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No quota for UG-scholarship to study MBBS at AIIMS, India:  DAHE

ཉིམ།, 09/10/2022 - 15:18

Admission for 22 MBBS and BDS in Bangladesh delayed by a year

Rinzin Wangchuk 

Admission to the prestigious and world renowned All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, has begun earlier this month, but Bhutanese students even, with undergraduate scholarships to pursue MBBS programme, were not able to join the institute.

This, according to an official from department of adult and higher education (DAHE), was because the Supreme Court of India (SCI) discontinued the foreign student quota to study at AIIMS.

The SCI in April 2020 issued an order stating that candidates applying for MBBS at AIIMS must appear for the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) and participate in the counseling for final seat allotments.

The entrance examination was introduced to “wipe out corruption and other evils in the system.” Prior to the SCI order, Bhutan used to send two science students who excelled in their class XII examinations to study MBBS at AIIMS through foreign students’ quota and need not sit for the common entrance examinations.

Following the SCI order on the need to sit for NEET, some Bhutanese students who qualified for the scholarship opted to pursue medicine in other countries at their own expense.

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DAHE receives two MBBS slots at AIIMS in India and 18 slots in Sri Lanka annually. Currently, there are 10 students pursuing MBBS at AIIMS in India. The official, however, said that DAHE hasn’t stopped sending students to AIIMS.

Over the past 10 years, DAHE was able to implement 20 UG-scholarship students to pursue MBBS in India and around 162 in Sri Lanka –  University of Colombo, University of Peradeniya, University of Kelaniya and General Sir John Kotelewala Defence University.

DAHE officials said UG-scholarships are granted under two main funding sources, government of India (GoI) and royal government of Bhutan (RGoB). Under GoI funding through project tied assistance (PTA), all UG-scholarships are in India while same scheme under RGoB funding is in third countries.

162 UG-scholarship slots for 2022

DAHE’s scholarship and student support division (SSSD) administers the entire UG-scholarship programme for class XII passed students selected by the government for further studies. In April, DAHE announced 162 UG-scholarship slots for bachelor’s degree programmes in various professional and non-professional courses under different funding schemes. Of the 162 slots, 20 was for MBBS (8 in Sri Lanka, 10 in Bangladesh and 2 in India) and another 20 slots – 10 in Bangladesh another 10 in Sri Lanka for Assistance to Privately Enrolled Medical Students (APEMS).

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UG-scholarships for MBBS and APEMS in Bangladesh and India are coordinated by DAHE through Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC).

APEMS scholarship scheme was introduced in 2009 through an executive order to address the acute shortage of doctors in the country. Under this scholarship, a student in Sri Lanka receives a tuition fee of Nu 300,000 annually. The scheme also provides a stipend after completion of the second year, which is 70 percent of the total stipend given to full scholarship students in Bangladesh.

Another 25 students were selected to study B.Sc nursing in India.


22 students waiting for colleges

In 2020, DAHE selected 20 students to pursue MBBS and another two for BDS (bachelor of dental surgery) in various medical colleges in Bangladesh based on the offer received from the government of Bangladesh under the SAARC quota.

However, the students are still waiting  for placement without any information on the colleges. One student wrote to Kuensel stating that they tried reaching out to every concerned authorities, but failed to get any confirmation. “Now it’s becoming really concerning for the 22 of us,” he wrote. “It’s been almost two years now and if we get delayed this year too, then we won’t get any placement due to the gap year.”

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He also stated that classes for local students in Bangladesh already started a month ago. Some students also resorted to social media to express their disappointment over the delay in admission.

“There is nothing we could do. We did everything we could but the long wait is draining us,” one wrote on social media.

DAHE officials said that the department received the offer on February 28 this year and application with relevant documents for MBBS and BDS were submitted to the Bangladesh government on March 11 through the ministry of foreign affairs (MoFA).

“The admission of MBBS and BDS under the SAARC quota in Bangladesh, however, gets delayed by a year even in normal times due to the differences in examination timing in Bhutan and Bangladesh,” the official said. “Moreover, for this cohort of students,  admission was further delayed because of Covid-19 pandemic and unavoidable circumstances.”

The official, however, said that the department is continuously following up with the government of Bangladesh through the Bangladesh Embassy in Thimphu, MoFA, and Royal Bhutan Embassy (RBE) in Dhaka.

In a recent update, the committee of the Directorate General of Medical Education (DGME), Medical Education and Family Welfare Division of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Bangladesh,  met to discuss and finalise the application for the Government Medical and Dental Colleges.  “They will meet again this week to confirm admission for MBBS and BDS,” the officials from RBE Dhaka and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh said.

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An official from Bangladesh Embassy said that all prospective MBBS/BDS students, both locals and overseas, have been facing delays since last year due to the pandemic.

“This year, the admission process is still going on, which hopefully will be completed in a week or two,”Counsellor and Head of the Chancery, Sujan Debnath, said. “Students from Bhutan, who have been nominated by the Bhutanese government have nothing to worry about.”

Royal Friendships connect Bhutan and the UK

ཉིམ།, 09/10/2022 - 15:17

Staff Reporter

The incredible life and reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was an inspiration to the world and Her Majesty will be remembered as a truly great Monarch who led her people with exceptional grace and wisdom through the most difficult times in history, His Majesty The King said in a message to His Majesty King Charles III. The message also conveyed condolences to The Queen Consort, members of The Royal Family and the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. 

World leaders paid tribute and people across the globe mourned the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, which symbolises the end of an era. His Majesty said that, through her tireless and selfless service to her people, the longest reigning Monarch in British history will always be remembered for the wisdom, grace, dignity and strength she personified. 

Relations between Bhutan and the United Kingdom is characterised by historical contact since the 18th century, recent cooperation in Bhutan’s development process, the education of many Bhutanese students in the United Kingdom, and the friendship between members of the Royal families of the two countries. 

Historically, Anglo-Bhutanese relations were greatly strengthened during the reign of the first King of Bhutan, His Majesty Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck, who established firm foundations for relations between the two countries. Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck met King George V in 1906 when he was Prince of Wales, and in 1911 when King George was crowned King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India. Members of the two Royal families continue to exchange personal greetings to this day. 

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Bhutan and the United Kingdom have no formal diplomatic relations but the governments are in touch directly and through the British High Commission and Royal Bhutanese Embassy in India. The Deputy High Commission of UK in Calcutta, Honorary Consul of UK in Bhutan, and the Bhutan Society of the United Kingdom also facilitate people-to-people contacts. 

Over the years, Bhutan has received support for a number of specialised projects from the UK in education, health, agriculture and forests, rule of law, and the environment. British NGOs, Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and Save the Children (UK), have both worked in Bhutan. In 2004 British Deputy High Commissioner in India, Mr Mark Runacres, led a seven-member delegation to Bhutan on an official visit. “We are great believers that even a small country like Bhutan has a vital role to play in the international scene,” he told the Bhutanese media. 

Education is a key factor in Bhutan’s relations with the UK. In human resources development, the RCSC has implemented 167 trainings, 93 long – term, and 71 short-term, under the British Council/ODA (Overseas Development Assistance). The Fleming Fund Grants Programme has also included fellowships and the Chevening Scholarships began in 2012. 

Her Royal Grandmother Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck was the first Bhutanese to study in London, in 1949. His Majesty the third King spent six months in London, His Majesty the fourth King studied in the UK, and His Majesty The King completed the Diplomatic Studies Programme at Oxford University. Hundreds of Bhutanese officials and professionals, educated and trained in prestigious institutions in the UK, are in decision making positions in the country today. 

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Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Princess Kate, made a high profile visit to Bhutan from April 14 to 16, 2016. Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, who is the patron of Ability Bhutan Society, and the Duchess who is the patron of a British charity called Place2Be which provides counselling services to young people with problems, share concerns on the welfare of children with both mental and physical disabilities. 

Their Royal Highnesses were invited to Bhutan by His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen when Their Majesties visited HRH The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at their residence in London.

It was a visit that followed the historic trip made by King Charles III, in February 1998, as the Prince of Wales. King Charles described his four-day visit to Bhutan to Bhutan as a “fascinating experience”.

“One of the most fascinating aspects of Bhutan is that it is one great genuine example of sustainability,” he said. “This country understands and incorporates the sense of the sacred into harmonious life… I pray that it lasts.” His Majesty King Charles told a gathering of British citizens working in Bhutan. “You have been provided a model which does not exist anywhere else… When you leave here perhaps you’ll bring something back so we can understand this harmony.”

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Council endorses tourism rules and regulations with changes

ཉིམ།, 09/10/2022 - 15:16

Dechen Dolkar 

In a move welcomed by the stakeholders, the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) endorsed the proposed changes to the draft tourism rules and regulations 2022 from the service providers on September 8.

The council members agreed to insert a provision saying that tourists can pay the sustainable development fee (SDF) and apply for a visa directly or through tour operators.

The council decided that the TCB secretariat will follow up on allowing the transfer of SDF through the Foreign Currency account of the tour operator to the Department of Immigration. The draft rule states that the department will collect the SDF.

The council has also endorsed the one-night SDF waiver for tourists staying in border towns of Bhutan without travelling beyond the designated points.

It was also decided that TCB will follow up with the finance ministry on providing discounts as per tourism rules and regulations 2017 for tours confirmed on or before June 20, this year.

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Alternatively, the Cabinet will issue an executive order to allow discounts for tours confirmed on or before June 20.  The monument fees will also not apply to tours confirmed on or before June 20.

The council also accepted that the online portals can be any portal or reservation system inbuilt into the company websites but it has to be identified or registered with TCB.

It was decided that a tourist or tour operator will arrange a minimum of one guide for every 10 tourist in a group or a maximum of 15 tourists if accompanied by a senior tour guide or tour leader.

The council also endorsed that there will be no age limit for foreign vehicles as long as the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) certifies their roadworthiness.

Council also removed the age requirement for tourists’ vehicles and their drivers. It is left to the RSTA rules.

A tourist on motorbiking tour using a foreign or Bhutanese registered motorbike should have a maximum of 10 people per group to adhere to the requirement of a road captain and backup vehicle for the group. Larger groups would be allowed but they need to be split as per the requirement of the road captain and backup vehicle.

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The council decided to assign a trekking guide for every seven tourists or a maximum of 12 tourists in a case accompanied by a senior tour guide or tour leader.

The council stated that a business bond was introduced to professionalise the industry and as part of the investment required besides safeguarding both clients and service providers. It is also common practice in many countries.

The council decided that TCB will work on modalities to introduce business bonds, such as applying for new licenses and after a couple of years making it mandatory for all.

The council endorsed that the guides would now be categorised into three levels instead of four.

TCB will review the applicability of the clause on homestays based on ground realities that should be in rural or outside municipal boundaries.

It was also decided that the practicality of penalties and fines will be re-looked.

Kuensel learnt that the draft rules and regulations which were endorsed in the council will be submitted to the Cabinet for final approval.

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However, it was mentioned that the draft rules and regulations are not carved in stone and can be changed and adapted depending on the situation and progress.

Meanwhile, the TCB secretariat officials couldn’t be reached for comments.

The council members are Foreign minister Tandi Dorji as Chairperson, home secretary, the director general of TCB secretariat, chairpersons of ABTO, HRAB and GAB, dzongdags of Sarpang and Trashiyangtse, and Dr Karma Tshering, the founder of Bhutan Sustainable Tourism Society.

Of election and political manifesto

ཉིམ།, 09/10/2022 - 15:14

No democracy can be successful without a free and fair election. The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) is tasked with this duty, and it has been coming up with numerous rules and measures over years.  However, concerns are now being raised when the rule says “no political party or candidate shall make any unrealistic or unreasonable pledge or promise, whether in a manifesto or campaign pledge or otherwise, any fiscal or tax or financial changes which may result in a reduction of government revenues, without disclosing the means of how the political party or candidate intends to make good such reduction.”

Establishing the ECB in 2005, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo said: “Once the Constitution is adopted and the introduction of parliamentary democracy takes place, it is of paramount importance to ensure that elections are conducted properly.” The role of the ECB is to “finalize the electoral rolls and election schedules as well as make full preparations for the supervision, direction, control and conduct of elections to Parliament and local government.” This wisdom from the great king is cemented in Article 24(1) of the Constitution to ensure elections in a free and fair manner.”  Further, under Article 23 (4) only parliament can make “provisions for all matters relating to, or in connection with, elections.” Under Article 1(1) of the Constitution “Bhutan is the Sovereign Kingdom, and the Sovereign power belongs to the people of Bhutan.” This power is exercised through Article 1(6), the right to vote. Article 23(1) states the right to vote expresses the “the general will of the people-the basis of government.”

 The recent rule on this matter seems to infringe the provisions of the Election Act and the Constitution.

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Further, it will be impossible to predict the future of any political party’s competency and also their manifesto if that manifesto will need more or less financial resources. The term “unrealistic or unreasonable pledge or promise” is subjective. If ECB approves a manifesto but fails to produce results, then? The manifestos are future ambitions of political parties on which voters will assess the future of the ruling party during their five-year term. Finding funds to fulfil pledges rests with political parties if they become the ruling party.  Article 14 of the Constitution authorizes the government to levy or alter taxes as well as raise loans and seek grants in public interest provided authorized by law. The Supreme Court in the case of Opposition v. RGoB (2011) stated that “the power of taxation is indispensably necessary to constitute an efficient government.” The Constitution and statutes including Public Finance Act provide adequate checks and balances to ensure that government uses financial resources only in the public interest. The Supreme Court said that “tax authority has been vested in Parliament to ensure adequate checks and balances, avoid arbitrariness, limit discretion, and ensure compliance with due process in a democratic system of governance.”

 Drugyel Zhipa said: “Election is the power of a citizen to select a party to form the Government, who can either do good or bad to the people and the country. Therefore, be careful in casting your vote.” This means the onus is on the voters to scrutinise and evaluate the political manifesto, not ECB. The political parties are also expected to have considered the nation’s financial resources while coming up with the promises. 

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

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

Changbangdu road to complete in a month

ཉིམ།, 09/10/2022 - 15:14

Jigmi Wangdi 

The construction of the 1.3km road between Druk School and Changbangdu that began in 2017 will be completed within a month, according to Thimphu thromde officials. 

A thromde official in an email interview said that the construction of that road was done in different phases. The first phase which started in 2017 included formation cutting, construction of footpaths, roadside drains, cable ducts, walls and laying base course for certain stretches. 

“All the works under the first phase were completed in 2017 but due to budget constraints, blacktopping was not included in that phase,” said the thromde official. 

At the site, most of the streetlights have been installed and the drains constructed. 

“In April 2022, the second phase started which included blacktopping and other necessary rectifications. Around 80 percent of the work has been completed,” the official said.   

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Vegetable vendors at the Upper Changzamtog Vegetable market said that the delay in the completion of the road is hampering their business. They said it has been a year since the market opened, but owing to the bad road conditions, not many visited the market. 

“It has been difficult to sell our products and often the vegetables rot,” a vendor said. “Some vendors stopped operating.” 

There are only three vegetable vendors operating in the area and most of the stalls, including a meat shop, remain closed.

The thromde official said that besides the lockdowns during the Covid-19 Pandemic, a major cause for delay in construction was the difficulty in obtaining the right of way for the road from two private plot owners. “But these issues have been finally resolved.”   

A resident in upper Changzamtog Sapana Dahal said, “The road conditions have been pathetic in the past. Even people had difficulty walking on the road. So it remained hardly used.”

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Sapana Dahal also said that taxi drivers and school buses refused to ply in the area. “The condition of the road has improved greatly compared to the past.” 

Dagana farmers get a sales outlet

ཉིམ།, 09/10/2022 - 15:13

Yam Kumar Poudel 

With the inauguration of the first Farmers’ Sales Outlet (FSO) earlier this week, farmers in Dagana are optimistic it will ensure a sustained market for their produce. 

Daga Sanam Thuenkey Detshen (DSTD) will operate the FSO located at Dagapela. 

The chairman of the cooperative, Phub Tshering said, “The group will collect locally produced livestock, agricultural and non-wood forest products from the farmers from all the gewogs in Dagana.”

Some 13 members of the group will be the lead operators of the FSO. “We are overwhelmed to see a great interest from the local farmers,” said Santa Bdr Subba, a DSTD member, and a farmer.

He said that they were happy and willing to provide round-the-clock service to the farmers and the local communities.

The outlet was constructed at a cost of Nu 4.1 million funding from the Food Security and Agriculture Productivity Project (FSAPP).

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Dagana Agriculture Officer, Kinley Namgay said that the outlet was centrally located and could reach out to several gewogs. “We expect farmers from all 14 gewogs under Dagana to avail of this service.”

The outlet is expected to receive fresh products from the local community that can be easily sold at a reasonable price.

Goshi Tshogpa Bik Bdr Thingh said that such initiatives and support from the dzongkhag would encourage the farmers and improve their economic stability.

“Moreover, this will create employment opportunities for the youth and encourage them to engage in farming on their agricultural land,” the tshogpa said.

FSAPP aims to enhance access to the market for farmers in the district. It has made its reach and supported similar outlets in other dzongkhags such as; Chhukha, Samtse, Sarpang, and Haa as of now.

FSAPP grant agreement was signed between the government and the World Bank on May 8, 2017.

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The ECB’s Recent Rule Ultra Vires the parent Act

ཉིམ།, 09/10/2022 - 15:12

The Election Commission (ECB) of Bhutan recently issued a notification about the newly adopted rule of elections conduct. Inter alia, a new rule contains a section on the requirement of five and 10 years’ work experience for the prospective candidates for the National Council and the National Assembly’s election respectively. Though the intent and rationale behind the new rule is laudable, it merits contemplation and analysis on the grounds of legality.

Firstly, ECB claimed to have drawn its authority to frame such rules from Article 23, Section 3(e) of the Constitution. Section 4.3 of the new rule commences as: “Pursuant to the Commission’s authority under the Constitution to set out educational and other qualifications….” and goes on to list the requirements of the prospective candidates for the election which also includes the requirement of work experience for candidates of the Council and Assembly election. The rule or the ECB’s assertion that the Constitution authorises the Commission to set out education and other qualifications warrants a thorough relook at the said section of the Constitution. Section 3(e), Article 23 of the Constitution reads: “Fulfill the necessary educational and other qualifications prescribed in the electoral laws.”

As far as this Section goes, nowhere in the Section can we see any power whatsoever granted to the Commission. The term “electoral laws” can neither be equated nor identified with the ECB. The educational and other qualifications can only be prescribed by the electoral laws and electoral laws can, in principle, only be promulgated by Parliament in line with Article 10(1) of the Constitution. Thus, the ECB’s assertion of having based its rule on the authority conferred to them by the Constitution is unfounded.

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In absence of such powers in the Constitution, it is possible that the electoral laws could have given rule-making powers to the Commission. The “electoral laws” envisaged by the Constitution is, among others, the Election Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2008, which was formulated by Parliament in 2008. This leads us to the second assertion of the ECB that its new rule on the requirement of experience for the aspiring candidates for the Assembly and Council elections is based on the provisions of the election Act. In particular, they allegedly drew the authority from Section 35(e) of the election Act, which states that the Commission has the responsibility to make rules for carrying out the purposes of the Act without prejudice to the provisions of the Act. Of course, this provision gives them the power to make rules but such powers are not absolute. There are limits to the scope and extent of this power. In law, such powers fall under the power of delegated legislation. Delegated legislation is a process in which the primary legislation confers powers to the executive or the implementing authority to frame secondary instruments to implement and administer the purposes and requirements of the parent Act. Therefore, the scope of such power and legislation is limited to the implementation and administration of the purposes and requirements of the parent legislation. Such rules can neither detract nor add anything that is not intended and authorised by the parent Act. As such, any piece of delegated legislation that goes beyond the scope and authority of the parent legislation becomes ultra vires and such legislation should be declared void.

In the case at hand, ECB’s rule that requires the aspiring candidates to the two Houses of Parliament to have work experience is completely beyond the boundaries of the delegated legislation and the scope of section 35(e) of the election Act. As stated above, the rules made pursuant to delegated legislative power should only be for the purpose of implementing and administering the requirements set out by the primary legislation. On the contrary, the ECB’s new rule is enumerating a completely new set of requirements not intended by the parent Act rather than just setting out procedures and strategies for implementing and administering the requirements already set out by the parent statute. Had the legislators intended the need for such a requirement (the requirement of experience, in this case), they would have enumerated such requirements explicitly in the parent Act, but they did not. Once the Act is passed, if Parliament changes its stand and wants to include new requirements in the Act, it is only within the domain of legislative powers of Parliament to include such requirements by way of an amendment Bill. This is because courts around the world have consistently ruled that the essential legislative functions should be exercised by the legislature and not be delegated to the executive. Thus, ECB’s act of going beyond their delegated authority and taking up primary legislative function meant for Parliament constitutes the usurpation of the legislative power of Parliament.

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Going by the wording of section 35(e) of the election Act, it clearly requires the Commission to limit its powers within the ambit of the concept of delegated legislation. It requires them to make rules only for the aim of “carrying out the purposes of the Act” while also requiring them to not make rules that “negates the provisions of the Act”.  Now, the question arises as to whether ECB’s addition of new eligibility criteria for the aspiring candidates falls within the ambit of “carrying out the purposes of the Act”.

In my opinion, it does not fall within the purview of the statutory requirement. For instance, if the rule pertains to how the apolitical nature of the National Council election candidates is to be ascertained or if it pertains to the interpretation of the term “formal university degree”, then it could be within the purview of the phrase “carrying out the purpose of the Act”. But adding a completely new eligibility criterion went beyond the boundaries and scope of the delegated legislation and the phrase “carrying out the purposes of the Act”.  Thus, the new rule on the requirement of experience for the aspiring candidates of the Assembly and Council elections is made in excess of the powers conferred by the parent Act. Therefore, as is the settled general principle of law, since the new rule ultra vires the parent Act, it should be declared void; it can neither create new rights nor affect any individual rights conferred under the pre-existing laws. That is to say that the new rule cannot bar aspiring candidates fulfilling eligibility criteria under pre-existing rules from contesting the upcoming elections subject to it being contested and annulled by the court of law.

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The scope of delegated legislation is also well recognised by the Supreme Court of Bhutan. In the first Constitutional case of Bhutan, The Government Bhutan vs. The Opposition Party, the court, in its finding, very explicitly stated: “Powers, however extraordinary, which are conferred or sanctioned by the statute, are never really unlimited, for they are confined to the words of the Act itself…” The court further stated: “Delegated authority must be exercised in strict conformity with the terms of the statute.” In this regard, delegated authorities are bound to exercise their power within the limits of the statutory authority. As and when they cross the boundaries of their power, the affected parties of such rules should challenge such rules and powers in the court of law and annul those rules on the basis of ultra vires doctrine.

Such exploitation of delegated powers by the delegated authorities, if left uncontested and unchecked, will allow the delegated authorities to arbitrarily pass unreasonable and repressive rules while also setting an unhealthy precedent for allowing the delegated authorities to pass rules beyond their scope of statutory power, which ultimately will undermine the rule of law. For instance, if the ECB’s unlimited exercise of rule-making power and its ultra vires rules goes uncontested, the ECB in the future might further tighten and restrict the eligibility criteria for political participation, which sometimes would even undermine democracy and democratic principles. If they can pass essential legal provisions without even having to pass through Parliament, the will of the people supposed to be represented through their representatives in Parliament will be suppressed, as a result of which the very soul of the democracy will be sabotaged.

Contributed by

Yeshi Dorji,



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Evaluating connectivity between precipitation and water systems critical for reviving drying water sources

ཉིམ།, 09/10/2022 - 15:12

Water scarcity could become one of the major 21st-century challenges for Bhutan, as more than 60% of the population depends on water-sensitive sectors like agriculture and hydropower. Water scarcity is also associated with a range of other issues like food shortage, poor hygienic practices, and poverty. In the Himalayan region, the common factors attributing to the drying of water sources include climate change, land use, land cover alteration, and changes in water management. Thus, adaptation and mitigation strategies to protect and manage water resources are urgently needed. Unfortunately, policy measures for water resources management in Bhutan are severely impaired by limited observations and poor understanding of hydrological processes in our catchments. 

The main sources of potable water in Bhutan include streams, rivers, and springs. These sources are fed by precipitation, seasonal snowmelt, and glacier melt-water. The low elevation valley may also contain a surficial aquifer that is recharged directly by the surface runoff from the surrounding karst mountains, e.g., Rangtse in Haa and Lawa-Lamga in Wangdue. The linkage between surface water and groundwater is often not acknowledged appropriately partly due to a lack of scientific evidence. For example, groundwater is often portrayed as a new source of water in policy documents such as Bhutan Water Vision and Bhutan Water Policy, 2014.

Consequently, afforestation is perceived as the default management intervention to recharge drying water sources across Bhutan. Similarly, there are ‘experimental’ approaches by digging trenches upstream of the catchment to augment the recharge of the spring sources. Such interventions may achieve the expected outcomes when loss of vegetation cover is the underlying cause. However, such interventions without sufficient data on precipitation, infiltration, evapotranspiration, soil properties, and groundwater hydrology are too risky project to achieve the end goals of recharging spring water sources.

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According to the latest studies, it is not about “no trees” or “lots of trees” but “intermediate tree coverage” that does a good job of maintaining groundwater reserves. The litter inputs from trees and roots improve soil infiltration and organic matter, thus enhancing soil hydraulic conductivity. These increase the percolation of surface water into the ground and reduce surface runoff. Such a mechanism could relate well to Bhutan, where steep slope topography is dominant. However, this water retention ability of the trees is countered by water loss via evapotranspiration and interception when tree density exceeds the optimum threshold. The infiltration and percolation capacity of soil also depends on factors like rainfall intensity and duration, soil texture and structure, vegetation type, topography, drainage density, and local lithology. Therefore all or majority of these factors are worth considering when coming up with any water source management interventions.

To improve our understanding and develop sustainable water management strategies for forested catchments of mountainous Bhutan, the authors of this article propose the following 4 critical things to do: 

• Identifying the groundwater and spring recharge potential zone – Remote sensing and GIS technologies are excellent for first-order mapping of potential groundwater recharge potential zone. The essential data such as soil, rainfall, terrain, remote sensing imagery, and lithological data can be integrated into the GIS environment to map potential groundwater and spring recharge zones. Although it only provides a rough estimation of the larger catchment, such a first-order assessment can be excellent preliminary evidence to further explore interventions with localized finer resolution strategies. 

• Determining water balance for the catchment of concern – This exercise should provide scientific evidence on the ‘inflow’ and ‘outflow’ of the water from the catchment. Monitoring of water discharge in surface water and water levels in simple borewells under different seasons can be a minimum requirement. 

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• Conducting soil and site evaluation investigations to clearly map the role of soil and vegetation profile in catchment hydrology. Probably gathering such hydrological data across the country in ‘sensitive catchments’ could be mainstreamed into extensively monitored national forest inventory plots or similar initiatives for capturing data on hydrological regimes in the catchment of concern are urgently needed. 

• Improving our understanding of the linkage between surface and subsurface systems using environmental isotopes – Use of those isotopes to identify compositions of groundwater, river, and canal water to identify the recharge sources, zones of recharge, and groundwater flow is one of the most advanced hydrochemistry techniques. A group of researchers from the Royal University of Bhutan is conducting a pilot study using geochemical and isotopic tracers to determine the sources and mechanism of recharge, groundwater origin and its evolution, and the recharge area of perennial springs and streams used for drinking and irrigation by the rural communities in the Radhi and Phongmey gewogs in Eastern Bhutan. The findings will be helpful in making an informed decision and implementing the site-specific catchment management plans. For the first time in Bhutan, we would be able to track and identify the dominant source of water contributing to streamflow. 

The article is published based on personal experiences and observations by a group of water researchers from Bhutan. The group can be contacted at waterresearchbhutan@gmail.com 

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On the bike to Lunana and back

ཉིམ།, 09/10/2022 - 15:11

Chhimi Dema

Sunspots on his face haven’t gone away yet but his tired eyes brighten as he speaks about his journey to Lunana.

Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk, 40, from Thimphu, is on a journey unlike any other. He wants to share with the world the impacts of climate change and call everyone to take urgent action.

His recent travel to Lunana was the beginning of this journey for a project campaign he calls “The Messenger-Ride for Action”.

In a picture, a filmmaker, actor and environment advocate, Jamyang sits on a rock next to his bicycle overlooking the snow-capped mountains of Lunana. At the base of the mountains are Thorthomi and Rapstreng, the two lakes that pose a serious risk of glacial lake outburst flood in the country.

“I had this idea [of the project] since the pandemic,” Jamyang says.

It was April 2020. Jamyang was attending a leadership workshop in New York. The place where he was living then was the epicentre of the pandemic and he was exposed to the virus.

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“It was a scary moment. I thought the virus might kill me. During those moments, I was reflecting a lot and I asked myself what is my life’s purpose. I did not have any answer,” he says.

He pondered about his passion and what he loved.

“Out of this question came this campaign. This campaign combines everything I love – film, travel, environment, and sports,” Jamyang says.

Jamyang planned to start the campaign in 2020 but it was delayed owing to a series of lockdowns in the country.

During his campaign, he rides his bicycle. In places where he cannot ride, he carries it on his back.

He visits schools and talks to the young about climate and the need for urgent action. He inspires the youth to take action and do something with their lives in whatever sphere they want to be in. “I want to inspire them to give their best.”

The campaign

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has three key messages: plant trees and take care of them, transition immediately to renewable energy, and include climate studies in the school curriculum.

The 40-year-old returned from Lunana and brought with him a bottle he found on the way filled with water from Thorthomi.

According to Jamyang, the bottle stands for plastic pollution that is rampant in the world and the glacier water represents the melting glaciers. “The bottle as a whole is symbolic of climate action.”

It took 13 days for him to go and return from Lunana.

He walked for at least eight hours for seven days to reach Thorthomi lake.

Despite the training that he received, Jamyang says that nothing can prepare one for the natural elements. “Each day it was getting tougher. It was life-threatening, especially carrying and balancing a bicycle on the back.”

Starting September 24, Jamyang is starting another campaign from Pemagatshel.

Pemagatshel is a dzongkhag dear to him.

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It was in Pemagatsel that he was introduced to film and his love for nature was nurtured. “My father [a former dzongdag] on his tours would visit the villages through forests and I used to accompany him. That is when my love for nature grew. To pay homage, I want to start from Pemagatshel, a place where it all began.”

Jamyang travels with a camera and soundman. His journey will be documented.

Each episode will tackle different environmental angles in each district.

Jamyang and his team are partnering with Shangreela, an over-the-top platform in the country.

The project will cover 15 dzongkhags and he will reach Thimphu on October 24.

It has been challenging to raise funds for the project because of Covid-19, Jamyang says. “We have raised money enough to cover only 15 districts.”

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The project will continue until 2030.

Jamyang says: “It is an ambitious project but I am confident, although sometimes it is overwhelming. But I will be able to do it with the right support from partners and friends.”

The team is also partnering with hotels and homestays for the travels. The project also aims to help promote the country as an eco-tourism destination.

Sundays with the Nature-Birdwatchers’ Club of Trashiyangtse LSS

ཉིམ།, 09/10/2022 - 15:10

A story of one binocular, 60 young budding birdwatchers and over 315 species of birds in the wilderness of Trashiyangtse 

According to social psychology when people experience a memorable natural encounter as a child, that experience can reawaken in the adult. It is also scientifically proven that people who got outdoors and enjoyed nature as a child tend to be more environmentally responsible. 

As an educator, a nature-lover and an aspiring birdwatcher, I believe birdwatching has the potential to influence how children think, understand and act toward their immediate living environment. It can be a doorway to let the children develop the right attitudes, mindfulness and practices towards the natural world at an early age. I also strongly believe that a small initiative like birdwatching club in the schools can provide an engaging theme for a whole host of cross-curricular activities including language, science, mathematics, and technology. Of all, it can teach children a life-long lessons on the values of the interdependence or coexistence of all life forms: human or wildlife. 

Further, this adheres to the principle of environmental conservation chartered in the developmental framework, GNH. Bhutanese children are growing up to learn that our nation is indebted to our environmental policies envisioned by the succession of visionary kings to ensure our environment remain pristine for all generations. We embrace the value and conviction of a healthy planet for all sentient beings. As the leader of a global conservation initiative and the first carbon-negative nation in the world, we are required to take this action. The enormous international responsibility of maintaining this stellar reputation and acting compassionately and sincerely for the sake of safeguarding our shared planet is what Bhutan’s future upholds.

The Nature-Birdwatchers’ Club of Trashiyangtse LSS

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As we have learned that birdwatching can be a progressive activity to let children appreciate nature for personal and social well-being towards nature, we started a Nature-Birdwatchers’ Club in our school. This humble club in Trashiyangtse Lower Secondary School has 60 members from classes 4 to 8, comprising 25 girls and 35 boys which we consider as the largest club in our school.

A class 3 student drawing Osprey

Birdwatching group of Trashiyangtse LSS

Till 2020, the club functioned as School Nature Club with help from Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) in providing guidebooks, newsletters, card games, DVDs of documentaries of Black-necked Cranes, and other significant RSPN publications. In the beginning of 2022, our well-wishers Tshultrim and Thinley Wangchuk donated a few copies of their book titled “A Pictorial Field Guide to Birds and Butterflies of Bhutan”. However, our club has only one pair of binoculars for field use purchased by the club coordinator.

Despite the lack of professional birding gears, the members of the birdwatching club have never been discouraged but have shown a fervent interest in exploring and learning about birds and the natural world around us here in Trashiyangtse valley. What keeps motivating the birding club members is that we may have only one binocular but we have over 315 species of birds to discover in Trashiyangtse. We also have globally endangered species like the Black-necked Cranes and also the national butterfly found here. Our club members love and are fascinated by wild ducks, kingfisher and Black-necked Cranes. They like eagles too.

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Our main objectives for forming the club are to create environmentally conscious  students and to encourage birdwatching among students at a very young age. We also try to help students learn about bird species, distribution, and their habitats. We hope our students acquire skills needed to identify, investigate, and contribute to the resolution of nature conservation in future. 

Some scientific research has shown that birdwatching can also help children with their mental health issues and foster a lifelong connection to nature. This beneficial bond with nature often deepens as individuals mature. Additionally, birding helps children strengthen their powers of observation and attention to detail. Children fundamentally learn to look from an aesthetic standpoint. 

There are a thousand benefits of birding in general. 

I would like to end my article with these emphatic words of Thomas Lovejoy, a biologist also known as the Godfather of Biodiversity, “If you take care of birds, you take care of most of the environmental problems of the world.”

Tandin Wangdi is a teacher at Trashiyangtse LSS. Besides his teaching job, he loves to promote nature, conservation and protection through working with students and the community. He also blogs at connectingyouthwithnature.blogspot.com which he started after being motivated by reading his students’ blogs. To know more about the club, you can write to him at nidnat.619@gmail.com 

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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Demand for Urka drops in Trashiyangtse

ཉིམ།, 09/10/2022 - 15:08

Neten Dorji | Trashiyangtse

Farmers in Trashiyangtse are struggling to sell Urka Bangala (chillies) despite slashing the price by almost half.

A kilogramme (kg) of the chilli earned Nu 200 at the beginning of this year.

With local chilli demand falling fast, farmers are worried that they might not be able to recover their investment. A kg of chilli is sold at Nu 40 in the market today in Trashiyangtse. It was sold at Nu 200 per kg at the beginning of the year.

Most farmers said that there are no buyers.

A farmer, Tshering Pelden said that the same variety of chilli that was earlier sold at Nu 200 a kg at the farm cannot fetch even Nu 60 today.

“The production is high, but there are no buyers. If there was demand, I would earn more than Nu 200,000,” she said.

Given the long distance between markets in Thimphu and Samdrupjongkhar, farmers said that it was not profitable to take the produce to these major markets.

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“Without a private vehicle, it does not make sense to take small quantities to the market, because the transportation cost is huge,” said a farmer from Bimkhar village. “We will incur losses going there because even if we sell at Nu 100 a kg considering the cost of production and labour charges we had to bear.”

A chilli grower, Dechen Tshomo said that if the trend continues most of the farmers would revert to growing only for their own consumption. “It is demotivating.”

“It is better to work as a daily wage labourer than cultivating chilli at a commercial scale. Without a market, I am worried,” she said, adding there are only a few buyers.

Chilli grown in Trashiyangtse are more popular for their quality. Farmers earn between Nu 100,000 and Nu 250,000 annually.

A mother, Dorji Dema attributed the lack of demand to the closure of the Kholongchu hydro Project.

“We easily sold it for Nu 200 per kg in the past. A few weeks ago, we fetched a good price. But many are unhappy with the price since it has now reduced to Nu 40,” she said.

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Trashiyangtse Assistant Agriculture Officer, Chhimi Drakpa said that with support from the Agriculture Research and Development Centre, Wengkhar, Mongar, the dzongkhag agriculture sector provided three solar dryer machines to chilli growers.

“As the staff of the Kholongchu hydropower project left Trashiyangtse, farmers faced market problems. But it is not a serious problem,” he said. “We advised all farmers to focus more on dried chilli since it fetched between Nu 1,500 and Nu 1,800.”

He said to address the market problem next year, the dzongkhag agriculture sector would make sure chilli growers grow chilli as per the demand in the market.

There is a marketing problem because farmers cultivated more chillis, focusing on the Kholongchu hydro Project according to the agriculture officials. However, it was difficult to explore the market as other dzongkhags also produce chilli.

Agriculture officials said that it is challenging to explore the market for farm produce in other dzongkhag, as the price of chilli is high and other dzongkhags also produce green chillies.

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Lhundrup Minjur Dorji wins first National Youth Chess Championship 

ཉིམ།, 09/10/2022 - 15:07

Thinley Namgay  

Lhundrup Minjur Dorji, 13, from Thimphu Youth Friendly Integrated Service Centre (YFISC),  won the first National Youth Chess Championship 2022 yesterday at Le Meridien in Thimphu.

Lhundrup Minjur Dorji, a Class VIII student of Dr Tobgyal School won all five games.  He is one of the players from Bhutan who participated in the 44th Chess Olympiad in India in August.

Lhundrup Minjur Dorji, holding his winning trophy said: “I am glad to receive the award. This is very special and I will remember it for the rest of my life. My experience at the Chess Olympiad helped me. I started playing chess a few years back.”

Lhundrup Minjur Dorji  said his dream is to become the first chess grandmaster from Bhutan. “If I achieve that, I can be a reputed international chess player and make our country proud. I will work hard.”

Kinzang Norbu from Bajothang Youth Centre (YC)  and Sonam Choden from Phuentsholing YFISC came in second and third, respectively and were awarded a trophy each.

After playing five games, Kinzang Norbu, Sonam Choden and Kinga Zangpo from Mongar YC won four points each after winning four games each.  The trio had to play each other for another round of a three minutes game. All three won a game each. Organisers then held a lucky draw where two of them had to play a one-minute game and the winner had to face the one in bye place.  Kinzang Norbu was in a bye place.

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Sonam Choden defeated Kinga Zangpo in a minute game. However, Sonam Choden lost to Kinzang Norbu in the last one-minute game.

Kinzang Norbu said he had an unusual journey in chess. After his left hand got injured during a football game his mother insisted on changing his choice of sport.

“At that time, my father got me a chess board and I started playing chess.  Since then, my parents encouraged me to play chess. Today, chess is a special game for me,” Kinzang Norbu said.

Sonam Choden, who is also one of the 44th Chess Olympiad participants from Bhutan, said Bhutanese youth have the potential to excel in chess given more training and competitions.

The championship was conducted to introduce professional chess in the YCs and YFISC in the country and also to enhance the creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and overall intelligence of the children.

All the participants are below 24 years of age.

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The youngest participant, Sidanth Bhandari from Changjiji YC, who won three games said that support from parents is needed to take sports as a career.

“I started playing chess when I was four years old. My parents are supportive.”

Funded by UNICEF, the Bhutan Chess Federation (BCF)  in collaboration with the Department of Youth and Sports conducted the event.

The 26 participants, a girl and a boy from each YC  were the winners of the regional chess championships that were held in August.

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Picture story

སྤེན།, 09/09/2022 - 11:23

  A huge standing rock by the highway between Zangpozor and Trashiyangtse, drivers say poses risk to  commuters  

Channelised payment mode to benefit all parties 

སྤེན།, 09/09/2022 - 11:22

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) directing exporters to use formal banking payment modes, although not received well by vegetable and cash crop importers in Jaigaon, is expected to benefit both exporters and importers.

With the directives, vegetable importers in Jaigaon will have to make payments from banks, which means in Indian Rupees (INR). This, according to observers, should have been implemented a long time ago.  As India is the largest trading partner, formal financial transactions are crucial, said one.

In 2021, according to the Bhutan Trade Statistics (BTS), total export to India, excluding electricity, accounted for Nu 26 billion (B). However, banking data shows the export receipts received through the formal banking channel amounted to Nu 21B. This means there is an un-reconciled gap of Nu 5B, which is 19 percent of the total export remittances outside the formal banking channel.

This adversely impacts the INR reserves, maintaining a fixed exchange rate with INR and revenue leakages.

The RMA notification worried Jaigaon importers as many do not use formal banking channels for payment. At present, according to sources, Bhutanese traders export potatoes and other cash crops to vendors in Jaigaon, who then sell the produce to third parties across India.

Although Jaigaon parties are paid in Indian Rupee (INR), they pay Bhutanese in Ngultrum through informal means.

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This not only impacts Bhutan but also impacts the Indian taxation system as importers could evade tax.

Further, while Bhutanese exporters receive Ngultrums, the INR remains in Jaigaon. The same untaxed INR is then used for illegal INR-Ngultrum buying and selling, which has depreciated the value of Ngultrum. Today, INR is still sold illegally in Jaigaon at a 4 to 5 percent commission. INR 100 is sold for Nu 104 or 105.

With the formalisation of the payment system, all these will stop, while also providing for the INR reserves. A government official in Phuentsholing said this formalisation is no different to Bhutanese importing vegetables from India and declaring, paying taxes and remitting INR through banks.

“If they don’t want to declare and follow the formal payment system, it means they want to evade tax,” he said. “With valid documentation, banks in India will also assist vendors.”

The official said RMA’s intent will bring reforms in terms of good practice and formal trading between Bhutanese and Jaigaon traders.


Syndicates want to  bypass formal channel 

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On September 3, the RMA directed exporters to maintain trade receipts with the importers across the border in INR through banking channels- as per Section 24 of the Foreign Exchange Rules and Regulations (FERR) 2020. RMA notified that exporters exporting to India must obtain a Bank Export Registration (BER) before processing the export declaration at the customs point of exit starting September 5.

Exporters will then submit a filled BER to their respective banks, following which the banks will endorse the form. Exporters will then submit the endorsed BER form at the customs point of exit for processing the export declaration.

All these procedures will have to be carried out after Bhutanese exporters receive purchase orders from their parties.

Following the RMA announcement, vendors in Jaigaon had syndicated and announced that no one would buy potatoes and other cash crops if payments had to be made through banks. In a hand-written statement, 23 importers have signed and agreed that they will not import potatoes and cash crops starting from September 5.

If any member purchases potatoes in INR or Ngultrum after September 5, the produce will be seized and brought to the committee, the announcement stated. “If the Bhutanese government agrees to accept Ngultrum, the members will arrange a meeting for a decision.”

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According to Kuensel sources, two individuals, Harendra Prasad and Ananda Shah are involved in forming this syndicate in Jaigaon. They have been importing vegetables from Bhutan for a long time. Harendra Prasad is also listed as a trader with Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL).

Kuensel learned that these importers pay Ngultrum (cash) and don’t want to agree to the formal channel as they are also alleged to maximise profit from evading taxes and also fear losing the illegal INR-Ngultrum exchange business.

The chief executive officer of FCBL, Naiten Wangchuk, had on several occasions written to the Indian counterparts to formalise the payment system through banks.

“It will be good for all parties involved,” he said.

However, there is no uniformity because there are more private exporters involved, who collude with traders across the border and make payments through informal channels.

Kinley Dorji of Murung Export said he supports the RMA’s decision.

“We wanted this,” he said, adding that channelised payment will guarantee safety, while it also is beneficial to the government.

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ST Enterprise’s proprietor said the system will benefit only if it succeeds.  “When I export cardamom to Bangladesh, it takes about 26 days to receive the money. I am expecting it may take about a week for us to get the money by selling potatoes to Jaigaon through banking mode. However, farmers ask for immediate cash payment,” he said.

ST Enterprise exported potatoes until September 4. As of yesterday, neither FCBL nor private exporters have stocks to be exported from Phuentsholing. However, with the peak potato season across the country, exporters and farmers seemed to be concerned about this situation.

Roadmap on health security ready to roll 

སྤེན།, 09/09/2022 - 11:21

Nima Wangdi

The Regional Strategy Roadmap on Health Security and Health System Resilience for Emergencies 2023-2027 is ready to be rolled out in the South-East Asia Region (SEAR) of the World Health Organization (WHO). This was announced at the ongoing 75th session of the regional committee meeting in Paro yesterday.

The roadmap has been formulated after detailed consultations with member countries and experts and incorporates global and regional priorities and recommendations according to the press release from WHO.

“The roadmap prepared based on the Covid-19 pandemic experience is aimed at strengthening preparedness and response capacities for public health emergencies with multi-dimensional impact,” the press release stated.

The press release stated that the roadmap seeks to boost capacities to anticipate, prevent and manage health emergencies while maintaining essential health services through enhanced governance and collaboration within and across countries in the region.

“Globally, risks from natural and man-made hazards are also likely to result in major and frequent health emergencies given the weakened systems that the pandemic would leave,” the press release stated that the threats from climate change are also looming.

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SEAR’s Regional Director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said that the roadmap aims to protect vulnerable economies from the impact of public health emergencies by strengthening national and regional health security and resilience.

She said that the Regional Health Emergency Council (RHEC) comprising Heads of member countries of the region, is being planned in line with the proposal of the Global Health Emergency Council. “It will ensure engagement and commitment of the highest-level political leadership for preparedness and response to health emergencies in the Region.”

“The detailed terms of reference and operational modalities of the RHEC will be worked out in consultation with the member states in due course,” Dr Singh said.

The region is also rolling out ‘WHO South-East Asia Regional Roadmap for Diagnostic Preparedness, Integrated Laboratory Networking and Genomic Surveillance 2023-2027.’ It is developed to provide member countries with a range of policy options to develop sustainable strategies to improve their national laboratories and prepare their laboratory systems to improve surveillance.

The roadmap is expected to help member countries develop or update their national action plans on health security and strengthen whole-of-government to enable more effective public health emergency preparedness, readiness, and response.

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This is the third regional committee that Bhutan is hosting. The venue of the regional committee meeting is rotated among the 11 member countries of South-East Asia on an annual basis with the convening held in New Delhi, the headquarters of SEARO, once every five years.

The 75th Regional Committee meeting in Paro ends today.

Most candidates have more than five years of work experience: political parties

སྤེན།, 09/09/2022 - 11:20

MB Subba

The new election rules, which prescribe that candidates must have five years and 10 years of working experience for National Assembly and National Council elections has come as a shock for many young aspirants.

Some politicians welcomed the new rules but others expressed their reservations about certain provisions. One of the concerns is whether or not political parties would be able to find candidates who fulfil the new criteria.

An official from the Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT) said that the party needed to replace a few of its candidates after the release of the new rules.

“They meet the age requirement but miss out on the work experience requirement,” he said.

However, DNT’s general secretary, Phurba, said that the addition of the new criteria would result in the inclusion of better candidates. However, he added that the new rules would be tested during the upcoming election.

“It’s always better to have additional criteria,” he said, adding that all the candidates of DNT would fulfil all of them.

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Some of the young MPs, he said, would also fulfil the criteria to recontest as they would complete five years when they complete their terms.

Some of the current MPs had the opportunity to contest the election in 2018 with little or no work experience.

The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) officials said that all of its candidates meet the new criteria.

“We haven’t taken fresh graduates as candidates in our party,” a DPT official said.

Most of the candidates of DPT and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are former civil servants.

The secretary general of PDP, Kuenga Tashi, said that the party had only a few young candidates. “However, even the young ones meet the criteria,” he said.

The new rules have dashed the hopes of not only young and aspiring candidates but also self-employed people like educated farmers.

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The candidates should have served in offices either in the public or private sector with “exemplary conduct and performance”.

The election rules 2022, which came into effect on August 29, empowers ECB to assess not only National Council candidates but also those nominated by political parties.

A candidate must satisfy the Commission that he or she is a “person of integrity, good character and reputation” as per the “framework for assessment of candidates participating in elections”.

The rules aim to ensure that candidates “are of good standing and have suitable experience to discharge their duties and responsibilities effectively and responsibly”.

The rules have been promulgated to maintain a healthy electoral system and making elections free and fair.

The rules are also aimed at ensuring electioneering conduct that “coheres with high standards of integrity, truthfulness, selflessness, loyalty and patriotism”.

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Teachers shortage means more than gap in education

སྤེན།, 09/09/2022 - 11:19

Teacher shortage is growing. It is a cause of big concern. 

More than 345 teachers have left the school system in the past six months. Some schools are making do without specific subject teachers, especially in STEM subjects.

At a time when Bhutan is trying to give a leg up to STEM and other vital subjects!

For example, Class 11 and 12 Commerce students of Samtengang Central School in Wangdue have not had an accountancy teacher after the midterm break. As exams near, students are worried.

Samtengang Central School is just a picture in the news today. Even the thromde schools that are somehow more privileged are facing a severe shortage of teachers.

There is a big change happening in the country today, which is good. The education sector, however, seems to be lounging about.

The impact is going to be serious. For all the change that we are aiming for, the education sector has to be at the centre of this movement.

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The simple truth is that today higher education has no scope and purpose in Bhutan. After the completion of high school certificate exams, children choose to go abroad because in doing so there is a double advantage for them. One can study and earn, at the same time.

What this trend can bring about, in the long run, is a massive gap that the country can never be able to fill. When young people leave and those the state of who man the system here looks more volatile, the country is not nurturing and attracting fresh talents.

Teacher management has been a problem for a long time. None of the ways that we tried has worked because the solutions we looked at have been ad hoc at best.

Between 2020 and August 2022, 710 teachers resigned from the system—504 teachers resigned voluntarily; 136 teachers superannuated; 37 took advantage of the retirement scheme; 30 left on forced retirement; three were terminated. More are expected to leave.

But the question is: why are our teachers leaving even with a handsome salary raise.

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Teachers are leaving because the system is failing them. Their leaving is going to have a huge impact on our schools.

Looks like we are losing development focus. We have first to strengthen the sectors that will put the country on the front foot. Agriculture, for example, and private sector development. These are the two sectors that can strengthen Bhutan’s economy. When the country’s economy is on good footing, education keeping pace with it, can keep our people inside the country.

Losing teachers is the sign that should nudge us to stop and rethink. When our schools do not have enough teachers, nothing will go right.

Gosarling gewog administration and landowners at loggerheads over road construction 

སྤེན།, 09/09/2022 - 11:18

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

Landowners of Dzamlingthang chiwog in Gosarling are at loggerheads with the gewog administration about an approach road construction to the primary school in the chiwog.

Residents accuse the gewog administration of not aligning the road construction with the initial survey and building it in a different location, depriving a road connection to the school.

Currently, the starting point for the whole stretch of the road remains barricaded by the landowner, Pem Tenzin.

He said that as the road was meant for the school, unless the gewog administration works on that, the landowners would not cooperate.

“The budget for approach road connection was proposed in 2015. Even after these many years, there is no clear information from the administration,” he alleged.

He said that most of the landowners agreed to pool their land for road construction through altruism as it would benefit the students. Residents claimed that the current approach road from a different location was unsafe for children.

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Some residents alleged that the gewog administration is trying to divert the budget towards farm road construction in Pemathang chiwog, from where the gup is from.

However, Gosarling Gup Ram Bdr Karki, said that the approach road couldn’t be constructed as the public refused to give clearance. “If we get the clearance, the work could be completed in a day. We have also allocated the budget.”

As of now, the road construction couldn’t continue from an individual Renuka Nepal’s land who agreed in the initial phase of road construction but later refused as six other households in Pelrithang chiwog declined to give the clearance.

It was found out that Renuka Nepal would give the clearance if the other households agreed to it.

“If we get the clearance from these households in Pelrithang, Renuka is willing to contribute. For now, she did not agree as the further construction would only damage her mandarin orchard if the road construction was unsuccessful,” said the gup.

He said that the residents wanted the approach road from two other locations; one which was technically infeasible due to the gradient and another that would lead towards the school football ground.

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The current road was technically approved by the dzongkhag engineer too, the gup claimed.

The construction of the 980-metre-long approach road, the gup, said was filled with disagreements as there are other parties swaying the mind of the landowners, creating disharmony. “The road construction works began last September. Landowners have objected to the gewog’s effort to complete the works twice,” Ram Bdhr Karki said.

The residents reportedly wrote to the dzongkhag administration to resolve the issue but the officials concerned instructed the residents and the gewog administration to come to an agreement among themselves.

Meanwhile, six households from Pelrithang chiwog that refused to give clearance said that the road was not built according to the alignment.

“There are conflicts of interest,” one said.

Another refused to sign on the clearance as he has been fighting a court case about the land for over a decade.

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At the site, the half-built road has suffered damage. Without a drainage system, the monsoon rain has eroded the road at certain points, while grasses and shrubs have started growing.

Pelrithang and Pemathang chiwogs’ farm road construction is a single package carried out by the same contractor.

Human-wildlife conflict remains a major challenge at Senphu

སྤེན།, 09/09/2022 - 11:17

Neten Dorji | Trashiyangtse

As her maize plants start bearing corns, Karma Wangmo in Senphu village of Toetsho gewog in Trashiyangtse spends sleepless nights guarding the field.

“We have to guard our crops day and night from wild animals like boars and monkeys,” she says. “We can’t leave the farm unattended and go home even for having meals as the animals constantly wait for the opportunity.”

Farmers in the village say that they lose half of their crops to wild animals every year.

The destruction of crops by wild animals has been increasing over the years, according to the villagers. They told Kuensel that they had lost all their hopes as they hardly reaped anything.

The village mainly grows maize, buckwheat and vegetables. More than half of the crops, the villagers say, are destroyed by the wild animals.

Another farmer, Dechen Wangchuk, said that with the damages increasing by the year, people have started to leave the village. “If the problem is not addressed, many will leave the village,” he said, adding that some of the villagers have bought land in the Sep area.

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The gewog administration has provided electric fences to the farmers. However, the fences did not last long.

“The electric wires worked for a year and failed,” a mother, Jangchu Peldon, said. “The energiser and the charge controller function for a short period only.”

According to her, deer and porcupines also destroy crops in the village. “The porcupines dig holes in the ground and enter the field without touching the electric wire.”

Temporary sheds have been built at every corner of the fields for the farmers to guard the crops. The farmers beat tins and shout to chase the animals away.

“The monkeys do not fear us until we pick up pieces of wood,” one of the residents said.

Nangkhar-Sep tshogpa Tenzin Wangchuk said that although the electric fences were provided the pole did not last long. “The farmers are required to clear the bushes around the pole,” he said, adding that the poles would be replaced.

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The tshogpa said that the human-wildlife conflict was a major problem in the chiwog.

However, he added, “The electric fences haven’t been of much use to the farmers.We need chain link fences to solve the problem.”

Picture story

སྤེན།, 09/09/2022 - 11:17

Bhutan women’s football team will play their second game today  against Sri Lanka in the ongoing  SAFF Women’s Championship 2022 at the Dasharath Stadium in Nepal at 5:45pm (BST).