Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 - 6:44 PM
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New gas system in Thimphu from next month

LPG: The new consumer card system for distribution of domestic liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders will be enforced in Thimphu only by mid-next month.

The consumer card system was supposed to have come into effect nationwide by January 1.

While it is now being followed in the rest of the country, implementation in Thimphu has been extended until next month given overwhelming demand for the cards.

Department of Trade officiating director general Dophu Tshering said that despite cards being issued since October 1, limited staff at the regional trade office catering to the large Thimphu population caused the time extension.

He added that the regional trade office is open even on Saturdays for card issuance.

Unlike the past system where anyone with a used LPG cylinder could exchange it for a new or refilled one, the card system will allow a household to purchase at most three cylinders a month.

This is to prevent the cylinders, which are provided at a subsidised rate by the Indian government on a quota basis, from being used for non-commercial purposes. The use of the subsidised LPG cylinders had also been leading to shortages in supply.

Dophu Tshering said that individuals have been found to own up to five cylinders and that businesses owned even more, before the introduction of commercial LPG cylinders. He added that the consumer card system would allow the government to ensure that the cylinders provided under the quota are used judiciously and not for commercial purposes.

Commercial LPG cylinders were introduced in October 2012.

Dophu Tshering also pointed out that issuance will now be made only if the card is presented. It is estimated that a cylinder would last a large family 25-30 days, and a small one for more than a month, according to the officiating director general.

The government receives a quota of 700 metric tonnes of subsidised LPG cylinders a month.

The regional trade office was not able to provide a number on how many consumer cards have been issued till date.

By Gyalsten K Dorji

Burglary suspect nabbed

Crime: Paro police apprehended a man for a series of six burglaries in Paro on February 4.

On February 3, the police received reports of two break-ins of two houses between 1pm-6pm in the Paro main town.

According to Paro police, the suspect stole two small knives from one house. The suspect  attempted to break-in the other house but was unsuccessful.

Again on February 4, police received reports of four houses being burgled at around 10:30am.  The housebreaker stole laptops, cash, a hard-drive and a camera from the two flats. The suspect attempted to enter two more flats but only managed to damage the doors.

When questioned, neighbours told police that they had seen an Alto car with tinted glass leaving the crime scene. To prevent it from leaving Paro, a search for the vehicle was launched.

A vehicle fitting the description was found parked near to a Paro workshop.

Upon investigation, police found that the vehicle belonged to the sister of a workshop owner.

While the owner of the vehicle initially did not cooperate with police, a laptop was found in one of the rooms of the car owner’s house. The vehicle’s owner claimed no knowledge of the laptop, according to police. The laptop was seized and found to belong to one of those robbed.

Following this, the brother of the workshop’s owner was detained by police. Police said he is suspected to be responsible for all six burglaries.

Police said most of the burglaries in Paro occur during the day. Police also pointed out that public negligence encourages such crimes. Police said burglaries could be reduced if residents asked neighbours to keep an eye on their homes when there are out.

Paro police are also investigating whether the same suspect is involved in other burglaries.

Paro police have recorded eight burglary cases this year. In 2013, Paro police recorded 47 burglaries and 25 in 2014.

By Dechen Tshomo

Falling boulder hits a student in Shingkhar

Accident: The new academic session is just around the corner. Sonam Wangchuk, 19, got a temporary job to clear the roads at Shingkhar gewog in Zhemgang.

It was 8:30 am and the work had just begun. Suddenly, out of no where, boulders started falling down from the cliff. Sonam Wangchuk is hit on the head. Workers rush to the scene.

Sonam Wangchuk is in the ICU of Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital in Thimphu, unconscious. Tashi Wangdi, 20, Sonam Wangchuk’s cousin, is standing near the bed, taking care of his brother.

Sonam Wangchuk was rushed to Yebilaptsa BHU immediately after the incident. From there, the case was referred to Thimphu. Sonam and Tashi reached Thimphu the next morning at 4.30.

“I don’t know what exactly happened. Everyone was busy doing his or her part.  Some say a falling boulder hit him when a blast took place,” said Tashi Wangdi. When the incident occurred, it had been just three days since Sonam began working by the road to make some money for the coming academic session. The workers were paid Nu 250 a day.

Doctors at the ICU said that Sonam Wangchuk is suffering from traumatic brain injury. There has been some improvement after Sonam got to hospital in Thimphu. He can new breathe.

Sonam Wangchuk is a class XII student at School for Langauge and Culture Studies at Babesa in Thimphu.

By Thinley Zangmo

Bhutan participates in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the first time

IMG_4722The national team practicing at the Chang Jiji ground

Football: For the first time ever, Bhutan will play in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Sri Lanka in the preliminary round of “home” and “away.”

The first match will be an “away” match on March 12 in Sri Lanka. The team will then return to play the “home” match at Changlingmithang on March 17.

Ugen Tsechup Dorji, president of Bhutan Olympic Committee, thanked FIFA for financing the team for the qualifiers.

“We couldn’t participate in the world cup qualifiers before because of the budget issues,” said Ugen Tsechup Dorji.

Ugen Tsechup Dorji said that because the national team was selected very recently, it would be too much to ask from the young national team. “The new team had a very limited time to train together.”

However, since all the players are experienced, he said that he is hopeful the squad will give their best, at least at the “home” match.

“We need strong home crowd to support the team during their match on 17th,” said Ugen Tsechup Dorji.

Coach Chokey Nima said that the team is making the best use of the limited time and the team will be fully prepared before going to Sri Lanka.

“We will give our best,” said Chokey Nima.

Kuenga Gyeltshen, who plays as the left-winger for the national team, said that the team is practicing everyday under an experienced coach.

“I cannot guarantee 100 percent win. But we’ll fight till the last minute,” said Kuenga Gyeltshen.

The national team will leave for Thailand for a tour by the end of February. The Thailand Football Association will support the team with accommodation there.

Bhutan is looking for a payback against the Lankans for their 2-5 defeat at the South Asian Football Federation match held at Katmandu in Nepal last year.

By Younten Tshedup

Curious disease kills cattle in Orong

Update: Livestock officials in Orong gewog in Samdrupjongkhar are yet to confirm the disease that killed about eight cows and calves since November in Pheluma and Phelumaphu villages.

Gewog RNR officials have  visited the two villages to confirm the information on the death and  conducted a thorough investigation yesterday.

Since the villagers did not inform the RNR centre immediately after the calves died, the RNR officials had to find out how and when the first death occurred in each household.

The livestock officer based in Orong, Cheten Chedup, said they have gathered all the information, and a “flash report” would be submitted to the dzongkhag soon.

“The villagers didn’t inform us, so it was difficult to get a sample of the carcass,” he said. “Most of them thought it was a natural death.”

Cheten Chedup said that villagers should inform if an animal dies from a suspicious disease, but instead of informing, some of the villagers had consumed the meat, while others had sold the meat within the community.

A few villagers, who informed the village animal health worker, were provided medicines.

“For now, only one cow is sick with the same disease and we’ve already treated it with medicines,” said Cheten Chedup.

Although villagers are not sure of the disease, they said, many cattle died after suffering from a fever like illness that caused the body to stiffen, continuous drooling of saliva and a substance like bubbles from the body. Villagers said that cattle, suffering from such a disease die the next day.

Pheluma chiwog is a three-hour walk from the gewog centre.

By Yangchen C Rinzin,  Samdrupjongkhar

Preliminary hearing of lhakhang Karpo case held

DSC06725Adjourned: Foreign minister Rinzin Dorje leaves the Haa district court yesterday after the preliminary hearing of the Lhakhang Karpo corruption case

For almost two hours the charges against seven of the accused were read out 

Corruption: In a small courtroom filled with eight defendants, three bench clerks and two prosecutors from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), the Haa court drangpon, Duba Drukpa, presided over the preliminary hearing of the lhakhang Karpo corruption case yesterday.

It took about 2 hours and 45 minutes for the three bench clerks and two OAG representatives to read out the charges against the seven individuals, who were implicated for abuse of functions and official misconduct to forgery, bribery and embezzlement.

Foreign minister Rinzin Dorje, who was then the Haa dzongda, is charged on two counts of abuse of functions.  Lyonpo Rinzin Dorje is charged with favouring LD Sawmill by awarding timber sawing works worth Nu 1.403M without approval of the tender committee.  He is also charged with using the dzongkhag’s DCM truck to transport his private timber from Haa to Thimphu.

Lyonpo was asked to refund Nu 80,000 to the government for the 10 trips made in transporting private timber for his building construction in Pamtsho.

The former Katsho gup, Tshwang Penjore, had leased LD Sawmill from a Leki Dorji, and supplied the total sawn timber of 37,224.86 cubic metres.  The OAG representatives submitted that the former dzongda had awarded the contract illegally without consulting the tender committee, and the payment was made based on Nu 37.7 per cft, which the committee had initially rejected.

Although Tshewang Penjore was not criminally charged, the OAG asked him to refund the entire amount of Nu 1.403M to the government.

The highest number of charges is against the project engineer of the lhakhang Karpo conservation project, Tashi Gyeltshen.  He is charged on seven counts of official misconduct and three counts of bribery, forgery and embezzlement.

Tashi Gyeltshen is charged with soliciting and receiving a bribe of Nu 100,000 from the owner of TNW construction, Tshewang Rinzin; for accepting a Samsung phone worth Nu 33,500 from Nima of Pema tshongkhang, and for allowing forged bids and clearing an amount of Nu 0.624M in payments for repairing the existing water supply at lhakhang Karpo.  He also received a HP laptop, along with an external drive worth Nu 46,000, for helping to build a nunnery in Wangsisina, Thimphu from contractor Kuenzang Rinzin.

The project engineer is also charged with embezzlement of Nu 74,985 through ghost names on muster rolls. He is also charged with official misconduct in using other’s licenses in bidding and executing a gabion wall at Katshochu, extension of crematorium in Haa, soling of Baytsho farm road, and fencing of the girls’ hostel at Ugyen Dorji higher secondary school in 2010 and 2011.

Project manager Wangchuk Tshering, along with Tashi Gyeltshen, is also charged with embezzlement of Nu 74,985 through ghost names on muster rolls.  The project manager is also alleged to have waived off Nu 0.10M worth of woola (labour contribution) for his relatives and neighbours.

The construction supervisor (lapon), Lhab Dorji, is charged with embezzling Nu 3,000 each that was collected from 30 households in lieu of labour contributions.  He is also charged with official misconduct, since he told some villagers to inform ACC that they contributed woola.

TNW construction’s owner, Tshewang Rinzin, is also charged with passive trading to influence, as he had bribed the project engineer with Nu 100,000 in May 2011 and for supplying poor quality of sand from the IMTRAT area.

Nima of Pema tshongkhang is charged with forgery as he forged bid documents and bribed the project engineer.  Druk Leading enterprise’s owner, Pema Wangchen is also charged with aiding and abetting the crime as he helped Nima to quote high rates.

All seven defendants requested the court to give more time for their submissions against the charges the OAG framed against them.

Foreign minister Rinzin Dorje, will submit his opening statement to court on February 27. “I’ll have to study the charges and, based on the gravity of charges, I will decide whether to hire a legal counsel or fight the case myself,” lyonpo Rinzin Dorje told Kuensel after the preliminary hearing.

Tashi Gyeltshen and Wangchuk Tshering will rebut their charges on February 25, Lhab Dorji on February 26 and Tshewang Rinzin on March 2.

However, Nima and Pema Wangchen will rebut on February 18.  Tshewang Penjore, who the OAG has asked to refund Nu 1.403M, will submit his statement on February 27.

His Majesty commanded to reconstruct the 120-year old lhakhang Karpo, the residence of Haa valley’s guardian deity, Ap Chundu.  With an initial budget of about Nu 30M, the five-year project began on January 13, 2010 with the construction of two drashas or living quarters for monks.

ACC took up the lhakhang Karpo case after they received an anonymous complaint about the misuse of project funds by officials concerned and took two years to complete its investigation.

By Rinzin Wangchuk, Haa

Almost 6,000 students disqualify for govt. schools

This was because they fell short of the education ministry cut-off point of 61 percent

BCSE: Almost half of the 11,655 students, who appeared the Bhutan certificate of secondary education examination last year, will have to look beyond government schools to continue their education this year.

One of the worst performances since 2007, according to the Bhutan council for school examination and assessment (BCSEA), 5,972 students scored less than the 61 percent cut off point that the education ministry set for admission in government schools this year.  The cut off point last year was also 61 percent.

The national pass percentage also fell by 2.2 percent in 2013 to 93.73 percent.

Subject wise, students did well in computer applications, English, Dzongkha and History, Civics & Geography, with pass percentages above 95 percent.  The lowest pass percentage was in mathematics with 69.92 percent.

In terms of quality or mean score, the students did well in computer applications with 81.92 mean score.   In most of the subjects, the mean scores were between 51-64 percent.

Scoring more than 305 marks in English and four best subjects or 61 percent, a total of 5,683 students will be placed in the 21 government HSS schools.

Students opting for the science stream must have a minimum of 40 percent in mathematics and 55 percent in science, with pass marks in biology, chemistry and physics.  Merit order listing will be based on the sum of science and mathematics.

All higher secondary schools must have at least one section of science stream.

The merit order for students opting for commerce would be based on their marks in mathematics, and each student should have a minimum of 40 percent.

The school education department announced yesterday that all schools have to maintain a minimum class size of 40 students, and students have to be prepared to study as day-scholars after the boarding seats were filled.

“Schools aren’t allowed to start any stream with less than 20 students, in order to ensure optimum utilisation of resources,” the director general of school education department said in the announcement yesterday.

If a dzongkhag is not able to absorb all its qualified candidates, the district education officer will place them in the nearest dzongkhag schools.

In case of candidates, who cannot be absorbed by the nearest dzongkhag schools, the placement would be coordinated by school liaison and coordination division in placing students to schools in other dzongkhags.

The toppers

Dorji Wangmo, 93.2%
Motithang HSS

Dependra Chapagai 93%
Lungtenzampa MSS

Gaki Lhamo 92.2%
Phuentsholing HSS

Citing better jobs opportunities, all three toppers are opting to pursue science in their secondary schools and aspire to become doctors.

A Motithang higher secondary school student, Dorji Wangmo from Kholomri, Nganglam topped the examination with 93.2 percent.  She scored 97 each in computer applications and mathematics, and the least in Dzongkha at 84.

“I wish to become a cardiac surgeon, so I’d like to pursue science stream,” the 16-year old said.

Dependra Chapagai from Lungtenzampa MSS came a close second with 93 percent and attributed his success to hard work from parents, teachers and his own. “I’m happy because my parents are proud of me,” the 16-year old from Tshokana, Tsirang said.

The youngest among them and in third place is Phuentsholing HSS student, Gaki Lhamo, who scored 92.2 percent.

“I’d like to continue in the same school, and I’m extremely happy for the school,” Gaki said.

In the language and culture studies certificate examination (LCSCE), Thubten Zepa Thegchog of Dzongkha Development Training Institute topped with 85.6 percent, followed by his school mate Neten Phuntsho with 84.4 percent.

Nima Dendup from the School for Language and Culture Studies stood third with 80.2 percent.

A total of 100 candidates from School for Language and Culture Studies and Dzongkha Development training institute appeared the LCSCE 2014 examination; 98 of them passed.

Spending on health in steady decline

In a sector not short of challenges, this dwindling of financial resources is its greatest

Budget: It was almost paradoxical that, just as healthcare professionals gathered to discuss keeping pace with scientific updates in medicine over the weekend, they received a chilling reminder that the health sector has been seeing budget cuts over the years.

This decline in health budget over the Plan periods, the director general of medical services department, Dr Ugen Dophu, said, was the biggest challenge facing the sector, which is already grappling with a shortage of medical professionals.

From 5.7 percent of gross domestic product spent on health in 2000, Bhutan’s spending on health over the years has declined to 3.5 percent today.

“This is the greatest challenge for all of us because, if expenditure on health is declining, then sustainability of health care and training of health care providers will not happen,” Dr Ugen Dophu said. “And we’re already noticing this happen.”

From 5.7 percent of GDP in 2000, spending on health dropped to 4.9 percent in 2003, and 4 percent in 2006.  It further dropped to 3.65 percent in 2010, and to 3.55 percent in 2012.

Dr Ugen Dophu said he was sharing this with practising medical professionals so that they were able to speak in the ‘same language with the politicians.’  This issue had been raised, he said, with both the former and present governments, but the ministry was told to manage with the allocated budget.

Among the countries in the region, Sri Lanka, after Bhutan, is the only one that spends 3.6 percent of its GDP on health. “Despite this, the good thing is that both Sri Lanka and Bhutan are still managing to deliver healthcare services to people efficiently,” he said.

According to the 11th Plan documents, the government health sector expenditure over the last ten years has averaged Nu 1.2B per annum, with an annual expenditure growth of 12.5 percent.  The government health expenditure as a percentage of GDP stands at 3.23 percent, it states, adding that the recurrent expenditure to GDP in the 11th Plan is projected to be around 0.56 percent.

The Plan documents state that expenditure in the health sector is expected to increase in the coming years, with the introduction of new technologies and services, and growing incidence of non-communicable diseases, for which the associated costs are much greater than for conventional diseases.

“We have to do a lot but we have no money,” Dr Ugen Dophu said. “The cost of essential drugs, which needs to be revised every two years, is always increasing, while the quantity of drugs we procure also increases annually.”

Health officials said there was a need to upgrade health facilities and introduce diagnostic services, such as X-ray and ultrasound services in BHU I, so that these services are accessible by all across the country.

“All these issues can be taken care if the spending on health increases to 5 percent of GDP,” Dr Ugen Dophu said. “The cut in budget impacts health directly, but it affects the whole country as well.”

The Constitution mandates the state to provide free health care, ensuring that global commitment to universal health coverage is achieved.  Currently, the government budget outlay for health is around 6 percent, and total health expenditure as percent of GDP is 3.6 percent.

“Global health experts recommend an allocation of around 5 percent of the GDP and about 8 percent of the total government spending on health for a country like Bhutan to ensure that quality health care services are provided,” the 11th Plan document states.

Delivered through a network of 758 health facilities with a workforce of 4,210 across the country, the health system in the country, at 88 percent, is predominantly government financed.

According to the National Health Accounts study, 2009/10, Bhutan’s per capita spending on health was Nu 2,847.  The study found that only about 11 percent of the total health expenditure is household out of pocket expenditure.

However, the budget isn’t the only challenge confronting the sector.  It’s already seeing impacts of climate change on health, with vector borne diseases emerging in non-endemic districts, and rural urban migration.

“Another challenge is the unreached population, such as the nomadic community and those in peri-urban areas,” Dr Ugen Dophu said. “As per the 2012 health survey, about 6 percent of the population is still unreached.”

Meanwhile, to sustain the health system, some doctors suggested outsourcing selected health services to private health care providers, while some said it was the management’s fault in not being able to convince the policymakers.

By Sonam Pelden

Police building healthy and effective relation with public

Police: Paro got its first Community Police Centre (CPC) yesterday. The centre in Drugyel is the tenth in the country.

Chief of Police Brigadier Kipchu Namgyel said that CPCs are set up to build good relation bettwen police and the public, to win confidence of public and to prevent crime through active co-operation.

Paro is one of the dzongkhags with the highest crime rate in the country and Tsento is the sixth gewog in the dzongkhag according to crime statistics.

Establishment of CPCs has helped police create a positive relation with the communities, said Kipchu Namgyel. It has help reduce crime, particularly in places like Thimphu.

In 2014, crime rate dropped to 891 from 1,314 in 2013. According to police records, Thimphu recorded crime rate of 65 percent which dropped to 33 percent in 2014.

The first CPC in the country was established in November 2012. Six CPC was opened in Thimphu. Zawakha CPC in Wangdue the largest of all CPCs.

Japan’s Grant Assistance for Grassroots Project (GGP) donated six patrol cars for six CPCs in Thimphu last year.

The Royal Bhutan Police has plans to establish CPC in Chumey in Bumthang, Dewathang in Samdrupjongkhar and Rangjung in Trashigang and one each in Laya and Gasa.

By Dechen Tshomo

An unhealthy trend

Kuensel on Sunday received an invitation to cover an inauguration of a community centre. It is a normal routine to receive invitations to cover events, except that this one had a warning attached to it. If the event were not covered, they would not cooperate with Kuensel in future!
The future cooperation here could be about not “giving” information or even advertising, that newspapers depend so much on for sustenance and survival. The event was covered.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Our newsmakers know how to hit where it hurts the most. With about 12 newspapers competing for government advertising, news managers have to be extra cautious. If you displease an agency or a corporation with an article, no matter how factual or true it may be, you could end up getting blacklisted. The main source of revenue for newspapers would dry up.
With competition for the limited advertisement market, news managers are walking a tightrope. As news media becomes commercialised, news managers are now more answerable to owners than to citizens, whom they are supposed to be beholden to. Editors, for the sake of business, make a lot of compromises.
This may be a global trend, even with big media houses, but it is dangerous. In the Bhutanese context, it’s even worse. Our advertisements are largely public notifications and announcements. These are not advertisements per se, but important information to the public to make, what we call, informed decisions.
If such information is withheld for not liking a media house, or given to the wrong media, the public will be at a loss. Today, we receive feedback that some buy newspapers just for notifications and announcements. It pains to know that, but it is true.
Kuensel, in the past, and on many occasions, was threatened with a blockade of advertising when our articles displeased officials. But to put into context, and repeat what we had already said, information does not belong to the concerned agencies or officials. It is not for the media houses. It is the right of the people to have access to information. This includes government decisions, public announcement and notifications. Nobody is doing any favour to anybody by sharing information. Newspapers and TVs are just a medium of communicating.
Government advertising doesn’t belong to officials or media focal persons, it belongs to the people of Bhutan. And it has to be reached to them. Denying media advertising because they have personal differences, or they (media) had a different opinion, could border on corruption.
If media have to work without fear or favour, they will have to be independent. To a large extent, independence comes when they can stand on their legs, and do not compromise the important responsibility for commercial gains.
The independence of the media was recognised as far as 1992, when His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo issued a royal decree to delink Kuensel and BBS, to let them function independently of government ministries.
If we are to be seen as a responsibility more than a business, we cannot be held at ransom.