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Updated: 57 min 46 sec ago

Missing bodies found

Tue, 08/31/2021 - 11:24

Staff reporter 

The body of the one year-old missing girl in a landslide at Khoraypam, under Shumar gewog in Pemagatshel was found at 3pm on Aug 28. Police handed over the body to her relatives.

The landslide swept away their hut at around 2am. Her mother’s body was recovered from the muck of the landslide and her father was declared dead when he reached Pemagatshel hospital on Aug 26. 

The civil servants, local leaders, de-suups, police, Bhutan Red Cross Society members, and volunteers carried out the search.

Meanwhile, a forester spotted the body of the third student of Bayling Central School in Trashiyangtse in Manas river in Panbang yesterday. The parents identified the body. 

Four boys from the school went to the Serkang stream, which is located about 20 minutes walk from the school, for swimming on Aug 8. One of the boys escaped as he went to the toilet after a quick dip when the flash flood occurred.  

The bodies of two students were recovered and handed to their parents.

The three boys, two were 18 years and one was 19 years, were studying in class XI Arts and were staying in the hostel.

Edited by Tshering Palden

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13 shops punished for violating safety protocols

Tue, 08/31/2021 - 11:24

Staff reporter 

The Sarpang dzongkhag Covid-19 taskforce yesterday closed 13 shops in Gelephu for not following Covid-19 safety protocols. 

The three-day closure ends tomorrow.  

The monitoring team responsible for compliance with the safety protocols has warned the shops repeatedly before issuing the closure notice on August 28. 

Officials involved in monitoring said that the shops were found without a proper handwashing station. 

The team also ensures that the shops have Druk Trace mobile application code installed, wash stations and soaps and that both customers and shopkeepers wear face masks. 

The task force also closed 17 shops last month for similar safety protocol breaches. 

Edited by Tshering Palden

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MDP loses loaders

Tue, 08/31/2021 - 11:23

… importers complain of delays in clearing imports

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The Mini Dry Port (MDP) in Phuentsholing, which earlier operated with more than 80 loaders, is managing with just about 50 loaders and that has led to delays in clearing imported goods, according to sources. 

Around 30 loaders left the MDP in the last two to three months. Today, MDP and truck parking (temporary) ports put together are clearing just about 60 vehicles a day.

One importer from Thimphu, Sonam Tshering said that there is a labour problem in the MDP.

“The loaders work slow,” he said. “They used to clear two truckloads before but today they just cleared a truck within the same time.”

There wasn’t any problem prior to mechanisation, Sonam Tshering said, explaining loaders earned more then, in commission system, and worked more.

“But it is also due to the rain these days,” he said, adding MDP doesn’t have shelters to work in while raining.

MDP was offered to a private firm, Dhendup Enterprise, and was supposed to be mechanised. A new set of loaders were recruited. A few who worked on commission payment mode prior to the mechanisation were also kept. However, the wages system didn’t motivate the loaders. MDP is also yet to be fully mechanised.

A former loader said many left because of the payment system. “It was better working on the commission system in terms of income.”

He also said that the rules were particularly strict for loaders at MDP.

Another said that loaders were promised Nu 100 per hour.

“We worked at least 10 hours a day,” he said. “When we got the salary for 17 days (after the joining date), they gave us just Nu 12,000. There were too many deductions. We regretted joining as loaders.”

A manager with Dhendup Enterprise said they are planning to recruit more loaders. Three loaders joined yesterday, he said.

Meanwhile, many issues related to the registration of ‘import vehicles’ were also reported when Phuentsholing was under lockdown. However, customs changed the registration system. All importers can now register their vehicles on a particular day. The importers are intimated when their import turn arrives.

A new registration is allowed only after all these registered vehicles are cleared. 

Although the registration issue is done away with now, importers feel it still takes a long time.

An importer from Thimphu said that he imports from factories as far as Bihar, India and when he gets the confirmation, he had to immediately intimate the news to the factory. Sometimes, they have to do production overnight, he said, explaining the vehicles don’t reach on time.

Some importers are even pointing out that if the MDP loaders aren’t able to deliver, labourers from across the border must be brought in, quarantined, and allowed to work.

Meanwhile, goods are also categorised into three categories for import: essentials, non-essentials, and single items.

The expenses are higher for the single-item. There are three drivers required in this system and each one has to be paid over Nu 3,000. 

A driver from Thimphu and other places drive until the Sorchen driving switching area. He hands it over to a driver from Phuentsholing who takes it to the MDP. From there, an Indian driver takes the vehicle to Jaigaon, loads it and drops it back to MDP. The Phuentsholing local driver then drives the vehicle up to Sorchen, and returns it to the driver of the truck who waits there.

Edited by Tshering Palden

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UN 50 roadshow at Wangbama Central School

Tue, 08/31/2021 - 11:22

Thinley Namgay

As part of the ninth “United Nations (UN) 50 Art for Change Roadshow”, 35 Class X students of Wangbama Central School in Thimphu presented their environmental concerns in the form of art at their school yesterday.

Students used paintings, drawings, and theatrical techniques to convey messages on climate change.

Participants presented two skits yesterday.

The first one was on declining numbers of black-necked cranes visiting Phobjikha in Wangdue.

Participants tried to depict that global warming is causing diseases to an endangered species.

The other skit was on water crises in the village where villagers are fighting for their share.  It showed the water sources are drying due to climate change.

Facilitated by the film fraternity, students also composed a song on climate change.

UN 50 Art for Change Roadshow is a part of the year-long activities jointly organised by the UN Bhutan and the government to commemorate Bhutan’s 50th anniversary as a member state to the UN.

The roadshow was to provide a platform for the students to understand the issues regarding the environment and climate change and encourage them to express their concerns through art to become environment change makers.

A 17-year-old Samten Dorji said that his photo titled ‘champion of earth’ showcased Bhutan as one of the few biodiversity hotspots in the world. He said that Bhutanese must maintain that status.

Kinley Lhendup had drawn the photo about glacial lake outburst as part of the event.  He said that glaciers are melting, and Bhutan has already experienced the consequences. “Everyone should play a role to reduce greenhouse gases associated with human activities.”

“Especially, young people have potential to change the world,” Kinley Lhendup said.

Sangay Lhendup had drawn the image of the pre- and post-industrialised world. The picture showed that developmental activities should be pursued with appropriate environmental policies.

According to officials at the event, the whole idea of the roadshow was to make students aware of climate change from an early age and replicate their ideas to friends, family and society.

UN Resident Coordinator Gerald Daly said that there was a wave of optimism through art for change roadshow. “We want the 50 years of UN in Bhutan to be about youth and environment.”

“We want the youth of Bhutan to have the opportunity to become action artists and play a role in the modern world,” he said.

UN Bhutan, in collaboration with Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) Alumni Bhutan, organised a three-day “UN 50 Art for Change Roadshow” at Wangbama Central School from August 28.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

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Truckers want rates increased

Tue, 08/31/2021 - 11:22

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupcholing

The truckers deployed to dump muck at Habrang coal mining in Samdrupcholing, Samdrupjongkhar want  rates increased or load reduced.

The State Mining Corporation Limited (SMCL) pays the truckers Nu 440.38 per hour.

A truck driver, Tshering Tobgay, said they get Nu 440.38 a hour and have to transport 27 truckloads for a kilometre distance and 10 truckloads until Tshangchuthama bridge a day.

“We get paid for 10 hours if we fulfil the target, but it is challenging for us to meet the target most of the time,” Tshering Tobgay said, adding that the officials divide it into hours and pay them if they do not meet the target.

He said the current rate is less because the fuel price has increased, adding that it is challenging for them as they have to fuel their trucks for more than Nu 2,000 every day.

Another truck driver, Lungjay Norbu, said the existing rate was approved when the fuel price was about Nu 43 per litre in 2016. “Although the fuel price has increased over the years, the rate is still not revised. It is high time  the SMCL revise and increase the rate as the fuel price has reached more than Nu 70 per litre. We spend more than Nu 2,000 for the fuel every day.”

He said they expect about Nu 550 per hour as they face challenges fueling and maintaining their trucks with the existing rate.

“It would also help us if the SMCL could reduce the number of truckloads to about 20 a day from 27,” Lungjay Norbu said.

Truckers said that they recently submitted a letter to the SMCL.

They said the SMCL increases the rate when the fuel price increases and decreases when the fuel price drops for the truckers at Khothakpa in Pemagatshel. “But it’s different here as there is no increment in the rate for so long.”

Drivers said the dust has also been one of the challenges for them as the officials do not water on time.

SMCL’s chief executive officer (CEO), Kezang Jamtsho, said the current rate was the contractors’ quoted rate which the board endorsed.

He said that since the truckers were given the work directly, he would meet the truckers, adding that they have to pay three percent commission to the contractor and two percent TDS tax.

“But we do not cut that percent, which means the rate has increased by five percent. To increase or decrease the rate, since the overall amount for trucks is high, the SMCL would have to call for a quotation, which has to be endorsed by the Board,” the CEO said.

Kezang Jamtsho said that only the legal transport firms would be allowed to bid once the quotation is called and not individual truckers. “We are worried they would lose their work if we call for a quotation.”

“It would be challenging for the truckers as they would have to work under the successful transport company, giving them the commission,” Kezang Jamtsho said.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

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Drinking water problem in Gelephu town

Tue, 08/31/2021 - 11:21

Thromde to complete RCC wall construction to secure the treatment plant

Nima | Gelephu

With more than 80 percent of the people in Gelephu Thromde depending on the Maochhu water treatment plant for drinking water, any damage to the treatment plant causes water shortages in the town.

This has become a serious seasonal problem.

Residents said that the people and thromde were aware of the problem but there were no solutions to secure the water supply when the treatment plant is damaged.

A businessman from Gelephu said that the thromde and people residing in the town should have been better prepared.

“ We know this would happen in monsoon season but there is no solution to this decades-old problem. We should have explored other ways to supply water beforehand,” he said.

The people in the core town areas get water supply only for 15 to 30 minutes in the morning and evening. Running restaurants and providing hygienic service to the people has become challenging.

The hotel owners drive until Zomlingthang in Gelephu gewog, over 5 kilometers away from the town, to fetch drinking water. Some residents have resorted to buying mineral water.

A restaurant owner, Kabita Pradhan, said that it is important to have an alternative water source, especially during monsoon. “The treatment pipelines get washed away every summer. Climatic condition is expected to worsen and we should be better prepared.”

She added that it was difficult to follow Covid-19 safety protocols when there were limited supplies of water. “Customers don’t come and keeping the restrooms clean is a problem.”

Business communities said that the thromde should strengthen the mitigation plans at the Maochuu water treatment plant and come up with better storage tanks.

Gelephu thromde is managing the water supply in the town using tankers hired from private construction firms and Gelephu airport, bore wells, and from Passangchhu that has improved connection at the source, according to Gelephu Thrompon, Tshering Norbu.

He said that the damage at the plant could have been protected if the reinforced wall (RCC) upstream near Shetikhari and Maochhu confluence was completed last summer.

“The treatment plant won’t have been damaged. We could also have secured the Bhutan football federation’s football pitch. We will be able to assess the damage only after the river subsides,” he said.

He added that the treatment plant at Maochhu is a reliable source safe for unexpected floods during summer.

“The treatment plant would be secured after we complete building the RCC wall upstream. We have approved Nu 10 million for the wall,” said the Thrompon.

Thromde supplies over 2000 litres of water to quarantine hotels using tankers. But, the frequent breakdown of the tankers is hampering the service.

“Supplying water to the hotels with an overhead storage tank is challenging for the tankers without a pumping facility. There are no enough water tankers,” said the Thrompon.

The thromde is also working on the Balaychuu water project to secure the water supply for the residents in the future. The reliable supply line at Passangchhu could prevent acute water shortage, according to the thromde officials.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

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 Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, Chief

Tue, 08/31/2021 - 11:20

 Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, Chief Operations Officer, Lt. General Batoo Tshering and Indian Ambassador to Bhutan, Ruchira Kamboj celebrate with team President XI who beat team Ambassador’s XI in a friendly cricket match organised as part of the 75th Independence Day of India celebrations.

President’s XI beat the Ambassador’s XI by almost 75 runs to lift the “India at 75 Cricket Cup,” this year’s theme of the Bhutan-India Friendship Cricket Series launched yesterday. The Series will be an annual event to foster people-people ties between the two countries.

Fair recruitment procedures important

Tue, 08/31/2021 - 11:20

The country’s only broadcast media has been in the news several times after its employees took the company to court for alleged management lapses. The company often lost cases for not following labour laws and rules.

The recent High Court judgment that upheld Trongsa dzongkhag court’s verdict and ordered Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) to recruit an applicant as Dzongkha producer and anchor is also a case of lapses in management and recruitment process.

The court judgments are rendered at a time when allegations of manipulation, nepotism, and favouritism in the recruitment process, especially in corporations and state owned enterprises are rife among jobseekers. It also comes at a time when young and enthusiastic graduates are looking for jobs and job openings are few.

Transparency in the hiring process is, therefore, crucial. Creating mistrust among the growing jobseekers is not helping when jobseekers are desperate to land a job and start a career. The criteria is clear. Selection should be based on competency.

In the BBS case, the applicant alleged the management of manipulating the interview results and not recruiting him although he was the “standby candidate” after one of the selected candidates withdrew. BBS management, on the other hand, alleged the applicant of dropping names and resorting to fraudulent practices.

For the courts, it was straightforward – a case of unfair recruitment process. The message is clear. If the applicant used some fraudulent practices to get the job, it was the management’s responsibility to ensure they do not entertain such cases. Any name-droppings should not affect the management’s decision.

The applicant’s wrong will not right the wrongs of BBS. His wrong cannot be used to violate recruitment and selection regulation of the labour ministry and the company’s own service rules. If the applicant dropped names and tried to manipulate the interviewers, it is a matter of serious concern. It should be reported to relevant organisations. Employers should not tolerate such practices.

This case is not an isolated case. It happens or jobseekers are convinced that there is no fair practice in the recruitment process across many organisations.  It is a reminder for  agencies or organisations that jobseekers would demand and question recruitment procedures, especially if they suspect nepotism or favoritism.

BBS like any other media plays an important role in providing information to the people. As the national broadcaster, it promotes and maintains national culture and preserves national identity. It should not be seen as a company that exercises nepotism and favouritism.

The public must not worry. This case has nothing to do with BBS in its functioning as a media house. It’s purely a case of management issue and not an editorial or journalism issue.

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Situation on border improves, Govt. revises Covid-19 protocols

Tue, 08/31/2021 - 11:19

Staff Reporter  

The government yesterday announced a revision of the Covid-19 safety protocols for inbound travellers, business opening hours, and sporting activities with immediate effect.

The three-week mandatory quarantine period will be reduced to two weeks for inbound international travellers who have proof of full vaccination. Those who have not taken the vaccination or got incomplete vaccination have to observe the 21-day mandatory quarantine.

A press release from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) stated that the health ministry has been advised to re-design and decide the testing strategy to heightened health surveillance during the two weeks in the quarantine. The surveillance team has also been advised to devise the testing pattern and facilitate the exit of those who have completed two weeks quarantine, if eligible. The team would devise an effective testing pattern and facilitate an exit of individuals who complete two weeks quarantine, after the validation of the authenticity of vaccination status.

The existing business operation time is also extended from 9pm to 10pm for low-risk areas and from 8pm to 9pm in high-risk areas. The business outlets have to maintain the highest level of Covid-19 protocols. “Everyone must practice the crowd size of 25 or 50 percent, whichever is minimum.”

“All indoor and outdoor sports will be allowed in full strength throughout the country. Tournaments and matches are allowed without spectators but those in the high-risk areas will require clearance from local task forces,” the press release stated.

Organisers have to ensure all Covid-19 norms and dissuade any sort of gathering of non-players in the vicinity at all times.

“Match organisers are to confirm vaccination status of the players and disallow participation of those who have not taken the vaccine despite being eligible. It is only reasonable and professional to do so, given the risks involved for the individual as well as other players,” the press release stated.

Relaxations would be further reviewed and considered upon the completion of vaccination of children from 12 to 17 years, which is due by mid-September.

“In the event of any indication of local transmission, these changes in COVID-19 protocols will be immediately withdrawn,” the press release stated. “It is important to note that we are taking measured, conservative steps without compromising the benefits we have accrued until now to secure our nation from the pandemic.”

It has been two weeks since the last outbreak in the communities of Phuentsholing and Samtse. Moreover, close to 8,000 tests carried out in Phuentsholing alone in the past 15 days did not reveal any positive case in the community. A few that were reported were either travellers or primary contacts in the quarantine centres.

So far, according to the PMO, 65 percent of the total population have completed their vaccination and 76.5 percent of the total population have received the first dose. In the last one month, 79,332 tests have been conducted across the nation, which includes the enhanced surveillance of frontliners and students.

The PMO stated that the changes are being introduced at a time when some countries are imposing more restrictions amid the increasing spread of the disease. “We are able to do so with due veneration to His Majesty’s leadership and concerted efforts of all frontline workers and the solidarity of the people of Bhutan.”

“Here, we also thank all those who came forward to make the nationwide vaccination campaigns a success and well-wishers who were part of Bhutan’s Covid-19 prevention efforts. As we intensify the surveillance and continue to monitor the situation closely, we urge everyone to observe basic Covid-19 health instructions of wearing masks, hand washing and avoiding crowds with sincerity and diligence.”

It stated that with the emergence of newer viral variants, each more aggressive than the other, this is not the time to let down the guard. “Please take care of yourself and your loved ones.”

Meanwhile, a person who travelled to Thimphu from a high-risk area tested positive to Covid-19 on the last day of his seven-day quarantine yesterday.

Observers said that while it might be expensive and tiring on those travelling out of high-risk areas, such measures remain necessary given that the risks still remain high.

Edited by Tshering Palden

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Picture story

Mon, 08/30/2021 - 11:30

 To improve reliability and efficiency of urban transport, the city bus service under Thimphu Thromde has bought 27 new buses. They left Phuentsholing for Thimphu yesterday. 

Newly elected office bearers to pursue BCCI’s legal status 

Mon, 08/30/2021 - 11:29

MB Subba

The newly elected president and vice presidents of Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) have pledged to strengthen the organisation and pursue its legal status, which has impeded its growth.

The newly elected president of BCCI, Tandin Wangchuk, said the chamber had inconveniences dealing with organisations outside the country due to the lack of its legal status.

The umbrella organisation of the country’s private sector also needed to make it better recognized in society, as many people in the private sector did not take its membership.

The issue of the legality of the chamber as an organisation was also highlighted in the performance audit report covering the period from January 2013 to December 2017.

In absence of a legal basis, questions on the legality of documents and MoUs signed by BCCI with entities outside the country were raised. The report found that there was no clear legal mandate and legitimacy for its operation.

The office bearers were elected on August 27 in Thimphu.

He said that much needed to be done to help the businesses that have been affected by the pandemic and that he would push for policy reforms for the private sector.

“BCCI will also create awareness among businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs about various fiscal schemes such as the priority sector lending (PSL),” he said.

The BCCI, he said, would also establish a one-stop shop that will provide business-related services to its members in Thimphu. “That one-stop shop will do the follow up works on behalf of the members if they send the documents,” he said, adding that people from dzongkhags will not have to come to Thimphu.

Tandin Wanchuk also said that many people did not recognise the BCCI due to the lack of its legal status.

One of the vice presidents, Kamal Pradhan, from Gelephu said that the chamber would work towards bringing more people from the private sector on board. He said that all the people in the private sector needed to work together to unleash the potential of the private sector and enhance the significance of BCCI.

The vice president said that the cottage and small industries (CSIs) were not performing well although they were one of the major drivers of the economy.

The other vice president, Ugyen Dorji, from Bumthang said that the chamber needed better support from the government on the policy front to improve the private sector.

“We (BCCI) are sometimes used as a tool and shield,” he said, explaining that the government had used the chamber to suit its needs. “We want to work as a team for the benefit of the private sector.”

The president and vice presidents are highly contested posts although they do not get salaries. However, a BCCI member said that the office bearers could make significant contributions to policies for the private sector.

The BCCI was established under the Royal Command of His Majesty the King in 1980 and is a non-profit organization consisting of members from the business community, and is the apex body of the private sector.

Edited by Tshering Palden

Sorig Zhiney and Luejong for well-being of those with disabilities

Mon, 08/30/2021 - 11:28

Yangyel Lhaden

To help deal with mental health issues, 15 persons with blindness were given a three-day training at the Department of Traditional Medicine Services (DTMS) last week. 

Sorig Zhiney and Luejong is a mindfulness and yoga practice based on the Bhutanese traditional medicine system, Sowa Rigpa, the ancient science of healing based on Buddhist philosophy and psychology.

DTMS Chief Programme Officer, Dorji Tshering said that Sorig Zhiney and Luejong was taught to persons with disabilities because according to scientific evidence persons with disabilities were five times more likely to suffer from mental illness. 

He said after discussing the training and its benefits, the Disabled People’s Organisation of Bhutan (DPOB) was willing to try Sorig Zhiney and Luejong.

An official with DPOB said for the trial they chose persons with blindness because it was less challenging than other disabilities. “We are looking forward to training persons with hearing loss but it will all depend on budget and feedback from participants.”

Dorji Tshering said that the effectiveness of the training would solely depend on how the participants take it forward. 

Drungtsho Nima Dema with National Traditional Medicine Hospital said that of 32 steps of Sorig Zhiney and Luejong 14 steps were taught to them. “We only taught those steps which are easier  for them to perform.”   

Initially, it worried her about how she would be able to train them. “But it was not difficult  as they were attentive and quick learners.”

A participant, Dorji Wangmo said that her body felt light and that she became happier after completing the training. “While I perform steps of Sorig Zhiney and Luejong I feel my problems do not exist.” 

Another participant, Dorji said to perform exercise he needed guidance which was why he had never performed exercise. “I’m happy to take part in such training that is helpful to both my physical and mental wellbeing.” 

Dorji Tshering said that mental health was important which was why Sorig Wellness and Spiritual Health Promotion Division (SWSHPD) was reaching out the mindfulness and yoga in the Buddhist context to those vulnerable individuals.

The division has also trained front liners, counsellors, and prison guards in sorig zhiney to teach their clients and prisoners. 

Dorji Tshering said that when the situation improved, they would train prisoners in prisons across the country.

Menpa Lungten Wangdi with the Gidakom hospital, who is a trainer for Sorig Zhiney and Luejong, said that he has started teaching Sorig Zhiney and Luejong to Tuberculosis patients in Gidakom hospital as patients are exposed to prolonged duration of isolation.

Edited by Tshering Palden

Lone industrial gas plant in Gelephu struggles to sustain

Mon, 08/30/2021 - 11:28

Nima | Gelephu 

The lone medical and industrial gas factory in Gelephu with the capacity to produce 150 cylinders of gas in a day is producing only about 45 cylinders for the lack of market in the country.

The oxygen gas plant is on the brink of closure.

With industries choosing imported gas, the factory had been running under loss since its operation in 2019.

However, with the change in procurement procedures, the factory could supply cylinders to Gelephu Central Regional Referral Hospital and workshops in the industrial service centre today.

The factory also supplies cylinders to nearby workshops in Tsirang, Dagana, Zhemgang, Nganglam, and also to Punatshangchu Hydropower Projects that procures almost 25 percent of the total gas produced.

The owner of the plant, Chencho Gyeltshen, said many established industries and projects in the country continue to choose imported gas.

He said that the procurement system at Druk Green Power Corporation, a potential market for the factory, was still not viable for the plant to take part in its tender and quotation.

“We have to bid our rate to that of plants in Phuentsholing. It is not possible considering the cost of transportation. It would help if they call the quotation as per the rate in the place of delivery,” Chencho Gyeltshen said.

He added that the competition for the domestic supply also comes from neighbouring Indian factories. “Dungsam Cement Corporation Ltd (DCCL) has a supplier from Bongaigaon in Assam supplying industrial gas.”

He said it would be better if a separate tender could be called for regional and local suppliers. “It is also not encouraging to see our firms choose imported gas when it’s available in the country.”

The owner said a Ferrosilicon company from Samdrupjongkhar bought gas from the plant during the lockdown but stopped after the gates were open because of the transportation cost.

“The cost of the cylinder was much cheaper here. The oxygen cylinder crisis in India has shot up the price,” he said. “It is important to support small firms like ours.”

He said big industries could opt for international suppliers only if domestic plants can’t meet the demand.

Chencho Gyeltshen also said the slow growth of Jigmeling industrial estate and the workshops working in reduced capacity during the pandemic has worsened the factory’s demand.

The plant expects to run at least at 80 percent capacity and go on to reduce the cost of production further with the support from bigger industries and projects in the country.

The company’s plan to partner with the Bhutan Hydropower Services Ltd (BHSL) in Jigmeling could not materialise after the pandemic sealed the border and the factory couldn’t bring the technical expert to finalise the plan.

Chencho Gyeltshen said that BHSL is one of the highest consumers of industrial gases in the region.

“We have been running the plant on loss for the past two years. Other businesses are sustaining the plant. The electricity bill comes close to Nu 200,000 and there is staff salary to meet,” he said.

The plant would be run in full capacity once the partnership with BHSL materialises. The gas plant could not sell more than 700 cylinders in a month to date.

Edited by Tashi Dema

High Court upholds lower court judgment on BBS recruitment case

Mon, 08/30/2021 - 11:27

… orders BBS to recruit the plaintiff 

Thinley Namgay 

The High Court (HC) upheld the judgement of Trongsa dzongkhag’s court and ordered Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) to recruit the plaintiff as Dzongkha producer and anchor.

HC passed the judgment on August 27.

The plaintiff filed the case against BBS on June 12, 2019, in Trongsa dzongkhag court alleging BBS of manipulating the result and not recruiting him although he was on standby.

BBS announced the vacancy for two people as Dzongkha producer and anchor on April 4, 2019. When the results were declared on April 26 that year, the plaintiff was in the third position. However, when the candidate who secured the first position withdrew his candidature, BBS refused to recruit the plaintiff.

Trongsa dzongkhag’s court on June 9 this year passed the judgment and ordered BBS to recruit the plaintiff as a Dzongkha producer and anchor from July 1.

HC’s judgment stated that the plaintiff secured first in written exam, fourth in feasibility exam, and fifth in the oral test.

It stated that after one candidate withdrew, BBS should recruit the candidate in the third position as per section 27 of the labour ministry’s recruitment and selection regulation.

When BBS appealed to the HC, the management claimed that the plaintiff cannot be recruited as he was involved in fraudulent practices before the final result was declared.

Both lower court and HC found the plaintiff did not use fraudulent practices as BBS management claimed. The court stated that the plaintiff had stood third based on his capability.

BBS can appeal to the Supreme Court within 10 days.

Edited by Tashi Dema

Litishong farmers begin winter chilli plantation

Mon, 08/30/2021 - 11:26

Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

Inspired by their harvest last year, Litishong farmers’ group in Tsakaling gewog, Mongar, started cultivating winter chilli.

The group with 17 members from Tormashong village is currently preparing to transplant chilli in 10 acres of land this year with nursery raised both in the poly tunnel as well as in the open field.

The nursery was raised in the first week of this month and around 15 percent of the seedlings are ready to transplant.

Members of the group said they are expecting to harvest their first off-season winter chilli yield by January and February next year.

The agriculture research and development centre (ARDC) in Wengkhar supported the group with 160 packets of mixed chilli seeds and five rolls each of mulching and poly plastic to the members.

The winter chilli cultivation is an annual collaborative work plan between the dzongkhag and ARDC. Gewog agriculture extension officials provide the technical support.

The gewog agriculture extension supervisor, Sonam Dekar, said about 10 metric tonnes of chilli would come to the market if the programme becomes successful.

Last year, the members leased land belonging to other villagers and planted winter chilli and other vegetables in about seven acres of land and sold more than three metric tonnes of hybrid chilli and over a tonne of mixed vegetables.

They extended the area to 10 acres this year and also used black mulching plastic to maintain temperature to boost swift harvest.

Sonam Dekar said the other advantages of mulching are disease and weed control and labour force reduction.

Edited by Tashi Dema

Picture story

Mon, 08/30/2021 - 11:26

Bhutan’s Paralympian, Gyeltshen broke his personal best record of 6.29 meters in shot put and set a new record of 6.31 meters in Japan yesterday. Photo: fgc_seisa

Druk Thimphu Boxing Championship saw 40 boxers 

Mon, 08/30/2021 - 11:26

Thinley Namgay 

Tashi Wangdi defeated Tashi Yoezer in the 52kg elite men’s category of the Druk Thimphu Boxing Championship finals at the Swimming Pool Complex in Thimphu yesterday.

Bhutan Boxing Federation’s Tashi Wangdi who is a four-time international medalist, won all three rounds yesterday.  The 25-year-old said that he could play only two matches as there were only four participants in his category.

He attributed his victory to his dedicated and regular practice. Tashi has been boxing for the past 14 years. “I am delighted. I didn’t face much difficulty in this competition. Such competition helps us gain more confidence. I will keep working hard.”

In the 60kg elite men’s category, Nima Dorji, 25, from Bhutan Boxing Federation defeated a much senior boxer, Sigyel Phub.

Nima Dorji said that he carefully studied his opponent before the fight. “Sigyel attacks directly, which is why I focused on a side-by-side play. I will now prepare for the international championship in China and Pakistan next year.”

In the 60kg youth men’s category, Sangay Thinley defeated Kinley 30-27. In the 69kg elite men’s category, Dorji Wangdi defeated Kinley Chimi Namgay 30-26.

Nima Dorji said that more youth should take up boxing and parents should support their children. “Young boxers will perform better internationally if they are trained well. Our coaches need to engage in advanced training.”

The two-day tournament saw 40 participants from Thimphu of which some 30 were students between 15 to 19 years. There were six women participants.

The second edition championship organised by Thimphu Boxing Club featured 10 matches during the finals yesterday. The first edition was held in 2018.

Organiser Sigyel Phub from the Thimphu Boxing Club said that boxing has gained popularity in the country since its introduction in 1984. “Boxing is one of the platforms to curb youth unemployment in the country.”

However, he said that a major challenge was organising such tournaments given the limited sponsorship and manpower at the club.

The gold medalists were awarded a cash prize of Nu 10,000. Silver and bronze medalists were awarded Nu 7,000 and Nu 4,000, respectively.

Edited by Tshering Palden

Fighting Covid-19 strong and tight

Mon, 08/30/2021 - 11:25

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering has said that with no new cases from the communities for the last two weeks and a successful vaccination campaign, which is underway, the government could expect some relaxation of Covid-19 protocols.

Given the hardships that the people, especially in the south of the country that shares a long border with India had to endure, the news of relaxation is welcome.

Lyonchhen said that the national task force members and health experts have decided that there could be certain relaxations in protocols such as the business operation timings and the 21-day mandatory quarantine for those entering the country from abroad.

These are all right but what we must not forget is that with such relaxations we could sidestep the important protocols that have kept us safe so far. That’s the danger that many countries are facing today.

But what happens elsewhere is not important—what our small decisions and actions could lead to is going to make a huge difference. As a small country with a small health system and professionals, we can’t afford to go easy with the virus that is mutating very fast.

Lyonchhen said that without any restrictions and protocols, if there is an outbreak in the communities, the number of infected people would multiply exponentially.

That is the main concern for Bhutan.

The people are yet to understand vaccination, immunity, and safety. Why? The information from the relevant authorities is not coming down to the people. The danger is that this could lead to many sheds of complications.

What is reassuring is that Lyonchhen said the government would not lift the protocols despite requests from the public in the interest of the public themselves. He explained that in absence of protocols, if an infected person from a high-risk area entered a lower risk area, the disease would spread exponentially within a day. That’s true, which is why adhering to health and movement protocols is absolutely necessary.

In many societies, the danger is shaping up in the most worrying face—complacency.

Covid-19 is not going to go away easily. People are talking about the possible lifestyle changes due to the pandemic. The change is already here; we have been coping with the many variants of the virus.

Standing protocols and measures must not be eased or ignored. Our focus has to be on keeping everything strong and tight. 

EVs with GBT charging standard not specified in bidding document

Mon, 08/30/2021 - 11:24

Tashi Dema

While many taxi drivers, who switched to electric vehicles (EV) through a government project wait for the vehicles to reach the country, few who got their vehicles also have to use conversion to recharge them. 

This is because the charging system of EV taxis they bought was not compatible with the charging stations installed through the project, raising brows of those following the EV project closely.

The vehicles have GBT charging stations, also known as Guobiao, which is a Chinese standard for EV battery charging.

A source said the standard bidding document for the government initiated three-year project called ‘Bhutan Sustainable Low Emission Urban Transport System’ requires electric vehicles with CHAdemo and combined charging station (CCS- Combo 2 inlet).

“Page 71 of the bidding document specifies the requirement of the DC fast charging vehicle inlet standard,” the source said. “The requirement is CCS Combo 2 inlet or CHAdemo inlet.”

The source said EVs with GBT charging standard do not qualify as taxis because of that requirement. “Chinese EVs with GBT standards are much cheaper than ones with international standards such as CCS and CHAdemo.”

Sources said that if the project officials allowed EVs with GBT charging stations against what is specified in the standard bidding document, other brand cars from India such as Mahindra should have also been allowed to participate.

“Mahindra could not qualify because it did not meet the driving range on a single charge requirement as specified in the bidding document, which was 200km or more on a single charge,” a source said.

The source also alleged the Chinese EVs with GBT charging standard do not have Worldwide Harmonised Light-Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) proving the 200km or more driving range on a single charge. “Hyundai and other EVs have the certificate.”

People familiar with EV issue alleged that allowing EVs with GBT charging standard and without 200km WLTP certificate violates the standard bidding document.

A former project official said what they tendered is different from the bidding document as an external consultant advised them not to limit the technology.

He claimed Kuensel referred to the document that was used as a reference and they changed the requirements after consultants specified the requirements.

He also said they changed vehicle specification after discussing thoroughly with the EV dealers.

But sources maintained tender documents cannot be changed after the tender.

A source said the charging standards have remained the same.

The former manager explained there are several charging standards like our mobile phones adopted by different manufacturers. “We cannot afford to install every standard that is available.”

He cited the example of how the government cannot install a Tesla computable charger just because a person bought a Tesla EV.  “We adopted the most commonly used chargers which are the CHAdemo and CCS. Those who go for other brands of EVs with their own charging standard must understand this before they buy.”

An official from the information and communications ministry said they did everything as per the bidding document.

He also cited the parameter on vehicle homologation and safety standard that specifies on GBT to justify GBT charging standard is allowed.

But it was learnt the homologation requirements simply state that the vehicles can be made in Europe, China, Korea, Japan, and India and certified by the certifying authorities there and it has nothing to do with the specific DC fast charging inlet standard.

Meanwhile, people are also questioning if it is really the pandemic that is hampering the import of EVs.

Only 14 of the 244 electric vehicles ordered through the project arrived in the country today.

Some taxi drivers, who had issues with their EVs said the vehicle is not pliable on our pothole-filled road.

“The battery got damaged because of the poor road condition and it is costing me more than Nu 200,000 to replace it,” a taxi driver said. “We believed in the project and it is coming at a huge cost.”

The official from the information and communications ministry, however, said EVs get damaged because of the carelessness of the drivers and not because of the road condition. “The physical parameters of the EVs are feasible in our topography.”

Information and Communications minister, Karma Donnen Wangdi, during the recent virtual meet the press session said the objective of the project is to facilitate the initial stage of low carbon transition in Bhutan’s urban transport system.

Through the project, about 300 fossil fuel taxis will be replaced with electric vehicles to annually reduce 43,000 tonnes of carbondioxide emission in the country. “It will also reduce the fiscal deficit by reducing dependency on fossil fuel.”

He said the pandemic had delayed the project implementation, particularly because of the vessel schedule limitations imposed by the national and international Covid-19 protocols.

Focus point

Sat, 08/28/2021 - 12:36