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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 2 hours 25 min ago

All irregularities against RENEW resolved: RENEW officials

Thu, 07/22/2021 - 12:46

Yangchen C Rinzin 

The Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW) secretariat clarified that the significant unresolved irregularities amounted to Nu 5.910 million reflected in the Annual Audit Report 2020 were resolved earlier this year.

The report, which was released last week, reflected irregularities against unpaid dues, unnecessary cash withdrawal, diversion of project funds, and excess accumulation of prior year advances until January 2021.

The RENEW official said that all the irregularities were resolved within the stipulated time period before March 2021 and memos were dropped except for one.

“The irregularities were resolved on time, that’s why we have all the audit clearance,” the official said. “The one that was not resolved was related to the government’s e-PEMS system.”

An official from the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) said that although irregularities were resolved, it was resolved only in April 2021 instead of January 31 2021.

The official said that in any audit observation, all agencies are provided an opportunity to resolve audit issues within a deadline.

“In this case, the issues were supposed to be resolved by January 31 this year,” the official said. “We also send a notification to all agencies clearly stating that if issues are not resolved within the time, all unresolved irregularities would be reported in the Annual Audit Report 2020.”

The official said that although the irregularities were resolved, they were resolved only in April after the report was prepared.

The office record showed that only four of the five irregularities were resolved. The irregularity of excess accumulation of prior year advances of Nu 2.180 million was yet to be resolved.

Meanwhile, to avoid such confusion with any agencies in the future and bring consistency in the annual audit report, the RAA, henceforth will publish the audit report on November 11 every year which is six months ahead of current practice.

The official said that this was to ensure that the report remains relevant to the particular financial year.

The current practice is that by the time the audit report is tabled in the Parliament the report would be late by almost two years losing the relevance.

The Annual Audit Report 2020-2021 is expected to publish this November and then table in the Parliament during the winter session.

Edited by Tshering Palden

Initiative to help persons with disabilities 

Thu, 07/22/2021 - 12:45

Yangchen C Rinzin 

When Sapnam Adhikari went for a field visit to Draktsho East in Kanglung, Trashigang, in 2016, she felt the need to help persons with disabilities (PWDs).

The first thing she wanted to do was to make PWDs realise they can be independent. She also wanted others to understand PWDs better.

Sapnam and Abi Chandra, both graduates from Sherubtse College, then formed an initiative called “Youth initiatives for persons with disabilities” to help PWDs in their own capacity.

Their first initiative was to help build a house for Aum Buku, a person with a disability in Shongphu, Trashigang.

Aum Buku lived in a hut, which was not disability friendly for her two children who are also PWD.

Sapnam said it would not have been possible without the help of many people including gups and students from Sherubtse College, Ability Bhutan Society, local community volunteers, and donations from the people where a total of more than Nu 600,000 was raised to construct the house.

“I was happy that we were able to bring forward their story to people who later helped us to help Aum Buku,” she said. “I think we should help PWDs the way we can instead of only sympathising with them.”

For Abi, it was his social service interest that interested him to take such initiative and as a forum for international and national affairs (FINA) during his college days made it possible to help Aum Buku.

“Scouting is my religion and I put it into practice through services, kindness, and love towards the community,” he said. “I want to be a helping hand to those who needed it.”

The youth initiative is now trying to help another family where the sole bread earner is PWD from Bartsham, Trashigang. The family struggling to find a place to live and to make ends meet.

Sapnam said the family reside in other’s house, which is left as gungtong (empty household). “The owner might return any time and the family would have to vacate. They will become homeless.”

She said the eldest daughter in the family is also intellectually disabled and their hope is to at least help to build a house for them by raising funds. “People have been coming forward to help two children’s education. Many are also donating.”

However, the fundraising has been put on hold as of now.

Sapnam said they were unaware they needed permission from the home ministry to raise funds. “We are applying for the permission.”

Meanwhile, besides the two activities, they are also trying to create awareness for PWDs.

Sapnam said that most PWDs in rural areas still do not know how to avail help. “Those PWDs who are today independent are mostly in urban areas. Those in the rural areas do not even know they could study or avail help.”

With many PWDs in rural being discriminated against or left unattended and stigmatised, the initiative hopes to create awareness among people on disability through help from various disability organisations.

Edited by Tashi Dema

Club for sustainable chess development

Thu, 07/22/2021 - 12:44

Thinley Namgay 

Almost eight years after the chess federation became dormant, the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) is trying to revive the chess culture in the country.  

BOC is starting a chess club next month for those interested in the indoor game. So far, 30 players have registered for the club.  

The general secretary of the chess club, Ugyen Wangchuk, said chess enhances creative thinking, planning skills, focus and protects against dementia. “There was a chess federation before, but it’s not operational.” 

The lack of sufficient equipment and professional trainers are the main challenges for chess development in the country. There is a need for more chairs, tables, chess boards and chess apps. 

 There is also limited awareness among youth on the importance of chess.

Ugyen Wangchuk said they would organise tournaments and seminars for both students and teachers. “The chess club will collaborate with various stakeholders such as education ministry and thromdes to foster the game.” 

Meanwhile, a chess player from Gelephu, Binod Rai, said the chess competition was mostly at the school level. “After that, there is no opportunity. We don’t have a chess championship in the country.”

He said the only popular international chess tournament participated by Bhutanese was in 2014, where five players took part in the Chess Olympiad in Norway. 

At present, Bhutan has two chess instructors recognised by the World Chess Federation. 

Meanwhile, chess can also be played online. 

In January this year, a maiden online chess competition was conducted between Bhutan and Israel, where 140 Israelis and 30 Bhutanese participated and Binod Rai, 29, bagged overall second position.  

Binod Rai said that chess players require constant practice. “I have a group in messenger with 30 players from Bhutan. We share chess tricks and play when we get time.”

Chess enthusiast and a trainee at the Samtse College of Education, Hari Prasad Dungyel, said that only a few are genuinely interested in playing chess. “Many might not know the motive behind playing chess.”

He, however, said that to keep the game alive, online platforms such as Chess Club Bhutan encouraged online chess competition among interested players.

A chess player from Tsirang, Sonam Dendup, said limited competition hindered chess popularity. “There is no proper platform for beginners to learn. Without knowing the scope and benefits of chess, it would be challenging to attract and advocate people about the game.”

Edited by Tashi Dema

Ensuring every child benefits from the royal soelra

Thu, 07/22/2021 - 12:44

Children of Bhutan received a royal soelra to learn coding through games on a popular online platform, CodeMonkey, amidst the pandemic.

Coding, in simple terms, is a computer programming language to develop websites, apps, video games and software to help people in day-to-day activity.

In the age of technology, coders are in demand. For children, coding is not only fun, but the knowledge they gain would help them to understand the world better. It improves their creativity and problem-solving skills.

The CodeMonkey also has good resources for teachers, including well-developed lesson plans, teaching materials and classroom management system with grading and assessment.

As a country with its mission to embrace information, communications and technology (ICT) as the third language to remain abreast with the rapidly changing digital world, His Majesty’s soelra would equip the children with 21st Century knowledge and skills.

We also have the royal kasho on civil service reforms which highlights the royal aspiration for Bhutan to become a developed country in our lifetime through a knowledge-based and tech-driven economy. Coding is the answer to make that possible.

It’s now the education ministry mandate to ensure every child in the country benefits from the soelra and not just the privileged. With the emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, every student should learn to code.

Coding products are used in every field today. During the pandemic, checkpost management system (CPMS) and contract tracing apps benefitted.  

However, the success of the implementation of the coding programme would depend on internet connectivity, availability of computers and proficiency of teachers.

With the education ministry already implementing the education flagship programme, we know the issues. There is a huge digital divide. Many rural schools do not have ICT laboratories, computers and internet facilities. Even in Thimphu, many children do not have access to computers.

The ministry already listed there are 30,000 disadvantaged students as of 2020. It also found more than 13,0000 students need tablets.

The good news is that the education ministry would implement the coding programme with support from Department of Information and Technology and Royal Society for STEM. While the ministry must ensure schools have computers, DITT should ensure internet connectivity.

We have come a long way in digitising Bhutan. Children and computer science are the future. Children can learn new languages faster. We have to facilitate the learning so that no one is left behind.

Tala shut down costs millions in revenue 

Thu, 07/22/2021 - 12:43

… the plant is expected to resume operations today

MB Subba 

The 1,020MW Tala hydroelectric plant has been completely shut down since 6pm of July 19 with a daily revenue loss of around Nu 55 million (M).

Large chunks of debris due to continuous rainfall during the past few days clogged the gates of the intake tunnels.

At this time of the year, the Tala power plant with the monsoon rains would be generating the rated capacity of 1,020MW and an additional 10 percent overloading capacity, altogether amounting to 1,122 MW, according to the Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC). This is equivalent to a daily generation of about 26 million units.

“If one were to consider that 100 percent of the generation from Tala to be exported to India, the daily revenue loss would be approximately Nu 55M,” DGPC managing director (MD), Dasho Chhewang Rinzin said.

However, officials are working round the clock to complete the restoration works at the dam intake gates. The DGPC MD said that all six generating units had been out of operation and that only once the free flow of water is restarted from the dam intake gates, generation will be restarted.

The project had planned to start filling the reservoir by late night yesterday.

Dasho Chhewang Rinzin said that power generation would resume today if things go as per the plan. Electricity generation in the country’s biggest plant would have been shut down for three days if generation resumes as expected.

The DGPC MD said that the accumulated debris that was clogging the intake gates were being cleared and the debris in the desilting gates chamber are also being cleared. He said that on July 19, the Tala generating units started to experience some problems in generating at full capacity.

Since the pressure gauge readings at the Main Inlet Values were found to be slightly lower than rated, the generating units were shut down, according to him. After shutting down two of the generating units, the remaining four generating units also tripped in the evening at around 6pm, he added.

“When the generating units tripped, there was water outflow from the adit tunnel to the dam desilting gates chamber accompanied by some noise,” he said. On inspection, it was found that the desilting gates had been dislodged from their docking place with some damages to the rope-drum hoisting mechanism and the supporting steel beam I-sections.

On the causes of the damage, the DGPC MD said that from the review of the sequence of events, it appeared that the penstock pressure loss and subsequent events could have been caused by air suction into the water conductor system due to choking at the dam intake gates.

“To ascertain this, the Tala reservoir was emptied to get access to the intake gates. On completing the lowering of the water level in the reservoir, the intake gates were found to be clogged with debris thus impacting the flow of water into the water conductor system,” he said.

All resources of Tala and Chhukha power plants have been mobilised for cleaning of the intake gates and to lower the reservoir level to get access to the intake gates. The desilting gates chamber is also being cleared of any debris to allow free flow of water into the headrace tunnel.

The DGPC MD said that the desilting gates, rope-drum hoisting mechanism and the supporting structures will take some more time to restore but these are required only for maintenance works and not for operating the powerhouse.

However, he added that there are no problems with the generating units. “The problem is with the dam intake gates only, which are being cleared of the accumulated debris to allow free flow of water into the water-conducting system.”

While almost all the sectors of the economy took a severe hit in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, hydropower saw significant growth with energy generation increasing by 31.45 percent.

According to DGPC, the country exported a total of 9,121 million units (MU) of electricity worth more than Nu 27.042B in 2020.

The total generation from the six hydropower plants that are in operation increased to 11,364 MU in 2020 from 8,645 MU in the previous year.

Edited by Tshering Palden

Picture story

Thu, 07/22/2021 - 12:41

Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother Kesang Choeden Wangchuck, His Eminence Vairochana Rinpoche, HRH the Princess Pema Lhadon (Pem Pem) Wangchuck, HRH the Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck, Royal Family members, Lopons from the Zhung Dratshang and foreign minister attended the completion ceremony of the Punakha Dzong Re-electrification Project on July 20. The entire electrical system of Punakha Dzong was upgraded to European electrical standards with joint contribution from Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother, the goverment and Emanuel Fluckiger.

Picture story

Thu, 07/22/2021 - 12:30

Sarpang Rabdey Lam Neten presided the Salhang tendrel for the construction of 200 bed quarantine facility at Namkhaling, Gelephu yesterday. 

More than 175 officials from Desuung and Royal Bhutan Army are involved in the construction.

His Majesty The King grants soelra for children to learn coding

Wed, 07/21/2021 - 12:18

Staff reporter 

His Majesty The King has granted access to online resources for students to learn coding as soelra to the children of Bhutan.

The soelra was presented to the Ministry of Education by His Majesty’s secretariat yesterday morning.

Along with the presentation, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was also signed between the MoE, Department of Information and Technology (DITT) and the Royal Society for STEM (RSSTEM).

The RSSTEM, which is an office under the His Majesty’s secretariat set up to strengthen Bhutan’s participation in scientific and technological innovation, received Royal command in February this year to explore educational platforms to make coding more engaging and fun for students.

A press release from RSSTEM stated CodeMonkey was jointly chosen over several leading platforms in consultation with the MoE and DITT. “CodeMonkey is a popular online platform which offers paid coding lessons, taught through games.”

According to the MoU, the MoE, which has received the soelra on behalf of the students, will implement the programme, with support from DITT and RSSTEM.

RSSTEM’s director, Karma Wangdi, said Royal Soelra is special and extraordinary happening in the midst of the pandemic when the Thorne is fully occupied leading the fight against it.   

“We would also like to join everyone in offering our deep Obeisance and eternal gratitude to His Majesty for His Love, Care and Boundless Compassion, and offer our humble prayers for His Majesty’s long life.”

He said CodeMonkey also has good resources for teachers including well-developed lesson plans and teaching materials with solutions to challenges contained in the lessons. “It is also equipped with classroom management system with automatic grading and assessment of student performance, and also provides a dashboard overview of the whole class which can be viewed at different levels.”

The director said CodeMonkey will be implemented in the second half of 2021 academic year based on the feasibility with respect to computer labs and connectivity in schools.

He said according to the plan, it will be rolled out from August in all lower secondary schools, middle secondary schools and higher secondary schools, where it will form part of the ICT curriculum for classes VII to VIII, and will be supplementary learning for other classes. “For primary schools and below, it will be rolled out wherever availability of computers and connectivity permits.”

Karma Wangdi siad from 2022, when devices and connectivity reach all schools, CodeMonkey will be implemented as part of the ICT curriculum from Classes PP – VIII.

He said RSSTEM would continue working closely with the education ministry and DITT to support the swift and successful implementation of the Royal Soelra.   “As the Ministry of Education implements Codemonkey in schools, the Department of IT and Telecom and RSSTEM will be there to render all possible support.”

Punakha dzong electrical system upgraded to European standard

Wed, 07/21/2021 - 12:17

Phurpa Lhamo | Punakha

The re-electrification of Punakha Dzong by Swiss Theatre Lighting Company technicians completed yesterday upgrading the entire system to European electrical standards.

“Before it was zero star rating but now it is five stars,” said the project leader of the Swiss team, Emanuel Flückiger.

Her Majesty the Royal Grand Mother Kesang Choeden Wangchuck graced the closing ceremony held yesterday in Punakha dzong. Her Majesty awarded certificates to the TTI students, de-suups and electricians at the closing ceremony yesterday.

The project was also initiated by Her Majesty to fulfill His Majesty The Druk Gyalpo and His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s wishes to protect all dzongs and lhakhangs in Bhutan and Her Majesty’s own wishes to protect heritage sites with safe electrical systems.

According to Emanuel Flückiger, 2,500 lights including bulbs, tube lights, and LEDs of high standards were installed.

“The quality of the light (accessories) is really high, which means when power fluctuates, there is no problem. Normally, the range for the light is 230 volts, but the installed lights can handle from 110 up to 285 volts,” he said.

The 44 temples, uste, and statues inside the dzong are lit by the lights.

Yarzhup (summer resident incharge) Sangay Jamtsho said that the power consumption of the bulbs and tube lights was low.

He added that earlier someone had to go around turning on and off the lights every day, which now needn’t as sensors have been installed in the system.

The dzong now has a new earthing system.

Emanuel Flückiger said that the two-level fuse has been replaced with five levels, which meant more safety.

“This is the only dzong in Bhutan that has Residual Current Circuit Breakers (RCBOs), and RCBOs are also of a high standard.”

The team will train monks and administrative officials this year.

Re-electrification work began in mid-April this year. Although the work was aimed to complete in four months, the Swiss team and around 50 Bhutanese individuals (de-suups, Technical Training Institute students in Khuruthang and electricians) completed the work in over two months.

The Royal project completed with estimated cost of Nu 52.68 million (M) of which Nu 10M seed fund was granted by Her Majesty the Royal Grand Mother, Nu 20.40M and material resources for the project by Emanuel Flückiger, and the government contributed Nu 22.28M.

Edited by Tshering Palden

The choice is in our hand

Wed, 07/21/2021 - 12:16

They came in droves, they got the booster dose and they shared their experience. The nationwide second round of vaccination against the deadly coronavirus is picking up. Despite some hesitancy and a few trying to discourage people from getting the available vaccines, people believed in protecting themselves and thereby the community and the country.

Nearly a hundred thousand people received the vaccine when the vaccination centres called it a day yesterday. Getting the second dose or the immunity booster dose is seen as the best protection against the virus. It may not fully protect people from contracting the virus, but it is the only option available as of now. The vaccination programme is for a week, we have enough doses for the entire eligible population and by the end of the week, we should have inoculated a good number of the population.

Herd immunity, proven by science and advocated by scientists and governments worldwide, is the best long-term solution. Many governments are not able to arrange vaccines. Forget the second dose, many have not received the first leaving them vulnerable to the virus, which now is spreading in the form of a more infectious Delta variant. The epicenter is still in our region. Inoculating the population is seen as the only available option.  

Not many have the means.

The government has managed to not only secure enough to protect its eligible population. For many it is the first dose and we are already planning to inoculate those below 18. Even as we roll out the second dose for almost 90 percent of the population, cases are surging all over the world. In the US, which generously gave Bhutan 500,000 doses of Moderna vaccine, rising cases are suddenly sparking fears of a resurgent pandemic. The President is pleading with the people to get vaccinated.

The vaccine can not only protect the health of the populace. The recovery of the economy hinges on bringing the pandemic under control. At home, we have lost only two to Covid-19 related complications, but there are thousands of Bhutanese who are indirectly affected by the pandemic. 

Even as we line up for the second dose, the government’s coffer is nearly empty. The monetary and fiscal policies initiated by His Majesty The King is draining out the royal coffer too.  Shares held in the name of Sungchob and Kidu funds are offered for sale to replenish the reserves for the National Resilience Fund so that the Druk Gyalpo’s Kidu could continue to help the needy.

If we can protect ourselves, we can also help ease the pressure on the Royal Kidu initiatives and the government. The choice is in our hands. We have the vaccines, there is a vaccination programme and everybody is encouraging each other to go out and get vaccinated. We are in a far better position than many around the world. For once, the beauty of our smallness can come to use if we can inoculate all the eligible people and achieve herd immunity. 

Bhutan’s Paralympians for 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games

Wed, 07/21/2021 - 12:16

Thinley Namgay

At the Bhutan Olympic Committee’s (BOC) athletic ground in Thimphu, the two para athletes –Gyeltshen and Chimi Dema – are practising shot put under the guidance of coach Penjore Gyeltshen.

Gyeltshen and Chimi Dema will participate in the upcoming 2020 Summer Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Paralympic Games is a platform for people with disabilities to compete in various sporting events.

The 16th edition of the games will take place between August 24 and September 5.

The International Paralympic Committee confirmed the wild card entry for three athletes from Bhutan for short put and archery.

Para archer Pema Rigsel will compete in the recurve archery category.

Athletes must achieve a minimum qualifying score (MQS) to get entry into the Paralympic.

For shotput, the MQS requirement for men is 6m. Gyeltshen secured 6.29m during the 2019 World Para Athletics Championship in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.

Since then, Gyeltshen has come a long way.

Gyeltshen had a hard school life and had to quit studies after Class IX in 2011.

But Gyeltshen has always been very optimistic. His health problems did not stop him from trying out difficult things.  In 2013, he came to Thimphu and got a role in movies.

In 2017, Gyeltshen joined the Bhutan Paralympic Committee (BPC).

“I had heard about the Paralympic games on the BBS. My friends encouraged me to join,” Gyeltshen said, adding that he could maintain his health after joining as a para-athlete. “Exercise plays a vital role for better health.”

Gyeltshen said that Tokyo Paralympic was a big platform for all the athletes like him. “I will do my best and represent the country well during the event. I will ensure that my performances are better than in 2019.”

Chimi Dema is also 28. She joined BPC in 2018 with the support of her friends and relatives.

She secured MQS in 2019 World Para Athletics Championship in Dubai. She maintained 4.51m exceeding the requirement of 4m.

After completing Class XII, Chimi worked in a private company. She never thought she would become a member of BPC.

Chimi said BPC provided her with lots of opportunities which enabled her to look at life positively.

She is confident about the Tokyo Paralympic. “Representing Bhutan is a big deal for me, and I must do my best during the competition. We are undergoing intense training.”

Soon after the completing Tokyo Paralympic, Chimi wants to continue her education at the Royal Thimphu College (RTC). She got an opportunity to study through a BOC-RTC scholarship.

The para-archer- Pema Rigsel, 34, is busy paractising for the competition at the Langjophakha archery range. He practices five days a week.

In May this year, Pema grabbed the MQS of 601 points during the day-long national MQS competition organised by Bhutan Archery Federation. He exceeded the requirement of 575 points.

He joined BPC in 2017.

In 2012, Pema suffered from knee pain facing difficulty walking upward. It was due to a tumour in the spinal cord.

“Tumor got removed, and the doctor told me that my health would improve,” said Pema.

During the Paralympic games, Pema Rigsel will compete in the 70m archery range.

Archers shoot six arrows for one round.  For one set, archers have to shoot for six rounds, and each arrow carries 10 points which accounts for 360 points in a set. For a game, archers have to complete two sets which are out of 720 points. Each round is given four minutes.

Pema said that his performance on the local ground was encouraging so far. “It was all due to the support from the BPC. I will maintain the same trend in the upcoming Paralympic Games. I am excited because not many get the opportunity.”

The three athletes and officials will go to Japan on the second week of August for pre-practice sessions and acclimatisation.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

Govt. spends more than Nu 4.6B for Covid-19 response

Wed, 07/21/2021 - 12:15

More than Nu 72 million estimated for the two nationwide vaccination campaigns  

Younten Tshedup  

The government has budgeted Nu 25.12 million (M) for the second dose of mass vaccination campaign that begins today.

This, however, is a decrease by almost 50 percent as compared to the first mass vaccination campaign where a total of Nu 47.179M was spent.

Officials said a substantial amount was spent during the first campaign on several activities such as capacity building, launching the Bhutan Vaccine System (BVS), and the procurement of laptops and tablets for the BVS.

This time, a large chunk of the budget, Nu 19.12M has been allocated for the travel and daily allowances for vaccinators and working lunch during the campaign.

The use of helicopter and transportation fuel to distribute vaccines will incur Nu 1.35M. Data package worth Nu 1.2M has also been earmarked for the BVS system users.

Capacity building of health and other frontline workers including various officials incurred a cost of over 12M during the first round of vaccination campaign.

The district-level expenditure was over Nu 19M then. Nu 1.69M was spent on the procurement of PPEs (personal protective equipment).

Officials said that the expenditure incurred for the two vaccination campaigns were exclusive of the cost of the vaccines, which in turn would have been in millions of Ngultrum. “Given the good relation Bhutan has with other countries, we have received all our vaccines for free. Many countries are struggling to even buy the vaccines today. We are all very lucky,” said an official who requested anonymity.

As of yesterday, Bhutan had 500,000 doses of Moderna vaccine, 121,900 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, 68,000 doses of Covishield (AstraZeneca) vaccines left over from the first round, 50,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine, and 5,850 doses of Pfizer vaccine.

It was learnt that additional 127,700 doses of AstraZeneca from Denmark and another 140,000 doses from Bulgaria and Croatia would be arriving in the country by July 23.

Besides the expenditure on the vaccination campaigns, the government as of March this year has incurred a total expense of about Nu 4.6 billion (B) on Covid-19 response.

Ngultse Lyonpo (finance minister) Namgay Tshering said that most of the expenses were incurred in the procurement of test kits and PPE for health workers. About Nu 700M was also spent for the quarantine services, which the government continues to bear for all citizens.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that Bhutan was using one of the most reliable test kits in the word today, which the government was providing for free to all its citizens. “Each test is costing us anywhere between USD 7 to 10 depending on how the test is conducted.”

As per the record with the health ministry, a total of 992,602 tests have been conducted so far since January 2020.

Lyonchhen said that samples for PCR test were collected from places located more than three days away (on foot) from the BHU in Merak, Trashigang. He said that to save cost, PPE that needs to be removed and discarded after every few hours, health workers were using it for more than 8 hours straight.

A set of PPE cost about Nu 1,800.

Edited by Tashi Dema

Man sentenced to nine years in prison for rape of minor

Wed, 07/21/2021 - 12:14

Staff reporter

Wangduephodrang dzongkhag court sentenced a 20-year-old man to nine years in prison for rape of a minor.

According to the judgment rendered on July 19, Tenzin Rabgay from Tsirang and the 15-year-old girl met through social media and had an affair for almost a year.

It stated that in April this year, the girl had gone missing and was later found with the 20-year-old man. The girl is a student in one of the schools in Wangdue.

The man was found guilty of rape of a child above 12 years of age, which is graded a second degree felony with prison term ranging between a minimum of nine years and a maximum of 15 years.

The mother of the girl has refused compensation from the man.

Edited by Tashi Dema

Picture story

Wed, 07/21/2021 - 12:13

Education ministry, Department of Information and Technology (DITT), and the Royal Society for STEM (RSSTEM) signed an MoU yesterday. The ministry will implement the programme, with support from the two agencies. 

More than 96,000 vaccinated on the first day of the second vaccination campaign

Wed, 07/21/2021 - 12:12

More than 98 percent went for heterologous vaccination

Younten Tshedup  

More than 98 percent of people who received their second dose of Covid-19 vaccine yesterday went for the mix-and-match approach of vaccination.

Dr Sonam Wangchuk from the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NI-TAG) said that of the 96,490 people who received the second dose of vaccines yesterday, 94,807 were recipients of the Moderna vaccine; 1,683 people opted for AstraZeneca as their second dose.

About 280 people reported minor side effects, which mostly included headache and fever. One case of anaphylaxis was reported from Dagana.

Most chose Moderna vaccine for their second dose

A majority of the people who opted for the heterologous approach said that it was because of the Prime Minister’s efforts that convinced them to mix the vaccines

A 24-year-old graduate, Tashi Phuntsho, said that until Monday evening he was confused as to which vaccine he should choose for his second dose. “I saw some articles online that stated mixing of vaccines would not be a good idea which is why I wanted to take AstraZeneca this time.”

However, he said that after Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering’s explanation and interaction with the public on Monday, he was convinced to take the Moderna vaccine.

“If a medical practitioner can go to this extent to convince people on how safe a vaccine is, there should be no doubts,” said Tashi Dorji, a businessman based in Thimphu. “I might not know Dr Lotay as a politician but I’ve known him as a doctor for many years now. This reason alone gives me the confidence to believe in him. I’m taking the Moderna vaccine for my second dose.”   Sangchum, 83, from Chapcha, Chukha also received Moderna as her second dose at the RBP Flu Clinic in Thimphu yesterday. Her son, Lhakpa Dorji, who accompanied her to the clinic, said that given her medical conditions, they were unsure whether Sangchum should mix her vaccines.

“I heard that the Moderna vaccine was not recommended for people above the age of 70 and my mother is a diabetic patient with high blood pressure and she also has a heart disease associated with old age,” said Lhakpa Dorji.

However, upon consultation with the doctors at the site, the recommendation was to go for Moderna vaccine for the 83-year-old. “There is no pain for now. But during the first dose, I experienced joint pain after a few days. I hope this won’t happen this time,” said Sangchum.

Dawa Zangmo, 72, from Thimphu also had Moderna as her second dose. “I took the vaccine because the doctors said this was more effective. There is no pain whatsoever during and after the injection,” she said. “I’m grateful to my King and the government for making this vaccination possible for people like us.”

Those who specifically opted for AstraZeneca as their second dose, the vaccine was also made available to all.

“I took AstraZeneca because I did not want any complications later. But I’m not saying the other vaccines are unsafe,” said Kesang Dema, a homemaker in Thimphu. “This was a personal choice based on my own reading and understanding.”

With some questioning whether there really was an option offered before the vaccination yesterday, Dr Sonam Wangchuk said that for those who specifically asked for AstraZeneca vaccines they were provided with one. However, if there were no such demands made, he said that it was assumed that the person was willing to receive the Moderna vaccine.

Health workers in some of the vaccination centres were seen explaining to people on the options available.

“If they want AstraZeneca, they must inform the health workers specifically. Otherwise, we are asked to give everyone the Moderna vaccine,” said a nurse.



Compared to the first day during the first dose of vaccination in March, 10,500 plus people availed the vaccination service this time. The turnout was about 18 percent of the total registered on the Bhutan Vaccine System (BVS).

Observers say the overwhelming turnout was because of the delay from the initially accepted gap of 8 to 12 weeks between the two doses.

“People have been anxiously waiting for this second dose. Many now understand the benefits of getting vaccinated as the virus continues to mutate and cause more trouble to people,” said a health worker.

Dr Sonam Wangchuk said that among the 96,490 people who received their second dose yesterday, 96 were pregnant and about 1,400 were breastfeeding mothers.

Tsirang and Dagana enjoy vaccination in fine weather 

More than 3,000 people across 72 vaccination posts received the vaccines on a sunny day in Tsirang yesterday.

Except for 12 people who opted for AstraZeneca, the rest received Moderna.


Tsriang health officer Lobzang Tshering said: “Since the town is near to gewogs, people from gewogs also visited the Damphu station that was used as a flu clinic.”

There were no major adverse effects except for 11 minor cases.

Pasang, 19, and Kinley Nidup, 22, from Tsirang Dratshang said that compared to the first dose, it was less painful and there was no side effect at all.

A 72-year-old man from Damphu said, “I thought I would get sick from the vaccine but everything is fine.”

However, at the vaccine site, those on duty repeatedly urged underage students to not come after few turned up for the vaccine.

On July 26 and 27, the officials will visit homes to vaccinate the old and those with special needs.

As of 5:30pm yesterday, 3,794 people including 1,959 male were vaccinated across 70 vaccination posts in Dagana.

Dagana health officer Kinley said that more were expected to come in the following days.

Only one person opted for AstraZeneca. There were three minor cases of vaccine side effects and one serious case.

Kinley said that although the estimated target was 15,705 people, there was an observed increase in the number of people across all vaccination posts. He said that there were no problems so far.


Most prefer Moderna in Paro, Haa 

As the country rolled out the second mass vaccination programme, residents in Paro and Haa rushed to their vaccination posts yesterday.

A total of 6,893 were vaccinated in Paro yesterday, of which 99 percent preferred Moderna. As of 1 pm yesterday, 930 people were vaccinated in Haa.

Except for a few individuals, most took the Moderna vaccine.


Elderly people, who could not even pronounce the name of the vaccine, said they wanted the jab that Lyonchhen took.

Dema from Lamgong came with her family. “To get the best possible protection, a second dose is a must.”

Nim Dorji, 86, decided to take the jab considering the risk of the virus on the elderly population. He said that every Bhutanese was responsible for taking the jab as His Majesty the King and the government could procure the vaccine while other countries were facing an acute shortage.

After the completion of the second round vaccination, many are asking if the government would relax the existing protocols.

A resident, Zam said: “I think we don’t have to wear a mask after the second dose.”

According to the health ministry, the government was considering certain relaxations following the completion of the second dose, while the level of relaxation would be contingent upon the vaccination coverage.

The vaccination programme in both the dzongkhags began with Lam Neten taking the first jab.

According to dzongkhag health officials, 95 percent of the projected population took the first jab, and that they were expecting the same turnout this time.

The health team will cover the remote settlements in Paro, like Nubri and Yaktsa, from July 26.

More than 3,000 vaccinated in Trongsa and Bumthang 

The vaccination program in Trongsa began with Thrusel to the vaccines by the Lam Neten and like in many dzongkhags, he was the first to receive the vaccine followed by the dzongdag.

Trongsa dzongkhag vaccinated 1,595 and 2,157 turned up in Bumthang. In both dzongkhags, most of them preferred the Moderna vaccine. In Trongsa, 62 people received their first dose.


Tsagay, 73, from Yuedrungcholing in Langthel said: “I was very excited to receive the second dose. I preferred the new vaccine thinking that it will be more effective and stronger.”

Likewise, Tshering Dhendup said that his family discussed and decided to go with the new (Moderna) vaccine.

As we are uneducated and we do not know much about the vaccine, we have decided after watching the television.

The Prime Minister and volunteers taking the vaccine first before roll out of the second dose encouraged them to choose the new vaccine, many said.

Some chose AstraZeneca because they had no side effects after the first dose.

Trongsa received 8,720 doses of Moderna vaccine and 3,700 AstraZeneca. Bumthang received 540 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines and 8,230 dose of Moderna vaccines.

Samdrupjongkhar expects relaxation after second dose

More than 4,339 people received their Covid-19 vaccine at the 70 vaccination posts in Samdrupjongkhar yesterday. Moderna- Of that 4,268 chose Moderna vaccine, and 71 received AstraZeneca. Seven individuals reported minor AEFI.

The second vaccination in Samdrupjongkhar thromde begun with Lam Neten taking the first jab around 8:30am after the traditional cleansing ceremony (thruesoel), followed by the eastern Covid-19 task force chairman.


The dzongkhag has more than 25,000 people registered for the vaccine including those aged above 11 years.

The health officials also collected blood samples from the volunteers to study the efficacy of the Moderna vaccine.

Residents of Samdrupjongkhar are now hoping that the government would lift a week-long mandatory quarantine when they travel to the low-risk areas as they got the second jab for Covid-19 yesterday.

A resident, Jigme Kelzang, said that since they got the second job, they expect the task force and government to relax the business closing time from 9pm to 10pm. He said that people strictly followed the authorities’ restrictions.

Another resident, Dawa, said it had been so long the task force restricted the sports activities in Samdrupjongkhar, adding that sports have been one of the activities where people keep themselves engaged in this situation.

Residents said people who are interested in sports and do not take alcohol have now started drinking. “We expect the government and the task force to allow the spots in Samdrupjongkhar,” another resident said.

Sarpang residents relieved with the start of second dose

After living in fear of a lockdown, residents from Sarpang are relieved that the second dose came before a positive case from the community.

Close to 8,000 people got vaccinated across 45 vaccination posts with over 7,500 opting for the Moderna vaccine in Sarpang yesterday. Over 400 people chose to take the AstraZeneca vaccine.


Sarpang received over 26,160 Moderna doses, 46,090 AstraZeneca, and 240 doses of Sinopharm for the second mass vaccination campaign.

More than 100 people came to get their first dose. There were 11 minor cases of adverse effects following vaccination.

With almost all gewogs sharing borders with settlements in India, the risk of positive cases was ever-present. Sarpang is the only high-risk area without any cases to date.

A resident from Jampeling, Sherab Zangmo said that she eagerly waited for the second dose. “I was worried of another lockdown and children won’t be able to go to school. Now I hope the situation will improve by the day,” she said.

Sonam Dawa from Dechenpelri in Samtenling gewog said that the people from his community expected some form of relaxation now. “I hope the situation improves hereon. We have cancelled plans to construct a new house because the materials are not available readily. Those available are expensive,” he said.

“There are families who couldn’t travel to meet their relatives for over a year now,” said Sonam Dawa.

Sonam Jamtsho from Gelephu said: “It is worrying too. People start to become complacent and ignore safety protocols once vaccinated. But, I hope things become better here. We expect relaxation but I feel it’s risky to go for it too.”

“We will also have to consider construction and other activities that are on halt because of the pandemic,” said Sonam Jamtsho.

Meanwhile, over 400 routine travellers who are currently in quarantine in Gelephu will be vaccinated at their respective destinations, task force officials said.

In Mongar, of the 29,799 registered, 6,721 received their doses yesterday. Most opted for Moderna vaccine. Only two cases with minor AEFIs were reported, according to health officials.

Dzongkhag has 26 vaccination posts in its 17 gewogs and the vaccination program is scheduled end on July 24.

Additional reporting by Kelzang Wangchuk, Phub Dem, Choki Wangmo, Nim Dorji, Nima, Tshering  Namgyal

Pungthang Dechen Phodrang Dzong or The Palace of Great Bliss

Wed, 07/21/2021 - 11:18

“In 1965, when His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo was 10 years old, we were staying in the beautiful Ugyen Palri Palace in Paro. In this Palace His Majesty was blessed with a wonderful and auspicious dream.” 

Her Majesty Gyalyum Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck shared the dream of the young Crown Prince in the preface of the book, “The Bodhisattva King.” 

Narrating the story, Her Majesty wrote that the young Crown Prince had seen in his dream, the image of Demchok Padma Vajra Yab-Yum or the Cakrasamvara Padma Vajra, red in colour and surrounded by flames. 

Her Majesty said that, that the next morning, the 69th Je Khenpo Gedun Rinchen (1926-1997), then known as Geshey Bjaku, came to see her in the Paro Palace.

When Her Majesty related the Crown Prince’s dream to him, Geshey Bjaku became exceedingly elated. 

His Holiness confirmed that the Crown Prince had definitely seen the protecting deity, the red Yeshey Gonpo Chazhipa (Mahakala with four arms) that had also appeared 330 years before in Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal vision while he was at Chimi Lhakhang. 

According to the oral account, at the time of Zhabdrung’s visit to Chimi Lhakhang there was no bridge to cross the river. After spending a night at Chimi Lhakhang and having this vision, it is said that the villagers of the area built a cane bridge and offered it to Zhabdrung Rinpoche and making it possible for Zhabdrung to cross the river to enter the Punakha valley. 

In the preface of “The Bodhisattva King,” Her Majesty recounts how His Holiness, Je Gedun Rinchen took the dream as a cue to undertake a three-year retreat which he immediately began, meditating on Yeshey Gonpo for the long life of the Crown Prince. His Holiness spent his three years retreat at Kungacholing monastery in Paro and finally completing the retreat in 1968. 

Je’s biography “The Smiling Moon,” corroborates the story.  It states that during the three-year retreat, Gendun Rinchen observed the wrathful Dorji Phurpa (Guru Vajra Kilaya) practice that includes the thirteen aspects of Buddha Mitrugpa (Absobhya) and Bhutan’s guardian deity the Yeshey Goenpo (Mahakala). 

While into the practice, stories are told of how an unkindness of ravens would encircle the monastery- this is a sign of spiritual accomplishment as ravens are considered the attendants of guardian deities. 

When Her Majesty shared the account of her son’s dream with His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991) and the Eighth Khamtrul Rinpoche Kalzang Dhongyud Nyima (1931 -1980), both these great Buddhist masters confirmed that the Crown Prince had been blessed with the vision of Demchok Padma Vajra.

With the blessings of Khyentse Rinpoche, Her Majesty and her mother Mayum Rani Choni Wangmo Dorji (1897-1997) built the beautiful Demchok Khorlo Lhakhang in the Dukhang. 

The sacred congregation hall is the chief site for the performance of the annual Zhabdrung Kuchoe observed on the 10th day of the third Bhutanese month every year, marking the day when the Zhabdrung passed away at the Punakha Dzong in 1651.

In 1978, the Demchok Khorlo Lhakhang was completed. Sculpted by the master Jinzop Damcho, the temple has some of the most exquisite statues with the holiest relics. The temple was consecrated three times. 

His Eminence the Eighth Khamtrul Rinpoche carried out the first rabnay (consecration), performing the Demchok ritual with 60 deities in accordance with the Nyingma tradition. 

His Holiness the 67th Je Khenpo Nyinzer Trulku Ngawang Thinley (1921-2005) carried out the second consecration, performing the Demchok ritual with 13 deities in accordance with the Drukpa Kagyu tradition.

Khyentse Rinpoche carried out the final consecration. His Holiness performed the Dorsem Dubchen (accomplishment of Vajrasattva) in accordance with the Nyingma tradition.

Upon the request of Mayum Choni Wangmo Dorji, Khyentse Rinpoche established the annual Demchok Dubchen in the new Lhakhang of the Punakha Dzong in the autumn of 1979. Rinpoche presided over the first Demchok Padma Vajra Dubchen in the newly built temple. 

The Dechog Padma Vajra Drubchen is the “mind treasure” of the great Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. Rinpoche presided over it for 13 years till 1990.

After Khyentse Rinpoche passed away in September 1991, Her Majesty requested His Holiness Je Khenpo Gendun Rinchen to perform the Drubchen by offering it to the Zhung Dratshang. Since then, the Central Monk Body has been conducting the annual ritual without fail to this present day.

The Punakha Dzong

Built on the holy site of the Demchok Khorlo Dompa (Cakrasamvara), Punakha earned the name Pungthang or, “On the ground of the Heaped Jewel.” The Dzong is known as Dechen Phodrang or, “The Palace of Great Bliss.” 

From historical records, it is said that after crossing the Punakha River on the bamboo cane bridge Zhabdrung eventually laid the foundation of the dzong that fell on the eighth day of the eighth month of the Fire Ox Year in 1637. The construction of this marvel is steeped in mystery and magic. 

The Punakha Dzong is the most important dzong that Zhabdrung built and it played a crucial role in his life. Constructed as his central seat in lieu of his spiritual and temporal seat in Ralung in Tibet, it was designed to accommodate 600 monks. 

The dzong is not only the most sacred space in the country but it also has great historical significance and is considered the epitome of Bhutanese architecture. 

The preserved body of Zhabdrung and his son Jampel Dorji are both kept in the Dzong. While the earthly remains of the Zhabdrung are kept in the Marchen Lhakhang, which is completely devoted to his memory, the remains of his son are kept in the Utse (central tower). 

Another sacred and national treasure, the Rangjung Kharsapani, is also kept in the Dzong for a good part of the year. Zhabdrung brought this sacred relic with him when he fled Tibet. It is a self-manifested image of Avalokiteshvara, from vertebrae of the founder of the Drukpa lineage, the great Tsangpa Gyare (1161-1211).

Historically, the Punakha Dzong served as the main seat of both the secular and temporal government for many centuries. Our first Druk Gyalpo’s coronation in 1907 was held there. Since then, all our Druk Gyalpo’s and Je Khenpos that followed begin their reigns by receiving the blessed five-coloured scarf from the inner sanctum of the sacred Marchen Lhakhang.

In addition to serving as the first capital of Bhutan, our first National Assembly meeting was held in this magnificent dzong in 1953.

The Punakha Dzong is an architectural marvel. It represents the finest Bhutanese craftsmanship. One of the unique features of the Dzong is the Utse that has a Chinese style golden roof like the Tashichhozong Utse. Both were built by the 13th Desi.

Constructed on what is believed to be on the trunk of an elephant the dzong is built on the banks of the two rivers. It is believed to be a geomantic power place. 

The Dzong has captured the imaginations of many people and continued to do so. For example, in 1688, King Sangay Tenpa of Derge asked Bhutan’s monk ambassador Jamgon Ngawang Gyeltshen (1647-1732), to describe the architecture of Punakha Dzong. 

As a celebrated artist, Jamgon was able to describe the dzong in detail in the form of versified praise for the magnificent Dzong. The Derge King was so impressed with the description that he drew a beautiful thangka of the Dzong and its panoramic surroundings based upon Jamgon’s eulogy.

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While the dzong was an impregnable fortress, it suffered from many devastating fires. From historical records, we know that “The Palace of Great Bliss, was ravaged by fire mainly triggered by civil strife. The dzong was destroyed by fire at least six times in the years 1780, 1798, 1802, 1831, 1849, and 1986. 

The tragic fire of 1780 that razed the dzong much of the dzong was but the first of many in the years following its construction in 1637. 

Dr Karma Phuntsho reproduced an eyewitness account of the fire by Ngawang Chokyi Gyaltshen in his book, “The History of Bhutan.” 

“Flames spread like a canopy inside and outside and in between the doors. The wooden frame of the central tower was engulfed by patterns of flames with roaring and cracking sounds. It was like the realm of death; we ran out in a rush with no attachment to anything. In an instant, the palace of Cakrasamvara was reduced to ashes by the fire of people’s misfortunes.” 

The 18th Desi Jigme Singye (r.1775-1788) rebuilt the Dzong. But once again, it was reduced to rubble in 1798 under the watch of the 21st Desi Druk Namgyal (r.1796-1802). 

Historians tell stories of how monks rushed out in panic leaving behind most of the relics.

Another story is told how the 18th Je Khenpo Jamyang Gyeltshen (1743-1816) after successfully evacuating the monks out of the dzong rushed out of the blazing dzong. Apparently, he rushed out with whatever he could lay his hands on. When he reached outside, he realized he had only brought a monk’s robe. But he took it as an omen that Buddhist teachings will survive. Although most of the holy relics could not be saved, Zhabdrung’s Marchen was saved.

Je Khenpo Jamgyang Gyeltshen started the reconstruction and restocking of the Dzong. A little more than a year after the reconstruction, in 1802 another civil strife broke out. This time the feud was between the retired Desi Sonam Gyaltshen (r.1792-1796) and the incumbent Desi. This resulted in bloodshed and the death of the Desi Druk Namgyal. Desi Sonam Gyaltshen (r.1802-1805) then took over the rein as the 22nd Desi. 

On 29 April 1802, to avenge the death, the supporters of the deceased Desis’ set the Dzong on fire.  

At the time, the young Zhabdrung incarnate, Jigme Drakpa II was residing in the Dzong. He was fortunate to escape unscathed but Je Khenpo Jamyang Gyeltshen’s health was affected and he passed away the following year. Desi Sonam Gyaltshen restored the Dzong in little more than a year. 

The details of the fire of 1831, is in Lopen Pemala’s book, History of Bhutan: The Luminous Mirror to the Land of the Dragon. The monk scholar states the fire started on the 13th day of the 3rd lunar month in 1831 and destroyed the Dzong for the fourth time. The book states that the Je Khenpo, the Penlop and the monk body had to move to Tashichhodzong and this triggered further civil strife. 

The 25th February 1986 fire is better documented. It damaged the southwest corner of the Dzong which houses the residence of His Holiness the Je Khenpo. Unlike the earlier fires, it was believed to have been caused due to electrical defects.

The Dzong was shaken twice by earthquake. Little is known about the 1714 earthquake but the Great Assam Earthquake of 1897 shook the structure, causing serious damage to Dzong. 

The Dzong faced at least four imminent threats from floods. The first was in 1835. It is believed that this flood that damaged the Punakha Dzong was triggered by the spells that Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu (1831-1861) cast from Lhasa where he had taken temporary residence after fleeing from Bhutan.

The second flood occurred in 1915. It washed away the cantilever bridges of Punakha that had been built earlier in 1720-1730 by the Fourth Desi. 

Except for a photograph that shows the altered river pattern, not much is known about the flood that occurred in the 1960s.

The fourth and most recent flood was the Glacial Lake Outburst Flood of 1994. It posed a great threat to the Dzong and almost washed away the Dzongchung. Part of the wall of the structure was washed away but the main structure and the sacred Jowo statue were miraculously saved reaffirming the belief that sacred Jowo protects the Dzong.


Cakrasamvara is the circle of supreme bliss and symbolizes Buddha’s mind of compassion. Inspired by our Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s dream of this deity when he was ten years old, Her Majesty and Mayum Choni built the beautiful Demchok Khorlo Lhakhang in the Dukhang with its exquisite statues, and continue to support the Drubchen which has been performed for the last 42 years.

The Dzong has survived both man-made and natural threats including at least four Tibetan invasions in the years of 1634, 1639 and 1648. The Dzong has been damaged by fire at least six times, faced two earthquakes, and four floods but each and every time, “The Palace of Great Bliss,” was restored to its former glory. 

The Palace of Great Bliss with its multiple courtyards, numerous temples is the epitome of Bhutanese architecture. The national heritage continues to preserve ancient traditions and with is innumerable national treasures is the most sacred space in the country that all Bhutanese protect, cherish and enjoy to this day.

Contributed by 

Tshering Tashi

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Monsoon could prolong the second mass vaccination in Sarpang

Tue, 07/20/2021 - 11:27

Nima | Gelephu

With the second mass vaccination campaign beginning today, the people of Gongduegang chiwog in Jigmecholing in Sarpang will have to walk for more than two hours to reach the vaccination post at Gakidling Primary Health Centre (PHC).

The farm roads in the chiwog are in poor conditions and the streams swell during monsoon, making it difficult for the vehicles to ply.

The designated vaccination post for the people from Gongduegang and Gongtshekha is at Gakidling PHC, which would remain open till July 22. The expected eligible population at the vaccination post is 670.

However, the local government officials from the gewog say that it would be difficult for the elderlies to travel to the vaccination post, having to cross several swollen streams along the way in summer.

Jigmecholing gup, Kumar Gurung, said that it would take at least a week to have all the eligible population vaccinated from the chiwog.

“Many would be with the cattle, away from home. It took almost two weeks to have all elderlies and people with mobility problems vaccinated for the first dose after the mass vaccination period,” he said.

He added that the people are more confident to receive the second dose this time.

During the first dose of the mass vaccination campaign, Jigmecholing had one of the least number of people who came for vaccination with 88 percent turnover. The lowest was in Singye Gewog with an 87 percent turnover, according to the record with dzongkhag.

Kumar Gurung said that all elderlies and people with mobility problems were covered during the home visit and follows the program; almost all the eligible population vaccinated within 10 days after the vaccination campaign.

“For the second dose too, it would be difficult to get all vaccinated within July 22. Some would come in turn for vaccination. It would take at least 10 days to have all eligible population vaccinated in the gewog,” said the gup.

Sarpang started to distribute vaccines to over 45 vaccination posts from Sunday and the vaccination posts close to Gelephu central regional hospital would receive the vaccine in the morning today, according to the officials from the dzongkhag.

Sarpang received over 26, 160 Moderna, 46,090 Covishield, and 240 doses of Sinopharm vaccines for the second mass vaccination campaign.

Dzongkhag health officer, Tshering Penjore, said that the number of days for the respective vaccination post was allotted as per the population.

“Officials at the vaccination post need at least two days for the follow-up and home visits, which would cover elderlies, people with mobility problems, and persons with disabilities,” he said.

With most of the health officials assigned for the duty in various vaccination posts, OPD chambers at Gelephu CRRH would remain open from 9 AM till 12:30 PM from today till July 26.

Flu clinic remains closed; endoscopy and echocardiography services are suspended during the vaccination period safe for the emergency surgeries and planned elective surgeries, according to the press release from CRRH.

The dzongkhag plans to vaccinate over 42,600 population across 45 vaccination post in a week.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

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RAA recommends guidelines for short-term training abroad 

Tue, 07/20/2021 - 11:26

Thinley Namgay 

The Royal Audit Authority (RAA) recommended guidelines for regulating delegation, institutions and monitoring travel for visa processing.

RAA also recommended a roadmap for developing and implementing competency-based framework across agencies, and strengthening budgetary control by the finance ministry.

It made the recommendations for relevant agencies after finding out several lapses on ex-country travel for the short-term training (STT) between 2018 and 2019.

The Authority pointed out the lack of standard protocols for delegations and other types of ex-country travels and economic prudence.

“The training courses and institutes were approved based on the proposals of proponents. When offers are received, the agencies undertake ad-hoc and unplanned training,” the report said.

In over 106 instances, officials had availed training or had undertaken travel before the approval of the human resource committee (HRC). The approvals were accorded at a later date, as per the report.

RAA noted that 68 STT were availed without obtaining approval of the HRC.

The report says that agencies had not even complied with requirements to submit training or study tour reports and course completion certificates.

There were 303 such cases related to these requirements.

Based on expenditure, frequencies of travel and roles in the execution of ex-country travels, an audit was conducted for the 10 ministries, Gross National Happiness Commission, and National Environment Commission.

The report states: “The HRC merely formalises the nominations without assessing competency gap with respect to job responsibilities.”

The report also noted that training is often attended by officials from different position levels.

For instance, the training on local governance and development at Burapha University, Thailand from September 23 to 30, 2018, was attended by dzongrabs, gups, gewog administrative officers, internal auditor, administrative assistants, personal assistant, store assistant, and officials from the Department of Local Governance.

Nu 358.30 million (M) was spent during the 2018-2019 financial year for the STT abroad.

Of the Nu 358.30M, Nu 211.11M was spent for daily allowance, Nu 84.80M on air ticket, and Nu 62.39M for course fee and others.

Nu 82.82M was funded by the government and Nu 275.48M through other sources.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests spent 153.82M, followed by the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Information and Communications with 28.39M and 27.56M respectively.

It was observed that from the total of 8,243 officials in 12 audited agencies, 2,823 had attended 4,242 STT in 81 countries between 2018 and 2019.

Report mentioned that over 70 officials from these agencies went abroad five to 14 times; more than 703 officials had availed two to four times, and more than 2,050 officials had travelled at least once.

Officials who availed the highest number of STT were from executive positions.

The report noted that 313 STT were found to be not related to the officials’ designations or job responsibilities. Officials travelled  mostly to Thailand (1,244), India (819), and Nepal (519).

As per the report, officials did not follow the direct route and training could have been easily organised in the country.

The trips undertaken by the civil servants to the USA, Europe, and Canada between 2018-2019 showed that agencies had not adhered to the requirement to undertake travels through the most direct and economical route.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

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Villagers and vendors in Paro fight for profitable marketplace

Tue, 07/20/2021 - 11:25

Phub Dem | Paro

Villagers in Paro and vegetable vendors in Tshongdue compete for the same place to sell vegetables every weekend.

This is because the vendors leave the stall they are provided and sell from open spaces allocated for local farmers, pushing the farmers to entry and exit points.

A farmer from Shaba, Namgay, was looking for space with fresh beetroots and other vegetables on Sunday.

Local vendors, who move out of their stall, are seen with umbrellas to beat the rain and scorching sun.

According to Namgay, farmers are constantly deprived of spots to sell their produce, although the government constructed a proper shed for vendors. “It is discouraging for farmers.”

He said they could sell it to vendors, but at a huge loss. “Vendors only pay us Nu 20 to a bundle of beetroot that fetches Nu 70.”

It has been more than a year since villagers and vendors have competed for the space.

A farmer from Tsendona, Zam, said villagers come to market once in a week during which they were not allowed to do business peacefully. “We were asked to relocate three times. It is difficult when you have to move the perishable goods time and again.”

Although a committee decided to allocate a space in the middle of stalls for the farmers, regular vendors occupied that space too, forcing local vendors to crowd along the aisle.

Vendors also share their problem.

According to a regular vendor, Tandin, they have to occupy the space allocated to villagers, as her stall was far from the exit and entry gate. “Customers do not visit my stall.”

She said the stalls were too small to accommodate the goods, and it was challenging to cover the rent.

Another regular vendor, Phub Dem, said that people purchase goods from nearby stalls depriving those located afar without any sale. “We tried to do business from our stalls for some days, but no customers visited our stall.”

She claimed that of the 43 vendors whose stalls were located far from the exit and entry gate, some left the business due to the spot issue.

It has been three weeks since the municipal office allocated 88 sheds to regular vendors.

Locals were given two semi-permanent structures at the centre of the market to be used during Sundays.

According to Paro Dzongrab, Kinley Gyeltshen, the dzongkhag administration planned to open entry and exit points from the lower gate as an interim measure, adding that local vendors will use the lower entrance to sell their produce.

Local and permanent vendors have to share this temporary space until the permanent vegetable market shed is completed, which will take around two years.

Considering the risk of crowding, the chief agriculture officer of Paro, Tshering N Penjore, said that starting next weekend, relevant officials such as police, desuups, municipal and local leaders would make things convenient.

He said there are enough spaces, but regular vendors leave their place and crowd near the entry and exit point. “About 43 cubicles are left empty.”

Edited by Tashi Dema

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Teacher sentenced to 30 years in prison for child molestation

Tue, 07/20/2021 - 11:23

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

Tsirang Dzongkhag Court yesterday sentenced a 56-year-old teacher to 30 years in prison for molesting 10 children of a primary school in the dzongkhag in 2019.

Dil Bahadur Chhetri Neopani was arrested on November 8, 2019 after police and dzongkhag’s child protection unit received complaints about molestation and harassment.

He was serving as the officiating vice principal when 10 children studying in class II and III then complained of bad touch.

Tsirang police, after investigations, forwarded the case to the Office of the Attorney General in December 2019.

He was granted bail after 25 days of detention.

According to the judgment, he was found guilty of touching the children inappropriately.

The consecutive sentencing is non-compoundable and he will not be allowed to pay thrimthue in lieu of prison term.

The court ordered him to pay a compensation of Nu 90,000 to each victim, which amounts to Nu 900,000.

It stated that he has to pay the compensation within a month and if he fails to pay within the given time, his property will be seized.

When the case surfaced, the teacher claimed he pinched the girls to punish them for not performing well in studies. However, investigations revealed he not only touched and pinched the girls inappropriately but even kissed them.

Meanwhile, Dil Bahadur Chhetri Neopani said that he would appeal to the High Court.

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