Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
Traffic congestion is a major problem in Phuentsholing, the country’s biggest commercial hub. It is worse during winter. But this could change.
To ease traffic congestion, the second gate was opened as entry gate for vehicles carrying taxable goods and commodities yesterday. The second gate will also allow entry for light vehicles. The second gate is at the Baubazaar and connects the Northern Bypass Road (NBR) near the STCBL office.
Government officials from both Phuentsholing and from across the border inaugurated the opening. Officials from police, drungkhag, customs and thromde in Phuentsholing attended the opening, while the superintendent of police from Alipuduar district and various other local authorities of Jaigaon were present.
With this move, the second gate is now directly connected to the mini-dry port (MDP), which was completed in February this year. Vehicles carrying taxable goods would not have to enter the core town area.
Prior to yesterday’s move, the second gate only functioned as entry for light vehicles.
The main gate will cater to all other vehicles that do not ferry taxable goods and commodities. It will also function as exit for heavy vehicles.
At the opening yesterday, the superintendent of police in Phuentsholing, Colonel Namgay Dorji said that both the counterparts welcome the move.
“We will see how this will work,” he said, explaining it will be on a trial basis for two days and changes would be done accordingly.
Meanwhile, the MDP is currently being managed by Phuentsholing Thromde office on a trial basis.
Phuentsholing Thromde executive secretary (ES) Lungten Jamtsho said the MDP was initiated on the trial basis following the discussions with the Indian counterpart about the need for opening the second gate for decongesting the town.
“That’s why we immediately shifted the customs and clearing agents at MDP,” he said.
Since the ownership of the dry port is with the department of trade, ES said they will have a final round of meeting at the end of this month to decide the operation of the MDP.
Lungten Jamtsho also said the gate would decongest the core area and contribute to easing overall congestion.
“With this opening and with the Northern Bypass Road project already towards completion, heavy vehicles would not require to enter the town,” he said.
The ES also said that Bhutanese officials have already shared with the counterpart officials about allowing trucks ferrying boulder from the second gate. Exit of trucks ferrying boulders are currently allowed only after 8pm from the main gate.
ES Lungten Jamtsho said counterpart officials are also supportive about the idea and agreed in-principle.
“Boulder trucks can directly ply from the new Omchhu bridge and connect at the second gate without having to enter into the town,” he said, adding this consequent move would bring great relief to the congestion in the border town of Phuentsholing.
Nim Dorji | Trongsa
Of the three Monpa villages in Trongsa, Phumzur is the only village that is not connected with a motorable road and electricity.
Located near the famous ‘Ugyen Dra’, which was blessed by Guru Rinpoche in the eighth century, Phumzur has many visitors coming for pilgrimage. It’s also en route the eco-tourism trail to Nabji-Korphu.
However, the residents of the 15 households have to walk more than an hour to charge their mobile phones. Villagers go to Jangbi village to charge their mobile phones. People use solar panels to light their homes.
The nearest road head is more than three hours journey from the village and residents say evacuating patients is difficult, as they have to carry patients through steep slopes infested with leech and snakes in summer.
A villager, Dorji, said without farm road, they couldn’t sell agriculture products and earn income.
Villagers claimed that all political parties and candidates pledged to connect their villages with farm road and electricity during the election. “Three different political parties came into power with three different Member of Parliament but our condition has not improved,” a villager said.
Jangbi tshogpa Lhajay said that the need to connect Phumzur with a farm road was discussed in gewog tshogde but nothing concrete came out of the discussion.
It was learnt that a survey was conducted in 2016 for electrification.
A villager, Sonam Choden, they use firewood for cooking purposes and use pine resin to light homes. “Our wish is to see the village electrified.”
Langthel gup, Sonam Dhendup, said that construction of farm road to Phumzur is included in 2019-20 financial year of 12th Plan and work will begin soon.
“We discussed with Bhutan Power Corporation and learnt that they could not electrify the village due to financial constraint. “BPC assured to connect electricity to the village once they avail the fund.”
dusitD2 Yarkay Thimphu hosted a dinner on December 14 to all medal winners in the 13th South Asian Games held in Nepal earlier this month as a gesture of appreciation for representing the country.
Exams are over, schools have closed, and children have begun to make the best of their well-deserved winter vacation. To not have to worry about classwork and homework and sure is a blessing for our children who are otherwise burdened with other co-curricular activities. It is important that children are allowed some stress-free time after a yearlong struggle with academic requirements. Unstrained mind and unburdened head help young minds reflect on the essence of their being and to chart their aims and dreams.
For the parents, it is about intimacy. The children are around all the time! But we must also look at the risks associated with long school vacation, not least in urban areas. Our children and young people are increasingly getting trapped in socioeconomic problems. These are indicators of change. How are we dealing with them?
Unable to handle too much free time, children engage in activities that are detrimental to both parents and themselves. Often they come in conflict with the law. Devoid of guidance and care from parents and elders, young people loiter around towns seeking trouble. Already a sizeable number of them are in the city corners dark and bright, engaging themselves in unhealthy habits.
There are many activities aimed at engaging young people gainfully. Many skills development programmes are being planned to encourage young people to participate. Parents could do well to explore them and encourage children to participate in some of the programmes that will go a long way in shaping their future.
What about reading, the easiest and profitable of all engagements?
Parents could take their children to libraries and bookshops and teach them to love books. In this competitive age, it is important that our children read, and read a lot. Employment scenario is changing by the day and jobs are becoming scarcer.
It is not enough that our children do well; they need to outshine their peers. This is also the season when children will travel a lot. It is important that you do so with caution. Disasters can be averted if we are a little careful.
Drukyul and Gakyid are the names for the Star and the Planet Bhutan chose.
Coinciding with the National Day and in commemoration of 100th anniversary of International Astronomical Union (IAU), Bhutan has approved the names of planet HD73534b which orbits the star HD73534 in the constellation of Cancer.
Planet Drukyul is named after the country, land of thunder dragon. The star, Gakyid is derived from the country’s philosophy of Gross National Happiness, which is Bhutan’s contribution to the world.
These names are associated with happiness and symbols of the national identity of Bhutan, birthplace of the Gross National Happiness development philosophy, according to a press release from the telecom and space division with the information and communication ministry.
The winning names were proposed by Dron Chhetri, a class 9 student of Motithang Higher Secondary School.
A National Committee for NameExoWorlds Project (Bhutan) was formed and the national campaign was conducted in two phases. In the first phase (November 16-20), people were asked to come up with names. From November 21 to November 25, public voting of the down-selected names was conducted.
A total of 39 pairs of names were received from which eight pairs of names were down-selected by the National Committee and put up for public voting at Department of Information and Telecom website.
The National Committee for NameExoWorlds project met again on November 25 to select the top three names voted by the public. A total of 531 public votes were received.
Across the world, more than 100,000 people from more than 110 countries took part in naming of 110+ set of explorers and host stars. The names were announced on December 17 in Paris. About 360,000 proposals for the names were received.
The National Committee in each country reduced their proposals to a shortlist of national candidates, which were presented to the public for their votes. A total of 420, 000 people voted for their preferred names. The press release stated that this project will have a lasting impact, as the winning names will be used in parallel with the existing scientific nomenclature, credited to the person, group or institution that suggested them.
Each nation’s designated star for naming is visible from that country, and is sufficiently bright to be observed through small telescopes.
The Press release also stated that IAU100 NameExoWorlds campaign provided the public with the exciting opportunity to help with the naming of over 100 new worlds and their stars, and to help the IAU establish a thoughtful naming theme for naming future discoveries in those systems.”
“It is gratifying that so many people across the globe have helped create a name for a planetary system that is meaningful to their culture and heritage. This effort helps unite us all in our exploration of the Universe,” their IAU President-elect Debra Elmegreen said.
To disseminate earthquake resistant technology to reduce its risk to the traditional buildings the first ever Shake Table Test on traditional composite masonry buildings was conducted yesterday.
Shake table is a simulation of earthquakes to understand the properties and behaviour of various structures.
Two traditional structures were kept on the shake table to demonstrate the test. The structures were made to vibrate until they fell apart.
Culture department’s engineer Kunzang Tenzin said that the test was to understand the earthquake resistant power of our traditional composite masonry buildings.
He said that engineers would also know what measures have to be taken to build quality traditional structures to withstand the severe earthquake.
He said that Bhutan is vulnerable to earthquake and after the 2009 and 2011 earthquakes, there was skepticism on the resistant level of the traditional buildings which constitute 70 percent of the building stock in the country.
“Considering the need to understand the seismic hazards and to guide the citizens to improve the seismic resilience of the traditional buildings, the project was started,” said Kunzang Tenzin.
“At the end of the project, proper guidelines for earthquake resistance measures will be formulated.”
The shake table test is a part of a five-year Project for Evaluation and Mitigation of Seismic Risk for Composite Masonry Buildings in Bhutan between the government and Japanese counterparts: Nagoya City University, Kagawa University, Nihon University, Tohoku University, Kyoto University and National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience.
The joint project is currently studying the traditional composite masonry buildings (rammed earth and stone masonry) by collecting basic data of existing buildings and conducting other practical tests on the traditional buildings.
The project which started from April 2017 ends on March 2022. It was funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japan Science and Technology (JST).
Younten Tshedup | Gelephu
As cliche as it might seem – they came, they saw, and they conquered! This sums up the journey of Paro Football Club.
The club joined the top guns in the business after securing a spot in the national league last year. The journey thereon has been nothing short of a fairy tale.
In its debut appearance in the country’s biggest league, Paro FC finished runners up after a close title contest against Thimphu City FC in 2018.Champions: Paro FC won 17 of the 18 games to win the national championship
It became hungrier for success and invested more in players and resources. It paid off as they claimed the national league title in the most dominating fashion, losing only one game of the 18, in only its second attempt.
Additionally, the club also clenched the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck Memorial Gold Cup this year.
The cherry topping on it all was the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) award for the grassroots club award and Bhutan Football Federation’s (BFF) best-managed club award for the 2019 season.
How it all began
A family’s craze for football and the strong desire to give back to the society gave birth to the club.
Club president, Karma Jigme recalls how he and his cousins would stay up late night to watch the English Premier League (EPL) on television.
“As a child I always watched football. I wanted to play but given the lack of infrastructure I couldn’t,” he said. “But football lived in me. We would closely follow EPL games and had always wanted to get a feel of having a club of our own.” So one night the cousins decided to form a football club.
“Fortunately, we managed to get into the national league in the first year. We knew it would take a team to raise this club,” he said. “From eight of us who initially started the club, we now have nine who manage this club together.”
Giving it back to the society
Paro FC is the only club in the country to have its own football ground. However, Karma Jigme said that the Woochu football arena in Paro, home of Paro FC, belongs to the community and the school that was made the custodian of the ground by the community decades ago.
The ground recently received a major facelift with astro-turf and floodlights along with other essential facilities like locker rooms, toilets and a conference room, among others.
“Football has given us an opportunity to pay back to the society,” he said, adding that the club was formed with an objective to change the football scenario in the country.
Quality domestic leagues are key to producing a stronger national team. Until recently clubs from Thimphu dominated the national league. After Ugyen Academy FC from Punakha in 2014 won the national league, Paro FC is the second club outside the capital to win the title.
Not so long ago, Karma Jigme said that clubs outside Thimphu performed poorly in the leagues and the BFF at one point of time told teams from outside to improve their game quality if they wanted to be a part of the national league.
“This was a driving force that really motivated us to perform well,” he said. “The idea then was to stay in the top four. But we managed to come second and that was the experience that we could take it forward in 2019 season. We really wanted to win this season and accordingly we worked towards our aim.”
He said that today most of the clubs outside Thimphu are doing well. But to make it even better, these clubs need support from the football institutions, he added.
“In the last two years football have drastically changed and to further improve the quality we need the support of people who can invest in the sport and also the media.”
Football: an expensive affair?
Money is not everything, but it helps you achieve more and better results, said the president.
The president, who is also a businessman and an entrepreneur was often asked why he invests in football despite no returns. “But when it comes to football, it’s different. We knew that there is no money here, but we anyhow went ahead for the want of happiness we get from this game.”
“With every win you get a joy. Every time you talk to your players you get that happiness which I’m sure it’s difficult to get from any other materialistic ventures.”
Investment in the youth is essential, he said. “I think this is the way forward. Those who can have to invest in the potential of our youth and only then we will have a healthy and meaningful youth group who can actually be productive.”
Sustainability, however, remains a question if things are not planned well said Karma Jigme. The club spent over Nu 4 million on the club this season. “The next season expenses are just going to grow, but the good thing is that we have all sorted it out. We want to make this club sustainable in the long run and we’re on track.”
The national league champions are scheduled to play against Defenders FC of Sri Lanka in the first game of AFC preliminary qualifications for the 2020 AFC Cup on January 22 in Sri Lanka.
The home match will be on January 29.
The winner will face Bengaluru FC in the second preliminary.
Karma Jigme said that preparations are in full swing. “Although not major changes, we might be adding in some new players for the competition.”
International players are also being considered.
In celebration of the 112th National Day, the Permanent Mission of Bhutan to the United Nations hosted a reception in New York.
Heads of Missions and representatives of UN Member States, Senior Officials of the United Nations, long standing friends of Bhutan, and Bhutanese nationals offered their wishes for the good health and long life of Their Majesties The King and Queen, HRH the Gyalsey, His Majesty the Fourth King, as well as for the continued peace, prosperity and happiness of Bhutan and the Bhutanese people.
The Royal Bhutanese Embassy in the State of Kuwait hosted a reception on the evening of December 17 to mark the 112th National Day. The event was attended by the members of the Ruling Family, Diplomatic Corps, senior officials of the Kuwaiti Government, business personnel, media and more than 1,600 Bhutanese living in Kuwait.
The government came to power with the promise to take all the political parties on board, including those outside of the Parliament, by involving them in discussions and dialogue.
However, political parties outside of the Parliament are struggling to find a platform to participate in discussions on issues of national importance. It has also been a challenge to stay relevant after getting eliminated from the primary round of National Assembly elections.
The government says that it has been open to ideas from all political parties and that it has been more inclusive than the past governments.
Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said: “We give all the parties invitations to attend official functions. This was not there before.”
He said that the possibility of extending duty free service to party presidents was being discussed.
General secretary of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), Phurba, said that the ruling party would involve all the political parties in discussions whenever possible. He said that the government was supportive of the views of all the political parties on common issues facing the nation.
Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party’s (BKP) general secretary, Dawa Rinchen, said that the 14th Round Table Meeting held in March was the only meeting the parties outside of the Parliament had attended with the government.
According him, the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) was supposed to involve all political parties in planning activities.
He said that meetings with all political parties involving the government would help parties outside of the Parliament to have their say on issues.
“We haven’t attended any meeting, neither with government nor with the GNHC,” he said.
Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s (DPT) spokesperson, Dorji Wangdi, said that the government had promised to take all parties on board but did not live up to its words.
“As far as I know, I heard they invited the Opposition Leader (OL) to join one of the ‘Meet the Press’ sessions, which OL thought was inappropriate and he did not attend,” he said.
As part of its commitment to take all the political parties onboard, the government at a Meet the Press in March had said that it was planning biannual all-party meetings to make governance inclusive.
It was announced that the first of such meetings would be held soon. The purpose of the meetings was to discuss common issues.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) member and former minister, Lekey Dorji, said there was no such meeting held.
Currently, Bhutan Democracy Dialogue (BDD) is the only platform where all political parties get the opportunity to meet to discuss the issues of national importance.
The plan was to keep all political parties informed on issues.
There are four registered political parties, two of which are outside of the Parliament: People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP).
Members of political parties say that such meetings with the government would not only enable the political parties outside of the Parliament to push their ideas but also help create understanding between the government and other political parties.
The government has said that it would take on board that all parties would be involved in the drafting of the “Vision 2045”. The government in its manifesto has pledged to make Bhutan self-reliant and a thriving developed country by 2045.
Political parties say that meetings of all political parties involving the government would be a good platform. However, some members of political parties caution that such meetings should not be used to impose the government’s ideas.
The government had said that the all-party meetings would be another platform for all political parties besides BDD.
The BDD was established with an aim to provide a platform to political parties to engage in dialogue, build cooperation and partnership in the interest of “Bhutan First”.
However, the representation in BDD meetings from the ruling party’s side has been poor and the trend continues.
The capacity building workshop organised by BDD and the Election Commission of Bhutan in Paro in October was the last time when all parties gathered together on the same platform.
Representation from the ruling party was poor, participants say.
“The capacity building workshop was useful but participants from DNT were mostly party members from villages who did not understand the discussion” a participant said.
Never in her 15 years as a vegetable dealer did Sangay Bhuti see the price of onion go up so high. Price rise have hit the consumers, not least those low-income bracket.
The price of a kilogram of onion today has almost quadrupled at the Centenary Farmers Market in Thimphu. In the last two months, the price of the vegetable has skyrocket to Nu 140.
Onion has become an essential vegetable in Bhutanese cooking.
Sangay Bhuti said rising price of the bulb led to drastic drop in demand. This, she said, affected her business. “There is no return considering transportation and packaging costs.”
Sangay Bhuti said that she used to sell about four bags of onions (weighing 50kg each). After the price rise, she has been able to sell only about two bags of onions.
A wholesale onion trader, Phuntsho Dawa, said wholesale rates ranged between Nu 98 and 100 today.
He imports about 15,000kg vegetables in a week, about 15 jumbo truckloads of vegetables.
Customers said price rise was bizarre and the authorities concerned should look into the causes and methods to make Bhutan onion-sufficient.
“We have to import onions because we do not grow enough for our own needs,” Kinzang, a customer, said.
The office of consumer protection under economic affairs ministry is yet to study the impact of the price rise on consumers.
Efforts to grow onions in the south of the country have not been successful. Demand for the vegetable far outweighs production.
Director of agriculture department, Kinlay Tshering, said that large-scale onion production did not pick up because the it had longer growing period and farmers had no patience.
It takes about nine months for onion to grow and mature.
Indian media have reported that high moisture in fields stunted onion growth of the bulbs, reducing the yield by up to 40 percent since September this year.
Onions are grown in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Telangana.
“Excess rainfall in Maharashtra, the top onion producing state in India, destroyed the crops,” a media source said.
The country’s economy witnessed a Gross National Savings of Nu 41.9B in 2018 against Nu 41.6B in 2017, a slight increase by about Nu 351.74M.
Of the total national savings, government savings was Nu 6B. Private savings (Households, Private and Public Corporations) was Nu 35.9B.
This is a growth of 0.85 percent.
Gross National saving is derived by deducting final consumption expenditure from Gross national disposable income and consists of savings such as personal, business and government.
Basically, it looks at the difference between the nation’s income and consumption and is an indicator of a nation’s financial health, as investments are generated through savings.
It can, however, be misleading because the government usually operates at deficit, which would lower the national savings rate.
For instance, a country’s national savings is the total of its domestic savings by households and companies (private savings), as well as government savings (public). Despite trade and current account deficit, it also takes into account capital inflow from loans and grants, which gives a room for disposable income. This means investments, both within and from outside, would be factored for the sake of National saving.
The national accounts statistics compiled by the National Statistics Bureau (NSB) stated that there was a consistent increase in final consumption expenditure of the households and the government. The poor net inflow of primary income from abroad led to the sluggish increase in national savings, according to the NSB.
Although there was a marginal increase in national savings in 2018, the gross national saving could not meet the investment requirements of the economy.
The nominal investment in 2018 was estimated at Nu 79B (Nu 83B in 2017). In real terms, investment recorded further drop of (-5.54) percent in 2018 against the negative growth of (-2.17) percent in 2017, down by 3.37 percentage points. Saving-investment (SI) ratio for the economy was recorded at 0.46 in 2018, down by 0.05 percentage points from 0.51 in 2017.
The SI ratio is obtained by dividing the total saving over the cost. For example, if you have to make an investment of Nu 1,000 for the savings of Nu 2,500 over five years, the SI ratio is 2.5 (from $2,500/$1,000), or 25 percent.
Economic theories say that at least 20 percent of one’s income should go towards savings; another 50 percent (maximum) should go towards necessities; and 30 percent towards discretionary items. This is called the 50/30/20 rule of thumb.
The national accounts statistics also reveal that final consumption expenditure recorded a growth of 12.16 percent in 2018 compared to a growth of 4.96 percent in 2017, an increased by Nu 129B.
The private final consumption expenditure growth accelerated to 14.89 percent compared to a growth of 5.14 percent in 2017. In current value terms, the private final consumption expenditure was estimated at Nu 101,216.80M in 2018 and its share stood at 60.49 percent of GDP. The share increased by 6.60 percentage points during the year.
The government’s final consumption expenditure accounted for 22.06 percent of the total final consumption expenditure. This represents an increase in share of 1.71 percentage points compared to preceding year. There so was a deaccelerated growth of 3.05 percent in 2018.
Legal practitioners are questioning the inconsistent court procedures followed while filing cases before the courts.
Some prosecutors, who file cases to Thimphu dzongkhag court, alleged that the court is shifting its burden by mandating them to bring defendants ‘in person’ while filing cases.
They also said there is a lack of uniformity in courts, as some courts in the country accepted cases without having to bring defendants ‘in person’ while registering the case and conducting the miscellaneous hearing.
A prosecutor said courts have to follow bench book and the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code of Bhutan (CCPC) in filing cases and petitions. “But here, even the case registration depends on judges and is not uniform.”
He explained that according to section 32 of CCPC, once a petition is filed before the court as a civil suit, the court should conduct a miscellaneous hearing, where it determines whether the case merits registration.
“If the case merits registration, then the plaintiff should provide addresses of the defendants with their proper addresses and the court should conduct a preliminary hearing within 108 days after the miscellaneous hearing,” the lawyer explained. “But Thimphu dzongkhag court, prosecutors have to bring the defendants ‘in person’ to the court even while registering the case.”
Lawyers said that in criminal cases, the same procedure should be followed while conducting the miscellaneous hearing but the preliminary hearing should be conducted within 10 days after the miscellaneous hearing.
A lawyer, who did not want to be named, said there is confusion in some courts on miscellaneous and preliminary hearing, as the two are considered the same. “Our courts follow the same procedures in both hearings, and the preliminary hearing is just a repetition of the miscellaneous hearing.”
Section 32.1 of the Code states that during the miscellaneous hearing, the Court shall (a) make an initial determination whether sufficient legal cause exists to admit the case for proceedings according to the law; (b) hear the case within the prescribed period, and (c) give written reasons, if the petition of a party is dismissed.
Section 81.1 of the Code states, “The purpose of preliminary hearing is to enable the Court to (a) entertain challenges to pleadings based on cause, procedure and jurisdiction; and (b) clarify substantive or procedural legal issues.
Thimphu dzongkhag court officials, however, disagree.
An official said he made it mandatory for petitioners to bring proper addresses of the defendants to ensure the court summon orders reach the right person. “We cannot give ex-parte judgment, as it is mandatory to listen to all litigants. We don’t allow judgments in absentia and give default judgments.”
He explained that Thimphu is different from other dzongkhags, as lots of people reside in Thimphu and it is difficult to locate people. “People shift their place of residence frequently and unlike other dzongkhags, gups will not be able to locate people if the addresses are not proper.”
Court officials said many people confront them, saying they didn’t receive the summon order because of which they had to ask prosecutors to give proper addresses as per section 138 (d) of CCPC, which states that the pleading of the petitioner should state the name, description and place of residence of the plaintiff and respondent or defendant, so far as they can be ascertained.
It was quite a day on Tuesday when the nation paused to celebrate the 112th National Day. Besides the grand celebrations at the host dzongkhag, the National Day was celebrated in all the other dzongkhags and even abroad where there is a sizeable Bhutanese community.
A highlight of the National Day, as always, is the traditional Royal address. Every year, Bhutanese at home and abroad wait for His Majesty’s National Day address for guidance, inspiration, and wisdom.
A day after the National Day, what many remembered was the surprise His Majesty shared about Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen expecting their second royal child. The news was received with excitement and appreciation with people offering prayer and good wishes to Their Majesties. A few others are talking about the Gyalsung programme, mainly for the want of details of the nine-month-long service.
Besides the announcement, His Majesty, in his address, highlighted some key national concerns, which every Bhutanese should reflect on. The message was simple and clear when His Majesty stressed on the need of a 21st century economic roadmap, of us not making the most of our smallness and the concerns related to the youth, largest group in our demographic structure.
There is no interpretation needed, the concerns are now our responsibilities. His Majesty spoke of the rapidly changing world around us and the need to recalibrate ourselves so that we are not left behind.
The priorities are set every National Day when His Majesty shares his concerns with the people. His Majesty made it profoundly clear where the focus should be in coping up with the changing world. New developments like Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Big Data, Blockchain or Quantum Computers were something new to the thousands of spectators, but we have made small strides with the royal vision clear on the importance of technology.
His Majesty had called on the government, legislators, the private sector and experts in various fields to work collectively and chart out an economic roadmap. The noble wisdom comes at a time when we are confused in our priorities. What is our economic vision? Could we look beyond hydropower that is fast becoming unreliable? What is the role of the private sector? The questions are many.
The economic prosperity we are enjoying today is the fruits of the noble vision laid out by the successive monarchs. What have we to show today despite polices and plans that are even threatening to undo the good old polices? It is said that we have the right conditions with peace and stability ensured. We have not been able to take advantage of it. In the meantime, even the normal yardstick for measuring growth is slowing down. Those in the private sector are feeling the heat.
His Majesty often reminds us of our smallness and its advantages. The wisdom that His Majesty conveyed was that we had not been able to draw on the strength of being small and close. In essence, we are talking about being ineffective even if we are small and easier to manage.
Close to His Majesty’s heart is our youth, the future of the nation. The Gyalsung programme His Majesty announced is a masterstroke in preparing our youth to be capable future citizenry.
It has become a cliché to say the command of a King is heavier than the mountain. Today, His Majesty has laid the priorities. It is on the people to roll up their sleeves and start working towards the vision.
Even if global temperature change remains under 1.5°C to avert the worst impact of climate change, the Himalayan region would be two degrees hotter by 2100.
With rising temperatures, about 36 percent of the glaciers in the region will be lost by the end of the century. This is according to a study conducted by Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).Policymakers, entrepreneurs and climate and agro scientists from 11 countries are attending the regional symposium
From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale.
Climate change and other environmental and socioeconomic drivers of change are testing the resilience of ecosystems and communities in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), said Nand Kishor Agarwal, an official with ICIMOD. “And if further changes happen in the earth’s climate, the region will suffer the most.”
Even a slight climatic change could affect more than a billion people downstream who depend on the Himalayan Mountains for freshwater, energy and other ecosystem services.
To help smallholder farmers in the Himalayan Mountains adapt better to climate change, Nand Kishor Agarwal said that organic agriculture was the best solution.
While sustaining the health of soils and ecosystem, organic agriculture also contributes to mitigating climate change and enhancing rural livelihoods by increasing soil’s capacity for carbon sequestration. Soil itself is the biggest store of carbon.
The Hindu Kush Himalayan countries have great potential for organic agriculture. The eight HKH countries are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.
According to the department of agriculture, the ministry of agriculture and forests (MoAF), Bhutan’s soil has a carbon content of 70 to 100 kilogrammes for a hectare.
Programme manager with National Organic Flagship Programme, Kezang Tshomo, said that as agriculture farms in the country were usually small in scale, organic agriculture could prove efficient in terms of soil management and financial returns.
But despite the growing demand in both national and international markets for the region’s organic products, the officials said that the promotion of agriculture in the HKH faced numerous challenges owing to inadequate awareness and marketing mechanisms for organic products, technical and financial services, quality inputs and policy support.
Given the need for development of strategies to enhance the knowledge and understanding of organic agriculture systems, promote product-marketing mechanisms in the mountain context, and to foster partnerships that promotes gender-responsive organic agriculture, the ICIMOD in collaboration with the Agriculture Research and Development Centre, Yusipang, MoAF is organising a two-day regional symposium on “Organic agriculture:Youth engagement and enterprise development” from yesterday in Paro.
The symposium is a part of ongoing regional project: ICIMOD’s Resilient Mountain solutions (RMS).
Deputy Director General of ICIMOD, Eklabya Sharma (PhD), said that apart from looking into high yield crops, the RMS initiative was also exploring innovations related to improving soil fertility and conserving water resources in order to promote the adoption of safe food farming practices in the HKH.
“This will help farmers meet the growing market demand for safe food while also ensuring better nutrition for their families,” he said. In particular, he said that RMS was working with Bhutan to enable the growth of organic agriculture in Bhutan.
The initiative is also being implemented in four other ICIMOD’s regional member countries including Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.
To engage more youths into organic farming and enterprise development, Eklabya Sharma said that the ICIMOD’s focus was on helping the governments to prepare guidelines and also develop appropriate institutional mechanisms and innovative project and programme management structures.
Today, only 263.59 acres of land are certified for organic agriculture in the country. Fifteen products including garlic, potato, and carrot from Gasa, green tea from Trongsa and corn flower from Punakha, among others were certified organic.
Currently, only three retailers and a exporter is involved in organic production and marketing.
Meanwhile, the representatives from government agencies, climate and organic agriculture experts from across the HKH and abroad, certifying agencies and business investors are participating in the symposium.
The country targets to achieve 100 percent organic farming by 2035.
Fifteen teenagers, including six girls, are participating in the 10-day programme ‘Coding with Scratch’ at the Royal Institute of Management which began yesterday.
The institutes pilot project is for children between the ages of 10 – 15 years.
The Head of DICT, Palmo Thinley said that the primary purpose of conducting the programme is to generate interest and curiosity in our children in technology from an early age.
She said that achieving Bhutan’s ICT vision of creating an ICT enabled knowledge society has to be a multi-pronged approach and everyone has a role to play.
“As a training institute, we feel that such programme will build a strong foundation in computer science and ability to code computer programs, which is an important literacy in today’s society,” Palmo Thinley said.
The platform used for the young coders is ‘Scratch’ which is a free platform developed by MIT Media Lab and millions of people create Scratch projects in a wide variety of settings, including homes, schools, museums, libraries, and community centers. “Schools have widely adopted Scratch to develop logical thinking in children, therefore we found it to be a good and fun platform for our children,” she said.
By the end of the programme, children are expected to be able to program simplistic version of their own interactive stories, games and animations. It would also be an important stepping-stone for children to learn coding with Scratch.
“Through this coding programme, it would also introduce our young coders to critical 21st century skills such as problem solving skills, creative thinking skills and logical thinking,” Palmo Thinley said.
“Going by the overwhelming interest for registration, RIM will be looking towards making this a regular program for children.”
For the current batch of coders, RIM will also explore developing additional levels in coding, depending on the competency level of the children.
Rinchen Zangmo | Tsirang
Dagana’s National Day was celebrated in Tshangkha Central School.
The celebration was held in different central schools since 2017.
Dagana’s information and technology officer, Karma Denkar, said that the central schools take turns to host the celebration. “It is to provide an opportunity to celebrate the important event to every central school. Through the celebration, there would be opportunities for development in the area.”
Officials said that people in remote places find difficult to reach the dzongkhag administration when the celebration is held in dzongkhag headquarters.
Karma Denkar said that teachers and students were involved in most of the cultural programmes at the event. During the event, academic excellence certificates were also provided to toppers of the school.
Tug of war and other games were played during the event. Mask dances were performed by students and teachers from Drujeygang Central School.
It was learnt that four schools made pledges about their goals for achievements for the next academic year, which included reading 45 books individually in a year, and achieving 100 percent pass result in Class XII.
Meanwhile, people from 12 gewogs of Tsirang to came together and celebrated the 112th National Day in Tsirang in the dzongkhag. People gathered in the sports ground by as early as 7:30am
Pema Tashi from Tsirangtoed said he came with his family to be a part of the celebration, as there are cultural programmes, lottery draw and competition among gewogs.
The dzongkhag’s cultural officer, Kelzang Jamtsho, said although prizes were not attractive, the lottery draw was an attempt to keeping people engaged throughout the celebration. The best three cultural programmes were also awarded cash prizes.
An archery song performed by Rangthangling gewog won the first prize.
Besides the cultural dances, there were exhibition of agricultural products such as kiwi wine, kiwi jams, dollay pickles, and ground apples.
A food stall was also displayed at the event, which ran of stock nearing noon.
A team of about 12 health officials was at the event providing medical checkups for blood pressure and blood test for diabetes and Human Immuno Virus (HIV).
A football match was also played to celebrate the day.
Nim Dorji | Trongsa
Eleven men and 11 women each from five gewogs of Trongsa dzongkhag gathered in Sherubling Central School to compete in ‘tug of war’ and Zhungdra dance.
The programmes, which were a part of the National Day celebration in the dzongkhag, saw men and women from Tangsibji gewog winning.
In the ‘tug of war’, besides the participants from the dzongkhag, there were teams from the dzongkhag, dratsang, school, throm and police. Team Tangsibji and throm reached the final and men from Tangsibji were declared the winner.
Women from Tangsibji also won in the Zhungdra competition.
The National Day celebration for Trongsa dzongkhag began with the offering butter lamp and then watching the live telecast of His Majesty’s Royal Address.
Besides the cultural programmes, livestock products from various gewogs were also displayed.
A team from the Monpa community also performed a traditional dance.
Meanwhile, in Bumthang, the celebration began with the offering of butter lamp at Jakar, Jambay Lhakhag and Kurjey followed by culture programmes in Chamkhar ground.
Yangchen C Rinzin
While the salary revisions of civil servants and state owned enterprises are already in place, it is unlikely that the national minimum wage rate (NMWR) revision would come anytime soon.
The labour ministry is yet to form a national minimum wage committee for the revision, a requirement as per the regulation on national minimum wage.
Labour and human resources minister Ugyen Dorji said that it is still exploring to form a committee and once formed it would be required to look into all aspects of the revision.
The committee will also look into inflation, cost of living, gross domestic product among others and submit recommendations to the ministry based on which the national minimum wage would be revised.
In August, the minister had said that the groundwork for revision of the NMWR had begun and that the concept paper has already been submitted to the ministry.
“We’re still reviewing the concept paper and is almost in an advanced stage,” Lyonpo said. “There are so many things that need to be looked into, take adequate time, analyse, discuss before we approve the revision.”
The government had pledged to increase the NMWR to Nu 450 in keeping with its goal of narrowing the gap. The government’s manifesto also states it would keep track of inflation, cost of living, gross domestic product and revise the rates accordingly.
Wage rate revision is expected to benefit people working in the private sector, especially those who are paid only nominal wages.
Lyonpo said once the wage rate is increased, it will depend on the employers if they want to implement the increased wage rate. “If a private company is already paying more than the revised wage rate, they may not follow the revised rate since it is just a minimum wage one should pay.”
Lyonpo said. “But it is also because the revision is long overdue and should be revised periodically every five years.”
He said the ministry is also working with the World Bank to seek expertise’ advice and take cautious effort towards revising the wage rate.
Classified into five categories, the wage rate revision is based on various skills in line with the Wage Rate Act 1994. The last wage revision was by about 30 to 35 percent in September 1, 2015.
Today, category I workers—auto mechanic and carpenter— get Nu 324 a day while category II workers like supervisors, metalsmith and plant operator get Nu 286 a day. Auto electricians, plumbers and linemen are paid Nu 254 a day under category III. Sweepers, wiremen and sawyers, who fall in category IV, get Nu 234 a day.
Unskilled national work force are paid Nu 215 a day.
In Mongar, the 112th National Day was celebrated with cultural and entertainment programmes by students of Mongar Higher Secondary and middle secondary schools, Ridaza Primary School and Kidheykhar Central School, monks of Mongar rabdey and the dzongkhag staff. Similarly, Lhuentse dzongkhag celebrated the day at Autsho Central School. An exhibition of small and cottage industry (CSI) products showcased dairy products from Minjey gewog and Tagmochhu, Kishuthara table cloth from Khoma gewog, earthen pots of Mongar, and red rice of Kurtoe.