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Bhutan sees first probable infant Covid-19 case  

སྤེན།, 07/24/2020 - 15:14

Younten Tshedup 

The first infant Covid-19 case in Bhutan is suspected in a one-and-half-year-old child who arrived in the country recently along with the mother from India.

The mother, 35, tested positive to the virus while in the quarantine centre. The child tested positive on the rapid diagnostic test but could not be confirmed on the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

As both the mother and child are asymptomatic, health officials, for now, have placed the duo in an isolation facility.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that the child’s status could not be confirmed using the RT-PCR test mainly because it was difficult to get the nasal swab from an infant.

For a RT-PCR test, the sample used is a nasal swab also called a nasopharyngeal swab or culture. The sample is collected from the uppermost part of the throat, behind the nose using a long stick-like equipment.

People who have been tested for RT-PCR shared that it is a very uncomfortable and painful procedure.

“It feels like being stabbed in the brain. There is nothing pleasant about inserting that stick deep inside your nose,” said a health worker.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said that although it is a probable positive case since the mother is positive, it was ‘inhumane’ to shove the swab down the throat of a crying baby just to prove he or she is positive.

“Imagine a health worker in full PPE shoving the swab down the baby’s nose. How traumatic would that be for the child?” the minister said.

Lyonpo said that even if the infant tests positive on the RT-PCR since there is no treatment, there is nothing that the clinical team could do.

“By conducting an RT-PCR test, we’d be just adding a number to our tally. But for me, I’m more concerned about the wellbeing of the child than adding a number on that 90,” she said.

“By doing a PCR forcefully on the child, the only assurance we would be getting is that he or she is positive. Then what next?”

Reason for keeping the mother and the child in an isolation facility

Unlike other positive cases who are immediately moved to an isolation ward in the hospitals upon confirmation, the mother and child, for now, have been placed in an isolation facility, which is a hotel.

Lyonpo said that keeping them in the isolation facility was in line with the ministry’s guideline.

The minister had earlier said that in case of a community outbreak, all positive asymptomatic cases would not be taken to the isolation ward in the hospitals. These cases would be monitored in an isolation facility, which would be a hotel.

“Putting the mother and child in the hospital ward would unnecessarily expose them to risk and other infections,” she said. “Because the child is a suspected case, for now, we cannot practically separate the mother and the child. Moreover, both are asymptomatic and are in stable condition.”

The minister also clarified that the ministry or the government were not hiding anything from the public. “Instead we are caring for the child.”

She said that the decision to keep the mother and child in an isolation facility and for not testing the child on RT-PCR was based on consultation with the clinical and technical teams of the ministry.

Lyonpo said that the decision was taken after considering all the pros and cons and the possible psychosocial implication on the child. “Given the current situation this was the best solution made in the interest of the patient.”

Also for all Covid-19 patients whose immune system, if highly compromised, would be treated in a similar manner. Meaning, instead of moving them to a hospital ward, the patients would be treated in an isolation facility.

Denchi township could be delayed 

སྤེན།, 07/24/2020 - 15:11

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

The shopkeepers who were allotted plots in the new Denchi township have to shift to the new towns by the end of this year.

However, shopkeepers said it could take another two years to complete construction of their buildings. Most of them could not even start construction.

Of the 49 who applied for land in the first phase of allotment, 27 shopkeepers received their plots. Of that, 14 commercial and a residential building are under construction while a residential building is complete.

A hotelier, Sangay Wangdi began construction last year. He said that they are not allowed to construct more than three-story, including the ground floor.

Most of the buildings under construction are four-storey structures including the underground.

He said he could have completed the building if not for the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is challenging to get labourers and transporting construction materials.”

Sangay Wangdi said the transportation charges have doubled as truckers have to transport via Bumthang.

“We’re worried if we can pay the loan instalment after the deferment ends in three months,” he said.

Some shopkeepers said they laid the foundation, but could not raise the structures for lack of labourers.

“It would help us if the dzongkhag administration could extend the deadline,” another shopkeeper, Dema said.

Pemagatshel municipal architect, Tenzin Rabgay, said the remaining 22 shopkeepers who applied for plots in the new town would get in the second phase.

He said of the 27 plot owners, 22 submitted their drawings, but only 20 drawings were approved while the remaining two had some issues and were returned for the revision.

Tenzin Rabgay said the town has the road and water supply. “The blacktopping for the road would be carried out soon,” he said.

The water treatment plant for the town is proposed in the flagship programme while the dzongkhag got about Nu 20M through small development project for the construction of a sewerage treatment plant.

He said they had proposed a budget through the common minimum infrastructure for the integrated streetlight, stormwater drainage and footpath, among others.

“We issued a letter because we wanted the business community to shift to the new town at the same time when the district administration moves to the new dzong in 2020-21.”

Gasa embarks on an ambitious agriculture venture 

སྤེན།, 07/24/2020 - 15:10

Phurpa Lhamo | Gasa

Gasa dzongkhag, which has been long known for being a nomadic community has ventured into agriculture recently.

Farmers of the Khatoed and Khamoed gewogs in the dzongkhags that are mostly warmer than its two other gewogs, Laya and Lunana, started cultivating buckwheat, wheat, beans, onion, tomato, cauliflower and chilli varieties.

It is an activity under the Agriculture Economic Contingency Plan (AECP) and budgeted Nu 5.4 million (M) in this fiscal year.

Gasa Agriculture Officer Karma Wangchuk said that about 70 acres of land in the two gewogs have been developed for cultivation.

Dzongkhag officials and farmers of the two gewogs met on July 20 and 21 to better understand the challenges of the farmers.

Some of the challenges for farmers are high humidity and short cultivation season.  “Humidity is quite high, as it rains continuously. This leads to pests and disease infections. Production time is also limited,” Karma Wangchuk said.

Lack of local market is also a challenge to the farmers producing vegetables on a small scale.

Expecting an increase in production, the dzongkhag is constructing a cold storage facility in Khatoed.

Karma Wangchuk said that the surplus could be stored in the cold store and sold during the lean season which would fetch a better price.

The cold storage facility, which can store around 25 metric tonnes (MT) is expected to complete in September.

The cold storage worth Nu 2.2M was funded by the Indian government.

A packhouse is also under construction near the cold store. “Fresh produce could be brought to the packhouse, washed and stored in the cold storage,” Karma Wangchuk said.

The dzongkhag is also exploring ideas on value addition. The dzongkhag has procured milling machines and smaller machines to make biscuits out of cereals.

Karma Wangchuk said that school dropouts were also trained to make biscuits. If the business goes well, the dzongkhag is going to handover the machines to the group.

“However, people are not coming forward. We’ve again invited interested people to come forward.”

Today, as part of the AECP, the dzongkhag is providing electric fencing, improved seeds, and bio-fertilizers to farmers.

From quarantine to prison

སྤེན།, 07/24/2020 - 15:09

Rinzin Wangchuk

After completing his 21 days mandatory quarantine period today, Sangay Lhendup will not go home in Kabisa, Thimphu. Escorted by the police, he will be taken straight to the prison.

Thimphu dzongkhag court sentenced Sangay Lhendup, 51, to four years in prison in connection with the clandestine entry and false declaration of travel history through a video conferencing hearing with the defendant, prosecutor and immigration officials of Phuentsholing yesterday.

Based on a police report, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) charged Sangay Lhendup for criminal nuisance, breach of public order and tranquillity, and reporting of false information.

The court has convicted Sangay Lhendup for criminal nuisance and sentenced him to three years and six months and another six months for breaching public order and tranquillity. It is a non-compoundable sentence.

According to the press release from the Covid-19 task force in Phuentsholing,  Sangay Lhendup had deliberately misled immigration officials at the international border crossing in Phuentsholing stating that he had come from Gomtu when he had actually come from Nepal.

Subsequently, he entered the country clandestinely to evade health protocols and mandatory facility quarantine. “Through this reckless and highly irresponsible act, he endangered the lives of his family and community and people of Bhutan at a time when the entire nation is working hard to prevent the importation and spread of Covid-19,” the press release stated.

The case was initially reported to the Ministry of Heath by the community of Kabisa on July 1. Kuensel learnt that Sangay Lhendup had entered Phuentsholing clandestinely in an Indian truck and then travelled to Thimphu by taxi on the same day. He returned from Nepal.

Police report stated that Sangay Lhendup was apprehended and was quarantined along with some of his close contacts after receiving a report from local government officials.

Sangay Lhendup is originally from Shingkhar, Zhemgang but lives in Kabisa.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 task force urges and appeals to the general public to refrain from committing such selfish and reckless acts under any circumstances.

“Those that commit such offences shall face severe consequences in accordance with due process and the rule of law,” the press release stated.

At the same time, the task force also pleading all communities to remain vigilant and to immediately report the presence of any individuals who they suspect of having entered the country without complying with health protocols and mandatory quarantine.

“It is in our individual and collective interest to support the efforts of the government during this very difficult and challenging period,” stated in the press release. “The general public is also reminded to comply with all notifications and measures put in place to mitigate the risks of importation and transmission of Covid-19.”

The government on March 23 made it mandatory for all persons travelling into Bhutan to undergo facility quarantine. Notwithstanding this requirement, there have been cases of individuals who have defied this notification by surreptitiously entering the country and willfully avoiding the quarantine.

The Covid-19 task force reminded again on July 19 through public notification stating that such selfish and irresponsible acts shall be liable for the offence of criminal nuisance as per Section 410; failure to assist lawful authority as per Section 428 and breach of public order and tranquillity as per Section 448 of the Penal Code, 2004.

Heavy rains damage homes and properties in Tsirang 

སྤེན།, 07/24/2020 - 15:09

Chimi Dema | Tsirang

Following heavy continuous rain since July 20, Tsirang reported more damages to properties, crops and public infrastructure.

A landslide on the midnight of July 21 damaged poultry shed, killing about 180 laying birds in Chuzomsa chiwog under Patshaling gewog. With the help of neighbours, farm owner Pema Tamang rescued about 100 birds from the damaged shed.

Senior Livestock Health Supervisor with the gewog, Amber Bdr. Gurung said that as there is no compensation scheme unless the farm is insured, they may consider a subsidy if there are heavy damages on the structure.

The consolidated damage report compiled by the dzongkhag disaster management unit recorded more than 30 other damages across six gewogs.

Patshaling gewog reported the most number of damages, 20 including six homes.

In Patshalingmaed, the mudslides on the night of July 21 damaged a house and washed away a carpentry shed. It was reported that the carpentry machine worth Nu 100,000 was buried.

Gewog officials have assessed the damages and advised residents to be cautious.

Except for two structures, Patshaling Gup Chabi Kumar Rai said that rest of them were not insured.

“We have also informed officials from Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan and they are yet to assess them,” the gup said.

The incessant rainfall has also damaged over 1.3 acres of cardamom plantation in the gewog.

The irrigation canals in Pemashong and Zamlingzor chiwogs in Mendrelgang suffered partial damages. The gewog administration would restore the canals.

Damages to private irrigation canal were also reported in Barshongmaed under Barshong gewog. The gewog officials are inspecting the damaged structures.

In other gewogs of Rangthaling, Kilkhorthang, Pungtenchu and Barshong, multiple minor blocks on farm roads and gewog centre roads, and damages to public infrastructure were also reported.

The gewog officials were coordinating the clearing of the roads.

Meanwhile, UNICEF issued a press release stating that over 700 people have died and dozens are missing in across four countries in South Asia.

The monsoon rain has caused landslides across the country and is hampering transport and communication as the main highway and inter-district roads have been damaged. The flash floods were caused by the overflow of the seven streams and tributaries to the Maochhu.

“Even for a region that is all-too-familiar with the devastating impact of extreme weather, the recent heavy monsoon rains, rising floods and continued landslides are creating a perfect storm for children and families affected,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and containment and prevention measures add an additional complication to the mix, as Covid-19 cases are accelerating in some of the affected areas,”she added.

30,000 Bhutanese seeking employment, number increasing

སྤེན།, 07/24/2020 - 15:08

Labour ministry come up with engagement, if not employment programmes

Yangchen C Rinzin

Close to 30,000 Bhutanese are seeking jobs currently. The number includes those laid off or affected by the pandemic and others returning from abroad, adding to the unemployment pool of 8,000 jobseekers that already existed before the pandemic.

More than 13,000 lost jobs after Covid-19 pandemic hit Bhutan in March. Another 8,000 people returned from overseas, of which, 90 percent were working overseas. More than 3,000 are still expected to return home due to the pandemic.  July alone saw more than 600 Bhutanese lose jobs.

Bhutan’s overall unemployment rate stands at 2.7 percent, according to the Labour Force Survey report (2019) or more than 8,000. The youth unemployment rate stands at 11.9 percent.

Lyonchhen during a meeting with executives and ministers last week described this trend as worrying, which if not solved, would lead to a social crisis.

“We have to create jobs for them,” Lyonchhen said. “We’re worried since the jobseekers have increased by 3 percent while job opportunities have decreased by 3 percent.”

Lyonchhen added that if this trend continues and if not addressed, the workplace will shrink by 10 percent, meaning the jobs will drop by 10 percent.

 

What measures?

However, measures are being put in place to address the unemployment issues, according to the labour and human resources minister Ugyen Dorji.   One of the measures was the Build Bhutan Project that targets engaging 7,000 jobseekers in the construction sector. More than 1,000 have registered for the project as of July 10.

This has happened after many foreign workers could not return to Bhutan from the winter break due to the pandemic creating a shortage of workers in the country.

Lyonpo had earlier told Kuensel that engaging in the construction sector was the only option to solve unemployment, as there was no other business.

The Labour minister in an email interview said that all the programmes carried out by the ministry to address the unemployment issue before the pandemic was put on halt after Covid-19 hit Bhutan.

Lyonpo said this was because the government directed to slow down on the implementation of programmes as the threat of Covid-19 pandemic had spread globally.

“It was a preventive measure but also to allow the government to plan a proper response to the pandemic.”

However, recognising the impact of Covid-19 on employment where many were being laid off, Lyonpo said the ministry immediately conducted a quick survey of enterprises and industries that were most likely to lay off workers.

Accordingly, lyonpo claimed that the ministry whose vision is to ensure gainful employment for all Bhutanese workforce has been working/worked on various programmes.

 

Programmes

To learn and enhance skilling and grab an opportunity to earn in future, the ministry has initiated a free online programme through “learn with Coursera” where the ministry has received free access for 10,000 learners.

More than 3,000 have joined the Coursera programme as of now, and Bhutanese will have free access until December.

Lyonpo said another ICT and online freelancing programme has also been initiated, which will be launched soon and benefit about 200 jobseekers. “This will make use of the work from home and freelancing opportunities available through the use of ICT.”

The ministry is also reviewing various programmes under skilling, youth engagement and entrepreneurship to make it more responsive to the needs of those affected by the pandemic.

“The programme has been redesigned to make it more accessible and flexible to benefit a wider range of beneficiaries. This will also benefit overseas returnees.”

The ministry has also launched a new programme that comprises skilling, Youth Engagement for Livelihood Programme (YELP) that was on halt and resumed from July 16, entrepreneurship and support services.

Lyonpo explained that YELP would support both employers and those getting engaged/employed where a wage allowance of Nu 5,000 a month would be provided for a duration ranging from three to 12 months.

“We’ve revised the YELP guidelines to facilitate engagement of both unemployed youth and those affected by Covid-19,” Lyonpo said. “Focus is now on engagement and not employment.”

YELP allows those that want to take up agriculture to form groups of three persons. To provide gainful employment, critical skills training was reinforced in partnership with government and CSOs and provided skilling support. The programme was earlier put on halt, which otherwise, would have trained about 900 individuals.

Critical skills training activities include western garment tailoring, food and fruit processing, online freelancing, multimedia, animation, coding, graphic, designing, among many.

Western garment tailoring will train 150 affected tailors in August.

“It would also explore to support the skilling of women and those vulnerable, especially those affected by the Covid-19. We aim to skill more than 2,000 in the year 2020-2021,” Lyonpo said.

Some of the initiatives include entrepreneurship development programme to support those who want to set up their own small business/new start-ups that are not launched yet.

Lyonpo added that considering the current situation, the ministry had redesigned the critical capability programme to meet the upskilling needs of those affected by Covid-19 in different sectors.

Jaigaon under lockdown until July 29

པ།, 07/23/2020 - 11:32

Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing

After a confirmed case of Covid-19 emerged in the heart of Jaigaon yesterday, the town will now be under lockdown from today until July 29.

Although the West Bengal government had issued a public notification on July 21 placing the town under lockdown for three days- on July 23 (today), July 25 and July 29, the residents of Jaigaon had requested the state government to extend the lockdown continuously until July 29. 

The request was approved and the lockdown begins from today.

A 55-year-old man from Jaigaon’s residential area Deokota Toll tested Covid-19 positive early yesterday. Deokota Toll is the area between NS Road and Chinese Lane. Hundreds of Bhutanese families lived there prior to evacuation in response to the pandemic. 

The results had come out around 1am yesterday, sources in Jaigaon said. He has been sent to Topsikhata Covid-19 hospital, Alipurduar.

This is the first case after five Jaigaon residents tested positive on June 7 and recovered on June 11.

The general secretary (GS) of Jaigaon Hardware and Electrical Merchant’s Welfare Association (JHEMWA), Rakesh Pandey said that they have requested for one week’s lockdown because Siliguri, Hasimara and Malbazaar were under lockdown too.

“And because of this, considering people’s safety we requested for a week’s lockdown,” he said.   

During the lockdown, all government and private offices, commercial establishments, public and private transport will be closed.

However, essential activities related to health services, including the movement of health personnel, medicine shops and pharmacies, law and order, courts, correctional services, fire and emergency services will remain open.

The general secretary of Jaigaon Merchants Association, RS Gupta said Jaigaon was clean until yesterday but there is tension now with the report of a new positive case.

“We will diligently follow this lockdown,” he said.

The general secretary also said that it has been made compulsory for people to wear face masks. 

“If people don’t follow, then they will be penalised with Rs 500,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Phuentsholing, everything is normal.

Joint audit report for PHPA-I and MHPA finds irregularities worth over Nu 379M 

པ།, 07/23/2020 - 11:32

Younten Tshedup 

The Royal Audit Authority (RAA) and Comptroller and Auditor General of India in a joint audit last year made eight observations for the Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project (MHEP) in Trongsa amounting to Nu 1,392.413 million (M).

The observations were not resolved as of January this year. As per RAA’s annual report 2019, Nu 1,160.459M did not qualify for inclusion in the report.

The significant unresolved irregularities for MHPA amounted to over Nu 231M. More than Nu 208M fell under non-compliance to laws and rules as per the audit report.

Two contractors of the project, M/s Jaiprakash Associates Ltd. and M/s GECPL had furnished bank guarantee of over Nu 748M against the required amount of Nu 949.900M towards five percent (Nu 474.950M) performance security and five percent (Nu 474.950M) retention money as security deposit required by contractual provisions of the general condition of contract (GCC).

The bank guarantee was short to the extent of Nu 201.400M. The expenditure under work-in-progress civil structure dam for the year that ended on March 31 2019 was Nu. 9,499.600M.

MHEP had also made an excess payment of Nu 6.905M due to application of higher cost in rate analysis of rock bolt items.

The report states that the rate for rock support items was analysed including the cost for threading, marking and cutting of tip on lump-sum basis and the works were required to be carried out only once for each drilling.

However, MHEP had not analysed the rate correctly and the cost component was embedded and paid for every metre of rock bolts executed with resultant the excess payment.

The project also made excess payments of Nu 23.649 million (M) for the geological over-breaks in addition to the approved Nu 427.831M.

The payments for the geological over-breaks were approved based on the measurement submitted by the contractor, M/s GECPL.

The contractor had submitted a plea in June 2015 for the re-consideration of all cross sections of over-breaks on geological conditions including those that were not approved.

The project management had considered carrying out re-evaluation of the geological cross sections in July 2015. During the re-evaluation, measurement of over-breaks, those that were initially not approved, were admitted for payment and the contractor was compensated with an additional claim of Nu 23.649M.

According to the audit report, this was in deviation to Section B, 2.1.2 of the technical specifications for the geological over-break and unsuitable foundations.

More than Nu 25.839M was categorized under the case of shortfalls, lapses and deficiencies for MHPA.

PHPA-1

Similarly, for Punatsangchhu-I hydroelectric project (PHPA-I) in Wangdue, RAA made 10 observations amounting to 148.670M worth of unresolved irregularities.

For non-compliance to law and rules, the irregularities for PHPA-I stood at Nu 32.760M.

The project had terminated a contract worth Nu 32.97M for the construction of a water treatment plant including its approach road to the project colony in Bjimthangkha.

As per the audit report, the termination was due to the inability of the former contractor, M/s Dawa Construction to complete works despite additional time extension.

After the termination, the work was re-awarded to M/s 2Q Engineering Works Pvt. Ltd. as per clause 63 of GCC of the agreement at the risk and cost of the former contractor.

The works were completed at a cost of Nu 13.73M against the awarded cost Nu 18.06M in September 2017. The risk and cost to be recovered from M/s Dawa Construction was estimated at Nu 4.530M by the project. The amount was not recovered till date of audit in 2019.

The project also made two avoidable payments of Nu 1.580M and Nu 36.840M on account of price escalation for the construction of a primary school building and residential complex for a 40-bed hospital at Jatshokha, Wangdue, respectively.

Under the shortfalls, lapses and deficiencies category RAA found irregularities worth Nu 115.910M for PHPA-I.

The project had made irregular reimbursement of accommodation charges of Nu 1.606M to the employees of M/s WAPCOS working at the project site.

PHPA-I had also made an overpayment of Nu 102.760M from incorrect computation of ownership cost in respect of machine hour rate.

Five financial institutions with the highest irregularities in 2019: RAA

པ།, 07/23/2020 - 11:31

Yangchen C Rinzin

The five financial institutions in the country have the highest unresolved budget irregularities— Nu 294.488 million (M), according to the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) report 2019.

Bhutan Development Bank Limited (BDBL)

RAA issued one audit report for the BDBL where 21 observations amounting to Nu 0.570M were pointed out. Only one was resolved as of January 2020.

BDBL had sanctioned the loans to 52 account holders without approvals and without signing the loan agreement, sanction letter, appraisal form, and disbursement memo, which amounted to Nu 50.336M.

This was against the BDBL Credit Manual 2015. According to the bank’s manual, disbursement and sanctioning of the loans should be completed only after approval of the credit committees.

“The bank has also sanctioned an OD loan of Nu 10M for a client, which amounted for 92 percent of the total cost,” the report said. “This has contravened BDBL Credit Manual where the debt to equity ratio should be 75:25 while sanctioning loans.”

Following a wrong appraisal by project service officers and improper verification by the credit committee or approving officers, BDBL had sanctioned the overdraft loan amounting to Nu 2M to a client in 2015.

The amount, the report stated, was beyond the value of collateral risking high credit, which would be difficult to recover in case of a default.

It was also observed that the bank sanctioned multiple loans of Nu 3M to a client against the boulder extraction works. However, the same work order already had an overdraft loan of Nu 63M with the same bank against the transportation of stone from a quarry to crusher plant.

Sanctioning of additional and ad-hoc loan facilities to non-performing loan (NPL) account holders were also observed which clearly indicated contravention to RMA Prudential Regulations.

“It was revealed that three clients were sanctioned Nu 0.5M each in 2016 and later Nu 1.5M in 2018 to the same clients who were NPL account holders,” the report said.

Bhutan National Bank (BNB)

The RAA had made 13 observations which involved Nu 230.785M. None of the observations was resolved as of January. The bank has loans amounting to Nu 3.944M under suspense account due to default by clients.

BNBL made excess payment of Nu 0.638M to three companies for the quantities of work claimed in the bills which were different from the works actually executed at the site.

In another case, the bank had sanctioned Nu 3.874M to a client in February 2015 to buy a machine. The client was supposed to submit all the relevant documents within a month of disbursement. However, the bank failed to follow-up and the client had passed away without buying the machine.

The branch office in Gelephu had outstanding loans and advances of Nu 111.294M against 68 clients and defaulted overdraft loan of Nu 111.816M against 28 clients.  This was attributed to the failure of credit monitoring and supervision unit that failed to follow-up with the clients.

The same branch office also had unclaimed demand drafts of Nu 2.055M pertaining to five years from 2014-2018.

Bank of Bhutan (BoB)

The RAA issued 18 observations amounting to Nu 10.136M of which not a single observation was resolved as of January 2020.

BoB’s branch office in Gelephu had outstanding loans and advances of Nu 4.947M against 17 clients, accumulating interest of Nu 0.600M. The same branch also had unclaimed demand drafts of Nu 4.643M between 2013 and 2018.

National Pension and Provident Fund (NPPF)

There were four observations amounting to Nu 54.482M of which Nu 0.55M was resolved as of January 2020.

The audit observed that NPPF had paid two months’ salaries as bonuses to all employees apart from performance-based variable allowances to 168 staff.

This was paid based on the aggregate target achievement of 98.23 percent.

However, it was observed that NPPF had paid this against the achievement of 14 percent growth of the investment portfolio for the year when the set target was 16 percent.

“The PBVA and bonuses were paid regardless of the target achievement,” the report said.

The NPPF had unclaimed government employee provident funds of Nu 48.544M, which has remained unclaimed for many years.

The beneficiaries were either expired, did not possess required documents for releasing the payments, or the beneficiaries were not traceable.

Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Limited (RICBL)

The RAA made 20 observations for the institution. Not a single observation was resolved as of January 2020.

RICBL’s branch office in Wangdue had 22 NPL accounts and four litigation cases. The RAA has advised the branch office in consultation with RICBL to initiate ways to get the accounts regularised before it becomes bad debt.

“It was also observed that RICBL had not carried out the security analysis for clients with multiple loan accounts. This is one of the requirements required as per the Credit Manual 2011,” the report said.

This has revealed that the loan amounts were more than the value of collateral securities exposing the company to higher risks, the report observed.

Heavy rains damage vegetables in Dagana 

པ།, 07/23/2020 - 11:31

Chimi Dema  | Dagana

Driven by a successful trail last year and coupled with market prospects in central schools, Thuenpa Puenzhi Soenam Detsen, a farmer’s group in Drujyegang gewog, Dagana transplanted off-season cabbage on more than one-acre land in March.

Were it not for heavy and incessant monsoon rains over the past few months, farmers would be busy reaping fruits of their labour from the fields, today.

However, the fields once lush and filled with green, leafy vegetables are now dotted with rotting cabbages. Farmers are in despair.

The chairperson of the 16-member group, Tshering Tashi, said that the cabbages began rotting about a month ago.

Farmers say that chilies and beans are also rotting in the fields due to continuous rainfall.

Usually, mass cultivation of cabbage is carried out only in winter in the region. Transplantation begins towards late September and early October.

Given the bountiful harvest from their first summer trial last year, farmers said that they wanted to increase the production this year.

“The rain this year was heavy,” Tshering Tashi said.

Sangay Zangmo, a farmer, said that seedlings were raised several times for transplantation after the first one was damaged. “But the same problem occurred. Were it not for continuous rainfall, harvest would have been good this time.”

A farmer, Thinley Wangchuk, said that he lost about two metric tonnes (MT) of cabbage to rain.

Without local demand for cabbage after closure of schools, farmers said that around three metric tonnes cabbage went to waste.

In March, the farmer’s group also contributed a tonne each of cabbage and cauliflower to the government.

The farmers are now focusing on growing asparagus.

“We have been receiving seeds and technical support from the dzongkhag agriculture sector but due to heavy rains all our efforts and resources could be in vain,” Tshering Tashi said, adding that the mass cultivation of vegetable varieties would be carried out after the monsoon.

“The main problem occurred due to delay in harvest without buyers in the local market,” a farmer said.

The group today supplies vegetables to Drugyegang Central School.

“We have been supplying mostly potatoes this time as we have stored a good amount,” a farmer said, adding that the surplus was sold in the local markets.

The farmers of Sergithang in Tsirang are facing the same problem.

Farmer Sanman Subba lost watermelons to rain besides cabbages and chillies.

With the rainy period lasting for more than eight months, Dagana and Tsirang have a good deal of rainfall.

Emerging needs

པ།, 07/23/2020 - 11:27

Bhutan is still dealing with a complex reality: the limited job market. The notion that the government should create jobs for all has not helped. There are no desk jobs, an image of government job, for everyone. The government cannot absorb all the job seekers.

Something has to change. There is increasing diversity in professions. A rapidly changing or modernising society, as we are believed to be, needs greatly diversified services, especially in an urban setting. How do we deal with it?

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen that there are a lot of potentials to be tapped. In fact, the pandemic has exposed a whole gamut of opportunities that Bhutanese could take up now.

There is training of tailors being organised in Tsirang. The name of the training, Western Garment Tailoring Training, may sound odd, but this is one initiative that could become not only lucrative, but also provide jobs and livelihoods to thousands of Bhutanese. Western garment means trousers and shirts. How would that create jobs where the national dress is mandatory at work places?

There is a huge demand for trousers and shirts. For instance, there are about 12,848 DeSuups who needs at least two sets of dress. The growing awareness on occupational health and safety requires more work place specific and appropriate attire. There are many public corporations that insist on uniform that suits the job. Trousers and shirts, not Bhutanese attire, is increasingly becoming the accepted uniform at workplace. We are not even talking about the armed forces.

And soon, we would see thousands of young Bhutanese joining the Gyalsung programme where trainings will need more than gho and kira. Training school dropouts, reskilling the thousands of tailors and many others “educated” jobless people would be a win-win situation.

Before the closure of the borders, all these work are sent to Jaigaon or Mela Bazaar or Dathgari, the towns across the borders. Uneducated but skilled tailors make a living from stitching uniforms for Bhutanese organisations or agencies. There are repercussions. While jobs are outsourced across the border, there is a huge out flow of the Indian Rupee.

It is not only tailors. The pandemic has reconfirmed our dependence on our neighbourers across the border. With the entry of expatriate workers restricted and thousands wanting to go home, there is an acute shortage of skilled workers. Those in the construction sector are feeling the heat when the limited skilled workers are doubling and tripling the cost of their service.  To put into context, a tiler charges Nu 75 for laying a square foot of tiles today. The rate was Nu 25 before many tillers left for home in India.

There are shortages of carpenters, tillers, masons, welders and many more. If this gap can be filled with Bhutanese, it will provide the solution to the job market. The reality is that the needs and demands are changing with times. The pandemic will force us to change a lot of things as we look into a new normal.

Audit irregularities worth over Nu 15M in RUB colleges 

པ།, 07/23/2020 - 11:26

Younten Tshedup

Of the 159 close circuit television (CCTV) worth Nu 2.146 million (M) installed at the Sherubtse College in Kanglung, Trashigang in 2016-17 fiscal year, 86 CCTV cameras were found to be non-functional.

The damage was due to wire disturbances and fibre optic line damage from felling trees within the campus. In absence of these cameras, the college lost two computer sets.

The Royal Audit Authority (RAA) in its annual report 2019 categorised the incident as a case of mismanagement, resulting in irregularities in the audit findings.

RAA in 2019 issued seven audit reports to the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) and its colleges. There were 32 observations made by the authority amounting to over Nu 131M of which over Nu 38M were resolved as of January this year. More than Nu 76M did not qualify for inclusion in the report.

RAA reported significant unresolved irregularities worth over Nu 15M as for the RUB and its colleges last year.

As per the audit report, Sherubtse College had not directed M/s Penjor Construction Pvt. Ltd. to rectify defective works in the construction of self-catering hostels for the college.

It was noted that there were cracks and fissures on the hostel walls and plinth protection of toilets due to improper planning and lack of adequate supervision and monitoring.

The college had also not levied liquidated damages for non-receipt of furniture worth over Nu 4M from M/s JK Furniture.

The report stated that against the supply order of furniture worth Nu 14.553M in June 2018, furniture worth Nu 4.280M was not received even at the time of audit in March 2019.

Further, the college had neither followed up for supply of furniture, nor levied liable liquidated damages for the delays.

Also, the College of Natural Resources (CNR) in Lobesa, Punakha had not levied liquidated damages amounting to over Nu 9M for delay of 389 days in the construction of academic buildings and its site development from M/s Raven Builders Pvt. Ltd.

According to the report, the contractor was already granted two time extensions aggregating to 169 days till July 17 2018. However, the works were incomplete at the time of audit in August 2019.

These findings were recorded under the category of non-compliance to laws and rules that amounted to over Nu 13M for RUB and its colleges.

Under the shortfalls, lapses and deficiencies category, the RAA reported irregularities worth over Nu 2M.

CNR had not adjusted advances amounting to Nu 1.353M against 10 officials. Some of the dues were from the 2014-15 fiscal year. The college had also made excess payments of Nu 0.088M to M/s Drasindra Technology for procurement of 10 laptops.

Similarly, the report states that the Gedu College of Business Studies (GCBS) in Chukha had made excess payment of Nu 66,000 to M/s KW Construction for the construction of a human development centre and library building.

The excess payment had occurred due to difference in quantities passed as per the measurement book and actual quantities executed at site, states the audit report.

CNR had paid excessive advances over Nu 51M to M/s Raven Builders Pvt. Ltd. to construct academic blocks and for site development despite substantial delays.

The advances were released without obtaining bank guarantee in deviation to the provisions of contract terms and conditions.

CNR could not encash the renewed bank guarantee amounting to Nu 13.7M of M/s Raven Builders Pvt. Ltd. The bank guarantee was obtained against performance security of Nu 6.58M and mobilisation advance of Nu 6.58M from the Bhutan National Bank Limited, Wangdue.

Similarly, the college also could not encash the performance bank guarantees amounting to Nu 7.813M of M/s Raven Builders Pvt. Ltd. The report stated that M/s T-Bank did not entertain the claims for performance bank guarantees of Nu 5.5M from Thimphu and Nu 2.313M from Wangdue as the contractor had defaulted the overdraft facility.

RAA found that CNR had irregularly retained fund balance of Nu 0.763M from the construction of power substation under a government of India funded project in its current deposit account.

A shop in Thimphu for highland products

པ།, 07/23/2020 - 11:25

Thinley Namgay  

A youth group from Sakteng opened a highland dairy products shop in Thimphu in collaboration with National Highland Research Development Programme yesterday.

Located at Sangay Sales building near the vegetable market in Olakha, the shop is run by five men including three university graduates and two tourist drivers.

They bought dairy products from their locality since April after the Covid-19 pandemic shut the borders and the trade with Arunachal Pradesh.

They have 3,300kg of zoetey and 2,100kg of butter and the price ranges from Nu 195 to Nu 600.

Zoetey is sold in plastic and glass containers. Customers can buy two types of butter: one for consumption and the other for butter lamp. There is no fresh cheese.

So far they spent more than Nu 1.4 million including the cost of products, transportation charges and the monthly rent of Nu 32,000.

One of the members, Dorji Wangdi, said that group aspires to distribute the products in all the dzongkhags. “We also wish to export to other countries especially targeting the Bhutanese who loves these products.”

Currently, the group has a marketing van to supply products to homes within Thimphu. They market their products through a Facebook page.

Dorji Wangdi also said that as a pilot project they have lots of challenges. He said that the group has no transportation vehicle to bring the products to Thimphu.

“We hire other vehicles paying Nu 30,000 for a bolero pickup truck and Nu 40,000 for a DCM truck. We have applied for a loan to buy a bigger vehicle.”

The other major problem is the lack of cold storage facility. “Of the 990kg zoetey brought in the first trip, 360kg were damaged. We’re hoping that the ministry will help us.”

Agriculture minister Yeshey Penjor said the ministry is focusing on the quality food sufficiency, and such an initiative would encourage other youth.

The agriculture ministry helped the group with business ideas, vacuum packaging machine and powder machine.

Another group member Pema Khandu said that yak farming is declining due to the emerging socio-economic developments.

“The trend has become a question of concern if unchecked. We are hoping that this initiative would inspire the youth of Merak and Sakteng to take up a nomadic livelihood.”

Court sentences drangpon’s wife to 18 months in prison

པ།, 07/23/2020 - 11:24

… acquits other two charged in the case

Neten Dorji | Wamrong

Wamrong drungkhag court yesterday handed a compoundable sentence of 18 months prison term to the drangpon’s wife, Tshering Yangki for her involvement in the battery case.

She was also sentenced to a year in prison for trespassing.

However, she has to serve one year and six months in prison as the court ordered a concurrent sentence. She can pay the national wage rate for one year six months or Nu 68,437 in lieu of the prison term.

Tshering Yangki also has to compensate victim Sonam Peldon for causing her injury which led to temporary total disability and damages.

“Defendants Tshering Yangki have to pay five years wage of Nu 225,000 as compensation according to section 39 of the Penal Code of Bhutan,” the judgment stated.

The judgment also states that she has to pay Nu 38,200 as medical expenses incurred during her medical treatment within 10 days from the date of the judgment.

The judgment stated that Tshering Yangki was guilty of trespassing and for violating section 237 of the Penal Code.

Both the victims and her son, who was accused of assault by the prosecutor, were acquitted.

“They were acquitted as per the section 49 and 50 of Penal code of Bhutan,” the judgment states.

According to judgment, the incident began after defendant Tshering Yangki demanded Sonam Peldon remain out of her sight while she was outside in her kitchen garden planting garlic.

The judgement stated that it was not as per the prosecutor and Tshering Yangki’s submission which alleged that the incident began after Sonam Peldon’s son used abusive language.

The incident occurred on April 26 this year near Wamrong court. The Thrimshing police acting on behalf of the Wamrong police, who could not prosecute due to conflict of interest issues, charged the Wamrong drangpon’s wife, the wife and son of the sweeper working at the drungkhag court for battery, and trespassing.

The court has altered the grading of the offence from a petty misdemeanour to a misdemeanour.

Meanwhile, the court has rejected the charges for harassment against Tshering Yangki since the prosecutor didn’t charge her for harrassment. 

Tshering Yangki is going to appeal to the higher court.

Paro cancels cordyceps auction

པ།, 07/23/2020 - 11:23

…only three buyers showed up at the yard

Phub Dem | Paro

The rare and expensive fungi, Cordyceps Seninsis or Yartsa Goenbub that usually witness a huge rush and demand at open auctions is suddenly seeing no market this year.

The cordyceps auction failed to take place because there were only a few buyers yesterday in Paro. The quality of cordyceps at the auction was also another factor.

Without buyers, the local leaders of Tsento and Doteng in Paro and Soe in Thimphu said they would write to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests seeking a way forward to sell their cordyceps.

Tsento Mangmi Chencho Gyeltshen said that local leaders in consultation with the collectors decided to propose to the ministry to either postpone or merge the auction with Thimphu’s.

He said that the sellers wanted some more time to study the cordyceps auction in other dzongkhags, as they were not happy with the number of buyers.

At Tsento yesterday, cordyceps collectors were shocked to see only three exporters present at the auction yard. They waited until noon for buyers to turn up.

Only twenty buyers had registered with the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives.

Buyers and sellers blamed the Covid-19 pandemic for poor business this year. The buyers say that the fungus quality was “mediocre”—of C grade.

Most buyers didn’t turn up for the auction this time. According to Deki Yangzom who has been exporting cordyceps for the last 10 years, it was difficult to export the fungus and there was no local market due to the pandemic.   

Storing the fungus is another challenge.

If the fungus is stored for a year, she said that there was a 30 per cent weight loss. And the buyers have to pay monthly interest rates for the loans they take to buy the fungus until it is exported. “They can’t expect last year’s price, as the situation is different now. We can’t directly sell it.”

There are 351 registered sellers from three gewogs considering each household is allowed to have three collectors. The year’s cordyceps auction begins from Paro.

Cordyceps is one of the major sources of income for the highlanders.

Chimi Dorji, a collector, used to make Nu 100,000 from selling 900 pieces of cordyceps. He is doubtful now.

Pema Om from Soe said it was difficult to get to the auction yard in the first place. “It is a waste of time and money having to travel all the way from Soe.”

Collectors from Nubri in Soe saw a bountiful harvest this year. Tshering Nidup collected around 1,000 pieces this year. “I expected to make a huge income from the fungus this year. Forget about the profit, I am worried if I can even sell the fungus.

21 rescued from Maochhu yesterday

ཕུར།, 07/22/2020 - 11:42

Missing bodies recovered

Nima  | Gelephu

Migma Norbu Sherpa along with his staff of a private crushing unit climbed on a mound of sand and boulders when the Maochhu level started to increase.

Migma Norbu Sherpa and 15 other people were stranded at the crushing unit located over 100 metres down the water treatment plant when the river level started to increase at around 12:30am on Monday. They didn’t dare to escape by crossing the river. It was too late.

On the other side of the swollen river was a lone man, who was stranded overnight at the Thromde water treatment plant. Dendup Gyeltshen climbed on one of the water tanks as the water level kept rising.   

“We tried to bring the caretaker with us towards midnight but to no avail. He was alone,” said Migma Norbu Sherpa.

As the water level started to fall the next morning, Migma Norbu Sherpa and his group of 16 people, all stranded near the water treatment plant overnight were helped by the rescue team comprising of Royal Bhutan Army soldiers, police, DeSuups, forest and thromde officials among others at 8am yesterday. The staff of the crushing unit was working at the site for the past two years with family and children.

On the same night, four forest officials who were on Covid-19 duty at an observation point near the border area were also stranded towards the end of Maochhu where two observation points were built close to the border until 3am. Their colleagues along with the rescue team helped them to safety.

The works to reach the stranded people resumed by 4am yesterday after heavy rainfall increased water level and stopped the team from trying further on Monday night.

“I had my diner around 3:30am. I don’t know what I ate,” said one of the rescue officials. The rescue team also found the two missing bodies of the soldiers yesterday.

Meanwhile, the diversion wall that diverted water to the Thromde treatment plant and the fishery unit had collapsed, leading to the change in the course of Maochhu on July 20, according to officials.

Gelephu gup, Ugyen Wangchuk who is also a DeSuup said there is a need to do proper dredging and river protection walls to reduce the risk of flooding in the area.

“Now the dredging works are completed and the debris started to fill daily. This led to change in the course of the river,” he said. “Without proper dredging and protection walls, the situation would remain the same.

Several tributaries from nearby hills end into Maochhu increasing the water volume during monsoon.

About seven streams and rainwater from Aieslip, Balaykhocha, and Passang chhu, Jogikhola, Dawlakhola, and Shetikhari, among others, flow into the Maochhu.

The diversion wall for the water treatment plant and the fishery was constructed in 2000, according to sources.

The water level at Maochhu during the flood increased to over 11.1 metres because of heavy rainfall.  The highest rise in water level was reported at noon on Monday.

Officials from National Center for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM) said plans to install early warning systems at the critical flood areas are being explored. “The advisory warning of flood and heavy rainfall in the southern region on July 18, 19 and 20 were announced,” he said.

The flooding has also caused minor damages to the paddy plantation located near the riverbank. However, the damages to the water treatment plant could not be assessed yet.

Kuensel could not contact the five contractors who were rescued from near the water treatment plant when the flood occurred.

Police investigate BNBL’s flawed recruitment

ཕུར།, 07/22/2020 - 11:39

Rinzin Wangchuk

Thimphu police are zooming into the alleged fraud, forgery, and collusion at the Bhutan National Bank Limited (BNBL) in connection with the recruitment of 15 supporting staff.

This is the third investigation of the same issue. The suspected fraud and corruption first surfaced in 2019 after the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) conducted compliance auditing in the bank.

Since there were some elements of corruption and forgery, RAA forwarded the report to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for further investigation. ACC officials confirmed that the commission forwarded the case to police as it involved manipulation of documents and forgery.

An investigating police officer said that they don’t have any comment on this as they have just begun investigation into the allegations.

Kuensel learnt that the police began the investigation on July 15 and reportedly began interrogating individuals, who submitted forged documents, and officials involved in the recruitment process.

How the issue surfaced?

BNBL announced vacancy for support staff in April 2017 and February 2018 with certain criteria. There were 1,070 applicants, of which 75 applicants were shortlisted for viva voce and then 15 were finally recruited for the various announced posts.

Later, some contestants knew that they were deprived of the opportunities due to collusion and fake class eight mark sheets. Sources said that some disgruntled applicants complaint anonymously to the management of BNBL, RAA and ACC to investigate the recruitment process.

The anonymous letter stated that it was learnt later that the staff within the BNBL were involved and colluded in abetting the mass forgery of documents to eliminate other genuine competitors and victimised the innocent.

They also alleged that some members of the recruitment panel encouraged and abetted few applicants related to them from the same village.

One of the criteria for selection processes the applicants were supposed to submit was the Class Eight Marksheet. In the format, there were two columns indicating half-year assessment marks and end of the year assessment marks obtained by the students without which the academic documents were considered incomplete. But some of the class eight mark sheets submitted to HRO had only the end of the year assessment marks.

“This has been deliberately overlooked by HRO to recruit the candidates on collusion,” the anonymous statement stated.

Sources said that the recruitment viva interview was just to fulfil the required formality and the selection and recruitment was done purely based on the marks obtained in class eight.

They alleged that besides other members colluding with the panellists, some staff allegedly influenced the recruitment committee to secure job for their spouses.

According to officials from BNBL, the management formed a high-level committee to look into the recruitment process and decide accordingly. The committee then took a decision to send 10 supporting staff on compulsory retirement but with service benefits.

“Since they were from the lowest level, the management decided to give them retirement benefits on humanitarian ground,” an official said.

Final RAA’s findings

RAA also issued two audit reports of the BNBL along with it audit annual report 2019 on July 20.  RAA found that the bank had recruited 10 staff who had submitted forged mark sheets at the time of selection. The candidates had deliberately manipulated and forged their original result to fulfil criteria.

The report also stated that the concerned dealing officials had failed to exercise due diligence in verifying the genuineness of the documents submitted by the applicants.

Of the 10 staff recruited based on forged documents, five employees were separated from services with benefits instead of being terminated, according to the audit report.

The remaining five employees are still serving with the Bank. “Three employees have been confirmed to have also submitted forged documents but no actions were taken at the time of audit in August 2019, “ the report stated.

It also stated that the documents for two employees could not be authenticated as the concerned school authorities were unable to validate their results due to non-availability of records as stated in their response. “Non-termination of such employees, despite being aware of the deceptive practices was in contravention to the BNBL Human Resource Policy Manual 2016.”

BNBL paid Nu 0.154 million as retirement benefits to six staff in contravention to the Human Resource Policy Manual. “The bank instead of terminating services of those staff who had been recruited based on forged documents had asked the employees to put up resignation letters, which were then accepted and employees relieved from service with benefits,” the report stated.

There were 13 observations amounting to Nu 230.785M, which were not resolved as of 31 January 2020 and Nu 0.884M did not qualify for inclusion in the AAR 2019.

Man arrested for involuntary manslaughter

ཕུར།, 07/22/2020 - 11:39

Phurpa Lhamo | Gasa

A 30-year-old man from Trashiyangtse is under police custody in Gasa for alleged involuntary manslaughter.

The suspect was arrested on July 12, on the day the incident occurred.

According to police, the 60-year-old victim was stabbed on the right chest. The  suspect had first informed the hospital and then later called the police. The victim succumbed to his injury before he could be taken to the hospital.

The suspect told police that the stabbing was accidental and happened while they were playing with a knife. Both of them were drunk at the time of the incident.

Initially, the suspect had denied stabbing the victim but later confessed to it.

The police said that the duo was at a friend’s house at the Gasa Dzong renovation labour camp. There was no witness.

Police will forward the case to the Office of the Attorney General soon.

4,000 wildlife crimes in last three years

ཕུར།, 07/22/2020 - 11:39

Choki Wangmo 

In the past three years, about 4,000 forest crimes were reported in the country from which illegal activities related to timber and wildlife poaching topped the list.

The crimes have reportedly increased by the year. The average crime committed within 2017-2019 was 1,300. 

With 795 cases, the forest department last year recorded the highest number of misdemeanors in timber extraction. Timber related cases involved the misuse of rural timber and other surplus timber.

In 2019, 49 poaching and 504 fishing cases were reported. 

According to forest facts and figures from 2017 until last year, more than half of the offenses were related to timber followed by wildlife poaching and fishing.

The records showed that between 2016 and 2018, fines collected from wildlife crimes amounted to Nu 67 million. In 2017, fishing and wildlife poaching accounted for a total of 149 cases and in 2018, 40 poachers were caught. Crimes included hunting and poaching of wild animals and its parts, smuggling and their illegal sale.

Other crimes against wildlife are illegal extraction of forest resources for food and resources, bush meat killing, fishing, forest encroachment, retaliatory killing, and forest fire.

Animals such as tiger, clouded leopard, Asian elephant, bear, Himalayan monal and musk deer are poached for skin, ivory, musk, medicine, and bones, among others.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) recent wildlife crime report: trafficking in protected species found that while the number of seizures of tigers and their parts remains small, the number has risen from 2007 to 2018.

Thailand and India are the main source countries for these seizures, although sourcing from Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan is also ongoing.

Nearly 6,000 species have been seized between 1999-2018, including not only mammals but reptiles, corals, birds, and fish. Suspected traffickers of some 150 nationalities have been identified, illustrating the fact that wildlife crime is a global issue.

The forest department noted that offense and illegal cases are still a major challenge in the country.

An official with the forest protection and enforcement division said that those animals that have high market value were vulnerable to wildlife crimes, mostly species-based. The magnitude of illegal trade in wildlife products, however, is relatively unknown.

“Crimes against plants are hard to detect because it is difficult to break the chain of transboundary organised crime,” he said.

Red sanderwood, for example, is smuggled from India to China in different forms of consignments, he said.

Due to stringent measures to control Covid-19 and border restriction, cross border wildlife trade has reduced but the crime within the country might be ongoing, said the official.

He said that meat import restrictions could encourage bush meat killing and rampant fishing. “Once there is a shortage in the market, peoples’ dependency on natural resources increase,” he said.

As of now, about 600 forest officials are deployed across the country for border patrolling.

UNODC’s report also stated that the illegal trade in wildlife, which by definition does not go through proper sanitary and phytosanitary controls, can potentially lead to the spread of zoonotic diseases, such as SARS-CoV-2 that caused the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although the crimes undergo legal proceedings, due to the clandestine nature of the crime, it has been noted that the low risk of detection provides impunity to criminals. The defaulters are charged according to forest rules and regulations.

The national zero poaching strategy has also been developed to strengthen the anti-poaching and surveillance programmes to ensure safe protection of the wildlife in Bhutan along with transboundary networking and information sharing.

“To enhance reporting, SMART tool for species monitoring, wildlife crime hotspot mapping, and human-wildlife conflict predation mapping are also in place,” the official said.

UNODC recommended supporting law enforcement agencies in range, transit and destination states require additional technical and financial assistance to address capacity gaps, including help to better prevent, detect and investigate wildlife trafficking, and better training and protocols on how to secure and deal with specimens once seized or confiscated.

Applicants of Phase II of Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu must follow eligibility criteria

ཕུར།, 07/22/2020 - 11:37

Thinley Namgay 

The first phase of Relief Kidu is over. The second is in.

Who can apply?

The employees of tourism and tourism-dependent sectors who have been laid off or placed on unpaid leave or receive reduced salary, and businesses required to remain closed by the government directives and activities affected severely by physical distancing measures with no other source of sustaining their livelihoods.

This is according to the eligibility criteria set up by the Relief Kidu team.

As per the criteria, individuals who are engaged in self-operated businesses in tourism and tourism-dependent sectors with no other means of sustaining their livelihoods are also eligible for kidu.

Moreover, individuals working abroad and have returned home permanently because of the pandemic and have no other means of sustaining their livelihoods are also entitle for kidu.

Press release from the Relief Kidu team states that the kidu recipients of different categories are required to actively seek jobs in the various employment programmes launched by the government and private sectors.

Applicants are required to submit an application. Those individuals who applied or received kidu in the first phase (April-June) can re-apply. Desk and field verifications will be conducted by the team to assess eligibility but may also be required to present themselves physically during the verification process.

Unlike in the first phase, some sectors are now phased out of the kidu considering the recent relaxations and extension in business timing.

Phased out sectors are private technical and vocational institutes, including driving and tailoring institutes, all businesses that operate until 9pm, informal businesses and street vendors, sports centres (stadiums, gyms, yoga, dance studios, rubber tracks and facilities for traditional games), taxis, and other public transport drivers and employees.

Phase two of the Relief Kidu was started on July 7 and it will end in September. The kidu amount has been revised to Nu 10,000 for the full amount and Nu 7,000 for the partial amount.

As of July 20, 15,784 applicants from the Phase I had re-applied, while 2,296 new applications have been received, taking the total number of applications to 18,080. Relief Kidu team has begun assessments for applications.

Of the 33,829 applications received in the first phase, over 72 percent has received the Kidu.

ཤོག་ལེབ་ཚུ།