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དུས་མཐུན་བཟོ་ཡོད: 2 hours 41 min གི་ཧེ་མ།

Picture story

7 hours 8 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

  As a gesture of gratitude for opening the border gate, Jaigaon business community hosted a cultural event for Bhutanese officials on September 24. Representatives from Jaigaon Merchant’s Association, Jaigaon Hardware & Electrical Merchant’s Welfare Association, Jaigaon Transporters Welfare Association and Bengal Chemists & Druggists Association-Jaigaon Zone organised the programme. Bhutanese officials also thanked them for their continuous support and friendship.        

New labs for quality mushrooms, orchids

7 hours 8 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

Jigmi Wangdi

A mushroom spawn lab, and orchid micro-propagation lab were inaugurated at Serbithang, Thimphu on September 24.  Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor and Minister Counsellor, Head of Cooperation, European Union  Daniel Hachez inaugurated the facilities.

The new lab will develop pure cultures, develop mother culture, produce and supply mother spawn-to-spawn production unit at the National Mushroom Centre (NMC), regional units, and private spawn producers, produce and supply cultivation spawn with a focus on sawdust spawn for shiitake mushroom cultivation and conduct research and trials; and variety release, among others.

NMC Program Director Dawa Penjor said that the facility will go a long way in improving services to mushroom growers and encouraging new mushroom growers to make Bhutan self-sufficient in mushroom production.



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“With the organic brand, we are hopeful to find niche markets in countries like India and Thailand,” he said.

Dawa Penjor said that NMC has a variety of seeds but most farmers are more familiar with two kinds, which are normally planted on wood or in soil. “Farmers are more accustomed to planting these seeds as they know more about its production process and it is mostly what people buy,” he said.

The program Director added that farmers do not use new seeds as they are not familiar with how to produce them and even if they can produce the mushroom, most people do not buy them.



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According to Dawa Penjor, the structure will also serve as a centre to train numerous staff. “We train staff from other regional agriculture centres, extension officers and mushroom growers. We have recently started training for De-Suung Skilling Program and Skill4Life program.”

The construction of the lab, worth Nu 23.68 million, was delayed owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, a fund of Nu 2.49 Million was also given to procure lab equipment.

The NMC was founded in 1984.

Orchid Micro-Propagation Laboratory

The micro-propagation lab, built with EU support of Nu 5.831 million, located at the Royal Botanical Garden was established to incorporate mass propagation through the technique of micro-propagation of orchids.

Currently, some of the wild species of native orchids are threatened with over-harvesting and exploitation since they are considered a delicacy in Bhutanese cuisine. Some of the native orchid species are also under the IUCN red list category of ‘Critically Endangered’ such as the Paphiopedilum farrieanum (Lady Slipper orchid).



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The laboratory could produce thousands of seedlings from a single orchid seed pod without having to collect thousands of plants from the wild. The orchid seedlings produced will be distributed to the communities that want to do orchid farming and enhance their livelihoods. The seedlings will also be displayed and conserved at the Royal Botanical Garden for education and awareness.

Orchids have great potential in their commercial value. Orchids are sort after for their medicinal qualities and are used in cosmetics owing to their benefits in skin care. There are 14 species of orchid plants which are endemic to Bhutan.

Thai operators welcome Bhutan’s tourism policy

7 hours 9 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

Rinzin Wangchuk 

Many tour operators in Thailand sought clarification on the new tourism strategy and questioned the hike in the sustainable development fee (SDF) at a tourism promotion event in Bangkok.

The ambassador of Bhutan to Thailand, Kinzang Dorji, clarified that the new tourism policy and strategies will provide greater flexibility in planning and choice of services for visitors in place of the packaged tours under the earlier system of minimum daily package rate (MDPR).

Tour operators in Thailand have been organising and marketing Bhutan for many years to both domestic and foreign tourists.



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With the adoption of the Tourism Levy Act 2022 by the Parliament in June this year, the government removed MDPR, which included the royalty of USD 65, and introduced USD 200 SDF for each visitor per day.

“This system in place will also enable visitors to engage with their service providers directly and pay for their services accordingly providing new opportunities for service providers to offer innovative new products and programmes,” Ambassador Kinzang Dorji said. “Overall, this will enhance the travel experience of visitors and the service standards of the industry.”

Organised by the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Bangkok on September 23 following the official reopening of borders, the event was attended by more than 100 people working in Thailand Tourism Industry, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA), Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and airlines. “Perhaps, the event saw one of the biggest gatherings of tour operators in Bangkok for Bhutan,” an embassy official said.



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Ambassador said that tourism has been and will continue to be an important economic sector for Bhutan. He also said that the break caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has given time to examine the way Bhutan implemented its tourism policy of “high value, low volume” and find ways to revamp the sector in the best possible way.

Ambassador Kinzang Dorji said that Bhutan has been recognised as a ‘global hotspot, carbon negative country, pristine environment with over 70 percent forest cover, rich cultural heritage, unique national identity, beautiful snow-capped mountains, clear blue skies, clean rivers, beautiful lakes, governance based on Gross National Happiness (GNH) and regarded as number one travel destination for 2020 by the Lonely Planet.

“Yet, there are also undeniable issues and challenges such as; congestion and overconsumption, undue pressure on our resources and ecological systems impacting severely on our sustainability which is at the forefront of all our developmental agenda,” he said. “Therefore, the reforms we are taking today are conscious and deliberate considerations for Bhutan’s future and its future generations.”



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The ambassador said that Bhutan is looking forward to welcoming visitors from Thailand since Thailand is an important source market for Bhutan’s tourism industry and has been playing a pivotal role in the inbound tourism of Bhutan.

The average number of Thai tourists before the pandemic visiting Bhutan every year was about 4,000. “But most of tourists visiting Bhutan travel through or from Thailand,” Ambassador Kinzang Dorji told Kuensel.

He also unveiled the new Brand Bhutan which was inaugurated formally by Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering in Thimphu on September 22.

The ambassador highlighted that tourism is a strategic asset of the nation for preserving and enhancing Bhutan’s social, cultural, environmental,  and economic dimensions, and protecting the country’s cultural and natural assets.



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Ambassador Kinzang Dorji said that Thai tour operators were very positive as long as Bhutan could live up to their expectations in terms of providing services and facilities.

Meanwhile, of the 120 international visitors Bhutan received when it reopened its border on September 23, 34 foreigners arrived from Bangkok.

Dental department to shift to Taba 

7 hours 12 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

Nima Wangdi

The dental department of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) in Thimphu will shift to the Covid-19 hospital early next year.

Hospital officials said they are already working on relocating the department.

JDWNRH’s Director, Jigme Namgyel said the structure modification at Taba is underway as the hospital has to have a specific setting. The dental outpatient department services will be made available from there.

He said they are also exploring the feasibility of shifting more services to Taba as well. It is being done to make optimum use of the structures at Taba.



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“The present dental department space would be used for other services since the hospital is faced with space constraints,” Jigme Namgyel said.

The structures at Taba were used to keep Covid-19 patients during the peak of the pandemic. They are vacant today.

However, people say that the dental department shifting to Taba will be far, especially for those residing in Thimphu core town and South Thimphu.



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Dechen, a corporate employee, said that the JDWNRH was easily reachable from almost all places in Thimphu. But shifting it to Taba will be far and will become a burden for many patients.

Another resident said that it would be better if all required facilities are established at Taba hospital. He said that it would be a problem if patients had to keep running back and forth between JDWNRH and the Taba hospital for different tests and checkups required for dental services.

However, Jigme Namgyel said that all the required services would be installed at Taba. He said setting up the dental chairs is going to be difficult, as it requires expertise and experience.



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The government approved a total revised budget of Nu 188.971M (million) for the acquisition of the national Covid-19 hospital at Taba, which is a private property with the payment of additional items amounting to Nu 14.924M.

The Cabinet also directed MoF to initiate the valuation of Nima High School and submit the report to the Cabinet and expedite the acquisition of the property of Kelki High School at Kanglung and Wangsha School at Phaduna.

Martshala GC road falls into disrepair

7 hours 13 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

Kelzang Wangchuk

The 13-km Martshala gewog connectivity (GC) road in Samdrupjongkhar is in poor condition and is in dire need of maintenance, commuters said.

The GC road that connects the gewog administration with the Samdrupchoeling drungkhag administration was blacktopped in 2016. Since then, it has not been maintained.

A villager from Martshala said that the GC road was important for villagers because it is the only conduit for their farm produce to the market. “Transportation charges increase when the condition of the road is bad.”



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A driver, Kinley, said that the potholes in every few metres of the stretch were making it difficult for small vehicles to ply the road.

“Who is going to repair the road? The gewog, drungkhag or the dzongkhag?” he asked.

Another driver, Tashi, 36, said that it took an hour to reach the drungkhag administration due to the bad road condition. “There is no sign of blacktopping or even maintaining the road. We need to repair our vehicles frequently.”

Martshala Gup, Yenten Dorji, said the GC road needs maintenance but the gewog administration could not even carry out minor repairs like filling up the potholes because of the limited budget.



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He said the gewog had approved Nu 1.5 million and would soon fix the potholes while the gewog would not be able to blacktop the whole stretch since about 30 percent of the gewog budget has been slashed.

The gup said that since they have other developmental activities to be executed in the gewog, they cannot focus on the road alone and they also do not have experts on the road. The issue was also discussed in the recent dzongkhag tshogdu.



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The gup said that it would have been better if the roads were kept under the Department of Roads (DoR) as they have road experts and could maintain it whenever required. “We also do not have a separate budget for the road.”

Yenten Dorji said allocating more budget on the road could affect other essential developmental activities in the gewog. “The roads should have been handed over to gewogs with the budget and technical experts.”

Focus on preventive care

7 hours 13 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

For all the strides that it has made consistently and especially in the way it handled the Covid-19 pandemic, the UN Inter-Agency Task Force (UNIATF) and the WHO Special Program on Primary Health Care Award is a fitting recognition for the Ministry of Health. 

The ministry’s focus on the development of primary healthcare has witnessed a remarkable growth over the years. With the government that won the mandate of the people for its strong focus on health, its achievement would have been by far more significant had it not been for the unfortunate disruptions that the pandemic brought along.



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Among the few countries that fought the pandemic with exemplary commitment and valour Bhutan showed that no matter how difficult and challenging the circumstances, healthcare ought not to lose priority. 

The award assumes special significance  because it was given to the ministry for successful implementation of the Service with Care and Compassion Initiative (SCCI) – a people-centred approach to the delivery of services for non-communicable diseases (NCD) services. At a time when the country is grappling with rising NCD cases, this award is a reminder that we have a lot more to do and way far ahead to go.



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SCCI, Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said, would foster community vitality, inclusiveness and empowerment of the patient. We need all of these and more.

Although the people-centred approach has promoted regular interface and improved the provision of NCD care in the country, there is a need to look beyond treatment. Because NCDs are preventable, focusing on preventive care would be by far more sensible and affordable option in the long term.



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In other words, the current level of education and awareness should pick up pace. Bold and hard decisions will have to be made to discourage the people from consuming food products that contribute to early NCD cases. Our food habits can be changed. Salt consumption can be, for example, cut significantly if health advisory is taken to every nook and corner and pressed relentlessly on the psyche of the people.

With a large and growing number of educated population who are more than ever conscious of what they eat, change can be effected without a significant hurdle. Spending more on preventive care so is the best investment for the country.

Inside biodiversity centre’s treasure trove

7 hours 14 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

Chhimi Dema

There are hundreds of vacuum-packed silver packets and test tubes lodged in deep freezers, all containing tiny gems of the country’s agricultural resource–seeds.

The plant gene bank in the National Biodiversity Centre (NBC) at Serbithang has preserved the country’s agricultural history in seeds, and the animal gene banks have been stored in semen and embryos.

The plant gene banks contain over 3,207 accessions of crop genetic resources comprising cereals, legumes, oilseeds, vegetables, and a few forages collected from all agroecological zones.

It was established in 2005 adhering to international standard protocols which were further validated through technical assistance from Food and Agriculture Organisation in 2013.



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The safety duplicate facility of the gene bank is at the Agriculture Research and Development Centre in Wengkar, Mongar which holds 2,500 accessions of duplicate samples to mitigate the risk of loss of gene bank collections to natural or man-made catastrophes in the gene bank at Serbithang.

The seeds are stored at -20 degree Celsius in the freezers. Backup powers and generator are connected to the gene bank in case of power failure.

The seeds undergo various processes before they are vacuum-sealed and put in the gene bank.

NBC’s biodiversity supervisor, Ugyen Phuntsho, said that the gene banks preserve the seeds before they become extinct and provide opportunities to carry out research in future.  “Traditional varieties of crops have cultural significance and they pose good traits such as having insect repellent or aromatic traits,” he said.



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Officials from NBC collect more than 100 accessions of different crop varieties from diverse parts of the country yearly. Similar crop varieties which are grown in different places are collected as well.

NBC also distribute seeds to researchers and farmers from the gene bank’s active or short-term shortages.

The seeds in the gene bank can survive up to 100 years.

Animal gene bank

Animal gene bank has 22,739 semen of 22 native animal breeds and poultry

The animal gene bank has 22,739 semen of 22 native animal breeds and poultry. It also has more than 1,600 DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) of different native livestock breeds.



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Sixty percent of the gene is from native sheep breeds which are disappearing fast.

The animal gene bank was established in 2005 with basic laboratory facilities and was upgraded to a functional unit in 2007.

In 2011, the gene bank protocol and procedure were validated according to international standards through FAO assistance.

Senior Biodiversity Officer at NBC, Tshering Dorji, said that starting 2007, the centre has been focusing on capturing maximum diverse genetic resources.

“The animal breeds in the gene bank are very unique to Bhutan and it is found nowhere else. They are unexplored genes which we have only limited knowledge about,” he said.



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Tshering Dorji said, “The gene bank is important because it holds indigenous and unique breeds of animals which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.”

He said that the repository in the gene banks can revive the animal breed that the country lost.

The lack of budget in the centre will severely impact the field research, sources say.

Domestic tariff projected to touch Nu 4.51 per unit by 2040

7 hours 16 minགི་ཧེ་མ།

Thukten Zangpo

Considering additional capacity of more than 2,000 megawatts from planned hydroelectric projects, the domestic power tariff is anticipated to reach Nu 4.51 per unit or kilowatt-hour (kWh) by 2040, according to the Domestic Tariff Projection report.

Suppose a household consumes 200 units of electricity, it has to pay Nu 532 per month at the current tariff rate of Nu 2.66 per unit for low voltage consumers.  By 2040, a household has to pay Nu 902 per month with a projected tariff of 4.51 per unit.

For domestic tariff projections till 2040, five tariff cycles starting from July 2025, three-generation scenarios, and two demand scenarios were considered.



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Under generation scenario I, the current generating plants, the under-construction hydropower as well as solar projects were considered, whereas in scenario II, additional capacities from planned hydroelectric projects were considered. In scenario III, further addition of two large hydropower projects were considered.

For demand scenarios, all planned loads as per the signed capacity reserve agreements or valid power sanctions are classified as scenario A, while further load addition from industries whose power clearances have been issued are taken into consideration in scenario B.   

The domestic tariff was computed based on the cost-plus model using the Bhutan Electricity Authority’s Tariff Determination Regulations.  In a cost-plus model, all costs related to materials, labour, and overhead are added on top of a markup percentage or profit to determine the selling price.



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According to the report, the most realistic was scenario II. In this scenario, the domestic tariff was expected to increase from 2025’s prices of Nu 2.39 per unit for weighted generation price, Nu 3.38 per unit for cost of supply to Nu 3.33 per unit for weighted generation price, and Nu 4.51 per unit cost of supply by 2040.

“The average increase in generation price and cost of supply in each tariff cycle is 9 percent and 8 percent respectively,” it added.

However, the report stated that considering the uncertainty in the assumptions used, including the broad projections of the generation-load scenarios, the actual domestic tariffs might vary to a large degree.

If the industrial proponents and power utilities negotiate on the power purchase agreement-based tariff, the report stated that the tariff framework with an annual increment of around 4 to 7 percent over next 15 years (2025-2040) would be applicable.



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This scenario does not take into account the evolving world energy markets. There have been frequent and steep changes in the prices of fossil fuel, especially coal, gas, and petroleum products with high inflation rates.

It is expected that Bhutan could face power shortages in the lean season because of increasing domestic demand up to 2030-2031.

The power deficit would be met from the import of power.

Assuming that India will approve the import of power from the Indian Power Exchange markets, the cost of imported power during off-peak hours in the lean months could be around Nu 4.11 per unit to Nu 6.39 per unit on average by 2040.

Focus point

ཉིམ།, 09/24/2022 - 17:39

Phuentsholing welcomes visitors

ཉིམ།, 09/24/2022 - 17:38

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

As Phuentsholing opened yesterday, many rushed to enter the new pedestrian terminal. There was curiosity and excitement in the faces of the visitors.

Among the visitors from across the border was a septuagenarian couple from Delhi, India. They were the first regional tourists who entered the country from Phuentsholing’s pedestrian terminal yesterday.

After a smooth entry, officials welcomed the couple with khadars and gifts and led them to the documentation section.

Mohinder Kumar Rakheja, 74, and Guddi Rakheja, 75, had hotel bookings in Paro from September 21. Not being able to enter the country as planned, they waited in Jaigaon for the gate to open.

The couple will stay in Bhutan for six days. They will also be celebrating their 48th marriage anniversary in Bhutan on September 25.



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American visitors enter via Phuentsholing

Guddi Rakheja, a retired teacher, said she travelled to many places across the world “but Bhutan was in my dream list for a long time. We have finally come to beautiful places in Bhutan.” The couple’s children, a son and a daughter, live in the UK and the USA. They are eager to come to Bhutan, Mohinder Kumar said. “They couldn’t make it this time but they will someday.”

After the immigration documentation, there was an issue with the couple’s hotel reservation in Paro. Immigration officials called and arranged another hotel for them.

A taxi was also arranged for the couple.

Another Indian tourist, Dharmendra Gulwani, a government employee from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India said he has come to Bhutan to explore Buddhism.



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“I do spiritual practice and meditation. So I was eagerly waiting for the borders to open,” he said.

Dharmendra said he will stay in Bhutan for three days and visit Thimphu and Paro. He will also visit Paro Taktshang.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering graced the opening of the pedestrian terminal in Phuentsholing yesterday.

International border gates opened after 30 months after it was closed on March 23, 2020 as a measure to control Covid-19.

Along with the border gate in Phuentsholing, international borders in Samtse, Gelephu and Samdrupjongkhar were also closed. All the borders opened yesterday.

Hundreds of people from both Phuentsholing and Jaigaon entered and exited the pedestrian terminal. The two peoples welcomed one another with khadars and sweets with loud goodwill friendship slogans.

International tourists also entered the country from Phuentsholing yesterday.



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One of them, Jared, 45 from Virginia, USA, paid the new SDF of USD 200.

“I visited Nepal and loved it. Then I learned about Bhutan. I heard Bhutan is a very clean country,” he said, adding that he wanted to come to Bhutan earlier but couldn’t as the border was closed. “It is very clean here. I loved the hospitality. It is incredibly beautiful.” Jared said he would love to see temples and monasteries while in Bhutan.

About the new SDF, Jared said the rest of the world is going through similar tourism policy changes. “Prices are increasing. The pandemic has affected all countries across the globe. And for Bhutan, it really makes sense because it is incredibly beautiful. It is worth paying.”

His friend, John Dunn, who is also from Virginia, said they had planned and booked their trip to Bhutan in January 2020 but couldn’t make it due to the pandemic.

“Bhutan is a fascinating destination. I have watched YouTube videos about the country and learned more about it,” he said.



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NPPF sees more retirees than new members joining its schemes

ཉིམ།, 09/24/2022 - 17:38

2,168 members retired in just one year

Thukten Zangpo

The increasing number of people resigning, including those leaving for Australia, could cost the National Pension and Provident Fund’s (NPPF) scheme.

The number of members withdrawing from the pension scheme has outweighed the new contributing members lately.

Records with the NPPF show that 2,168 members (excluding armed forces) have withdrawn from June 30 last year (2021) to June 30 this year.

During the same period, 1,652 new members joined the scheme. Out of this, 1,129 members were from the private sector, which means there were only 523 new members from the civil service and armed forces.

In the same period the year before,  (June 30, 2020 to June 30, 2021), 1,708 members (excluding armed forces) left the scheme while only 476 members joined.

With the expectations that many young members would move to Australia in coming years, the number of contributing members to the fund is expected to decline further.



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According to the national pension and provident fund policy 2018, the conventionally-defined pension scheme suffers from inherent sustainability issues. This is before the current exodus of NPPF members to Australia, Canada or the Middle East. “Current demographic trends indicate that eventually there will be a larger number of pensioners than contributors leading to ultimate exhaustion of funds.”

NPPF’s pension and provident fund chief, Tshering Dorji said that civil service’s pension with the current formula would be sustainable until 2060, after which it will be at loss, as there would be more pensioners than those contributing.

The armed forces pension, he said, could be sustainable only until 2043 if the retirement age was not changed. The retirement age of armed forces has been revised at par with the civil servants.

 

Contributions

A civil servant contributes 11 percent in the scheme with the government contributing an equivalent 15 percent coming to a total of 26 percent. The NPPF takes 16 percent into the pension and 10 percent to the provident fund (PF).

A civil servant, on retirement, gets the PF amount back in bulk along with the interest accrued. To calculate the monthly pension under defined benefit, as per the current formula, the last basic pay is multiplied by 40 percent into the number of years in service divided by 30 years.



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For instance, a civil servant with the last basic pay of Nu 40,000 who worked for 30 years would get a monthly pension Nu 16,000. For calculation, the life expectancy of 82 years old is taken into account.

As per the data, many people with contributing years of less than 20 years are leaving, Tshering Dorji said. He added that this could have an impact in the short term, but not in the long term.

“Members resigning is higher compared with members joining the scheme recently. However, it is still manageable as of now,” Tshering Dorji said.

Young members leaving is a concern. Tshering Dorji said that the migration cannot be stopped and more people would have left if the Covid-19 pandemic had not disrupted the outflow. A civil servant retiring after 10 years would take benefits that would be enough to pay for a tuition fee to study in Australia.

According to NPPF records, members who left the scheme after contributing to the scheme for about 10 to 15 years saw an increase from 196 to 302 (excluding armed forces) in the last two fiscal years.

Many members, to avoid becoming a pension member, retire after serving 19 years to avail the lump sum provident fund benefits. This number increased from 67 to 125 in just one year.



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According to the NPPF’s report, there were 67,542 pension members including 1,129 private provident fund members as of June 30 this year. They contributed Nu 4.23 billion (B).

The number of pensioners increased to 8,821 during the same period. About Nu 828.48 million (M) was paid as pension benefit between June 30 last year and this year.

In just one month, this June, Nu 74.19M was paid in pension benefits.

The statistics also shows that the company’s current accrued liability at Nu 68.83B as of June last year. This is an increase of Nu 14.13B from June 2019. The company’s deficit rose to Nu 36.36B as of June 2021 from Nu 28.57B as of June 2019.

Tshering Dorji said that the deficit had existed since the start of the scheme. “The major concern is to balance the benefits to contribution.” Since the contribution of members was lesser in the past and the benefits calculated on the last basic pay, there will be deficits, he added.

Tshering Dorji expects that increasing the retirement age in armed forces will see a decline in the current liability. He also said that the pension scheme under the pay-as-you-go model redistributes the contributed money where the younger generation would contribute to the older generation (intergenerational transfer) and higher contributing members subsidise lower contributors.



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Reforms

Facing financial sustainability, the pension scheme needs appropriate reforms, the annual report stated. The National Pension Board, along with the finance ministry, sought technical assistance from the Asian Development Bank to carry out reform of the schemes.

The reforms which are still under discussion will focus on structural reforms, legal and regulatory framework and segregation of assets.

It would also bring about clarity in the underlying issues with the current scheme and accordingly propose appropriate measures to improve the current schemes.

The current scheme covers only 8.5 percent of the population and 19.6 percent of the economically active population.

As per the National Labour Force Survey 2020, there are 331, 222 economically active population in the country that is projected to increase.



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The NPPF needs to extend the voluntary provident scheme to the entire economically-active population and those working in the private sector.

In Bhutan we Believe!

ཉིམ།, 09/24/2022 - 17:37

“What is the brand?”

This was the question on many minds at the end of the grand launch of brand Bhutan on Thursday, even as Bhutan was gearing to open the country to guests, not tourists, after more than two years of shutting the border for tourists.

Bhutan ‘Believe’ is our new brand. It will be left to interpretation as abstract as the tagline. But what it represents is that we can believe in the potential, the possibilities and the opportunities that Bhutan offers in a fast changing world.

Bhutan is no longer “unique”, a  selling point a long time ago. Nor is it the Shangri-La as many who came chasing it  found it had waned or waning.  But we can believe in our aspirations. The new tourism policy is about transformation – in areas of sustainable development, infrastructure development and the elevation of our guests’ experience.

The Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc across the globe derailing development plans and aspirations. The long break that confined governments and people  in the corners of their homes or country provided the window to rethink, reshape and relook at policies.

Bhutan believed that our tourism policy had to change. The high value, low volume was overshadowed by greed. There was a high flow of Dollars or Rupees, but not value. We believed we could offer more. We believed in change.



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As a small nation with limited infrastructure, we didn’t have space or scope for mass tourism. Our low volume policy will not restrict visitors who are conscious of the value of travelling to new places to see new cultures and learn and unlearn. Tourism is changing worldwide and travellers too. The conscious tourists are looking for meaningful destinations. The destinations are beyond the beaches and the luxurious hotels. There is the yearning of exploring new destinations where income is not the lowest common denominator.

At the heart of the new policy is our youth – a symbol of hope and future. Conscious visitors will choose destinations that value the future whether it is in the environment or the values that recognise the future generation. Not many could decipher the faces of young people in the handout. The young generation, it says , is at the core of the message.

As Bhutan opened its door to tourists yesterday, the sustainable development fee was not the issue. Those whose visit coincided with the opening couldn’t believe the reception. The culture, the hospitality and the warmth of Bhutanese on display at the Paro international airport, many said was ‘unbelievable.’ Not every tourist will be welcomed in the same way, but Bhutan and the Bhutanese will always have the heart,  the warmth and will be the host to receive them with open hearts as our ‘guests.’

For the conscious traveller, cost is not an issue. It is the experience that matters. Mass tourism so far has denied our guests that experience. Many nations believe in quality over quantity. The many tourists that camp around the country on $ 10 a day by eating instant noodles or those staying in dorms may be a thing of the past as the global tourism relook at its strategies post Covid-19.

Bhutan is transforming. Tourism is just one area. The belief is that we have to and can transform for a better future for Bhutanese and the world.



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Right to home ownership farther than a distant dream

ཉིམ།, 09/24/2022 - 17:36

Article 7 of the Constitution guarantees the right to life. The basic elements of the right to life mean the right to food, shelter, and clothing. It is said “to make the right meaning to the poor, the state has to provide facilities and opportunity to build houses. Acquisition of the land to provide house sites to the poor houseless is a public purpose, as it is the Constitutional duty of the State to provide house sites to the poor.” But at the current rate of land price, purchasing land in most places has become almost impossible even for high-income people in the country.

The right to shelter “does not mean a mere right to a roof over one’s head. It is a home where a person has opportunities to grow physically, mentally, intellectually, and spiritually. Right to shelter, includes adequate living space, safe and decent structure, clean and decent surroundings, sufficient light, pure air and water, electricity, sanitation, and other amenities like roads. The State should be deemed to be under an obligation to secure it for its citizens, of course, subject to its economic budgeting.”

In Bhutan, there is a serious challenge to own a home no matter how high one’s income is, especially for those working as employees in government, corporate or private sectors. In terms of salary, the minimum wage in Singapore is 5,000SG Dollars and the minimum rent is as low as 500USD (10% of the salary). Similarly, in Japan, the minimum wage is around 230,000 Yen and rent is around 50,000 yen, which is around 20%. In Bhutan, the minimum wage is around Nu 4,500 while the rent is also similar to that amount, almost 100% of the salary.

Access to finance is not only difficult but almost impossible where banks are refusing to even value rural land and property. Unlike Bhutan, in countries like Singapore and South Korea, interest rates are as low as 3%. But in Bhutan, the interest rate for any loan is not less than 7% and the collateral-free loan is almost impossible.



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Today, owning even a small plot has become the biggest status in society, particularly in urban areas. With no intervention from the government, a small section of the urban people is gradually owning a major portion of the private land, making it impossible for the rest to even become a part of urban ownership. For example, despite its extremely small geographical size (less than 1km square-Bhutan 38,000km square) and huge population (4.5million-Bhutan less than 1 million), Singapore still has one of the highest home ownership in the world. They focused on affordability and universal home ownership through financial mechanisms, which included individuals paying loans and grants lasting for ninety years. Expecting the increase in home prices after the pandemic, the Singaporean government came up with a policy of higher household incomes, cooling of property prices, and accommodative interest rates.

If appropriate steps are not taken, except for a few fortunate, rest of the Bhutanese can’t even dream of owning a shelter without leaving the country and spending the most productive life in some developed countries. But Bhutan can’t afford to lose even over a hundred thousand leaving the country, not only for economic reasons but also for national security, identity, and sovereignty. Home ownership may be one of the best strategies to retain productive population.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

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



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EU commits 15 million EUR

ཉིམ།, 09/24/2022 - 17:35

Jigmi Wangdi

The European Union and Bhutan signed a 15 million EUR budget support agreement as Bhutan prepares to graduate from a low-income country in 2023.

This is the first delegation from the European Parliament after Covid-19 Pandemic.  The visit signifies a strong relations between Bhutan and EU.

The visiting delegation met with government officials to discuss how the EU could improve parliamentary interactions and areas of co-operation.  The vice-president of the EU Parliament, Evelyn Regner said, “We had a very open conversation with the ministers of finance, agriculture, and economic affairs on co-operation between the EU and Bhutan.”

She also said that it is important to focus on the future on the country, especially since Bhutan will soon be transitioning from the LDCs.

The EU will extend its support to Bhutan under the 2021-2027 Multi-annual Indicative Programme focusing on three priority areas: climate change, green growth and self-reliant Bhutan, and digital transition as a driver for change in education and public service delivery.



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Regner said that it is important to look at Bhutan’s clean renewable energy harnessed through the hydroelectric power plants.

“There is room for Bhutan to grow further with hydroelectric plants by incorporating modernised and advanced technology in the hydropower projects,” she said. “Another area that Bhutan can focus on is food sufficiency and this is why the agreement we signed also focuses on sustainability and diversification of agriculture.”

Regner said that the delegation also discussed global scheme of preferences plus (GSP+) and how it can work in Bhutan with the government officials.

Regner said that the outcomes from Bhutan’s transition from LDC to LIC would depend on the decision of the country. “The GSP+ could be a good option for Bhutan in the future,” she said.

The EU-Bhutan cooperation started with a development project in 1982 focusing on RNR.

Diplomatic relations between the EU and Bhutan was established in 1985.



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Zhingma canal leave fields dry in Toedtsho

ཉིམ།, 09/24/2022 - 17:35

Neten Dorji | Toedtsho

Farmers in Toetsho gewog have been waiting for more than two years now to reap the benefits of the newly built Zhingma irrigation canal.

The about 3 km-long-canal is going to change the way farmers work and increase the yield. However, the problem with the irrigation scheme farmers say, they are yet to benefit from the irrigation canal.

Villagers said the poor quality work and problems in the alignment of the canal have caused problems to irrigate the fields.

A farmer, Dorji Wangdi, said that last year they could not cultivate paddy and some had delayed their paddy cultivation by two weeks.

“We’re expecting to benefit from a new irrigation canal by next year as we heard the contractor re-built the canal, otherwise the problem will remain,” he said.

The farmers mostly depend on rainwater to supplement the water from Phatsa Brak stream. “Without an additional supply, cultivation of paddy is difficult.”



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Residents said that the small irrigation water from Phatsa Brak which served the purpose in the past for more than 200 households in farming has become insufficient on sunny days as it is also used for drinking.

“With only one source for all of us, we face shortages, especially during paddy cultivation. The same source is shared among more than 300 households,” said a resident, Sonam Zangmo.

She said farmers are seriously affected when Phatsha Brak stream becomes small during the dry season.

The farmers said landslides and falling boulders easily destroy the canal in rocky areas affecting the supply. With heavy rain and seasonal spring water, farmers could cultivate the paddy this time. However, they said rain is uncertain.

“We have to depend on rainfall to cultivate our fields. This year, I was able to transplant paddy,” said a resident Sangay Choezom. “We have been anxiously waiting for a new irrigation water supply but it is taking a long time.”

Given the poor quality of work, the farmers have given up all hopes for the Zhingma irrigation canal.



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“We have been waiting for Zhingma stream for over two years but we didn’t get even drop,” said a resident. “A household has to wait more than five days for their second turn to  irrigate the fields. The paddy plants don’t ripen well without adequate water.”

Some fields in the area have been left fallow due to insufficient water.

Toetsho Gup Dechen Wangdi said that poor quality of work by contractors has affected the farmers.

“As per the dzongkhag administration’s order, the contractor has re-built the canal. We hope it will serve the purpose in the coming year,” the gup said, adding that dzongkhag was yet to handover the canal to gewog.

The gup said the irrigation canal will benefit the whole lower parts of Toetsho gewog.

The Zhingma water source is located about nine kilometres from the gewog centre.



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Study finds a host of reasons for teacher attrition

ཉིམ།, 09/24/2022 - 17:34

Heavy workload, lack of professional development, poor leadership, poor working conditions, and lack of career mobility prompted our teachers to leave. In doing so, Bhutan’s education system lost experienced teachers who were in their mid-career profession, according to a study conducted by the Centre for Bhutan and GNH Studies (CBS). 

Titled “Teacher Attrition: Why do Public Teachers Leave?” the study conducted in December last year indicated that the majority of teachers who left the profession were between the age of 31 to 40 years and those who served the profession for more than 11 years. This is a concern because replacing seasoned teachers is a challenge. 

Globally, according to research, a mid-career professional often develops expertise in one or more areas. These professionals often look for promotional opportunities or a new career alternative, including work-life balance. 

Today, the talk of the town, apart from Bhutanese leaving for Australia and other countries, is many teachers exiting the system. The issue is not new but it is still a vital issue that needs immediate attention. 



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Teachers across the globe have the responsibility of preparing future generations, our youth, whom our nation’s future lie. This is why education plays a vital role where effective teachers and quality of education are important for that matter. 

Using mixed methods, both qualitative and quantitative, the study was conducted using Annual Education Statistics as secondary data. Primary data was obtained using an online survey through Google Forms where 84 former teachers residing in Bhutan and abroad participated in the survey. 

The study aimed to determine the factors from the perspectives of both former and serving teachers.  

There is a need for comprehensive and well-designed research on teacher attrition with a detailed database of teaching professionals. Well-designed research would give a clearer picture of how attrition is designed and investigated in the education ministry. 

“The Annual Education Statistics also needs reform, whereby, the ministry could focus on detailed information on the attrition. It must include teachers’ performance and job satisfaction instead of only indicating several teachers leaving the profession every year.”

The attrition from the profession in this study refers to the exit of teachers from teaching in primary and secondary education in Bhutan. 



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One of the biggest challenges for both developed and developing countries is teacher attrition. Considered a concern, many researchers over the world have described the trend as worrying. A developing country like Bhutan is lagging behind in teacher attrition. 

Although more than 50 percent of teachers (respondents) agreed that the teaching profession was their first choice, they left the profession. This indicated various factors forced them to leave, including better prospectives/alternatives they availed over teaching. 

Going to Australia or joining other agencies topped the reasons too. More than 50 teachers agreed to have left the profession because of unsatisfactory jobs. 

As one of the respondents expressed: “I didn’t quit teaching but the system that was rigid and uncompromising where teachers are only expected to bear the burden of providing quality education without even providing a proper textbook.” Other respondents added teaching was becoming an ordeal because of the intense work pressure without any recognition or incentives, forget about getting any ex-country tours and trips.”

Literature reviews also indicated that teacher attrition has often suggested/concluded that salary levels, supportive leadership, better working facilities, including class size and availability of textbooks, and their relationship with principals are some of the factors that lead to teacher attrition.  



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The study results, based on thematic analysis that emerged from the data collected through the open-ended survey, revealed gaps like heavy workloads. Many schools looked aimless with teachers involved in other non-academic activities besides normal teaching workload and planning everyday lessons. Teachers in remote places are faced with challenges of poor infrastructures. These could have substantially influenced teachers to leave teaching. 

As one of the respondents wrote; “We are expected to give good education to students, but we’re often pulled in a committee meeting, teachers meetings, class meetings, parents meetings, implement policy decision that we were never part of, endless meetings that could have been conveyed via an email, including administration works. But when we want to teach students out of the box, everyone has a problem that teachers are not doing their job.” 

Literature has also often pointed out that working conditions often influence teachers’ decisions to continue the profession or not. Working condition includes class size, facilities, availability of textbooks, relationship with principals, and teacher support. Today, Bhutanese teachers work in over-populated classrooms with 1:40 and in some cases, more than 40 students. 

This is why there is a requirement to conduct a working conditions survey that could gather teachers’ views on the school environment. Fixing working conditions are less expensive than the costs of teachers’ dissatisfaction, loss, and retention, as various studies suggest.  



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Another gap that needs attention includes the lack of professional development. This is because when too much is expected from teachers to meet education quality, we are also talking about the quality of teachers that could be enhanced through pedagogy development, among many others. It includes workshops and long/short-term training. 

The study saw that about 64 percent of respondents clearly responded that they rarely (once a year) got an opportunity to attend pedagogy development to enhance their career or be part of other important education consultations. 

Leadership 

It is often said that good leaders will not only influence the dynamics of the school functions, but their leadership will also inspire and motivate teachers. What happens when a leader or the leadership style fails? It leads to frustration, disappointment and demotivation among teachers and despite the good relationships with subordinates, it leaves teachers with no choice, but to leave their teaching jobs for other jobs.  

The majority of teachers in the open-ended questions in the study cited “biased, fixed mindset and unappreciative” leaders as the reasons that forced them to leave the profession too. 

Since the data has indicated leadership as one of the major factors, it is vital that there is a requirement for radical change in the leadership selection procedures. Research has also proven that there is a requirement to have competent, motivating, visionary, diligent people as principals or for that matter, vice principals too, if attrition is to be taken seriously.  



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As one respondent is quoted, “The leader should be the main source of support and encouragement for enthusiastic and experienced teachers to return but this is not happening. This is why there is a need to look into how a leader which could be a principal or education officer is appointed.” 

Salary— is not always the factor 

When teachers continued to leave in scores, the government decided to increase their salary in 2019. It was to make the teaching profession attractive. Teachers became the highest-paid civil servants. Yet, the education system continues to see teachers resigning. 

In the last three years (2019 to 2021), a total of 613 voluntarily resigned from the system (during the study period). This indicates that salary raise had not much impact. As much as remuneration/salary increase can be a factor, it may not be everything for teachers because what teachers also look for is recognition and acknowledgement for their hard work. 

Instead, it is important that apart from increasing salary, certain strategies should be adopted that could reward teachers above their salary. Teacher support, reducing class size, increased participation in the educational decisions, recognition and teacher support could be possible strategies.  

Anyone seeking the report can contact the CBS 



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Contributed by 

Yangchen C Rinzin

Research Fellow

Centre for Bhutan and GNH Studies 

Leading Men in Bhutan

ཉིམ།, 09/24/2022 - 17:34

“My Friend, I enclose a copy of ‘List of Leading Men in Bhutan,” which may kindly be returned duly corrected up to date.”  On 24 May 1939, the British Political Officer in Sikkim wrote to the Gongzim of Second King of Bhutan.  

Numbered 8 (2)-P/39, the Political Officer, Sir B.J. Gould’s (1883-1956) letter was written from Gangtok. Five months later, the officer follows up with another letter dated 3 November. In the letter, he reminds his friend Gongzim Sonam Tobgay Dorji 1896-1953) to return the list after making the necessary correction.

On 6 November 1939, the Gongzim sends his reply vide letter No. 179, “I have the honour to inform you that I have sent the list to His Highness [His Majesty] the Maharaja of Bhutan for correction. I have not received it back yet. I will send it to you as soon as I receive it.”

Details of this correspondence are contained in File No 12 of 40, 1940 of Darbar office, Kalimpong with the title, “Leading Men in Bhutan 1939”. 

The list is neatly typed in two-page foolscap paper.  On top of the page, the word, “confidential,’ has been stamped. Sir Gould’s, “List of Leading men in Bhutan revised up to the 30th September 1941,” has 27 names but 13 (8-20) are missing. 



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The 14 names are reproduced as is: 

1. Choki Geehhen, Lango Trum: Born about 1878 in Tamji, Bumthang. Is a nephew of the late Byagar Jongpon Ugyen. He accompanied the Paro Penlop to Paro in 1918. Was made Lango Trum in 1926.

2. Chhosup Dorji Gnoyrchhen: Born about 1888 in Chhungshekha. Was an ordinary household servant of the late Maharaja and for his faithful services was made Gnoyrechen of Wangdiphudang.

3. Daga Dorji, Lingsi Jongpen: Born about 1894 in Nebye village in Paro. Formerly a follower of the late Paro Penlop and latterly of the late Maharaja who appointed him Lingsi Jongpen.

4. Dawa Geechhen, Punakha Gnoyrchen: Born about 1881 in Kama Thangsa. Was a personal servant of the late Maharaja. Held the post of officiating Thingbu Zimpon for 7 years and was appointed Punakha Gnoyrechen in 1941.

5. Depola, Tashigong Jongpon: Born about 1888 in Tashigong. Is a son of the late Tashigong Jongpen. Was a monk and lived in Lhasa for several years. On the death of his father, he returned home and was made the Jongpen of Tashigong. Reputed to be a very brave and sociable person.



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6. Domchung, Gasap Jongsup: Born about 1891 in Wong Byamesa, Thingbu. Is a son of the late Punakha Jongpen, Wengsha. Was a personal servant of the late Maharaja and is now the officiating Jongsup of Gasap.

7. Dorji, Cheyrib Jongpon: Born about 1876 in Galip, Wangdiphudang. 

21. Rinjidorji, Daga Jongpon: Born about 1886 in Dagana. Is son of late Daga Zimpon. Was a personal servant of the late Maharaja. Served as Punakha Zimpon for some years and was appointed Dagana Jongpon in 1941.

22. Sangye, Tongsa Zimpon: Born in 1883 in Ada. Was officiating Sha trum for several years. On the death of his brother, he succeeded him in officer as Tongsa Zimpon.

23. Shoong [Zhung] Tapon: Born about 1885 in Waaheb Sha in Wangdiphudang. Is a nephew of the late Donyer Deb Shachu of Wangdiphudang. Was the Gorab of Wangdiphudang for many years and was made Tapon of Wangdihudang in 1941.

24. Sonam Tobgey Dorji. (Vide previous list).

25. Talap, Wangdiphudang Donyer: Born about 1866 in Bap Wong, Thingbu. Was the Gnoyer of Wangdiphudang for 21 years and later was made Donyer of Wangdiphudang.

26. Tanding Penjyer, Paro Zimpon: Born about 1895 in Bongdey, Paro. Is a son of the late Paro Zim Nongmu Shamu Gechhen. Was formerly a Tungyik (clerk) to the present Paro Penlop. Is a capable person and when in 1926 the late Paro Zimpon Namgye was made Paro Donyer he took his place as Paro Zimpon.

27. Tshring [Tshering]  Wangchuk, Drugay Jongpon: Born about 1879 in Chhali in Shongar. Was from his childhood a personal servant of the late Paro Penlop with whom he came to Paro in 1918. Was Gnoyor for 3 years Paro Donyer for 5 years and was appointed Drugay Jongpon in 1926.



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Interestingly, the above list was not the first. There were two lists before it; 1933 and 1920. Currently held by the British Library, the 1933 list is catalogued as Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet. Titled, “List of Chiefs and Leading Families-1933,” it was printed in Calcutta by Govt of India [Political Officer, Gangtok],” and has a note, “genealogical table Confidential.”

Out of the 26 pages, Bhutan features only in two pages with Sikkim and Tibet getting more coverage. The list has nine leading men of Bhutan with the same individuals, as in the 1920 edition with an addition of Kunzang Thinley, who had evidently died between the editions.   This leads us to believe that either there were no new leaders appointed or the political officers were were not able to update the list.

The 1920 list was reproduced in the book, “Chiefs and Leading Families in Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet.” The list has names of 10 leading men in Bhutan which is reproduced as follows: 

1. Chang-Penjo (Tsewang Paljor): Born about 1840. Is a Sha-cho-pa by birth and caste. Was formerly Zhung Dro-nyer or State Chamberlain, which office was conferred on him as a reward for his service to the party of the ruling chief. He has now retired from active work and is not much of importance politically.

2. Chir- Penju (Tsering Paljor): Born about 1901. The grandson of the ruling chief by his elder daughter Ahjee Panden. Appointed Paro Penlop in 1918. 



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3. Kunzang Tinle: Born about 1860. Is a cousin of the ruling chief. At present Timbu Jongpen. He was formerly Lhuntsi Jongpen and in that capacity came down as Bhutan Envoy to receive the annual subsidy some time in 1884-85. About this time, the party of Sir Ugyen Wangchuk succeeded in obtaining the upper hand in Bhutan. Being delayed at Buxa Duar for some time, Kunzang Tinle cultivated friendly relations with then Maharaja of Cooch Behar, a friendship which lasted for many years. In 1904 he visited Tuna to present Bhutan at the request of the British Commissioner and it was, he who expressed his willingness to provide the land for a road down the Ammo Chu Valley to the plains, if necessary, in the interest of the British. He married the sister of the late Dharma Raja of Bhutan and has a son who is an incarnate lama in the Gang-teng monastery. Is a man of great influence but now takes little part in public affairs. 

4. Kunzang Tsering: Born about 1857. Appointed Zhung Dro-nyer (State Chamberlain) in 1910. Is an old and faithful adherent of Sir Ugyen Wangchuck’s party. Was formerly Kyap-cha Penlop and later Deb Zimpon (State Treasurer). He visited Buxa Duar on several occasions to receive the annual subsidy. A reserved and silent personage and politically unimportant.

5. Ling-Shi Jongpen: Age and personal name unknown. Visited the Hot Springs of Khamby in Tibet in the summer of 1918. A pleasant and courteous gentleman of the old school.

6. Palden Wangchuk: Born about 1843. An old and faithful adherent of Sir Ugyen Wangchuk’s party. Was appointed Punakha Jongpen some years ago. Is now in feeble health and rarely leaves his rooms.

7. Samden Dorji: Born about 1859. Is a Wang by caste and birth. Is Ta-tsang Khenpo or Chief Abbot. During the intervals between the successive incarnations of the Dharma Raja he keeps the seal and is the supreme head of the Lamas and clerical officials in Bhutan, a position of great importance.



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8. Sonam Tobgay Dorji: born in 1898. Is the only son of the late Raja Ugyen Dorji. Was educated at St. Pauls’s School, Darjeeling. Was appointed Ha Trungpa (Jongpen of Ha) in 1911. In 1916, he was appointed as Agent to His Highness the Maharaja and also Deb Zimpon (State Treasurer) in place of late father. He is also the Assistant for Bhutan to the Political Officer in Sikkim. In April, 1918, he married Maharaj Kumar Choni Wangmo La, the only surviving sister of His Highness the Maharaja of Sikkim. He resides at Kalimpong in winter and at Ha, Bhutan in summer.

9. Tom Chung: (Lit. little bear. Possible not his real name). Born about 1870. Is a Sha-cho-pa by birth and caste. A connection of Sir Ugyen Wangchuk whom he accompanied to Lhasa in 1903-04 and to Calcutta in 1905-06.  He is simple and humorous, gigantic in person and nice in manners. He was appointed Jongpen of Wangdu Potrang (a Jong to the east of Punakha). Owing to a current belief that a fatality attends the Jongpens of this Jong, he declined the post, preferring to continue as Dro-nyer (steward) of the Jong. He is in constant attendance of Sir Ugyen Wangchuk and enjoyed the income and privileges of the Wangdu Potrang Jongpen.

10. Tinle Gyatso: Born about 1860. Is Lhuntse Jongpon. He accompanied the late Mr. J.C. White during this tour through Bhutan to Tibet and rendered the party all possible assistance and service. Little has been heard of him of recent years.

The book states that the number of leading men in Bhutan of whom much is known is small. Contrary to the custom in Tibet, personal names are fairly generally used among the higher officials and, as transferred from one office to another, are not uncommon. It also states that the names of the 10 men were listed in alphabetical order of their personal names and not under those of their estates or offices. Some of the names have spelling in brackets. This was to indicates the pronunciation of the name in Tibetan, of which the spoken language of Bhutan is a dialect. 



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The list of Leading Men of Bhutan was not prepared scientifically nor was it detailed. It was the product of years of compilation by various British official with assistance from Bhutanese officials. The list was mainly for use by the British officials over the years and to keep decision makers in Delhi informed but today is serves as an important record for us. 

Contributed by 

Tshering Tashi

Santa Kumar Limboo a rising youth footballer 

ཉིམ།, 09/24/2022 - 17:33

Thinley Namgay   

Santa Kumar Limboo, 19, of Ugyen Academy FC in Punakha has grabbed the nation’s attention following his exceptional performances in the recently-concluded Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-20 Asian Cup Qualifiers in Bahrain.

His two goals as a striker against strong teams—Bahrain and Bangladesh—made Bhutan proud and sent a strong message to the regions that team Bhutan has some really good talents in the wings.

His skills, stamina, and confidence made a difference to the squad.

Santa Kumar Limboo, a Class-IX student, was selected for the U-20 national squad a few months back. U-20 Asian Cup Qualifiers was his first international tournament.

He said the tournament in Bahrain was organised professionally and he was glad to represent the country. The tournament, he said, taught the team to work even harder. “I know the boys and I can do a lot more.”

Santa said that other countries’ players in the recent tournament had an added advantage due to their height. He said that Bhutan could have achieved a bit more had there been enough training as a team.



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The U-20 players were in different clubs and were engaged in club training and matches.

It was Santa’s father who encouraged him to play football from an early age.

“I began playing football from the day I saw my father play. He encouraged me to play and personally trained me every day,” Santa said.

According to Santa, it is not easy to be a footballer as he has to balance his studies and training. “But I never gave up.”  He said that he had to attend class after the morning training and used to fall asleep in class.

Due to his love for football, he used to sometimes bunk classes while he was in Samtse. Bhutanese international footballer, Chencho Gyeltshen, is his role model. He  wants to be like Chencho and make his parents and country proud.

He said that youth must follow their dreams seriously.  “Good things take time to come. Listen to coaches, teachers, and parents.”



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Other unknown attractions of Wangdue

ཉིམ།, 09/24/2022 - 17:32

Most travelers have only explored Gangtey and Phobjikha valleys in Wangdue — the district, indeed, has a several other unexplored attractions waiting to be discovered.  

Samtengang Lake

It takes over two hours’ drive to reach Wangdue from the capital city of Thimphu. If you are fond of serene lakes, Luetshokha lake, commonly known as Samtengang lake, is waiting to be discovered. It is located about 10 kms from the main highway (Chuzomsa). The size of the lake is around 2 kms in circumference and has a concrete footpath around the lake for people to walk around. There is a beautiful oral story behind how the lake was formed. The locals still make offerings to the lake every year to remember the story, and to pray for wealth and prosperity of the community. 

Samtengang Lake

Morakhar Lhakhang



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Locals believe that Guru Rinpoche along with Khandrom Mendarawa were on their way to Bumthang. To avoid the cold weather of Bumthang, the Khandrom stayed back at this place today known as Morakhar Lhakhang. Morakhar literally means ‘Mo’ refers to her or khandrom Mendarawa and ‘Khar’ means the place. The main relic of the lhakhang is Chador statue which was one of the treasures discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa. It is believed there are only three of such statues, of which two are at Wangdue Dzongkhag, one at this lhakhang and one at Wangdue Dzong. There are even stories that during Khandrom’s stay at the place she planted betel leaves, and weaved to save her boredom. The loom can still be seen at the lhakhang. 

Phobjikha valley

Phobjikha valley is a wide glacial valley, vast, green and beautiful. The valley is popular among the tourists and domestic travelers.  The area is one of the sites protected for being the winter habitat for the Black-necked cranes. While in the village, one can opt to stay in the village homestays to learn about the authentic Bhutanese culture, cuisines and rural ways of life.  



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Gangtey nature trail

While in the valley the best way to connect with nature is by taking a short hike around. Gangtey nature trail starts from the center of the valley ‘Khewang’ and ends at the way to Gangtey Goemba. Although it is a simple 2 hours’ hike, it offers a memorable nature experience to the hikers. The whole valley can be seen from the popular photo spot (white chorten at the start of the hike). 

 

Rinchengang village

Rinchengang is derived from the term ‘Drinchengang’ which means grateful village. It is known as grateful village as the masonry experts came to build the majestic Wangdue Phodrang Dzong during the time of Zhabdrung. After completion of the construction, they settled at Rinchengang. The interesting facts about the village are that it is one of the oldest cluster villages in Bhutan. Multiple families stay in one house, they have common land holding and practise double cropping. Skills of the masonry can be seen in the houses at the village. For the visitors, the view of Wangdue Phodrang Dzong can be seen undisturbed from Rinchengang village. 

Chu bo to re sa

Although not year round the waterfall at Gasetshogom has gained the attention of the passers-by. It is located right above the Basochu Zam and is formed when the excess water of Basochu hydropower is released. It can be seen only during peak summer and one must visit if one is visiting the place during that time of the year. 

Bajo town 



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The Bajo town is a pleasant and clean town with decent recreational facilities. With a beautiful park in the center of the town, it provides visitors a pleasant experience to stroll around casually both during the day or evening. 

Bajo town

 

Dangchu Wangchu Hot Stone Bath

Dangchu Wangchu is believed to have been revealed by the 2nd Je Khenpo Sonam Oezer in the 17th Century. It is widely believed that Dangchu Wangchu spring water has medicinal properties curing several diseases. Under the initiative of the Dzongkhag Administration, Dangchu Menchu currently has seven bathrooms, seven guest rooms, a common kitchen and three public toilets. After the onset of Dangchu Wangchu hot stone bath service, it has recorded approximately 200 visitors weekly. It is located approximately 2 hours drive from Nobding. 



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Windmill 

The district is also popularly known for its wind turbines at Rubesa. It is the first one of its kind in Bhutan, and each of the turbines generate 300kw of electricity. This turbine has always been of great interest to the visitors. It is celebrated for generating renewable energy.

Athang to Phobjikha trail

This two-days walking trail from Athang to Phobjikha was used as a walking route during the ancient times for the people of Athang to shift to their summer residence at Phobjikha. A variety of flora and fauna can be explored while walking in this beautiful trail.

Lopkha lake

Lokpokha lake or Athang Tsho is located under Athang gewog. It is around 5 minutes walk from the road point. It is a popular site for visitors as there are stories associated to a mermaid. Locals believe the lake was relocated to the current location by a mermaid for peace and tranquility. One can visit the lake, and enjoy its serene beauty. The best part, you may spot the endangered species, White Bellied Heron near the lake. 

 

Dolung Goemba



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The monastery is located on the top of Sha Khotokha valley which is the summer home of the people of Bjena and Rubi Gewog, and the winter habitat of the beautiful Black-necked Cranes. The name of the monastery literally means, “Handle Stone”. ‘Do’ means Stone and ‘Lung’ means handle. The stone with handle was discovered by the 2nd  Je Khenpo, Khuenkhen Sonam Yoedser in the 17th century during the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of the monastery. Thereafter, the monastery was named Dolung Goemba. It is a must-visit place if one is on a spiritual journey. 

Dolung Goemba

Article contributed by Dechen Wangmo. Dechen is Asst. Economic Development Officer at Wangdue Phodrang Dzongkhag. She completed B.Sc life science from Sherubtse College. She loves reading, hiking, blogging, and socializing. 

This series is sponsored by Ecotourism Project “Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation into the Tourism Sector in Bhutan” funded by GEF-UNDP through Tourism Council of Bhutan, RGoB.



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Bhutanese rock band to perform in South Korea

ཉིམ།, 09/24/2022 - 17:30

Chhimi Dema

“You know it’s been forever; You have left me on my knees; Bruises upon my heart; Leave me for time without you…”

This was North H’s first song, released two years after the grunge band was formed in 2014.

The band will perform at No Mercy Fest in Seoul, South Korea, next month, after which the band will go to Incheon and Geoje in South Korea for their show.

North H is the first band from Bhutan to play on international stages.

North H, a three-member grunge band, performed in Nepal, India, and Thailand in popular music festivals such as Hornbill International Rock Festival.

Their first song “My Darling” was played on a radio show in the Netherlands and Ugyen Tenzin, guitarist and vocalist, appeared as a guest on the show.



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Grunge is a sub-genre of hard rock and alternative music that rose to popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Some popular international grunge bands are Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, and Pearl Jam, among others.

North H will be playing their original songs, which will be released in December.

Ugyen Tenzin said that they are thrilled about the shows. “We always wanted to be a band from Bhutan performing on international stages.”

Ugyen Tenzin started the band in 2014.  It took him some time to find his band members.

“I saw people perform gigs but none of them gave me the vibe that they wanted to pursue music passionately as I do,” he said.

After many attempts, he called upon people who were not in the music industry to be part of his band and approached his childhood friends and brother.



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The band, for the past eight years, rented a room at Changbangdu and practised every day.  The band recorded, mixed and mastered songs in the studio.

A young drummer joined the band recently and will have his first performance with the band in South Korea.  Ravi Kumar Ghallay, a college student, travels from Paro four times a week to practise with the band.

The band has been practising for last two months for their performance in Korea.

“We worked hard for this,” Ugyen Tenzin said. “I was never discouraged by the lack of audience in the country. I was aware of what I was getting into. Since day one, I focused on following my love for music.”



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