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Thousands of migrants gather at US-Mexico border crossing

bbc - 3 hours 57 minགི་ཧེ་མ།
At least 10,000 people are camped under the bridge at the US-Mexico border, in poor conditions.

Pembrokeshire hotel slated for £200 fee to deter instagrammers

bbc - 4 hours 24 minགི་ཧེ་མ།
Owner of the Druidstone Hotel says the clifftop bar was overrun by tourists wanting to see the sunset.

NFL: 'The kid's got skills' - Jason & Osi analyse rookie quarterback Mac Jones

bbc - 5 hours 31 minགི་ཧེ་མ།
Jason Bell and Osi Umenyiora analyse New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones after an impressive debut against the Miami Dolphins in the NFL.

Australia beat South Africa again to revive Rugby Championship hopes

bbc - 6 hours 2 minགི་ཧེ་མ།
Australia secure their second successive win over world champions South Africa in the Rugby Championship.

Covid passes: Relief and concern at Wales announcement

bbc - 6 hours 4 minགི་ཧེ་མ།
Club owners fear passes may harm Christmas trade, but those at clinical risk say they feel comforted.

Afghanistan: Girls excluded as Afghan secondary schools reopen

bbc - 6 hours 51 minགི་ཧེ་མ།
"Everything looks very dark," a schoolgirl tells the BBC as schools reopen for boys but not girls.

Red Bull in trademark dispute with English gin firm Bullards

bbc - 8 hours 19 minགི་ཧེ་མ།
The Austrian energy drink company is pursuing a legal challenge over the use of word "bull".

Focus point

Kuensel Feed - 8 hours 37 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

Govt has yet to clear cabbage buyback payment

Kuensel Feed - 8 hours 38 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

…farmers say delay in payment is frustrating

Phub Dem 

More than 100 farmers in Naja and Dogar gewogs of Paro still await payment for the cabbage they sold to the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC) in July of this year.

DAMC bought the cabbage from the farmers as an interim measure before the Food Corporation of Bhutan began buying the produce.

According to Wanakha tshogpa Jamphel Dorji, farmers from the two chiwogs under Naja gewog, and some farmers from Dogar gewog, have not been paid yet. He said that it has been more than two months, and people have started posing questions to gewog officials.

Dorji said that some farmers have been paid, but many have yet to receive payment. “Farmers and local government officials have been following up, but many farmers still haven’t been paid.”

According to Dorji, DAMC officials said that they were waiting for a budget release from the finance ministry. The pending amount was to be disbursed soon afterwards, but there are farmers still awaiting payment.

Cabbage is the only source of income for most of the farmers. Jamphel Dorji said that the cabbage growers are facing significant challenges to make ends meet. “Some borrow money to meet urgent needs, promising to repay the debt as soon as DAMC pays them.”

Dorji said that although for many farmers, the anticipated payment is for only around 30 bags of cabbages, clearing the amount would help them.

Zhangko, a farmer from Wanakha, sold 60 bags of cabbage worth around Nu 35,000. He said he has been using social media to communicate with DAMC and gewog officials.

Zhangko said that the farmers have to repay the money they’ve borrowed, and the delay is causing substantial losses to the farmers in interest.

Another farmer from Zursuna, Lhab Tshering, said that DAMC collected about 5,000 bags of cabbages after farmers sought help from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests when they could not export their produce.

He said that farmers are disappointed with the delay in payment.

A DAMC official said the department was asked to collect cabbages before the FCB could step in. He stated that DAMC had a limited budget for the intervention, and the amount was exhausted within a few days.

According to the DAMC official, the department was then instructed to buy the produce back on credit. The interim measure reportedly concluded after two weeks. “The officials compiled and submitted the expenses incurred to the government to repay and cover the cost of the intervention.”

He further stated that the department has insufficient funds to clear the credit, and is waiting for the government to release the necessary amount. If DAMC receives the amount, he said, it will disburse payment immediately.

The official claimed that almost 95 percent of the cabbages were rotten at the collection centre, and those in sellable condition were exported.

“We, as the buyer, never got paid the full amount as the produce rotted on the way and couldn’t be sold. It was not an effective measure,” he said.

DAMC reportedly accrued a credit of around Nu 12 million to establish collection points, payment to farmers, and transportation charges.

Edited by Tshering Palden

Double standards in operation of entertainment centres

Kuensel Feed - 8 hours 38 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

Thukten Zangpo

Despite the government’s directive not to open the entertainment centres, some entertainment centres are found operating.

This has confused many entertainment centre owners, who claimed that whether there are two laws in the country.

A karaoke bar owner said that entertainment hubs have been closed for more than a year and there is no news of opening it even after the second vaccination.

She said while most owners have sincerely complied with the policy, she found out that only small business owners were following it. “dusitD2 Yarkay organized disco party on August 12 and the hall was filled with people.”

She also said the same hotel organised another party last weekend. “But no one is monitoring. There is a disparity between low and high-income group.”

Another karaoke owner in Thimphu said that he attended disco parties at dusitD2 Yarkay twice and saw a huge crowd.

He said the party was organised every Saturday and it opens by 6pm and closes by 9pm. “There was no police or desuups patrolling when the party was ongoing.”

The vice president of Karaoke Association of Bhutan (KAB), Tshering Choden, said that when she inquired police patrolling team if entertainment centres are allowed to open or not, they told her they do not have any information.

The president of KAB, Namgyel Tshering, said they are waiting for the government’s directives to reopen. “Other businesses have returned to normal.”

He said the government directed the owners of the karaoke bars, drayangs or party halls to operate as a bar and not as they usually operate. “Some are operating and there are no directives from the government to open.”

He said that he has conveyed to the operators that the association will not consider if anyone breaches the protocol.

Namgyel Tshering said that Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has assured to allow karaoke bars to open after the second dose for children with additional two weeks of cooling period. “Owners will follow Covid-19 norms with 50 percent of customers’ capacity and use of sanitisers.”

dusitD2 Yarkay was not available for the comments.

Thimphu police said that karaoke bars and parties are not allowed, and police have not caught anyone operating while patrolling.

“We do get complaints of karaoke bars operating, but when we reach the centres, we find the usual bar scenario with soft music playing in the background,” a police officer said.

An official from PMO said police and desuups are patrolling and ensuring covid-19 norms are followed.

A press release from PMO dated August 30 states that the government will review the protocols to open the entertainment centres after vaccination of children in mid-September.  

It also states the government will reinforce the monitoring on the ground and ask the Ministry of Economic Affairs to deal with the business operators who breach the protocols.

“The threat from Covid-19 remains. With countries experiencing viral variance on one hand and breakthrough infections among vaccinated on the other, uncertainty looms. Now is time to be more careful and not compromise on basic compliance,” the official from the PMO said.

There are about 45 karaoke bars in Thimphu registered with the KAB.

Edited by Tashi Dema

Are the wetlands safe?

Kuensel Feed - 8 hours 39 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

A few years ago, villagers in Sangtana in Gangtey gewog complained about ABC Lodge discharging grey water directly into the wetland, threatening the black-necked cranes and their habitat.

A staff from the ABC Lodge said that the lodge had a separate tank for the grey water discharge and only kitchen water flowed into the dug hole before entering the wetland area.

Another farmer in the village complained that his neighbour’s grey water flow into the stream and then into the wetlands.

RSPN and CNR officials are studying the quality of water in the valley

Today, a drain meanders in between households in Sangtana village, then in front of the ABC Lodge, and into the wetland area.

A villager in Sangtana said that the wastewater flowing into the wetland and the stream was a concern for villagers because the stream flow near the four households.

He added that animals drink straight from the water. “The neighbour also rents the place and the grey water from the house directly flowed into the streams.”

Similarly, usage of pesticides and weedicides in potato cultivation in Gangtey and Phobjikha gewogs is worrying local leaders.

While complains and concerns among villagers and the local leaders continue, there is no study to prove if the settlement and their activities have an impact on the crane habitat.

However, with the on going study by Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) and the College of Natural Resources (CNR), much of these questions would be answered.

National Coordinator for BNC conservation Jigme Tshering said that the study would look at the streams and the composition from which it could be determined what was being dumped into the wetland.

Based on the data collected so far, CNR Dean Om Katel (PhD), said that the wetland area was significantly shrinking and the flow of the streams was lower in winter.

He added that the second conclusion from the study showed that the bamboos, which once grew in abundance in the area had decreased due to bamboo flowering, a phenomenon that occurred every 12 years.

“After the bamboo flowering happened, the whole valley’s ecosystem has changed; the bamboo shoots are coming up but there are livestock grazing in almost all the area.”

Om Katel said the growing concern was that weeds were replacing the empty spaces where once the bamboos grew.

He added that fewer bamboos meant less safety and food for the cranes, while the replacing weeds meant more habitats for wild animals such as wild dogs. “We will try to understand if the use of pesticides expedite growth of other invasive species. There are weeds which are growing profusely.”

The project will also look into means to remove these invasive species.

The interviews also showed that the farmers of the valley were of understanding that the increased population and vehicles in the valley had resulted in warmer weather and less snowfall.

Today, local leaders of Gangtey and Phobji gewogs are discouraging usage of pesticide and weedicide.

In Phobjikha, a good agriculture practice (GAP) involving usage of only recommended amount of chemicals in the fields is being tested by the local leaders.

A farmer in Gangtey, Tshering Wangchuk, said that usage of chemicals had decreased in the valley.

He added that in the past, on his one-acre land, around seven bags (50kg each) of fertilizers, weedicides and pesticides were used. “Now we use around four bags in one acre land.”

The study led by students and staff of CNR was supposed to begin in July last year. However, due to the pandemic, data collection began in April this year.

The study is expected to be completed by December this year.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

The ball is in the Judiciary- criminality of corporates

Kuensel Feed - 8 hours 41 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

Last week, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) charged the National Housing Development Corporation Limited (NHDCL) for criminal nuisance “after a rusted electric pole in Changjiji housing colony collapsed injuring a woman in April this year.” Questions are now raised if NHDCL loses, who would pay the damages and whether NHDCL as a corporation is accountable for such criminal offence. 

The general criminal justice system rule is that the only person who commits the crime is accountable and no other person.  Under this rule, only those who erected the pole can be prosecuted. However, Sections 508 to 512 of Penal Code of Bhutan (PCB), 2004 (Amendment 2011) provides an exception to the general rule. This secondary liability evolved under the “common law doctrine of agency, respondeat superior (let the master answer) and qui facit peralium facit per se (he who acts through other acts himself) – the responsibility of the superior for the acts of their subordinate”. This liability was mainly applied in civil suits, especially in accident cases.  But this principle has now extended in criminal laws in many countries including Bhutan.  

Section 508 to 512 of PCB deals mainly based on the employer-employee relationship where the employer is “made vicariously liable for the public nuisance committed by” their employee.  Describing this, Lord Chelmsford said, “It has long been established by law that a master is liable to third persons for any injury or damage done through the negligence or unskillfulness of a servant acting in his master’s employee. This is because that every act which is done by the servant in the course of his duty is regarded as done by his master’s order, and, consequently, it is the same as if it were master’s act.” 

In the current case, NHDCL as a master has the “deepest pockets” as a corporate entity, generating a profit from the activities of its employees. They should also bear any losses caused by those activities.” Recognizing the vicarious liability can “encourage accident prevention by giving an employer a financial interest in encouraging his employees to take care of the safety of others.”  Companies like NHDCL, BPC, and Telecom not only control their employees but also generate profit. They should also be held equally liable for the failures of the employees. 

In the current case, under Section 509 of PCB “whenever a duty to act is imposed by law upon a corporation or other business association, an agent of the corporation or other business association, who has primary responsibility for the discharge of the duty is legally accountable for a reckless omission to perform the duty to the same extent as if the duty were imposed by law directly upon the corporation, other business association, or the agent.” 

PCB not only empowers the court to require the corporation or business entities to pay damages, forfeit or revoke licenses or dissolve these companies but also has authority to imprison or impose fines on the members of the Board of Directors as if they have committed the crime directly. Thus, our municipalities, corporate bodies, and other businesses need to perform their duties diligently or else the public has the legal tool to force these bodies to perform their duty of care. Bhutanese people will now wait and see how our courts would interpret this principle as it has numerous future implications. Many accidents do happen in Bhutan for similar reasons. 

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

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

OCP advises consumers to ask for the money receipts

Kuensel Feed - 8 hours 41 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

Thukten Zangpo 

The Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) advises consumers to insist on money receipts or any other appropriate transaction document, including warranty documents, if warranty for the product is offered while purchasing goods.

This is essential to assess the veracity of the complaint about the purpose of mediation, dispute settlement and redressal of the consumers feel cheated or wronged by a business entity and wishes to seek grievance, notified the OCP under economic affairs ministry.

However, apart from the well-established businesses, retailers, paan shops, and restaurants and bars, among others, feel all these a big hassle.

Chief Programme Officer of OCP, Jigme Dorji, said that in absence of proof of transactions (money receipts), it is difficult to ascertain the issues in the event of an aggrieved consumer. “We also look into those issues where complainant do not have money receipts.”

He said the OCP insisted that every business entity provide money receipts and exercise due diligence to avoid any trade practices that are detrimental to the consumers.

“If a business entity does not give money receipts upon customer demand, he or she can call 1214,” said Jigme Dorji adding that the office gives warning in the first event.

As per the Consumer Protection Rules and Regulations, 2015, receipts should be issued by all service providers, manufacturers, and suppliers for purchases or transactions value exceeding Nu 100 unless waived by the consumer.

Any person who refuses to issue a receipt on demand by the consumer or for a transaction value exceeding Nu 100, unless waived by the consumer, shall be liable for a fine equivalent to 10 percent of the value of goods and services subject to a maximum of six month’s national minimum daily wage.

A shopkeeper of Buddha Sports, Saroj, said that he give the money receipts only if customers ask for it.

An owner of the Sangay Restaurant and Bar, Sangay Lhamo, said customers do not ask for the money receipts and so she does not maintains them. 

Tulu Ghalley, who runs a pan shop, said she had no idea about money receipt.

One of the consumers, Yenten, said he is less bothered about the money receipts while buying goods.

“It is not the only advantage to the consumers but also in government revenue generation through accountable business income tax, corporate income tax, and sales tax,” said Jigme Dorji, adding that the office is carrying out the market monitoring and promoting fair practice in the market.

OCP received 359 complaints from June 2020 to July 2021, of which 238 were general complaints and 128 were from individuals.

The penalty worth Nu 1.8 million (M) was imposed on the business entities and Nu 0.767M refunded to the customers.

Are traditional buildings in Mongar town safe?

Kuensel Feed - 8 hours 42 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

Two owners of a traditional house in Mongar town could not transfer the joint ownership to their children. 

This is because the dzongkhag engineering and human settlement (DEHS) sector did not issue occupancy certificate, a mandatory document for the land record section for property transaction.

The DEHS did not issue the occupancy certificate stating the building was ‘not fit’ for occupation.

However, the owners, who are cousins, claim that not issuing occupancy certificate when needed without prior notice of the building’s condition was unfair.

“My building is stable. There are tenants residing in it,” an owner, Pema Dorji said. “I don’t understand on what basis the DEHS sector assumed it is not fit for occupancy.”

He claimed he even requested a time bound occupancy certificate for transaction purpose only. “I have put in place safety measures like fire extinguishers. Rewiring is done and the walls are intact.”

Pema Dorji said if the transaction could be done at the earliest, the owners could discuss reconstruction.

But it was learnt they are not the only ones who did not avail occupancy certificate.

The dzongkhag administration has not issued occupancy certificate to most of the traditional building owners in the old town line but did not even notify the owners about it.

There are 11 traditional buildings in the old Mongar town amid the modern buildings. The buildings were constructed about four decades ago.

Some of the buildings are four storeys while most of them are three storeys.

While most building owners claimed the structures are maintained with re-electrification and inadequate number of fire extinguishers, most of the cylinders were empty.

With cracks on the walls and floors, some structures look vulnerable to disaster.

The roofs of the clustered structures also overlap making it risky for fire hazard.

The August 2016 fire razed three traditional houses, attics of two other buildings. A traditional house had to be dismantled to create a firebreak.

Building Inspectors (BI) with the DEHS sector, Wangchuk Rabten, said most of the traditional buildings in the town look unfit and the occupancy certificate was restricted.

He said there is no basis to draw judgment as they were constructed long time back with no proper drawings. “But dzongkhag cannot take risk either.”

He said they are planning to discuss internally to implement the rule uniformly.

According to Wangchuk Rabten, building owners were notified to install safety measures like fire extinguishers and proper electrification. “We are yet to follow it up.”

He claimed the dzongkhag has also issued notifications two to three times to two building owners outside the core town to demolish the unsafe structures.

Officials said issuance of occupancy certificates including concrete buildings and dismantling of unfit structures in the town was yet to be implemented.

However, unlike in some towns there is no restriction for the plot owners to dismantle their traditional structures for a concrete building.

Officials said the dzongkhag would allow new constructions.

While most of the building owners claimed their structures are stable, some are also planning to construct new building. “I am planning to construct a new one if the Covid-19 situation improves,” a traditional house owner said.

Edited by Tashi Dema

Pilgrimage for Peace: The Long Walk from India to Washington: Some Personal Reflections…

Kuensel Feed - 8 hours 43 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

It was an ordinary 1961-afternoon in Bangalore when two friends decided to go for a cup of coffee that led them to a discussion on the most monumental challenge facing the world then – nuclear weapons. Ninety-year old Nobel Laureate Lord Bertrand Russell had been imprisoned for protesting against the bomb and refusing to pay the fine ‘for disturbing the peace!’ 

Deeply unsettled by the incident, E P Menon and Satish Kumar resolved to do the craziest thing in the world – walk from Delhi to Washington to urge the nuclear powers to undertake a complete ban on nuclear weapons and work for peace instead!

It was not a day-dream!

Pilgrimage for Peace: The Long Walk from India to Washington (2021), written by devout Gandhian, founder of the iconic Schumacher College in Devon, England, and the foremost holistic education global thought-leader today, Shri Satish Kumar, is an incredible account of the 8000-mile peace-mission that would be forbidding beyond words for ordinary mortals. 

What is more? The pilgrims vowed not to touch money or carry any food with them throughout the entire journey. Acharya Vinobha Bhave had assured them that human goodwill and native generosity would see them through from end to end. 

Sitting in the comfort of my little room at Ngabiphu in Thimphu, secured from Covid-harm by the personal sacrifices of an extraordinary King, I am a virtual fellow-pilgrim of the passionate peace-missionaries who did the actual walk in calendar-time even as their journey seems like an unending chain of events unraveling in mythical time.  

With deep reverence for the pilgrims and their mission and a lump in my throat, I noted three moments of supreme poignancy that stand out in front of me as history comes alive in witness to a destination affirmed and a mission accomplished: 

On 1st June 1962, my friend E P Menon and I stood at Mahatma Gandhi’s grave in New Delhi. We had decided to walk to Moscow, Paris, London and finally to Washington DC, hoping to meet the ‘peace president’, John F Kennedy. 

And,

On 6th January [1964], we arrived in Washington and, instead of stopping at the White House, we walked on to Arlington Cemetery and concluded our long walk to Washington. It was a walk from Gandhi’s grave to Kennedy’s. 

Snow covered our shoulders as we lit a candle in Kennedy’s honour.

And then,

Finally, on 2nd October 1964, we arrived in Delhi and went to Gandhi’s grave at Rajghat. Again, a big crowd of Delhites joined us to celebrate the final moment of our 28-month-long journey of ‘Jai Jagat’, long live the world. 

What happens between these vital signposts is an epic exploration of many lands of incredible beauty and grandeur, great awakenings and enlightenment, ancient cultures and civilisations, breath-taking achievements in science and technology, and indeed a celebration of basic human goodness and fellowship. 

Pilgrimage for Peace defies all expectations of a regular chronology of episodes that occur in the long walk of two friends moved by events and motivated to make a difference. There is in this masterpiece of creative genius a celebration of what meets the eyes, the amazing spread of plains and the dizzying heights of mountain-passes, the din and bustle of the cities and the native serenity and simplicity of the countryside. 

There is more. Beyond observing the obvious and the objective realities of the many lands of the pilgrims’ travels, there is a deep appreciation of the subtle and the subjective, an apprehension of the ideal and the sublime, a hymn to the eternal and the integral, that constitute the outer as well as the inner life of nations that the pilgrims traverse.

As the travellers enter Pakistan, they immediately come face to face with ‘the land of hope and hospitality’. In Afghanistan, they experience the ‘magic and mystery of the landscape’ just as Iran is a ‘place of passion and poetry’ and the Soviet Union is synonymous with ‘power and promises’, as indeed, America is a land of ‘prejudice and prosperity’. 

As they pass through Poland, East Germany, West Germany, Belgium, France, and England before touching the shores of the United States, and as they pay their homage at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in ‘the home of humility’ on their way home, the pilgrims become part of the land as the land becomes part of them. To know is to become one.

A certain episode finds a permanent home in my mind. It was lunch-time at a tea factory in Georgia when two young women noticed the weary travellers passing by and invited them to their canteen and offered them tea and snacks. As their exchange obviously centred around the most urgent issue of the day, one of the curious women made a quick exit and reappeared as promptly with four packets of the quintessential Georgian Tea. Her plea was earnest.

 I want to give you these four packets of tea. But this is no ordinary tea, it is Peace Tea, and it is not for you…

I cannot go to Moscow and Washington, but you are going. I want you to be my messenger and deliver one packet of Peace Tea to our Premier in Kremlin, the second packet is for the president of France in the Palais de l’Elysee, the third packet is for the prime minister of Britain, and the fourth is for the president of the United States of America, in the White House.

And I have a message for them… My message is that if you ever get a mad thought of pressing the nuclear button, please stop for a moment and have a fresh cup of this Peace Tea! Then you will have a time to reflect that your nuclear bombs will not only kill combatant soldiers, but every man, woman and child who has done nothing to harm you. Not only that, your bombs will kill animals, burn forests, contaminate waters and obliterate all life. Therefore, think again, and don’t press the button.   

Equipped with the out-of-this-world plea of supreme significance from a deeply concerned fellow-human, and with renewed mission, the pilgrims are back on the road, greatly inspired and strongly validated to forge ahead. 

Despite their earnest attempts, the peace-missionaries were not able to deliver the Peace Tea to the intended recipients personally but the packets were carefully handed over to the representatives of the respective heads, together with the sender’s fervent message for the nuclear-masters. As the pilgrims were on the exceptional voyage aboard Queen Mary, news came that President Kennedy was assassinated. The giant ship became a mourning vessel in the wink of an eye.  

As one turns one irresistible page after another, it is impossible to miss the author’s profound understanding of the iconic figures of art, music, literature, architecture, philosophy, culture, history, religion, science, statesmanship, reform movements and historical landmarks in each country on their route. The pilgrims attend countless events and speak at myriad venues. They meet heads of state and bureaucrats, thought leaders and opinion-makers, firebrands and quiet revolutionaries, welcoming hosts with open arms, racist men seething with prejudice and an angry housewife upset with unannounced guests. 

Menon and Satish are confirmed teetotallers and uncompromising vegetarians but they are all praise and gratitude for every morsel of wholesome food and for each sip of nerve-soothing drink that their generous hosts serve to the special messengers of peace. The inner tension between the need to remain faithful to their vegetarian-vow and the imperative not to hurt the sentiments of gracious hosts often becomes palpable. But the guests negotiate their way wonderfully well.

As peace-marchers carrying eloquent banners and distributing leaflets urging a total ban on nuclear weapons and addressing animated crowds in all manner of venues, the pilgrims often countenance hostile reactions including two nights in a Paris prison. They often go to sleep on an empty stomach, under the blue dome of the sky, totally fagged out from long hours of walk in harsh conditions. However, encounter after encounter, their resolve to secure a ban on nuclear weapons and to advance the cause of peace remains undiminished. 

And, through these all, the abiding spirit is one of faith and of hope. The incredible generosity of people’s warmth and hospitality and unconditional love in strange places heal all wounds and relieve all pain and reinforce their belief in the basic goodness of humanity. Even when their stay with the host-families extends way beyond their plan, they are never a ‘pest’!

Before leaving America, the peace-pilgrims visit the grave of Chief Seattle to pay their tribute to the son of the soil who deciphered the most sacred link between Man and Nature. The 13th US President, Millard Fillmore, had wanted to buy land from the natives. As they stand in solemn prayer, Chief Seattle’s letter of 1852 addressed to the President returns with unforgiving chastisement to human arrogance and greed:  

The idea to buy land is strange to us. How can you buy or sell the sky? Humans do not own the freshness of the air and sparkle of the water. The land does not belong to us, we belong to the land. All things are connected like the blood that unites the family. All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the humans. Human kind has not woven the web of life, we are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web of life, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the children of the Earth. We are part of the land and the land is part of us. The deer, the horse, the great eagle are our brothers and sisters. How can we sell them to you? 

Unmitigated selfishness and indulgence, unconscionable abuse of Mother Nature and their inescapable consequences highlighted in the recent IPCC Report on Climate Change mark the grim distance that our specie has travelled from the Truth that Chief Seattle saw so clearly.

When E P Menon and Satish Kumar undertook their peace-walk, there were only four nuclear-armed nations in the world. Today, there are many. In a supreme irony of our time, some of the countries that the pilgrims adored in their travels have turned into killing fields of unimaginable chaos and suffering.

But, the impossible has been accomplished – by real men in flesh and blood, walking on their own feet! Pilgrimage for Peace is hitched to the highest order of human commitment to advance the cause of the most fundamental imperative for human flourishing and authentic progress in the world – peace. 

The peace-pilgrims lived out in real time the eternal message of Martin Luther King Jr.:  It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. 

Pilgrimage for Peace is a rare testament of human endurance, a sacred tribute to the most fundamental humanity of all men, women and children beyond local specificities and historical accidents, and indeed a celebration of the basic goodness of human beings across time and space.  

Here is an encyclopedia of the collective history of many lands treasured in haunting expressions of human creativity captured by an awakened mind that registers the most subtle impulses of the Earth even as it affirms the obvious and the workaday. The theme is all-embracing, the language is impeccable, and the call issues forth right from the soul.

That somebody should undertake an 8000-mile peace-walk, sans money, sans personal resources, equipped only with their unflinching resolve, and accomplish what clearly seems impossible writes an indelible chapter in the history of the world. 

Contributed by 

Thakur S Powdyel, 

former Minister of Education

Bhutan’s journey to space

Kuensel Feed - 8 hours 44 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

Yangyel Lhaden

Space science has advanced so much since the former Soviet’s named Sputnik. Space has today become widely accessible. Building a satellite is no more rocket science.

Bhutan too is building its own satellite.

To most Bhutanese satellite and space were always what geeks at NASA and ISRO did and do. The fact is, with cost of building satellites becoming cheaper, even an undergraduate can build a satellite today.

The space programme in the country began with the vision of His Majesty The King.

Bhutan-1 country’s first satellite, an educational CubeSat satellite was launched in space on August 10, 2019 by four engineers with the Department of Information Technology (DITT)  as part of their master’s degree in Japan under BIRDS-2 project.

This is Bhutan’s second venture into space.

In the Ministry of Information and Communications’ compound, a board fixed with many small components and colourful wires connect to each other in the shape of an arch.

Kiran Kumar Pradhan, deputy executive engineer with DITT, says it is the first prototype of the joint satellite’s payload, called breadboard model. “ The first prototype is a success.”

Payload is what performs the function desired by the satellite. For the joint satellite programme with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Bhutanese are building secondary payload called text message repeating payload, operating in amateur frequency band. Simply put, this allows communication with the satellite once in space from ground station on earth.

The joint satellite of 30 cubic centimetres weighing about 15kg will take pictures of earth and allow wireless communication. The satellite will rove over Bhutan at least two or three times a day.

Deputy executive engineers Cheki Dorji and Karma Yuden, a senior ICT officer, including Kiran are developing the payload of joint satellite with ISRO-India. A lecturer from College of Science and Technology was also involved in the initial stage.

What does it take to build a satellite?

Kiran said one could procure digital components from DigiKey Electronics, a shopping platform for electoral parts, and exploring the internet was enough to learn and have first hands-on experience in building a satellite. “ We are also in constant touch with ISRO and our Professors in Japan.”

Getting to space is an interdisciplinary job and it requires people with sound knowledge in Economics, Mathematics and Biology, among others.

Karma Yuden has a degree in electronics and her knowledge comes handy in circuit building a satellite that consists of many electrical systems.

Cheki Dorji has a degree in civil engineering. Learning electronics was a challenge for him. He said compared with BHUTAN-1, building the payload with experience was much easier.

Is building a satellite really easy?

To assemble furniture with help of a manual and screw driver would work but to assemble the parts of satellite is a little more complicated. That’s the fact.

The design and components have to ensure it survives in space in extreme fluctuations in temperature, dust, oxygen-free zone, and zero gravity. Once a satellite is in space, it is a do or die.

The satellite has to undergo various stages of test before it is approved for use in space, but no matter how many times a satellite is tested it does not ensure 100 percent survival rate.

Testing increases the probability of the satellite’s survival and the satellite functions.

Prototype

After a design is approved, the first prototype is built to check whether the theoretical design actually works practically.

To call the first prototype a success, more than a month of testing is done by inducing space environment in terms of reducing signal strength with respect to space.

The team, when they can’t figure out what was wrong when circuits did not work, would explore internet, consult experts from ISRO and Professors in Japan. They would call for a break but would never give up.

The team is making sure their prototype integrates well with the other sub-systems of the satellite and also works well in space.

Cheki said Bhutan does not have a proper lab in Bhutan. “ Real testing in artificial space environment will begin in ISRO with our second prototype called engineering model.”

How a prototype is tested?

There are three boards and power is switched on, which passes 15 volt of energy. The first board receives 15 volts of energy and disseminate five-volt energy to the other two boards.

On the second board, there are three LED lights. Yellow LED light beacons at a certain interval, indicating the system is alive and working. When red LED blinks it means the system is transmitting signals and when green light blinks mean the system is receiving messages from the ground station.

Cheki Dorji said that the first prototype was a success. However, there is a long way to go.

It has been months since they developed the first prototype.

The team working on building the second prototype, called “engineering model” which requires fabrication that is not available in Bhutan.

The team is reviewing with ISRO to fabricate the engineering model.

If the testing of the engineering model is successful, then the same design will be replicated and named the flight model, which will go into the satellite.

Why venture into space?

The benefits of satellite information is limitless. It can study the quality of soil, type of vegetation, feasibility of building hydropower and weather forecast, among others.

One of the crucial satellite information which would help Bhutan is studying glaciers and the dangers of GLOF. There are about 700 glaciers in Bhutan.

Executive geologist with CSD, Phuntsho Tshering, said that it was crucial to study how glaciers are receding. “ If we have earth observation satellite of our own, we can study the glacier and their threats.”

CSD currently relies on free images from satellites to study glaciers. The latest study of glaciers was done between 2016 and 2018.

NCHM spends between USD 14,000 and USD 15,000 for satellite information. NCHM has set early warning system in three major river basins in Bhutan—Punatsangchu, Mangdechhu, and Chamkharchhu.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

More buses with modern amenities in Thimphu Thromde from November 

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Yangyel Lhaden 

Thimphu Thromde’s City Bus Services started testing the Global Positioning System (GPS) and audio notifications in its new buses last week.

The thromde added 27 new buses to its fleet on August 29. The buses are expected to enhance and improve the public transport service in the thromde. City Bus Services now has 68 buses.

To improve and revamp the current modality of City Bus Services, Thimphu Thromde’s geographic information system (GIS) team mapped the new routes, bus stops, and terminals identified through GIS-based street mapping.

The City Bus Services management is going to introduce a smart card system and an application called Gakyid Ride.

City Bus Service’s manager, Sangay Dorji, said that the new buses would be inaugurated in November. “During the trial in the next two months, we want to ensure the new buses work perfectly.”

He said the new buses were friendly for persons with disabilities as they have wheelchair ramps and an audio message system in Dzongkha, which would help persons with blindness know which stop they reached.

“A person coming to Thimphu for the first time will also know about bus stops through the audio notification,” he said.

Sangay Dorji said in the first phase of implementation of the study, a trunk route from Babesa to Pangrizampa in North Thimphu would be implemented where every 10 minutes a bus would reach a bus stop. A few subsidiary routes would also be implemented.

Some 10 subsidiary routes have been identified in places that are not connected by trunk routes. Sangay Dorji said the new subsidiary routes  introduced in the first phase included Kuensel Phodrang, Royal Thimphu College (RTC) and Yangchenphug Higher Secondary School.

He said according to GIS team’s study, about 100 buses would be required. “We cannot execute the whole plan at one go and it will be implemented in phases.”

Sangay Dorji said old city buses would be surrendered gradually and new city buses with smart card systems would be procured and GPS would be installed in buses.

The GIS team has also identified a bus terminal each at Dangrina in North Thimphu and RTC area in South Thimphu and City Bus Services office in the centre. Sangay Dorji said that gradually time would be saved as buses would not have to follow circular routes as they do today.

The City Bus Services plans to provide smart cards of four categories which would be introduced at concessional prices for persons with disabilities, students and senior citizens.

City bus fare ranges from Nu 10 and Nu 50. Persons with disabilities, students and senior citizens will get a discount of 20 percent, 30 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

Sangay Dorji said they were trying to keep the price of the smart cards below Nu 75. He said that the smart card was introduced to avoid revenue leakage and promote digital transactions.

For one-time users, temporary cards that would cost double the amount would be provided to encourage people to buy smart cards.

City Bus Services is also planning to buy Gakyid Ride application with support from UNDP.

He said the mobile application was developed by two young developers to track the buses through GPS. For example, he said, we have to only enter the bus stop and the application will show from where the bus is coming from and at what time.

“Our city bus services will become more reliable with the mobile application.”

With the purchase of the 27 buses, 30 drivers’ vacancies have been announced.  Only 19 candidates were shortlisted as it was difficult to get bus drivers as per the requirement of the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) regulations, which requires a three-year experience in heavy vehicles.

He said the management proposed doing away with the three-year experience requirement and allowing candidates to be trained in training institutes in heavy vehicles. “RSTA accepted our request.”

Sangay Dorji said an individual has to be a class 10 graduate to be a city bus driver. He said in collaboration with the labour ministry, 15 individuals in the first batch are expected to go for a six-month training course. “An introductory refreshers course on Bhutanese codes of conduct and etiquette (driglam namzha), communication skills, and how to assist persons with disabilities will be taught to drivers.”

Edited by Tshering Palden

Picture story

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Road Closure: The four-lane road between Zilukha Middle Secondary School and the Supreme Court junction will remain closed from 7am to 10pm until September 19.

The Buxa Durbar

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The story of how Bhutan received its subsidy in 1909 from the British 

“Soon after our arrival in Buxa, I received a letter from the Political Officer in Sikkim, Tibet and Bhutan informing that he proposed to visit our little station and hold a Durbar there in order to pay over a representative of the Bhutanese Government the annual subsidy of fifty thousand rupees.”  Major James Henry Gordon Casserly (1869-1947) received this letter from Sir Charles Bell (1870-1945). Stationed in Gangtok in Sikkim, the British Political Officer was making arrangement to pay the subsidy.

At the time, Major Casserly was stationed in the Buxa Duar. Better known in Bhutan as Pasakha not far from the present Phuentsholing, it was one of the 18 Duars or “gate” between the Indian plains and the mountains that Bhutan had to cede to the British in 1865. In return, Bhutan received an annual subsidy of fifty thousand rupees. 

The Major published Bell’s letter in his book, “Life in an Indian Outpost.”  Published in 1914, the book is based on the Major’s experiences in the little station at the gateway of Bhutan. The Major vividly describes his encounters and observations of political and social life in the remote outpost.

Back in the days, a Durbar was a reception held by an Indian prince or a British governor for the public. The Major said that while neither the Durbar nor the Envoy were significant in themselves, nonetheless he felt that with them, they were about to make history. 

In his book, Major Casserly wrote that Buxa was to rise to the dignity of a Durbar of its own. He said that the idea of the reception being honoured with the presence of the Envoy of a friendly state, was positively exciting.  For the reception, Bell wanted the Major to provide a Guard of Honour with 100 men. 

The Major

Born in Dublin, Ireland, Major Casseley served in the Indian Army. He graduated from the Trinity College in 1889. He joined the British Army where he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of the 4th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Shortly after, he travelled to India with the unit. In 1893 he was transferred to the Indian Army as a Lieutenant. 

After six years of service, on 10 October 1909 he was promoted to the rank of Major while Commandant of the Buxa outpost. He served as the keeper of the gate for 18 months from 1908 to 1910. He had 200 men under his command.

The Major had a camera and made good use of it. He generously includes some of his photos in his book. Amongst these, there is a formal group photo of the Buxa Durbar.

In 1909, the last payment of the annual subsidy was made in Buxa. From the book, we learn about the details of the transaction. The book talks about the Bhutan Agents. Stationed in Chunnabatti on the Buxa hill, the British government employed two natives of Darjeeling and tasked to help in transacting diplomatic affairs with Bhutan. 

According to the book, these two British subjects were officially styled as the Bhutan Agents. During the diplomatic transactions, they doubled up as interpreters.

The Major said that he met the two Agents and found that their knowledge of English and Hindi was not extensive. It was clear that the pair learnt the languages in a school in Darjeeling.  

The Major described the dress of the two Agents as a Tibetan type of garment. He noticed that unlike the other Bhutia from the neighboring hills stations, these two men wore a headgear which he described as being like a football cap. He noticed the gaily striped and undoubted football stockings that they wore.

The Buxa Durbar

Major Casserly gives a detailed account of the Durbar and the events leading up to and following it. He wrote that shortly after the receipt of Bell’s letter, one afternoon, one of the Bhutan Agents came to his bungalow informing about the arrival of the Bhutan government’s representative in Buxa. 

The Agent reported that the Bhutanese delegation was lodged in the Circuit House. The representative of the Bhutanese Government was the Deb Zimpon. 

The Major learnt that the leader was a member of the Supreme Council of Punakha. He was also the chamberlain of the Deb Raja. By then Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck was enthroned as the first king of Bhutan.  

No Bhutanese records have documented any details of the Deb Zimpon.  While the author is silent about the name of the Deb Zimpon, from other records we know he was called Kunzang Tshering.

Typical of a British Officer, the Major kept a record of all the details. We first learn that the Deb Zimpon was officially sent into the British territory annually to receive the subsidy and then hand it over to the King of Bhutan for disbursement.

The Major described the Deb Zimpon as an old gentleman who grinned feebly. Because he spoke only his native language, he relied on his interpreter for communication. The Deb Zimpon wore a cap and took it off politely when sat down. 

It seems that, like many of the privileged men of the time, the Deb Zimpon too carried a betel nut box. The Major described it as a metal box which he saw being removed from the breast pocket of the Deb Zimpon’s robe. He describes how his esteemed guest took the betel nut out of it and began to chew it.  What came as a further shock was when an attendant appeared holding a spittoon and immediately took up his position beside the Deb Zimpon. 

The book is one of the few records to describe how the annual subsidy was handed over to Bhutan. The Major writes that one day after the luncheon party he hosted for the Deb Zimpon a detachment of native police came from Alipur Duar escorting a train of coolies carrying a wooden box which contained the 50,000 rupees of the subsidy.  Once it reached Buxa, the Major received the box and kept it in his guard-room under a special sentry.

In addition to the house that the British Indian government provided for the Bhutanese envoy, the Deb Zimpon was given a sum of two thousand rupees (about 133 Pounds) for his expenses while he remained in India.  

The Major suspects that the Deb Zimpon saved most of the money. This is because he found that the Deb Zimpon lived chiefly on the contributions, voluntary or otherwise, provided by the local inhabitant residing in British territory. 

The  Dress

In his book, the Major described the dress of the both the Political Officer and the Deb Zimpon. Highlighting the differences, he said that while Bell wore a trim uniform, his officers wore scarlet tunics but both were outshone by the gaudier garbs of the “Asiatic”. 

According to the book, the Deb Zimpon wore flowing robes. The head clerk wore flowered black silk Chinese garb. The Sikkimese soldiers wore bright garments. Major said that the Bhutanese in their kimonos made a blaze of varied hues.

Along one side of the ground was the scarlet and blue line of the Guard of Honour, the yellow and gold puggris (turbans) of the native officers and the gold-threaded cummerbunds (waist sashes) of the sepoys shining in the brilliant sun. The Major photographed the men in their formal dress, including pictures in his book.

The Major’s record of the Buxa Durbar is probably the only record of its kind. Major Casserly describes that after all were seated, the Deb Zimpon produced a document accrediting him as the duly appointed envoy and representative of the Bhutan government to receive the subsidy. 

This document having been perused by the Political Officer and his head clerk and the official seals inspected, the boxes of money were formally handed over. 

The Major said that the usual procedure was to have one of these boxes opened and the contents counted, but the Deb Zimpon made an exception by accepting them as correct. 

The Deb Zimpon then ordered his escort to take charge of the boxes. They were then hoisted on the backs of porters who took them off to Chunabatti. 

In return, the Deb Zimpon distributed gifts to all the people at the Durbar. The Major said that they received basket of oranges and a package containing cheap native blankets worth a couple of shillings each. 

The Government of India had a rule that no civil or military officer in its service is to accept a present from natives. So, Bell’s clerks took the blankets. Afterwards they were sold and the proceeds credited to the Government. However, the Major was allowed to keep the oranges. The Durbar ended after the gifts were received.

The day after the Durbar, Bell left for Sikkim. The Deb Zimpon was expected to follow suit but he lingered on for a few days. This made Major wonder as the purpose of his visit was completed.  

As the Deb Zimpon Kunzang Tshering lingered on, Major James Henry Gordon Casserly met him often.  They had meals together, played archery and threw quoits, an ancient European game.

The 1909 Buxa Durbar was the last public reception held in the frontier town. The following year, the Treaty of Punakha was signed. The subsidy was increased from Rs. 50,000 to 100,000. It was paid to Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck at the Council in Punakha.

Thereafter, the Kalimpong Sub-Treasury Officer paid the subsidy to Gongzim Ugyen Dorji, at Kalimpong in India. The new arrangement saved the British state exchequer the cost of construction and upkeep of a house at Buxa for the Bhutan Envoy who came annually to receive the subsidy.

Contributed by 

Tshering Tashi

Sports facilities are becoming expensive

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Thinley Namgay

Unlike in the past, no sports ground in the capital is free for the public.

It started a few years back when Thimphu suddenly saw many mini football pitches, artificial football turfs, and basketball courts owned by private individuals.

People are primarily into football and basketball in Thimphu. Today, the capital has 15 mini football pitches, four artificial football turfs, and four basketball courts.

Some say that inclusive usage of sports facilities is missing in Bhutan and it could cause social disparity as the trend is shifting towards commercial sports where the less privileged don’t get an equal opportunity.

People express the need for greater collaboration between the relevant stakeholders such as the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC), the government, sports federations and associations, dzongkhags sports associations, and the Department of Youth and Sports (DYS) to address the issue.

As the parent organisation for the development of the sport, BOC has been helping sports federations, associations and dzongkhags sports associations to develop the infrastructure. But for sustainability, free offers are limited from all these sports organisations.

BOC’s head of sports research and development division, Namgay Wangchuk, said that the committee was concerned about the affordability. “Federations are charging minimal fees for the maintenance. BOC plans to build the sports infrastructure in the open space for free, but we don’t have land.”

He said that BOC doesn’t have the authority to regulate the price regarding the private grounds as it is private property.

An official from the DYS said that sports are for the holistic development of the children, physically, mentally, socially and emotionally. “It would be better if federations could provide an opportunity for the youth to use their facilities free of cost or at a discount rate. DYS has requested Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) to look into it.”

DYS official said that developing sports facilities is good, but we should equally concern about the underprivileged ones. “In Singapore, the government develop the sports facilities in school and let the public and youth use them.”

Currently, BFF is working on listing the less privileged youth who are interested in playing football.

BFF’s competition officer, Kinley Dorji, said that nine football clubs in the capital engage youth in football but not everyone gets the chance.

These clubs provide coaching during summer and winter break, where they charge Nu 800 to Nu 1,500 per child.

Kinley Dorji said the BFF would allocate the grounds and sports equipment to the under-privileged students. “BFF can’t give the opportunity at once for all. As a pilot phase, it will start from Thimphu. We would let them play in the weekends.”

Starting May this year, BFF has provided free grounds for women two hours a day.

Turf owners, in the meanwhile, are making a good income.

Bangdu Futsal official at Changbangdu said that the business was good, although it’s new. She said on weekdays, the charge is Nu 1,000 per hour during day and Nu 1,200 at night. On weekends and public holidays, the rate is Nu 1,200 per hour.

“Our main customers are students. With the completion of the toilet and shower room, we expect more players,” she said.

The Kay Dee Futsal’s official at Changzamtog charges Nu 1,200 per hour on weekdays and Nu 1,500 on weekends. “In the weekdays, at least six games are played. It’s more than seven on weekends.”

Sports enthusiasts are concerned about affordability.

Basketball enthusiasts, Tandin Om, said that she used to play basketball with her friends twice a week paying Nu 1,000 per game. Students and unemployed find it expensive.

“Most of the sports facilities are run by private sector solely to make money. The government should install free playing areas for a low and average group of people.”

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk

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