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Updated: 1 hour 7 min ago

Wangsel Institute for the Deaf gets a new building

Sat, 11/26/2022 - 14:31

As part of the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of Pro Bhutan, Germany the ninth building, with a soundproof Studio and five additional classrooms, was inaugurated at the Wangsel Institute for the Deaf in Paro. 

Paro Dzongdag Karma Thinlay and Harald N Nestroy, former Ambassador of Germany to Bhutan and Executive Chairman of Pro Bhutan, Germany attended the inauguration along with officials from various agencies.

DTT declares three more candidates 

Sat, 11/26/2022 - 14:31

… taking the total number of candidates to 15 

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang 

Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT) introduced the party’s General Secretary and three candidates from Tsirang, Sarpang, and Dagana dzongkhags in Tsirang yesterday.

The DTT president Kinga Tshering declared the candidates for Sergithang-Tsirangtoed, Shompangkha, and Drujyegang-Tseza constituencies while on his familiarisation tour of the southern dzongkhags. This takes the party’s declared members to 15.

Susan Lama, 40, from Shompangkha in Sarpang has a Master in Business Administration (international business) from Monash Business School in Australia. She worked in India for five years before working for Bank of Bhutan for 14 years. She worked as a freelancer until recently.

It is Khewal Ram Adhikari’s second time as a candidate in a political party. In 2018, he was Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s Sergithang-Tsirangtoed candidate. The 54-year-old from Phuentenchu gewog worked in the private sector for more than two decades. He has an MBA from the University of Canberra in Australia.

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Ganeshman Gurung (PhD), 46, from Akhochen in Khebisa is DTT’s Drujeygang-Tseza candidate. He first started his career as a teacher in 2000, and as a lecturer in the Samtse College of Education before declaring his candidature.

The party also appointed Kinley Wangdi from Lhuentse as its General Secretary. Kinley Wangdi has more than 30 years of experience as a civil servant. He was a former director in the foreign ministry and Ministry of Labour and Human Resources.

Registered in August this year, DTT is the fifth political party in the country. It is the first registered party in about 10 years as no political parties have been registered since the 2013 elections.

The party is yet to declare candidates from constituencies in Haa, Tashiyangtse, Samtse, Wangdue, Samdrupjonkhar, and Lhuentse dzongkhags.

Waste management is the responsibility of both state and the people

Sat, 11/26/2022 - 14:30

With the increasing population and human activity, waste management is becoming more important. In recent weeks, there were reports of many people penalized for failing to dispose of their waste. They have even been named and shamed in some instances. While these are highly appreciated to reform and change the behaviour of the people in handling waste management civic sense, the rigor of penalizing people must also set accountability to the enforcers themselves and agencies responsible for the enforcement of this law.

 Kuensel’s report reads that “Paro Dzongkhag Administration fined 100 shopkeepers and automobile workshops for various offences related to Waste Prevention and Management Regulation 2016.” However, the collection of waste in Paro is poorly organized. For example, the waste collection truck comes only once. They collect everything together without any segregation. Waste is then dumped openly without proper waste management. Second, apart from the main town, there is no collection of wastes or disposal sites in even nearby areas in Bongdey and Wochu citing it is not within the town area. Most drains were overflowing in the town and the children’s park was filled with litter and open electric sockets.

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Chapter four of the Waste Management and Prevention Act provides the duties of both the implementing agencies and the public. The public has the duties of “civic responsibility and good ethics in waste management” and to “segregate, reduce, reuse, and recycle waste and avoid littering and reduce waste generation”. Similarly, this chapter provides detailed duties of various government ministries and agencies. For example, the Ministry for Works and Human Settlements and City Corporations, Dzongkhag Tshogdu and Gewog Tshogde have duties to ensure “waste prevention and management in the Thromdes, Dzongkhags and gewogs.” The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MEA), relating to wastes resulting from Trade and Industries and the Department of Trade, MEA, for ensuring waste prevention and management with respect to wastes resulting from transboundary trade including import, and export of waste and waste-producing materials. The Department of Information Technology, the Ministry of Information and Communication have the duty to ensure waste prevention and management with respect to e-waste. Similarly, Section 12 of the Act mandates the “implementing agencies to ensure that the reduction, reuse, recycling and disposal of non-hazardous waste are addressed in an environmentally sound manner to provide waste segregation and reduction mechanisms at source; and ensure collection and adequate management of waste at an approved site or facility inter alia composting for organic wastes.” But in Paro, hundreds of de-suups had to work day and night recently to clear the waste in the temporary vegetable shed in Paro town before converting to Kaja Throm. How do we fix accountability in such a situation for the failure of clearing the waste and who should be accountable for the failure in this case? 

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Similarly, most towns in the country still lack proper management of waste including adequate waste collection vehicles, disposal bins or sites and Memelakha in Thimphu is in mess. Further, E-waste is becoming an emerging waste issue in the country. There is hardly any comprehensive policy on e-waste management in the country. Thus, waste management can’t be addressed by imposing fines on citizens alone and implementing agencies remaining as spectators without fulfilling their duties provided in the law. The law must be applied to state agencies for failing their duties and holding them accountable.    

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

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

Adequate education loan now: Banks  

Sat, 11/26/2022 - 14:29

Over 1,200 applicants have applied in two banks

Thukten Zangpo

Bank of Bhutan Limited (BoBL) and Bhutan National Bank Limited (BNBL) received over 1,200 applicants since the opening of the special education loans from November 16.

Special education loans include the visa fee, tuition fee and living expenses for overseas studies in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Both the banks have received more than 600 applicants.

Majority of the loans have qualified under the secured loans. However, the figures from the Druk PNB Bank Limited could not be assessed.

An official from the BoBL said that the number of applicants has decreased to 30 daily from about 200 in the beginning. The bank has processed loan for 200 applicants as of November 23.

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Similarly, BNBL’s director of banking operations, Hem Kumar Acharya, said that the bank receives 60 applicants daily.

He added that the bank has temporarily stopped receiving the applicants on November 24 and 25 to clear the backlogs and it would be opened from November 28. The bank has disbursed around Nu 600 million (M) special education loans.

“Looking at the bank’s approximate total loan portfolio of Nu 42 billion (B), we can disburse up to Nu 6.3B, equivalent to about 2,000 clients for the special education loan.” Hem Kumar Acharya said.

The central bank has prescribed a lending cap for a special education loan of 10 percent of the total loan portfolio for the secured loans and 5 percent for the unsecured loans.

“If the loan reaches the saturation point, the next cycle could be started after three to six months,” Hem Kumar Acharya said.

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The bank provides special education loans under the secured and unsecured category.

Secured loans are applicable to applicants above 18 years and can avail an amount of up to Nu 5M. Unsecured loan is for ages between 18 and 35 and can avail loan up to Nu 3.5M.

Unsecured loans are for those who do not have enough income or collateral from the household members amounting to Nu 3.5M.

The applicant has to submit a document of net annual taxable income of household members not more than Nu 1M; household members should not have a business draft facility or limit of more than 1M or non-performing loans, and has to submit land ownership letters of all members. Household members include the applicant, his or her spouse and both their parents.

However, if the applicants’ household members’ annual taxable income is more than 1M, he or she is qualified under the secured loan with collateral.

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The BoBL charges 8.5 percent interest for secured loans and 9.5 percent for unsecured loans per annum. BNBL has set an interest rate of 10 percent for unsecured loans and 9 percent for secured loans. Druk PNB Bank Limited offers unsecured 10.5 percent interest, and 9.5 percent for secured loans.

Potato price drops

Sat, 11/26/2022 - 14:28

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Export price of potatoes has dropped.

According to the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL), the auction price dipped since October 25 this year.

Although there has been a slight improvement in the last three days, a kilogram of large-sized potatoes was auctioned at Nu 20 to Nu 24 yesterday, which is a drop from Nu 26 to Nu 30. Medium-sized potatoes were auctioned at Nu 12 to Nu 14, a drop from Nu 18 to Nu 22. Small- and marble-sized potatoes were auctioned at as low as Nu 6 and Nu 2 respectively.

Usually, prices are better around this time of the season, especially the price of the seed potatoes. However, Punjab seeds have hit the market.

The prices of seed potatoes also decreased due to the entry of middlemen during the pandemic time in 2020 and 2021.

As seed potatoes from Chapcha, Chukha was in huge demand before the pandemic due to better production records, middlemen started to sell low-quality seeds from other places as Chapcha seeds, FCBL auction yard’s complex manager in Phuentsholing, Ugyen Penjor, said.

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“This decreased the production,” he said, adding that is when the price crumbled.

Potato seeds were mostly exported to Alipur and some parts of Bihar in India.

Another reason for the falling price is also because Bhutanese farmers hoard potatoes despite having seasonal advantage (and freshness). If farmers don’t hoard, the season will be over by mid-November.

As farmers hoard hoping for higher prices, Indian potatoes from the cold storages hit the market bringing in the competition.

Meanwhile, due to the drop in the potato prices, a huge number of trucks are queued the auction door. Some farmers have waited for more than a week.

“Despite this, FCBL has been able to auction them all,” the complex manager said.

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A total of 177 truckloads of potatoes have been auctioned. It accounts for 4,522.2 metric tonnes (MT) of potatoes worth Nu 73.9 million (M).

Until yesterday, starting from June, FCBL’s auction yard in Phuentsholing has auctioned a total of 7,544.6MT of potatoes worth Nu 147M.

Pem Gyeltshen, a farmer from Chapcha, said that he has auctioned two truckloads of potatoes so far and made about Nu 110,000.

“Last year, two truckloads earned me around Nu 320,000.”

There will be enough ECCD facilitators: Education minister

Sat, 11/26/2022 - 14:28

Neten Dorji

All 137 Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centres across the country will get enough facilitators from the next academic year, according to the education minister.

This was in response to the MP to Sombaykha, Dorjee Wangmo, who asked how the ministry is planning to solve the problem of shortage of facilitators in her constituency.

She said that two ECCD centres—Shari and Sombaykha ECCD centres—are without facilitators.

“Without facilitators children are not able to avail ECCD services. The issue was also discussed several times during dzongkhag tshogdu (DT),” she said.

Dorjee Wangmo said that she also reported the issues to the ministry and relevant agencies like Royal Civil Service Commission(RCSC). “I learnt that the Ministry of Education requested several times to RCSC about the need for ECCD facilitators.”

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She said it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education to give quality education.

Education Minister JB Rai said that because of budget constraints “we took the middle path to recruit 31 new facilitators and 36 non-formal instructors as facilitators. A total of 107 facilitators will be ready for next academic year.”

He said that the ministry has requested for 55 additional facilitators to RCSC.

According to the minister, 30 percent of centres are without facilitators; from 2019, the ministry has requested RCSC to provide 137 facilitators. “Though RCSC allows us to recruit facilitators, due to budget constraints, the ministry still could not provide facilitators to the centres.”

About 166 centres are without facilitators, lyonpo said. “Centres in 205 gewogs and 20 dzongkhags have similar problems.”

Meanwhile, MP for Dewathang-Gomdar, Ugyen Dorji, asked the ministers if there are any procedures and criteria set for managing the teachers out. “If RCSC and ministry do not set certain criteria for recruitment of regular and consolidated teacher, there is a risk of favouritism in the recruitment process.”

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Lyonpo said that the ministry does not have criteria set for managing them like other agencies.

“After recruiting 500 to 600 permanent teachers from Samtse and Paro education colleges, there will be vacancies for teachers. As and when there is a requirement, we will recruit them,” lyonpo said.

There are about 194 contract teachers who have completed their contract term.

Lyonpo said that there is a shortage of teachers. “This year alone, about 325 teachers have voluntarily resigned; many are on extraordinary leave.” Some, he said were terminated and were made to resign compulsory.

Ten Bhutanese receive Australia Awards scholarship

Sat, 11/26/2022 - 14:27

Staff Reporter 

Coinciding with 20 years of diplomatic relationship between Australia and Bhutan, Australia Awards in collaboration with the Australian High Commission in New Delhi hosted a farewell event for 10 recipients of the Australia Awards scholarships. The event was attended by the Deputy Ambassador to Bhutan Sarah Storey along with government officials.

Of the 10 recipients, seven are civil servants and three are from the private and corporate sectors. They will be going to Canberra, Western Australia, Sydney and Melbourne.

Ever since the Colombo Plan of 1962, more than 1,200 Bhutanese have gone to Australia to pursue further studies. Since 2011, a total of 350 Bhutanese received the Australia Awards to study in Australia.

To commemorate the 20 years of diplomatic relationship between Australia and Bhutan, a book titled “A celebration of Alumni Impact in South Asia” was also launched.

The 10 recipients are the first batch of Bhutanese to receive the scholarships after the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Dialysis facility at Trashigang not feasible for time being: Health Minister

Sat, 11/26/2022 - 14:26

Tshering Namgyal  

Bartsham-Shongphu’s MP Passang Dorji yesterday at the National Assembly said that of the 32 kidney patients being treated at the eastern regional referral hospital, Mongar, 16 were from Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Pemagatshel, Samdrupjongkhar and parts of Mongar.

He asked the health minister if the ministry could install a dialysis facility at Trashigang hospital for the benefit of the rural communities.

“A dialysis facility at Trashigang hospital will be of immense benefit to kidney patients from remote areas,” he said.

The MP said that kidney patients have to go twice a week to do dialysis at Mongar regional referral hospital.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that although the need is genuine and the government wants to set up the dialysis centre, the high cost and lack of human resources were the main challenges at the moment.

She said it would need an investment of Nu 40 million would have to be made for a set of the dialysis machine.

She said that even if the machine is procured given the shortage of human resources it would be difficult. The country has only 21 medical specialists, 21 surgeons, 13 Gynecologists and 14 paediatricians.

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“The centre will require around four nurses and three assistants on top of a medical specialist,” she said.

“Trashigang has only eight patients undergoing dialysis at Mongar and with lack of evidence of need there will be no equity even if the service is made available,” she said.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said from the dialysis service available only at the national and two regional referral hospitals, the government instituted three additional units in Phuentsholing, Samtse and Paro during its tenure based on the caseloads.

She said that Bhutan has one dialysis centre for 90,000 people, which is one of the highest in the region.

MP Passang Dorji said the service status of other countries couldn’t be compared with Bhutan’s as they have private health centres providing dialysis services.

He said that of the 32, 11 are from Mongar and five are from Lhuentse and rest are from Trashiyangtse, Trashigang, Pemagatshel and Samdrupjongkhar and could be treated at Trashigang if there is service at Trashigang hospital.

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“Some are staying in the capital and other places in the absence of such service in the dzongkhag,” he said.

He said the eastern region has the highest population and a single dialysis centre at Mongar for the whole region was unfair and needed policy intervention.

King Gesar: An 11th Century King for the 21st Century

Sat, 11/26/2022 - 14:25

When I tell people that I am studying the ongoing impact of King Gesar of Ling in Modern Himalayan Life I am greeted with a few standard replies: “What?”, “Who?” and saddest of all, “Why”?

They ask why an American would spend her time and effort studying a nearly 1,000 years old epic about a king who may or may not have existed historically.

My answer often circles back to the fact that the story of King Gesar is truly unique among Himalayan and Inner Asian cultural phenomena.  Without its far-reaching influence, I doubt that King Gesar would have had any impact on the lives of the Himalayan Youth in the 21st century. Yet it assuredly does.

The Epic of King Gesar of Ling is estimated to be about 900 years old and the world’s longest epic poem, with many accounts agreeing it to be around 40,000,000 words.  This actual word count is complicated by the fact that reincarnations of characters in the epic are recognised and may expand upon it, as well as termas and inspired recitations from bards who receive the epic in dreams or visions.

The epic tells the tale of King Gesar, his rise from poverty to power, and his conquests for honour, dharma, and wealth, all set against the early struggle for Buddhism taking root in Tibet.  Although Western scholarship has not put much effort into proving the historical existence of King Gesar, there are contemporaneous records which appear to corroborate many of the events described.

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Along with being a story of a historical figure, the Epic of Gesar is an all-encompassing dharma teaching.  Gesar is believed to be an emanation of Guru Rinpoche, with other figures in the epic also viewed as emanations as well: beautiful Queen Sengjam Drukmo as Tara, wild Uncle Trothung as Red Hayagriva, and so forth. As such, not only are their activities believed to be dharma activities, but it is acceptable to worship them as Yidams as well.

Tana monastery, in the far reaches of Nangchen in Qinghai province in Kham, has maintained a spiritual connection with Gesar from the beginning.  It was, as they say, their lama Amye Jangchub Drenkol who was King Gesar’s spiritual advisor and the root lama of the Kingdom of Ling.  Their teachings, thus, come down to them from this lineage.  Not only does the Tana monastery maintain the lineage, but also numerous artefacts, including swords and bows of the heroes, the resounding rightward turning conch of Ling and King Gesar’s white felt hat.  A short but treacherous walk from the central monastery itself is the stupas of the great Kagyu master Phagmodrupa as well as the remains of the 30 Great Heroes of Ling.

Ju Mipham Gyatso, otherwise known as Mipham the Great, discovered termas which seamlessly added to this tradition.  These include a Guru Yoga practice and the Lingdro Dechen Rolmo, a Cham or sacred vajra dance.  Unique, however, to these practices is their emphasis on the laity.  The Lingdro Dechen Rolmo can be performed by monastics but is largely performed by laymen and women alike.

King Gesar himself was a married man and a king.  While he devoted his life to practice, he also maintained the rulership of his people and life as a family man.  Perhaps this is why the Gesar epic resonates with so many young people in Eastern Tibet.  With the difficult choice between monastic education or secular education, many people living in the Himalayas are torn between faith in Buddhism and a desire to practice and the need to function in the day-to-day world.

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Often, we hear the sentiment: “I will try to make merit in this life so that in my next life I can become a practitioner.”  Gesar makes no such distinction.  He is a practitioner and a husband, a Vajrayana master and a king.  His decisions are informed by Buddhist teachings, and even when he is in a battle and forced to kill, he tries to avoid harm as best he can and performs Phowa to liberate those lost.   While he may raid the stores of sacred medicines, he also distributes them to the populace of the kingdom that had been his enemy. When he destroys demons, he redeems them and sends them to Buddha realms.

This multifaceted nature is reflected in the epic itself.  It can be viewed as a story, a cultural lesson on morality, or when viewed from the Dzogchen perspective, an entire set of teachings and practices in narrative form.

The manifestation of Gesar in modern Himalayan life, especially in Eastern Tibet, has been equally multifaceted.  In Xining, one of the most popular Tibetan restaurants is the Ling Gesar Restaurant, which performs a 20-minute-long version of the epic each evening.  On arrival in Yushu, Gesar’s towering statue overlooks the town.  The second largest building, at the intersection of Gesar Street and Drukmo Lane, is the Gesar Palace Hotel, housing not only guest rooms and banquet halls but also an entire top floor dedicated to Tana as a branch temple.  This Gesar Gonkhang (protector shrine) provides access on paved roads to Tana, albeit on a smaller scale, with lamas presiding over the requisite rituals, providing prayers, counselling and information.

Hip-hop stars and pop singers pepper their lyrics with lu alalamo alalen, lu thalalamo thalalen as if they might break out into a Gesar aria at any moment. A towering white image of Drukmo, Khata and Chang in hand awaiting the horse racers, looks over the plains of Golok and nearby a massive recreation of Gesar’s palace is being built at a spot revealed to Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok in a vision in which ruins were found.

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With China’s successful petition to recognise Gesar as part of UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009, renewed interest in Gesar has risen. It is not uncommon to see officially recognised bards given awards, with many invited to sing on national television and during important events.  There is even talk of a museum for the Gesar artefacts.

For some, the Epic of Gesar of Ling is a story that not only gives pride to a vibrant culture but also a model of discipline and morality with good humour thrown in.  The desire to participate in the ongoing Kingdom of Ling turns many into voluntary citizens of a dynasty long past.

When I came to Bhutan to present on different research methods while researching King Gesar at the 4th annual Vajrayana Conference, hosted by the Centre for Bhutan Studies, I was thrilled to be in a place where people had heard of King Gesar.  Not only that, but I was in the Vajrayana Kingdom with a king who bears Gesar’s own name (Khesar in the English-Dzongkha transliteration) and who, from all I have heard and witnessed, embodies Gesar’s model of strong and compassionate Kingship.

Returning to the original question: “Why would I study Gesar?” Perhaps the better question is why more people aren’t.  Given that we are living in a rapidly changing world where compassion is considered less valuable than money, where long-standing traditions are traded for passing trends, where spiritual cultivation is devalued and cultural identity is suppressed, the epic of Gesar shows us that no such concessions are necessary.  And especially for Himalayan people, connection with this epic story can be viewed as a way of reestablishing cultural pride, and environmental protection as well as a model for spiritual and moral guidance.

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It is, therefore, my hope that international and Himalayan scholars, practitioners and alike will work together in the future to continue to conduct research on a king who, despite nearly 1,000 years of change and turmoil, has remained, nonetheless, firmly relevant.

Contributed by 

Amalia H. Rubin


Nightlife in P/ling to get a booster 

Fri, 11/25/2022 - 11:59

… Phuentsholing will now have 17 karaokes and five discotheques

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Starting next month, nightlife entertainment in Phuentsholing will be different.

Phuentsholing Thromde’s Entertainment License Committee (ELC) has extended the closing time from 11pm to midnight on weekdays and to 3am during the weekends.

After Covid-19 restrictions were removed completely in April this year, Phuentsholing karaoke owners had raised the need for the time extension.

Along with the time extension, Phuentsholing Thromde has also approved licenses for more entertainment centres in the town. Currently, there are 13 karaoke bars in the town. Four more have been approved.

Phuentsholing will also have four more discotheques. There is only one at present, which is also beyond the Rinchending checkpost.

Phuentsholing thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai, who is the chairman of the ELC said there are also proposals for live music and pubs. 

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“There are many building owners who want to start karaokes and clubs,” he said.

Uttar Kumar Rai also said that after the recent approval, many hotels have approached the thromde office with proposals for karaoke and discotheque.

Meanwhile, there are standard criteria that even the recently-approved entertainment centres have to pass through. These are standards set by the ELC.

“Once the sites of the centres are approved first, ELC will verify the standards,” Uttar Kumar Rai said, adding only those who fulfill the criteria will be provided license for operation by the trade office.

Due to the pandemic and prolonged lockdowns, Phuentsholing has been hit the most. After the international border gate opened on September 23, local businesses have not found success either. Thromde office said there has been pressure from the hotels and restaurants to allow them entertainment centres.

“Because the business is not doing well, ELC is compelled to approve the licenses,” Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said.

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“The committee has decided to give the opportunity to all provided they fulfil the set standards,” he said.

“This will give all a level playing field. Those who can sustain will do good business for themselves.”

A hotelier, Tshering said that the approval of more nightlife entertainment centres and time extension will help many people.

“There are many women who worked in the drayangs before but lost their jobs. Most are single mothers. This will definitely help,” he said.

“It is also time for more nightlife entertainment to be given. Otherwise, it is as if we are still in the dark age.”

A private employee and resident, Yuvraj Gurung said, “The timing suggests that we are approaching more normal days like before. It makes me feel Phuentsholing can be compared to Thimphu in terms of entertainment.”

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“I heard discotheques were not approved in the core town areas. Now all of a sudden, we will have four discotheques. It is like icing on the cake.”

Yuvraj Gurung said Phuentsholing Thromde is really trying to make the city lively and full of glitz and glam.

“But it equally burdens the police because more late nights mean more drinking, discord and fights. But there are always pros and cons of everything.”

Residents are upbeat that the time extension of such entertainment centres and approval of more centres will come right after the Mega Night musical show, which will start today in Phuentsholing.

Farmers’ Sales Outlet helps address marketing challenges in Dagana 

Fri, 11/25/2022 - 11:58

…employs women and youths in production 

Choki Wangmo | Dagana

The farmers’ sales outlet (FSO) located centrally at Dagapela has helped address marketing challenges for farmers in Dagana.

The outlet is linked to farmers’ groups across the 14 gewogs in the dzongkhag and is run by the 13-member farmers’ group, Daga Sanam Thuenken Detshen.

The outlet allows farmers to either sell their produce in raw forms or sell it to the post-harvest sub-centre located above the outlet. The produce is then processed into various other products.

Currently, there are 55 items in the outlet. It includes a wide range of agriculture, livestock, and non-wood forest products, processed commodities, and handicraft items.

Outlet manager Dawa Zam said, “In the past, farmers faced marketing challenges and ran into losses due to post-harvest damage.”

The easy access, she said, had also reduced transportation costs for farmers.

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“This might encourage more people into farming as they have access to the market,” she added.

In recent years, commercial farmers in Dagana had increased drastically, with most of them venturing into winter chilli production.

Dawa Zam’s husband, Phuentsho, picks up produce from farmers according to market demand. Most of the sellers are from Gozhi and Tsendagang gewogs.

The FSO, she said, now caters to farmers and has been able to bring locally-produced goods to consumers in the district.

They also supply vegetables to all the schools and monasteries in the dzongkhag.

Santa Bdr Subba from Gozhi runs the dairy section. “The business is still growing. We are able to employ people in the processing firm,” he said. They are aiming to earn Nu 12,000 a day from the sales.

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Norbu Zangmo from Tsendagang makes potato and banana chips at the post-harvest sub-centre and sells them under the brand name Ama Zamin chips at the outlet. The family-run business procures the raw materials from her gewog. She said that they are still in the process of upgrading the business and should get the equipment soon. On the weekend, she employs students in the firm as part-timers.

Sangay Lhadon from Daga Food Processing Group employs three women in her pickling processing firm. For the past six years, she produced pickles on a small scale and had difficulties in marketing her products.

“I don’t have to seek a market in other dzongkhags as I have an easy market at the FSO,” she said. In the future, once the machines are upgraded, she wants to focus on large-scale production and target consumers in other districts.

She makes four types of pickles, varieties of dried-fruit candies, and cookies with raw materials sourced from farmers in Tsendagang.

In two weeks, she sourced about 200kg of chillies from farmers in Tsendagang.

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Except for utility bills, three renters at the outlet just have to pay a monthly rent of Nu 5,000.

Initiated by the dzongkhag agriculture sector, the FSO was established in September at the cost of Nu 4.1M. It was supported by the Food Security and Agriculture Productivity Project.

The project also established similar outlets in Chhukha, Samtse, Sarpang, and Haa.

Kilikhar business community perplexed with urban tax

Fri, 11/25/2022 - 11:58

Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

The business community of Kilikhar town in Mongar are confused as to why they are levied urban tax without having access to urban amenities.

Shopkeepers say if the small town on the Mongar-Trashigang highway is under Mongar municipality, urban infrastructure like streetlights, water, and vegetable market sheds are necessary.

“We’re willing to pay business income tax and business license renewal tax at par with the town if the municipality provides those basic facilities,” a resident said.

A businessman, Cheki, said that the streetlights that were restored during Covid-19 pandemic have become defunct. He said that the streetlight is necessary to deter theft.

“Sometimes, people from the town come to hang out at late night and there is every possibility of committing crimes,” he said.

Another shopkeeper, Tshering said the residents contributed more than two weeks of labour to get their drinking water secured from Chompa although the government supported the materials.

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“Except for waste being collected once a week by the municipality truck, even the electricity fee is charged for urban without subsidy,” he said.

He said the shopkeepers in the town should also have the right to nominate a candidate to contest for Thromde Thuemi if the town falls under Mongar town.

“We don’t even have a town tshogpa and we have appointed one ourselves paying Nu 500 per shop annually,” he said.

Residents said they have raised the issue several times to the dzongkhag and gewog administrations but the authorities referred them back and forth.

A building owner recently went to the dzongkhag human settlement office to ask for help to solve the water leakage problem. He said that officials told him to go to the gewog office for the town is under gewog’s jurisdiction.

“When I went to the gewog office I was told it’s under the municipality. Where can I go now?” he said.

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He said the next BIT collection and license renewal are approaching and they were worried that they would have to bear the same.

Kilikhar business community said even the well-established town like Lingmethang, once a satellite town, is now a gewog town and the shops were exempted from paying business income tax.

“The bar and restaurant license fee and other business license fee is charged for rural,” a businesswoman said.

Shopkeepers said they have also been paying urban land tax so far.

Similarly, shopkeepers of Yadi town also complained of charging fees for bar cum restaurant and business license renewal fees at the urban rate.

Mongar gup, Tenzin Wangchuk, said the issue is genuine and it was raised in the past dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) session and even the Member of Parliament and National Councilor from the dzongkhag were informed accordingly during the constituency visits.

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“I’m also planning to raise it again in the upcoming DT scheduled to be held in February if it remains unresolved,” Tenzin Wangchuk said.

According to dzongkhag officials, Kilikhar town falls under gewog throm and is not entitled to urban infrastructure. An official said Gyalpoizhing is the only approved yenlag throm in the dzongkhag and the rest of the erstwhile satellite towns in the dzongkhag are now under the respective gewogs.

Meanwhile, officials from the regional revenue and customs office (RRCO) said in the absence of former notification from the dzongkhag, RRCO has been collecting BIT as usual as Kilikhar was once a yenlag throm.

Japan Foreign Minister visit ends 

Fri, 11/25/2022 - 11:57

State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, TAKEI Shunsuke left Bhutan yesterday after a three-day visit from November 21 to 23. The state minister was accompanied by SUZUKI Hiroshi, Ambassador-designate of Japan to Bhutan, officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in Tokyo and the Embassy of Japan in New Delhi. The minister called on the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister on the first day.

SUZUKI Hiroshi and Tshoki Choden, Director, Department of Bilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed the Exchange of Notes for Grant Aid “The Project for Strengthening Health Care Services in Eastern Area”. Through this Project worth 535,000,000 Yen, the Government of Japan will provide medical equipment necessary for health care services for mothers and children to health facilities in six eastern districts.

Japan is a long-standing development partner of Bhutan. Bhutan and Japan enjoy very close ties of friendship, cooperation and understanding.

The visit to Bhutan by the minister will further strengthen the relations between the governments and peoples of the two countries, a press release from the foreign ministry stated.

This is the first high-level visit from Japan since the Covid-19 pandemic and the second ministerial-level visit to Bhutan from Japan.

Nettle weaving – a dying art in Lumang 

Fri, 11/25/2022 - 11:56

A thorny bark is transformed into beautiful clothes during olden days

Neten Dorji | Lumang

Sonam Choden of Drupkhang in Lumang gewog is skilled at weaving fibres extracted from the bark of nettle plants (locally known as Zangru). She weaves everyday household items such as a bag, table cover, blanket, gho, and kira used in traditional Bhutanese homes.

The 52-year-old woman is worried about the future of her craft. She has passed on her skills to the younger generation of her community who are keen to keep it alive but their interest is severely challenged by the non-availability of raw materials.

Sonam Choden is just one of the few families in Drupkhang, who still produce traditional nettle items to sustain. The village located in the north of Lumang gewog is 30 minutes drive from the centre.

Because the work is labour-intensive, many have left it and moved to easier options threatening the existence of the once-thriving craft.

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“I started weaving table covers, blankets and other items at the age of 20,” said Sonam Choden, who educated her two daughters in weaving nettles.

“Everyone has needed nettle fibres in the past to produce a blanket, which is used by almost everyone in every household,” she said.

She weaves two to three kiras and gho over the course of a year.

For centuries women in Drupkhang have extracted nettle fibres, spun them and wove mats, bags, sacks, and clothing. To make these various items, they developed lightweight spinners which could be used to spin the thread while resting in between household chores or walking.

“Every household should compulsorily have blankets. Apart from weaving blankets, they produced blankets and mats for guests to sit on and also to be used as bed covers,” said Choenzom, a 65-year-old native. “Sometimes, we even gave them as gifts to guests.”

She said that there are two types of gho and kira—plain and coloured. The locals don’t use any artificial colouring but the colour depends on the colour of the nettle.

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Although women from the village prefer to produce their own gho and kira, they occasionally also sell them for Nu 50,000 and Nu 45,000 a piece respectively.

Choenzom, who has been weaving since her childhood, said that they have never woven items from zangru for sale.

“It is not easy to weave nettle cloths, as it is an arduous and long process,” she says.“And with the scarcity of nettles in recent years, we don’t get the value of our hardships anyway.”

The process of making clothes from zangru is laborious: after collecting zangru fibre, women soak it in water and then boil it in wood ash. It is then beaten and washed. Before hanging to dry, the fibres are coated with oil to prevent them from sticking together.

“It takes around two to three months to weave a gho or kira,” said Karma Choden. “If there are any machines to spin fibres, it would ease our work.”

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Despite its importance, the practice of Zangru-weaving is waning rapidly.

“With the growing scarcity of nettles combined with easy availability of ready-made garments in the market, the trend is slowly dying,” said Dechen.

“If villagers could get enough nettles, and if new technology that would spin the fibres faster was introduced, then maybe the tradition could be saved,” she said.

Locals claimed that the ancestor’s occupation skills were at risk as nettle plants were also disappearing. However, they formed a group called Drupkhang Zangru group to keep culture alive.

The 13-member group has intervened and taken initiative to revive the nettle-weaving but it doesn’t make any difference.

“Lack of support, we are deviating from what we are skilled at doing. Our ancestor’s occupation skills are now at risk,” said an elderly woman.

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Can’t waste too much time on waste

Fri, 11/25/2022 - 11:55

Waste is an issue in Bhutan because of deeply-seated culture. And, when we talk about culture, we are talking about the culture of wastefulness, both at household and government levels.

Bhutan’s population is small. Considered in the right perspective, more than half of the country’s population lives outside of the growing towns and cities. Why is waste becoming a growing issue still?

Waste is an issue of serious concern because a large number of our people are uneducated. Waste also deserves sober treatment because more than laws, rules, and regulations, we need practical solutions.

This has not been forthcoming.

But Bhutan is now changing dramatically; the country is shaping a new image for itself. Education is one and tourism or selling ourselves to the world beyond is another. Both require a revolutionary shift.

The question is: are we ready?

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We are. We have always been. It is the system that has all along been a burden on itself.  How could we not, for example, stop people from smearing walls with lime just because Bhutanese have a penchant for doma?

If smearing lime on the wall is made a crime, shopkeepers and building owners will be more careful to not let such antics run riot. Same for paper and plastic waste! Every individual will be mindful of what they pick and discard.

So, naturally, we come to the system of fines and penalties. We are taking it unreasonably lightly. Getting at and reading the source is easy. Where the waste is, he or she is responsible. But so much can only be determined by the kind of penalty or fines we impose. Therefore, the heavier the fines, the better.

The good news is that the recently formed Waste Management Committee has started a door-to-door awareness campaign on waste segregation between Dechencholing and Ngabirongchhu in South Thimphu yesterday.

This is a new beginning. Henceforth, mindless disposal of waste should be considered a serious crime. For that, we need laws with real teeth and implementers who are fearless and dedicated to effecting real change.

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For one, we can not go on contradicting ourselves and portraying a false image of ourselves. We are a fiercely environment-conscious country. Waste cannot be an issue.

Bhutan to explore sovereign green bonds as alternative financing 

Fri, 11/25/2022 - 11:55

Thukten Zangpo  

With the increasing need for financing climate mitigation and adaptation activities, Bhutan will be developing a framework for sovereign green bonds.

A sovereign green bond is a debt instrument issued by the government to borrow money from investors with the commitment that the mobilised fund would be spent to finance eligible green projects.

This will help close the green investment gap and help countries reach their sustainability targets.

During the discussion on “Financing Bhutan’s Green Transition” in Thimphu yesterday, the economic affairs officer of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP), Deanna Morris said that the government issuance should be aligned with the government priorities, ensure debt sustainability, and would require significant coordination among ministries. She added that there is a need to set up a government coordination committee.

Deana Morris also said that the green bond framework is a document that shows the characteristics of the bond. The core components of the green bond principles are the use of proceeds, evaluation and selection process, management of proceeds and reporting.

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“Every single issuer has to develop the framework,” Deana Morris said, adding that the components will look into how and who selects the projects, ensure whether the projects are going towards a green social sustainable project, and report back to the investors on the target set.

“Bhutan could be eligible for project categories-renewable energy, energy efficiency, green buildings, clean transportation, sustainable water and wastewater management, pollution prevention, control and circular economy, climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation, sustainable management of natural resources and land use,” climate finance advisor of ESCAP, Dr Patrick Martin said.

The finance ministry stated that the potential of green bond issuance would provide new investment options for local institutional investors, attracting international investment, and supporting green job creation.

An official from the Royal Monetary Authority said that the authority completed the first version of the green taxonomy in November 2021 and reviewing again. However, he said that the lack of data is still a challenge.

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A green taxonomy is a list that classifies all business activities based on their contribution to environmental aims and thresholds.

ESCAP is supporting Bhutan develop the sovereign green bond framework and green taxonomy along with training support to relevant stakeholders on green bond issuance.

The debt management division of the finance ministry is leading Bhutan’s green financing efforts.

Green bonds have long been the dominant player in the thematic bonds space, reaching USD 1 trillion issued globally in 2021.

The officials from the finance ministry, central bank, financial institutions, and other relevant agencies attended the stakeholder meeting yesterday.

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His Majesty grants citizenship Kidu

Fri, 11/25/2022 - 11:54

His Majesty The King granted citizenship Kidu to 579 individuals at the Tendrelthang yesterday. The recipients took part in an Oath Taking Ceremony, and received an Audience with His Majesty The King. His Majesty The King has granted citizenship to around to 25,000 people till date, in an ongoing process of granting Kidu.

NA endorses designated vehicles for MPs

Thu, 11/24/2022 - 12:03

… vehicle quota to be discontinued

Thukten Zangpo

The National Assembly members yesterday supported providing designated vehicles for MPs.

The House supported the Economic and Finance Committee’s proposal to provide a designated duty vehicle to level Ex-3 and above including the MPs, however, until reviewed and rationalised by the government.

Members were also in favour of the Committee’s recommendation that the MPs who have availed the vehicle import quota and vehicle purchase allowance under the Pay Revision Act of Bhutan 2019 shall have the option to opt for the designated duty vehicle upon reimbursing such proportionate amount as remaining until the completion of the five-year term.

The MPs were not entitled to designated vehicles as per the draft Pay Structure and Reform Bill 2022.

The Bill included designated vehicles for civil servants at the existing position level of EX-3 and above, including the prime minister, cabinet ministers and equivalent positions, until reviewed and rationalised by the government.

By endorsing the entitlement, the House does away with the MPs’ entitlement of driver allowance of Nu 10,000 per month and fuel and maintenance allowance of Nu 10,000 per month, which was proposed by the draft Bill.

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The House also did not support the draft Bill’s proposal of a lump sum vehicle purchases allowance of Nu 1 million (M) prorated at Nu 16,665 per month.

Deputy Chairperson of the Committee and MP of Chhoekhor-Tang, Dawa said that the MPs are entitled to the designated duty vehicles as a fringe benefit.

Not supporting the Committee’s proposal, Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi said that 58 new vehicles have to be purchased for MPs, which would incur huge costs to the country.   

He added that providing a lump sum of 1M for vehicle purchase comes to about Nu 58M. However, buying a vehicle costing Nu 3.6M each by MPs would come to around Nu 208M.

Similarly, Bartsham-Shongphu MP, Passang Dorji said that the number of designated vehicles has to be reduced to minimise the government’s expenditure.

Rather than having additional designated vehicles, the existing ones have to be cut down, he added.

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Khamaed-Lunana MP, Yeshey Dem also said that there are concerns raised on social media on the increasing misuse of government pool vehicles.

Chhumig-Ura MP, Karma Wangchuk suggested discontinuing the designated vehicles for all, including prime ministers, ministers and heads of the constitutional offices and other civil servants.

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that there is a provision that the government can review and rationalise designated vehicles that could help for phase-wise lifting and monetising.

He said that there are 2,279 government pool vehicles of which 406 are designated vehicles, and about 400 are ambulances and Royal Bhutan Police vehicles.

Lyonpo added that there are sunk costs associated with the pool vehicles, since an equal number of drivers have to be designated, including maintenance and fuel costs.

He added that the vehicle allowance of Nu 1M lump sum could be provided to those who can buy and prorated per month of Nu 16,665 per month to those who cannot.

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The House also supported doing away with the vehicle quota or monetised amount of Nu 1.5M and 0.25M for all public servants from July next year.

However, the House retained the Committee’s proposal that stated the vehicle quota provided to those public servants who are eligible before July 1 of next year and the public servants who had availed vehicle quota under the Pay Revision Act of Bhutan 2019 until claimed.

The government has stopped monetising vehicle quotas for two years and the import of vehicles is temporarily suspended now. The finance minister said that the ministry is deferring the quota date.

NC adopts UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime

Thu, 11/24/2022 - 12:02

Chhimi Dema 

The National Council unanimously adopted the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC) and Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children (TIP) yesterday.

All 23 Members of Parliament present in the House voted in favour of the Bill.

UNTOC is considered the main international instrument in the fight against transnational organised crime.   

The convention is supplemented by three protocols which target specific areas and manifestations of organised crime: the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children; the Protocol against Smuggling of Migrants by, Sea and Air; and the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition.

Chairperson of the social and cultural affairs committee of NC, Mongar MP Sonam Pelzom, said that the convention and protocol would help combat trafficking by strengthening international cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of TIP cases.

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Ratifying the convention and protocol will ensure protection for Bhutanese who are living or travelling abroad for education or work from trafficking, she added.

Records show that Bhutanese reside in 85 countries.

Sonam Pelzom said that the protocol would prevent child labour, indentured servitude and sexual exploitation. “It will also protect women and children or victims and allow the strategic rescue of victims if they are in other countries.”

A total of 190 countries signed the UNTOC and nine UN member states are not a party to the convention including Bhutan.

UNTOC has 41 articles and the TIP Protocol has 20 articles.

The convention and protocol are referred back to the National Assembly with amendments for re-deliberation.

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RBP nab all escapees

Thu, 11/24/2022 - 12:01

Staff Reporter

All 10 detainees who escaped from the detention centre in Thimphu were apprehended within 24 hours by the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP).

The RBP arrested an escapee from Takti Koti on the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway. Two were rearrested in Thimphu and seven were rearrested from Phuentsholing-Pasakha. It is reported that the seven escapees were caught trying to cross the border into India.

The seven escapees were apprehended on November 23, between midnight and 4am.

RBP launched an inquiry into the lapses that led to the escape.

Deputy Chief of Police Colonel Passang Dorji said that they are investigating how the detainees got hold of the hacksaw that they used to cut the bars of the prison toilet window to escape.

“Accountability will be fixed,” he said.

The 10 detainees escaped from the detention centre in Thimphu in the early hours of November 22.

Six of the escapees were detained for drug trafficking, two for burglary, one for rape, and another one on charges of voluntary manslaughter. Two are non-Bhutanese.