrag and Rigsumgoenpa to name just a few. It is also home to the national butterfly, Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory, and roosting ground for the endangered Black-necked crane in winter.
Despite the potential for tourist attraction, the dzongkhag recorded less than 1.000 tourist arrivals by bed night in 2017, 1,031 in 2018 and about 1,411 in 2019, according to the Tourism Monitor Report 2019.
Trashiyangtse Dzongdag, Thuji Tshering, said the dzongkhag was blessed with natural beauty, flora and fauna, pilgrimage sites, traditional arts and crafts, and unique culture.
The Dzongkhag Administration is working towards the development of ecotourism in the dzongkhag. But that would require development of amenities, from roads to guesthouses and hotels.
Thuji Tshering said that many tour operators brought their guests to Trashiyangtse only for daytime visits. “To benefit the community from tourism, we are looking for solutions as to how we can utilize our local guides, homestays, pony services and other facilities and services.”
The dzongkhag, he said, had a huge potential for Agri tourism. “Tourists can enjoy the village life and indulge in real time woodcraft like dapa making. Trashiyangtse can boast of being the producer of the first local chillies in the country and also its unique and popular chilli known as Urka Bangala. To attract more tourists, we are planning to build one ecolodge in Boomdeling and currently are working on its architectural design.”
Senior Dzongrab, Lam Dorji said that Trashiyangtse had the potential for both international and local tourism development.
Dzongkhag’s economic development officer, Chimi Yuden, said that the dzongkhag administration had already developed a three-day trek route from Tobrang to the sacred Pemaling Nye.
“We had planned to conduct a three-day food festival coinciding with Namgang Kora last year, but had to call it off due to Covid-19,” said Chimi Yuden. “And we also had to cancel the Zorig festival as well.”
With the support of the dzongkhag administration, the people of Gangkhar in Yangtse Gewog developed the new mule trek from the village to Sheridzong which stands at the border between Trashiyangtse and Mongar. The dzongkhag administration spent Nu 0.15 million to develop this trek.
Dzongkhag’s Economic Development Officer, Chimi Yuden said, dzongkhag had plans to develop Ludlows Bhutan Glory trail from Zhapang to Rigsum Goenpa, and from Rigsum Goenpa to Dechenphodrang.
“With budget support of Nu 10.325 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) under UNDP, the dzongkhag is planning to develop the Ludlows expedition from Boomdeling to Khoma in Lhuentse,” said Chimi Yuden.
Thuji Tshering said that to encourage homestays in the dzongkhag, the dzongkhag administration provided training to potential homestay owners. “Our aim is to promote tourism and, at the same time, encourage people to stay back in their villages”.
It was not an intense debate, given the format, that would corner each other on issues, but the public “debate” telecast live on national television yesterday gave a glimpse of what the three candidates have to offer to the residents of the capital city.
While only a handful of the capital’s residents will vote in the election, there were issues raised that the thromde’s residents would keep a close eye on. The candidates in being formal wasted much of the three-minute for opening remarks, as they talked and commended the country’s efforts in containing the Covid-19 pandemic.
If the public had expected the two-time former thrompon and the experienced urban planner to dominate the “debate,” it was Sonam Dorji, the new face in the race that was more composed and organised in his introductory remarks.
He talked about the thromde services clearly implying inefficiency and promised to do away with the charges levied on drinking water. Sonam Dorji had done his homework for the “debate” and referred to constitutional provisions of fundamental rights to have access to basic amenities and of natural resources belonging to the people of Bhutan in driving his message home.
The candidate from Jungshina-Kawajangsa, Ugyen Dorji, pointed at the lack of opportunities to speak to the public during his time at the thromde as an urban planner.
Ugyen Dorji said: “While working in the Thromde, the opportunities to discuss before making a decision or interact with the public were not up to my expectation.”
He said employees were dissatisfied and it impeded public service delivery. “For successful implementation of plans, teamwork within the Thromde is a must.”
Banking on his experience, former Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee, said he would like to further improve the thromde’s services that are coming under pressure from increasing urbanisation. He pledges to focus on improving the community vitality if elected again.
“In the absence of infrastructure such as drainage and sewerage system, there were disputes arising between neighbours,” he said adding that services had improved in many local area plans. “The Thromde can strengthen the vitality even if it requires altering the plans,” Kinlay Dorjee said.
Pressed by the moderator on his pledge of free water, Sonam Dorji said that there is a different charge for water and maintenance of the water supply system. “Water should not be charged,” he said.
Ugyen Dorji, having worked with the Thomde picked on the pledge and said that it was impossible to fulfil the pledge of free drinking water. He said the thromde does not charge people for drinking water, but fees for maintenance of infrastructure.
Sonam Dorji, as an outsider (not having worked with the thromde) was more direct and questioned the urban planner why the thromde failed in implementing its plans.
Ugyen Dorji said that although he was engaged in implementing the plans, there could have been lapses because he was focused on a plan and had little say. He clarified that the implementation of the plans was not about getting the approval of the Thrompon or not.
“Plans need to be implemented based on priority,” he said. “Plans that one regard important do not fall into the list of priorities.”
On road, Sonam Dorji, said that the city has many potholes. “If there was a road maintenance team then this issue could have been addressed.”
Kinlay Dorjee said that the roads were constructed in consultation with the people. He said that since there was a lack of consultation with organisations like the Bhutan Power Corporation or Bhutan Telecom before, the constructed roads need to be dug again. “Now in consultation with the organisation whereby the plans are discussed, digging the constructed roads decreased.”
Lack of manpower was a challenge, he added.
The candidates will attend the common forum in Babesa today.
The Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) has revised the 12th Plan’s capital outlay to Nu 117.15 billion (B) from Nu 116.156B to accommodate the urgent priorities in response to Covid-19 pandemic.
The GNHC’s report on the reprioritisation and progress of the 12th Plan shows that the budget for the ministries and autonomous bodies have been revised upward.
The budget for constitutional bodies has been revised from Nu 1.61B to Nu 927 million (M) by de-prioritising infrastructure construction, such as construction of courts, residence and regional offices.
The government had earmarked a budget of Nu 2.27B for construction of offices, but it has been totally withdrawn.
The human resource development has been reduced from Nu 1.2B to Nu 500M. The GNHC incorporated Nu 726M and Nu 652 for economic contingency plan (Build Bhutan project) and the agriculture contingency plan respectively.
However, the 12th Plan’s local government budget, which was Nu 50B, has not been revised.
The reprioritisation exercise was initiated to create fiscal space to finance the new measures and interventions and to identify planned activities that could be front-loaded for implementation.
As a consequence of the reprioritisation exercise, the government also reprioritised Lungtenzampa bridge and the common minimum infrastructure (CMI) activities for other new activities, including improvement of farm roads which includes laying granular sub base (GSB).
For flagship programmes, there is downward revision of budget outlays for Cottage and Small Industry (CSIs), tourism, organic, and upward revision of budget for the water flagship programmes.
Under the Project Tied Assistance (PTA) programmes, a fiscal space of Nu 3.543B was created to accommodate and front load priority activities by reducing allocation under seven expenditure heads, including “professional development for teachers”, central school budgets, and construction and replacement of bridges.
The fund from the reprioratisation under the PTA was allocated for 10 prioratised activities, which include development of Taraythang road in Sarpang, improvement of Khotokha road in Wangdue, construction of Mother and Child in Mongar, and Build Bhutan project in the 12th Plan.
There are 72 PTA projects, of which 20 are 11th Plan spillovers projects and 52 are of the 12th Plan.
The budget for CSI and startup programmes has been revised downward from Nu 1.2B to Nu 1B. The money has been reprioritised for the economic contingency plan (ECP), Build Bhutan project, and agriculture activities.
The 12th Plan budget for the water flagship programmes was revised from Nu 3B to Nu 5B. According to the GNHC, 21 rural water supply schemes have been completed; 60 rural and urban water supply schemes are ongoing.
The budget for tourism has been revised from Nu 1.566B to Nu 986M. The activities that have been implemented are the tourism contingency plan and the development of roadside amenities.
The government revised the National Day footprint budget upward from Nu 509M to Nu 628.8M. As part of the National Day footprint initiatives, the government has identified construction of a 20-bed hospital in Tashichholing, a town hall, Namchukhola-Dorokha-Halhalay road, and Samtse-Tendruk road in Samtse.
The government initially said that Samtse town would be developed as a dzongkhag thromde as part of the 111th National Day footprint. But, the prime minister later said that the government faced budget shortages.
The GNHC has also revised the Digital Drukyul budget upward from Nu 2.557B to Nu 3.026B. Under the programme, the government has initiated integrated citizen services and electronic patient information system, among others.
The total outlay for the revised flagship programmes is about Nu 15B, of which Nu 9B has been mobilised.
GNHC officials earlier said that the reprioritisation was an ongoing exercise that would be carried out as per the evolving situation.
The 12th Plan has a total outlay of Nu 310.016B with Nu 193.895 billion for recurrent expenditure and Nu 116.121B for capital expenditure.
The actual implementation of the 12th Plan started only from the second year of the Plan period 1019-2020. This was because the focus of the first year of the 12th Plan was on preparatory works and completion of 11th Plan’s spillovers.
Starting this academic session, class XI and XII will study a new curriculum on business and entrepreneurship in place of Commerce subject.
Education officials said entrepreneurship study was integrated into the curriculum, as entrepreneurship programmes are offered only for unemployed youth and there was a lack of innovation and entrepreneurial activities in schools.
Committee of subject experts from the education ministry, Royal University of Bhutan and other relevant agencies, who review the curriculum contents, approved the new curriculum.
They recommended renaming the subject as Business and Entrepreneurship to align with the curriculum content.
Earlier this year, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Royal Education Council, Department of School Education, and Department of Entrepreneurship and Employment to integrate entrepreneurship curriculum in school education.
The integration was to encourage creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking from an early stage of education.
The entrepreneurship curriculum will be integrated into Economic, Arts, TVET and Social Studies and financial literacy from the Royal Monetary Authority.
About 77 teachers, who will teach Business and Entrepreneurship, were oriented to the new curriculum and trained in entrepreneurship to begin teaching the new curriculum.
The teachers were trained in four different cohorts and regions, covering 75 schools. The orientation training ended yesterday in Paro.
According to the deputy chief programme officer of Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment Division, Ram Bdr Gurung, entrepreneurship education has become crucial for Bhutan owing to emerging issues such as youth unemployment, trade deficit and soaring national debt.
He said that educators must ensure that students were presented with entrepreneurship options in their career choices. “Students should be encouraged to explore new businesses as alternative career preferences.”
As per the division’s action plan, more than 850 teachers will be undergoing entrepreneurship training by 2023.
Accountancy and Commerce curriculum developer with REC, Tashi Zangpo, said that the new curriculum included contemporary business and entrepreneurship concepts, theories and practices, which are essential for learners to enhance their entrepreneurial mindset and competencies.
He said that the new curriculum includes different aspects of business management, creativity and innovation, design thinking, lean startup, business modelling, and planning to enhance 21st century skills.
He added that some relevant chapters from the Commerce textbooks were integrated into the new subject.
Director of REC, Kinga Dakpa, said that integrating entrepreneurship studies would help those class XII students, who do not qualify for further studies, to start small businesses.
According to most participants, Commerce became less relevant with change in time and the need of the society.
Subash Biswa, a Commerce teacher of Youten Kuenjung Academy, said the contents were based on foreign settings that make them less relevant to Bhutanese learners, and the classroom lacks practical lessons.
Subash Biswa has been teaching Commerce for 17 years.
He said had it not been for the training, most teachers would face difficulty learning the new curriculum, as there was a vast difference.
Head of the Damphu Central School’s business department, Jigme Nidup, said that the new curriculum provided a paradigm shift from the teacher and examination-centred learning to the learner and application-centred learning.
He said that it also provided a change in assessment criteria where students won’t be judged based on one competency.
He added that he would train the teachers in his school about the foundation of entrepreneurship, starting from the idea stage to writing a business proposal.
He said, although the new curriculum was the way forward, teachers would face challenges in adapting to the new teaching method. “Many teachers will face difficulty in financial projection.”
During a weeklong training programme, participants learned stages of launching a business from business idea generation, selecting business ideas, developing a business model and planning, pitching business ideas to the investors and drafting a business proposal.
The training was jointly funded by labor ministry through CSI and startup flagship programme and REC.
The health ministry’s Department of Traditional Medicine Services (DTMS), through funding from World Health Organisation (WHO) launched Sorig Zhiney and Luejong training for Covid-19 frontline responders in the country yesterday.
Sorig Zhiney and Luejong is mindfulness and yoga practice based on Bhutanese traditional medicine system, Sowa Rigpa, the ancient science of healing based on Buddhist philosophy and psychology.
The training aims to promote the physical and mental wellbeing of frontliners to enhance their productivity.
DTMS’s programme analyst, Tandin Chogyal, said Covid-19 pandemic had exerted pressure on the physical and mental wellbeing of frontliners.
The deparment’s chief programme officer, Dorji Tshering, said experts have proven that prolonged exposure to stress could impart immense pressure to frontliners at the cost of their physical, mental and societal wellbeing.
Health secretary, Dr Pandup Tshering, who served the southern Covid-19 taskforce in Phuentsholing for a year, said he witnessed desuups working in critical situations such as guarding out-post along the international border, working alone out of their comfort zones, and were exposed to extreme climatic conditions.
“These conditions could be physically and mentally challenging for frontliners and I personally feel this training will help their physical and mental wellbeing.”
A desuup, Tshudup Zangmo, has completed her duty at quarantine facility and will be staying in containment zone until she is posted for another duty.
She said the training would refresh her mind. “Working under pressure is challenging and I do 20-minute meditation every day. This will further enhance my meditation skills.”
Desuups said it was mentally challenging to advise people to follow Covid-19 protocols and that negative energy drains them down and they were not aware such practices could calm the mind.
They also said duty along the border was challenging.
A desuup, Sonam Wangchuk, recommended meditation over medicine.
He said whenever he was stressed, he followed Youtube tutorials on yoga and mindfulness training. “This training will surely benefit frontliners as one form of yoga and mindfulness has calmed me.”
A trainer on Sorig Zhiney and Luejong, Lungten Wangdi, recommended individuals to at least practice mindfulness and yoga thrice a month for a positive result.
The first batch of training for a week aims to train 250 frontline workers- desuups, health workers, and volunteers with Bhutan Red Cross Society.
Five batches of training will be conducted in Thimphu, Paro, Gedu, and Gelephu.
Dorji Tshering said the training could expand to other dzongkhags depending on the budget and positive reviews from frontliners.
Sorig Zhiney and Luejong was introduced in 2017 as part of wellness and spiritual health promotion programme by DTMS as a tool for drungtshos and menpas to treat patients.
Bhutan is on the road to setting new records again. The education ministry declared the results for Class XII last week. A record number of students, close to 1,300, failed . They will now compete in the already overcrowded job market.
The country also set another record. The youth unemployment rate has spiked to more than 22.6 percent. This is despite a large number of unemployed youth being engaged in de-suung programme.
These are outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic, as it devastated businesses and forced many working overseas to return home for safety.
Among those seeking employment are more than 5,000 Class XII unemployed graduates and 154 individuals who have acquired Masters or a high level of education.
Like any other country, Bhutan recognised that unemployment would be a serious problem in the future and came out with the Vision 2020 document. But that was 20 years ago. The situation continues to deteriorate as job creation efforts and the economy falters.
Agriculture has been shrinking, many literate youth are not keen on returning to their villages and the private sector is too small to absorb the many jobseekers. The public sector is saturated.
Build Bhutan Project targeting 7,000 jobseekers in the construction sector was one of the promising measures to address the unemployment problem. It has all of a sudden gone quiet. We need to know what is happening here.
We hear about an increasing number of free short-term skill-development courses for the unemployed. This is good but as the name suggests, it is short-term pill for a chronic illness. Many startups are struggling for want of sustained support after the initial help to set up the businesses.
Many are venturing into businesses online. This is a promising move. That is where the future of all businesses are headed to. The right initiative to enable such enterprises to thrive would be to offer cheap high-speed internet and ensure cybersecurity. Why is this not happening?
As our economy gradually recovers from the adverse impacts of the pandemic, investing in the private sector, mainly the small and medium enterprises, has to be prioritised and sustained.
That is building on our economic bases. Investment is all about looking outward, to the future. For a small country like ours, that means investing in youth and their potential.
Experiment finds urban residents ignorant of hazardous waste
Used sanitary pads, discarded facemasks, bloodstained bandages, vegetables and fruit peels all came in a bin of a house in Changzamtok.
This is the finding of the social experiment on waste conducted in Changzamtok, Thimphu by the Gross National Happiness Commission, National Environment Commission (NEC), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Thimphu thromde from March to April.
The experiment was carried out as managing household wastes has become more challenging in urban areas like Thimphu in recent years.
According to the waste inventory 2019, household waste accounts for 40 to 50 percent of the total waste generated.
UNDP’s head of experimentation accelerator lab, Kunzang Wangmo, said the area was chosen for the experiment due to the huge and diverse population and also the issue of waste is rampant in Changzamtok.
The experiment involved 600 household randomly identified from the 7,000 households in Changzamtok, where 200 households were just left without any information, another 200 households were provided with three coloured bins and waste information, and 200 households were provided with three coloured bins, information, and feedback about their waste generation and management.
Kunzang Wangmo said that the initial ethnographic research revealed people did not have knowledge about hazardous waste, some could not afford coloured bins, and segregation and collection was a problem.
In the current practice, only dry waste is recycled and others are disposed of in the landfill.
She said that if agencies introduced three coloured bins, red (hazardous), green (wet), blue (dry), people might segregate.
Residents, however, complained that even if they segregate the waste, all wastes are collected in the same vehicle at the same time, making their segregation futile.
Meanwhile, NEC and thromde plans to introduce three coloured bins and also coloured vehicles for waste collection.
For the experiment, which ended on April 10, 62 volunteers and five environment inspectors were engaged for a week.
Once the wastes were collected from the identified households, the different kinds of wastes were weighed and then segregated into wet, dry, and hazardous.
There were eight sorting sites in Changzamtok.
A volunteer said that in the beginning, waste segregation task was daunting but with awareness, people were willing and careful.
“People lacked awareness about hazardous waste,” he said.
Thromde environment inspector, Ugyen Penjor, said that if the trial was successful, there were opportunities for replication in other areas to manage waste problems in the country. “We found that if there is proper collection time, people are willing to segregate and take care of their wastes.”
Kunzang Wangmo said that the social experiment was carried out to provide key insights from the citizens and households while rolling out the waste flagship programme. “The approach provides a structured and robust method in understanding households’ values, beliefs and individuals’ attitude towards waste, to help identify favorable attributes to nudge households to segregate waste at source.”
Waste management as a flagship programme proposes integration of the circular economy and a targeted intervention of reducing landfill waste disposal from over 80 percent to less than 20 percent by the end of 2030.
Remote Chebisa village in Lingzhi gewog, Thimphu, will be connected with B-mobile 4G network in August this year.
The area has 2G network today.
Lingzhi Gup Wangdi said considering the increasing number of mobile users in the locality and its social benefits, the area should have better network facility.
He also said a good mobile network was necessary for teaching and learning. “Students in other places availed online learning during the nationwide lockdown, but students in Chebisa couldn’t because of network issue.”
There are about 20 students studying at Lingzhi Primary School from Chebisa, Chuzakhar and Khangkidyuel.
According to the gup, both Bhutan Telecom and Tashi Cell 4G network could be connected at Chebisa. “Service providers have to just install the tower because the place was already electrified.”
He said the 4G tower would also benefit residents of Chuzakhar and Khangkidyuel, as they are near Chebisa.
Chebisa received grid electricity in 2019.
Thimphu dzongkhag tshogdu’s thrizin, Gado, said the dzongkhag had sent a letter to BICMA requesting the tower’s installation. “BICMA is the parent organisation to approve. It was decided that Bhutan Telecom will install a tower in August this year.”
Meanwhile, as of June last year, there were 465,085 subscribers for Bhutan Telecom and 295,475 for Tashi Cell.
Nima | Gelephu
With only two health staff in Jigmecholing primary health centre (PHC), officials said they face difficulty in providing timely service to the people.
The centre had three officials until 2018 but an official was transferred to Chuzergang gewog when the BHU grade I was upgraded to a hospital.
The gewog made repeated requests to the dzongkhag health sector to send an additional staff to the PHC, as only one health official stays in the centre most of the time. The other staff is engaged in official meetings and public health awareness programmes.
Health assistant, Pema Kinzang, said about 25 people visit the centre every day with different cases. “The patients have to wait for a long time. There are many cases of non-communicable disease (NCD) in the gewog and screening procedure is long.”
Sources said the health ministry initiated and amended the nomenclature of health facilities as an innovative means to provide efficient and people-centred service delivery. “But the change in the name of the health facility did not bring much change although it was required with the changing time and policy,” a source said.
A source said after the change in the name of the facility, the staff pattern remained the same but there were few improvements in medicine and equipment. “New programmes were introduced but it did not make much difference in service delivery.”
Meanwhile, Pema Kinzang said the centre registered about 400 NCD cases. It ran short of medicine when new cases were reported.
Another health assistant, Sonam Zangmo, said three staff is required for the centre considering the population size and caseloads.
She said they face difficulty to refer patients to Gelephu during monsoon because of frequent roadblocks and have to treat all patients.
She added that it was difficult to manage the centre and provide services as expected by the people. “Updating the stock of medicine becomes difficult often. Sometimes we don’t have time to have meals,” said Sonam Zangmo.
The gewog administration had discussed the need to have additional staff at the centre and presented it during the dzongkhag tshogdu held last month.
However, officials from the dzongkhag said that the PHC was allotted only two staff as per the staffing pattern guidelines, which is decided as per the organisational development exercise.
Jigmecholing gup, Kumar Gurung, said that upgrading PHC to the hospital (grade-I to grade-II BHU) would help the gewog get one doctor. “We have a high population and the school upgraded to middle secondary school. Upgrading to BHU I or II would help people receive better service.”
He said that the centre provided an improved service but with a high population and more people diagnosed with different cases, it was difficult for two staff to provide the service.
“When one leaves for outcall, only one would be left behind,” the gup said.
Officials said that the number of staff in one centre is neither decided by the population size nor based on the caseloads. Monitoring old cases has become difficult since one staff got transferred in 2018.
“There are three health assistants in some centres. PHCs in the country are manned by HAs and there are also no provisions for a doctor in PHCs, “ an official said.
Meanwhile, with the centre starting to receive some equipment such as nebulizer, they are able to treat some cases that were earlier referred to regional hospitals. The PHC also attended a few accident cases with the help of the gewog utility vehicle.
Health officials from the dzongkhag said that there is a need to harmonise staffing pattern as per the patient load.
An official said there are hospitals that have lower workloads than the PHC in Sarpang.
Yangchen C Rinzin
With an overall pass percentage of 90.63, the Bhutan Higher Secondary Education Certificate (BHSEC) result saw a decrease in the overall pass percentage this year by 0.92 percent compared to 2019.
The Bhutan Council for School Examination and Assessment (BCSEA) declared the class XII results on April 10.
The overall pass percentage decreased for the first time in last five years.
The BHSEC 2019 examination recorded the highest pass percentage, 91.55 percent, in the last 14 years.
Although no studies were conducted, BCSEA officials said that the probable reason for the decrease could be attributed to less contact teaching due to the Covid-19 pandemic last year during the result declaration.
A subject coordinator, Sherab Gyeltshen, said some students could have performed poor due to stress from the pandemic where classes were mostly conducted online and contact teaching was continued only from middle of the academic session.
He said they would conduct a pupil performance report, which provide definite reasons.
Sherig Lyonpo, Jai Bir Rai, who declared the result, said that he has asked BCSEA to see the reasons for the decrease in the overall pass percentage.
A total of 13,560 of the 13,701 registered students from 53 governments and 21 private schools appeared the exam in March.
A BSCEA official explained the decrease in the number of students who dropped before the exam has no direct link to the dropout due to pandemic.
He said students drop off before the exam for various reasons. “Every year, some students refuse to appear the exam because of pressure from parents when they feel the students might not perform well, personal wish, and when they are not confident to do the exam. We could not conduct any studies to find out if it was due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Meanwhile, despite disruption in the education owing to the pandemic, Science students topped the class XII board examination 2020 result with 97.66 percent candidates passing the examination. The pass percentage is 92.16 percent in Arts and 85.21 percent in Commerce.
Going by the subject-wise performance, with 74.67 mean percentage, students performed better in the Media Studies. Students performed worst in Computer Studies and Economies.
Kelden Ghalay, 17 from Damphu Central School topped the examination with 92.50 percent from Science stream.
He said he was waiting on his bed to check his result on social media when a family friend called him and told him he was the national topper.
“I knew I will score high marks but I didn’t expect to be the topper,” he said. “Many blamed pandemic but it depends on individual how one takes the situation. I took this as an opportunity to study hard.”
Kelden has not decided what course to take up but he is trying to find out how he can study astronomies. “I’m passionate but I couldn’t find any such course in Bhutan.”
Tshering Dekar from Rangjung Central School topped in the Commerce stream with 89.75 percent. “When the lockdown was declared, I took study for granted thinking government would do away with the exam, and I performed badly in the trial. I was on the verge of giving up, but my teacher and vice-principal had so much hope from me. What I’ve achieved today was because of them.”
In Arts, Sonam Tshomo from Mothithang Higher Secondary School topped with 88 percent.
In the Language and Cultural Studies Certificate (LCSC), Lodray Jamtsho from Taktse Central School topped the examination with 83.5 percent. “Although I secure third positions in the class, this is the first time I’ve secured the first position in my life. I didn’t hope to top because of online classes but now I want to become either Drungtsho or study Law.”
A total of 325 students from one government and two private LCS schools appeared the exam. With a mean percentage of 71.60, students performed best in Driglam going by the subject-wise performance and lowest in English subject.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
Despite having a university degree, two graduates contesting in the upcoming Phuentsholing thromde elections for the post of tshogpa are faced with competent opposition.
Pompha Devi Ghalley, 28, will contest from Pekarzhing demkhong.
She completed her Bachelors of Arts in Bhutanese and Himalayan Studies from the College of Language and Cultural Studies in Taktse, Trongsa.
Pompha Devi Ghalley worked in a private company as an administrative assistant and interned with Phuentsholing drungkhag. She was also volunteering as a Desuup.
She said she is contesting to give people in her constituency more choice.
“Pekarzhing just had one contestant in the last two thromde elections.”
Pompha Devi Ghalley said there are several important developments Pekarzhing needs as a demkhong under the thromde.
“We need a primary school,” she said, explaining that the children from Pekarzhing currently go to Chumigthang MSS, which is far.
She also said Pekarzhing doesn’t have a health clinic today. People also have to stand in the heat as the place didn’t have a general hall for public meetings and gatherings.
Street lights, public transportation, waste management and drinking water facilities are also required.
“Although we’re under the thromde, we lack many facilities. I’ll raise the issues as a tshogpa,” Pompha Devi Ghalley said. “Local leaders have to be more vocal.”
The university graduate has tough competition as she needs to win over the former tshogpa Tirtha Maya Mongar, who has served as Pekarzhing tshogpa for the last 10 years and is re-contesting.
Tirtha Maya Mongar, 38, also said that the immediate need at her demkhong is a community hall.
“We also need a school and a basic health unit (BHU),” she said, adding that she had already considered all these in her plan.
She said that during her tenure, blacktopping of roads, sewerage, and streetlights have been initiated and already underway.
If she becomes the tshogpa again, Tirtha Maya Mongar said that she wants to work on the issues related to the 30 percent land pooling and compensation for the public.
“It is what people want to be resolved,” she added.
“This is my only regret as I couldn’t manage to do it because of the Covid-19,” she said. “It had been my wish and prayer to resolve this.”
Tirtha Maya Mongar is a class seven graduate. The mother of three said she is re-contesting because she wants to get fully satisfied before retiring for good.
“I am contesting for the people.”
Meanwhile, the other university graduate is 33-year old Passang Norbu Tamang, the incumbent Rinchending tshogpa.
Since the demkhong didn’t have tshogpa candidate in 2016, there was a bye-election in 2017 that Passang Norbu Tamang won.
He has a Bachelors of Computer Applications from Apex College, Kolkata, India.
“There are many things that I’ve started and need to complete,” he said, adding that it was the primary reason why he was re-contesting.
Although infrastructure has come up in the last few years, Passang Norbu Tamang said there were problems in maintenance and quality.
“As I have already worked as a tshogpa, I think I can do better.”
He also said he wants to take up public grievances in regards to thromde taxation.
“Many people still have to understand about the taxation issues.”
He will have to contest for the seat with a newcomer, Santa Man Ghalley, 26, who is a class 12 graduate.
Santa Man Ghalley has worked in a hotel for a year prior to his decision to contest for the post of a tshogpa.
“I am contesting because there is not much development in my demkhong,” he said. “This must change.”
Santa Man said there are water pipes without water, roads are dusty and without maintenance.
“There is no proper maintenance,” he said, adding that there is so much to change in Rinchending.
Should he get elected as the tshogpa, he said that he would work closely with the new thrompon.
Santa Man Ghalley also said that people from his demkhong have not been able to avail themselves of basic services such as renewal of voter cards and census transfers.
“I would like to look at addressing problems including these basic issues that residents face.”
Phuentsholing thromde has a total of 922 voters in six demkhongs. Four thrompon hopefuls and a total of eight tshogpas are contesting. Pasakha and Pekarzhing demkhongs don’t have thrompon contestants.
If the attendance at the Thimphu thromde’s common forums is anything to go by, voters are either not interested in what the Thrompon candidates have to say or have decided whom to vote for.
The turnout is poor. Yesterday at the common forum in Jungzhina-Kawajangsa demkhong, only 22 people showed up. There are 1,411 registered voters in the demkhong. The turnout at the common forum was 1.56 percent. The turnout was poorer at the Dechenchhoeling-Taba forum on Saturday. Only 11 people from the constituency with 720 registered eligible voters came to listen to the candidates.
The common forum is a facility created by election authorities to provide an equal and cost-effective opportunity for candidates to address voters to reduce the need for separate meetings or door-to-door campaigning.
The three thrompon candidates, nevertheless, highlighted their pledges and shared their experiences with the voters.
The chief election coordinator for Thimphu, Thimphu Dzongdag Dorji Tshering, said that the common forum was a platform for voters to assess the potential of the candidates and decide whom to vote for.
Dorji Tshering said that the poor turnout in the common forums could be also attributed to the Covid-19 protocols and advisories.
Another reason for poor turnout, according to the Dzongdag, was the access to information about the candidates and their pledges on other platforms like social media.
“By now, the voter must have decided who to vote for. That is why they feel that it is not important to attend the common forum.”
Candidates share their manifestos on social networking sites and door-to-door campaign schedules.
A Thrompon candidate said that he was not worried about the poor turnout during the common forum.
He said that the reach was overwhelming through the social media platforms. “They know their candidates and the promises through social media.”
“In the common forum, the crowd consists of elderlies who are not comfortable with technology,” he said. “If our message reaches voters, I don’t see it necessary for them to attend common forums.”
Facebook is the most popular networking site to reach the voters, he added.
The public debate for the Thimphu Thrompon candidates will be held today at 6 pm in ECB head office.
Thrompon election is underway. From Saturday, April 10, started the common forum for the candidates, which will go on until April 18.
These are developments that should, in an ideal situation, get the people talking, and moving. This is not happening. What this could lead to in the long-term is voter apathy, which is a serious disease in a democracy.
What is clear is that our laws are screaming to be relooked into. Our cities are growing in a way wherein only a handful (and decreasing) thram holders get to vote even as city residents are growing by the year.
The question, naturally, is what are our lawmakers doing? What is stopping them to discharge their constitutional duties, to make laws that benefit the people?
Here is an example. A road construction began in 2017 from the upper side of Changbangdu in Thimphu, which was supposed to go all the way down to Debsi. What this road could have done is decongest the city significantly. Traffic jam is already a serious problem in the capital.
The 1.3km road should have been completed, as thromde promised to the people then, in three months’ time. That scar of indecision and inefficacy on the part of the many agencies involved is there for us to see today.
Five years on, only the first cutting of the road has been completed. But this is just a case out of many we have.
Thimphu is growing and likewise, many other towns and cities. If there is one narrative in common among the growing towns and cities, it is poor and deteriorating services from the thromde. If the people must endure such sad, blatant, and wasteful professional services, why should they pay for the services at all?
And what is the meaning of the repeated elections? For whom are such elections important?
Water and waste are the major problems in most Bhutanese towns and cities. These issues, however, do not feature in the thrompon elections because residents have no say. And then we talk about city plans in which we invest millions of Ngultrums.
There is something awfully wrong the way plans are coming down to the people. One way, we talk about reducing wasteful expenditure; the other way we are promoting it. Forget democracy, if such things are let to ride for long, people will lose faith in the governance system itself.
Name-dropping has become a practice among officials high and low. That’s why we are not getting anything done. How do we solve this problem? The onus lies on the lawmakers because you are the people’s representative. Bring us the change!
In the meanwhile, the people must begin asking questions. Nothing will happen otherwise.
Reflecting deeply: what a waste of resources and shame, put in the perspective of national plan! If we can plan and implement development activities from our own (internal) resources, that would be a different story, but even so, what a waste, of thought and action altogether!
This, indeed, should be the theme of the on-going thrompon elections.
Neten Dorji | Trashigang
With the landfill constructed in 2006 reaching its full capacity, Trashigang municipal authority is constructing a compost pit.
This, officials say, is to address the growing issue of waste in Trashigang town.
The biodegradable pit is under construction in Satsalo.
Trashigang town produces about eight metric tonnes (MT) of wet and dry waste every week.
The municipal’s urban planner, Kinley Dema, said they opted to construct a compost pit, as they faced difficulty while identifying state land to construct another landfill. “We will make manure out of degradable waste and use for beautification.”
She said that there would be enough space in landfill if wet wastes are used to make manure and dry wastes are recycled.
According to the engineer, all wastes are dumped together in the landfill as of now, as there is no separate facility for proper segregation of waste.
Municipal officials also said wastes increased as the population of Trashigang town increased. They also plan to advocate people on segregation of waste at source.
The dzongkhag’s development regulatory officer, Sonam Chojur, said once the compost construction completes, 50 percent of biodegradable waste originating from Trashigang town could be converted into compost manure.
He said that of the remaining 50 percent, some percent of the non-biodegradable waste could be recycled. “If this happens, only a few remaining waste would go to the dumping site, making it easier to handle waste generation.”
The dzongkhag has two waste collection trucks that not only cater the Trashigang town but also cater Kanglung and Rangjung towns.
The municipality is also planning to make a schedule to collect wet and dry waste on different days so that waste could be segregated at source.
Meanwhile, about Nu 200,000 is spent on waste compaction in the three landfills in Trashigang, Satsalo in Trashigang, Buna in Rangjung and Rongthung in Kanglung, every year.
Officials said that if the compost construction in Satsalo landfill goes well, the municipality would construct a compost pit in Buna and Rongthung landfill.
Between 2012-2018, 14 students from Lingzhi Primary School dropped out. The matter has become a concern for Thimphu dzongkhag considering the limited number of students studying in this highland community.
Currently, Lingzhi has only five teachers, including the principal, and 54 students from classes PP-VI.
The ninth session of the Thimphu dzongkhag tshogdu decided that Lingzhi Primary School be upgraded to a lower secondary one.
The dzongkhag will send the report to the education ministry for approval.
Lingzhi Gup Wangdi said that there was a need for an upgrade of the school. “It’ll curb the dropout rate of students. While students are studying around the capital after completing class VI, it’s difficult for both parents and students.”
Thimphu dzongkhag’s chief education officer, Tashi Namgyel, said that the school’s situation had improved today but the school needed to upgrade to class VIII.
He said that a new hostel for girls was also being constructed with an indoor toilet facility to make it comfortable for students to study. “Now teachers are also staying in the new government quarters. In the past, teachers used to stay in a house made by the villagers.”
Building new classrooms is also included in the dzongkhag education plan. Fencing around the school is ongoing.
Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that Lingzhi school would be one of the pilot schools with proper modern facilities.
“The government wants to make it a model school with all the facilities so that it can be replicated in other schools. Nutrition is also an issue, and this will also be addressed,” Lyonpo said.
Schools in Barshong (Naro) and Soe will also be upgraded to Class VI. Barshong and Soe ECR have 10 and six students respectively.
A human-wildlife conflict (HWC) policy and wildlife Act could address the country’s ever-growing human-wildlife conflict, according to the findings of the Assessment of Conservation Priorities for Bhutan (ACPB) project.
The lead author of the project Ugyen Tshewang (PhD) said that currently, the policy directions for HWC management have critical gaps in the country due to a lack of HWC policy. “Forest and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan is the only legal tooth that supports conservation and protection of wildlife species. But it does not address conflict management issues.”
“HWC policy should empower necessary provisions for conflict resolutions in the context of minimising conflict between wildlife and humans,” he said.
The HWC policy, he said, should include specific elements such as wildlife-friendly practices, alternative livelihood opportunities and revenue-sharing options through tourism; economic responses such as finance, endowment funds, subsidised microcredits and loans, sustainable compensation or insurance schemes.
According to the project findings, the most important policy provisions should encourage wildlife-friendly agricultural policies, compensation and insurance schemes, requisite government budget allocations, response teams, preventive and mitigation measures, and alternative livelihoods, among others.
However, the crop insurance scheme introduced by the agriculture ministry is defunct.
The situational analysis of HWC in Jomotshangka Wildlife Sanctuary found that there was a lack of uniformity in the implementation of conflict elements, which means that livelihood diversification, alternative livelihoods, and insurance and compensation schemes are small, or are currently not effective. “Implementation of HWC actions on the ground is relatively weak.”
Past reports show that in recent years, HWC has increased drastically. Studies have shown that it is expected to further increase in the future.
Records show that livestock depredation in central Bhutan by wild carnivores, including leopard, tiger, Himalayan Black Bear, and dhole account for an average annual financial loss of 17 percent of farmers’ total per-capita cash income, with leopard and tiger causing the maximum loss.
The major causes of HWC are habitat disturbances through human settlement and expansion of farming activities in the vicinity of the protected areas and landscapes, or the combined effects of such causes.
ACPB, launched earlier this month provides an overview of holistic and multiple assessments and recommendations on the “state of the environment” commitments and legal mandates of Bhutan.
The Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) and the education ministry officially launched the Bhutan Higher Secondary School Football Championship Programme (BHSSFCP) in Thimphu on April 9.
The three-year tournament will be coordinated by BFF and the Department of Youth and Sports (DYS) under the education ministry starting this month.
The competition which is in line with grassroots football development is expected to address the growing concerns of regional imbalance in terms of representation at the national level and prepare for the upcoming South Asia High School Football Championship.
The new tournament is expected to be more competitive. BFF will provide financial and technical support, whereas DYS will ensure logistic and administrative assistance.
BHSSFCP is only for boys, and all high school students (class XI and XII) are eligible to participate in it. However, schools having classes VII and above may also include students from class VII-X.
DYS Sports Administrator, Nima Gyeltshen, said that of the 82 HSS in the country, 59 have registered for the tournament so far. Each school should have a maximum of 18 players.
BFF will organise this tournament in three stages. In the first phase, the teams will play home and away league matches at the dzongkhag level in 28 clusters.
In the second phase, 22 teams from the dzongkhags will play a single league format in the Regional Higher Secondary Championship.
Seven teams selected from regional tournaments will play a league and knockout format in the National Higher Secondary Championship at a centralised venue. The winner will play against schools from seven other countries in the South Asia High School Football Championship hosted by Bhutan.
BFF’s President, Ugen Tsechup, said, “FIFA and AFC look at it as a promotion of football in the region as well as globally. Until we promote grassroots football, the prospect of eventually getting a good national team becomes limited.”
A similar championship is also proposed to be organised for girls.
Education Minister Jai Bir Rai said that education was not only about textbooks knowledge and it was essential to recognise and support children based on their interest. “Football is not only about winning and losing. More than that, it imparts knowledge about teamwork, sportsmanship, and exposure.”
Numbers favour Kinlay Dorjee, but incumbency factor could matter
The race for the post of Thimphu Thrompon is picking up. The three candidates are becoming more visible as they campaign at common forums, from door-to-door and use the social media to reach to voters.
The campaign promises are clear. From improving public service delivery to ensuring reliable water supply to strengthening community vitality, the pledges sound convincing to the city residents who feel the new Thrompon has a massive task ahead.
Unlike in the last election, 2016, where the former Thrompon was elected on the basis of “Yes and No” votes, there are choices. The 8,007 eligible voters could vote in the former Thrompon who already served two terms, an urban planner who had worked with the thromde for years or a young entrepreneur.
Who will become the third elected Thrompon would be known on April 28. But if the two new aspiring candidates want to stop the former thrompon who is vying for his third term, they will have to beat him in his own backyard.
Advantage Kinlay Dorjee?
The numbers favour the former thrompon.
Kinlay Dorjee is the lone candidate contesting from South Thimphu with 3,083 eligible voters in two constituencies. With voters of Chang Bangdu-Olakha constituency not wanting the candidate from their constituency, Kinley Tshering, to contest, the expectation is that Kinlay Dorjee’s chances have improved. Kinley Tshering was voted out at the chiwog level with 144 “No” votes over 119 “yes” votes on March 21.
While it is not confirmed that all the voters of South Thimphu would vote for Kinlay Dorjee, the two candidates from North Thimphu would have to divide the 3,403 votes.
Ugyen Dorji and Sonam Dorji could penetrate South Thimphu voters, but the same could be said about the former thrompon who claims of having a good support base in the North Thimphu.
The 2021 Thimphu thromde election is a repeat of the first thromde election in 2011. Kinlay Dorjee won largely because the two candidates from North Thimphu couldn’t penetrate the strong support base of Kinlay Dorjee in Babesa and Olakha while they had to share the votes of North Thimphu.
The former Thrompon secured 1,335 votes, winning by 182 votes.
Voter turnout would play a deciding role in who becomes the new Thrompon. From past experience, voter turnout is poor in the capital city’s thromde election.
In the first thromde election, the capital city saw 1,335 people elect the mayor. Despite an increase in the number of eligible voters, by 1,049 voters in the second thromde election, 2016, only 31 percent or 2,557 of the 7,278 registered voters took part.
The number of eligible voters has increased by 6.98 percent, turnout, however, is yet to be seen.
On the assumed advantages, Kinlay Dorjee said that it is up to the people to decide whether to vote for him or not. “I cannot say who will win but we are doing our best to win,” he said.
The two new contestants are confident.
“I am optimistic that more people will come forward to vote for change,” said Sonam Dorji, the candidate from Dechenchhoeling-Taba. “I hope to offer change in leadership for our people.”
Taking wisdom of the old and energy of the young, Sonam Dorji said that he pledges a vision of ‘New Thimphu’ that is livable, sustainable and inclusive for all residents.
“For me, there is no South Thimphu or North Thimphu but only one Thimphu Thromde,” he said.
This election is old versus status quo, he said. “I offer choice to our people as ‘a real change’ candidate.”
Ugyen Dorji, the candidate from Jungzhina-Kawajangsa who wants to be the “agent of change” said his chance of winning is high. The support base, the former Thimphu thromde urban planner said, is “extremely overwhelming.”
In his campaign notes Ugyen Dorji states he understands the challenges and difficulties of Thimphu Thromde like laws and legislations, resident’s hopes and expectations, human resource requirement and most importantly the urban land issues.
“My people (voters) appreciate the sacrifice I made to stand in this election. I am confident,” he said.
Ugyen Dorji believes as a new candidate, his advantages are better than the former thrompon’s.
According to the urban planner, the voter base has changed. The thromde is, now, a mix of people from other dzongkhags who have civil registration in the capital, he said.
“Voters should choose whoever would be best for the city, rather than thinking that they belong to North or South Thimphu.”