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Gasa’s chicken-and-egg predicament

Without a thromde, there are no people and without people there can be no election

Township: While the people of Gasa, the least populated dzongkhag, are excited about having a thromde, it will take more than sheer excitement for the dzongkhag to make the next thromde election happen.

According to local leaders, none of Gasa’s more than 100 business license holders have their census registered with the town.  Temporary sheds below the dzong are today functioning as the town.

The dzongkhag could not conduct the first thromde election, as there was neither a town nor people registered with the thromde to elect a thuemi.

In 2012, following the mid-term review, about 86 acres of land from Kolikha, a few kilometres from the dzong, was identified for the new town.  Both the cadastral and topographical surveys were completed on the new land in 2013, and land levelling works were done last year.

Based on the two surveys, Gasa dzongdag Sonam Jigme said the ministry of works and human settlement  (MoWHS) officials were to come up with a structural and local area plan, which would be presented to dzongkhag officials in June.  Only after this, the town planning and land allotment would begin, he said.

Khatey gup, Pema Dorji, who is also the dzongkhag tshogdu chairman, said people were hopeful for the new town, planned to complete soon, so that Gasa could look forward to thromde elections next year.

“We’ve requested the MoWHS officials and the home minister for quicker completion of the new town planning and land distribution,” he said.

Gup Pema Dorji said town-planning works are progressing at a snail’s pace and, judging by the current work progress, it was likely to take more than two years.  Without completion of town planning, he said, land allotment would not happen.  Census registration will be done only after the land is allotted.

“We’re pressing because, even after census registration, people will have to wait for a year to become eligible voters for thromde election,” he said.

There are more than 100 business license holders in Gasa, of which only about 30 run their shops from temporary sheds. “Although other license holders were paying tax and requesting for space to set up their shops, there’s no more space,” he said.

Another local leader said the people of Gasa have longed for a town, given the developmental activities that come with it.

“Until now, even to fuel a car or change your LPG-gas, people have to travel 70-80km to Punakha or Thimphu,” a local leader said. “We don’t have proper highway, even though it’s been years since Gasa became a separate dzongkhag.”

“Thromde would be a gateway to better road, good shops, hotels and, above all, it will help bring in more visitors to the tsachu,” gup Pema said.

However, people are worried that, if the land distribution does not happen sooner, Gasa may not be able to hold a thromde election next year.

The dzongkhag administration has written to the home ministry, asking for the possibility of allowing the business license holders in existing temporary town to register their census with the thromde, prior to the completion of the town planning.

By Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue

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