Security: More than a month after the Alipurduar district police nabbed eight men involved in robbing Bhutanese commuters along the highway, people have now regained confidence in using the road again.
Kuensel learnt that there has been no complaint and new occurrences of robbery since then.
The officer-in-charge with the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) in Lhamoizingkha, Chador Namgay, said there haven’t been any incidents reported after the robbers were caught last month.
Police officials in Samtse also confirmed that there were no new cases reported.
However, officials said commuters should remain cautious and careful while travelling.
The miscreants had told police of having robbed 15 Bhutanese along the highway to date. Police in Alipurduar had recovered 18 mobiles, three laptops, a gold piece, a gold ring, and Nu 25,000.
Bhutanese were robbed in broad daylight on the highways in Alupurduar and Madarihaat.
While the highway may have become safe, those affected are unsure if they would get back the belongings they were robbed off earlier.
One of the victims said the officials told him that their belongings and cash would be returned within a week.
“But, we haven’t heard anything, as of now,” he said, adding that he and his friends have now stopped hoping. “We also don’t feel like asking again, since the culprits are caught.”
Another victim, a Samtse resident, also said that there was no news on his belongings. He said he was robbed off Nu 3,500 and that it didn’t make much of a difference.
“I was called to identify the culprits,” he said. “I identified four from the eight involved.”
By Rajesh Rai
Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay met the President of the Republic of Iceland Dr Olafur Ragnar Grimsson yesterday in Thimphu. During the meeting, Lyonchhoen and the President discussed on expediting cooperation on healthy tourism, preservation of glaciers, geothermal energy and greenhouse agriculture among others.
BCSEA: Despite being mired in a paper leakage controversy, the class XII board examination 2014 result, according to officials, was the best since 2006, with 89.38 percent students passing the examination.
The pass percentage is an increase of 2.77 percent from the previous year.
Among the streams, pass percentage was highest in Science with 94.35 percent, Commerce 86.44 percent and Arts 84.72 percent.
Girls outnumbered boys in the class XII board examination toppers this year. Of the 10 toppers, six were girls. Two girls each stood first and second, while another one took the third position.
With two students each in first and second positions, and another in third, Ugyen Academy higher secondary school (HSS) swept the top positions, in the board examination, while Pelkhil, Jakar, Motithang, Chukha and Damphu HSS bagged the rest.
A science student of Ugyen Academy HSS, Jambay Kinley, who topped the class X examination with 95 percent in 2012, did it again. Since then he has scored 100 marks in every mathematics examination.
The 18-year-old from Rukubji, Wangdue scored 91 percent, with 100 in mathematics, 96 each in physics and chemistry, 72 in English, and 90 in information technology studies.
“I’m happy but the excitement isn’t as much as when I topped the class X examinations in 2012,” Jambay Kinley said. “I owe the success especially to my chemistry teacher for moral support and his efforts, the school, and my parents.”
While he has still to decide, Jambay is interested in furthering his study in physics.
Jigme Wangmo from Pelkhil HSS stood second with 88.75 in Science and fourth overall. Pema Selden also from Ugyen Academy came third with 88.25 percent.
Another Ugyen Academy student, Kinga Pelden of commerce was at the counter of her parents’ bakery shop in Trashigang town, when two of her friends told her that she had topped commerce stream with 89.5 percent and was second in the overall result.
“I couldn’t believe it, so we bet Nu 100, but later I checked with my father and lost Nu 200 to them,” she said.
Kinga Pelden wants to become a chartered accountant one day and if a scholarship slot were available, she would not opt for any other.
Juhee Kim, also from Ugyen Academy came second with 85.5 percent, while Chukha HSS’s Thinlay Penjor took the third position with 81 percent.
The whole Bhutan third and first in the arts stream with 89 percent is Sonam Tshomo from Motithang HSS.
The 17-year-old from Chali, Mongar scored 89 percent in her trials and found the board examination tougher than the trial.
“So I didn’t expect to top the examination,” Sonam Tshomo said adding that she was extremely happy for her accomplishment. “I wish to study further in English if I can get a scholarship slot.”
Jakar HSS’s Arts student Bikash Rai scored 83.5 to share the second place with Dorji Yangzom of Ugyen Academy. In the third place, Damphu HSS topper Leki Tshering scored 80 percent.
In language and culture studies certificate examination, Taktse HSS students booked the first and third spots.
Scoring 83.57 percent, Tshewang Gyeltshen topped, while his schoolmate Dawa scored 80.43 percent for the third place.
A School for Language and Culture studies, Thimphu student Jigme Wangchuk ranked second with 80.86 percent.
A total of 10,252 candidates from 50 HSS, 34 government and 16 private schools, appeared the examination last December. Another 595 students appeared the LCSCE examination.
Students performed well in English, Dzongkha, Geography and Science subjects with pass percentages above 90 percent. The lowest pass percentage was in History with 63.22 percent.
The candidates performed well in geography with 62.08 mean score (measurement of quality of performance). While mean scores in history, economics, accounts and computer studies were between 41 and 46 percent, in most subjects, the mean scores were between 50 and 58.
Students can access their results from www.bcsea.bt or B-mobile users can sms R12(space) index number to 3333 and Tashi Cell users can text their index numbers to 4040.
Students have until February 25 starting today to apply for paper rechecks. The results will be announced on March 6.
Candidates can collect their mark sheets and pass certificates from their respective schools by the second week of March. The BCSEA office would not issue them.
The class X results will be declared by this week or on February 9.
By Tshering Palden
Small and micro businesses fall through the cracks as they do not keep proper accounts
Tax: One late afternoon, four officials from the department of revenue and customs (DRC) walk into a general shop at Changjiji and ask the shopkeeper for his trade license.
One of the officials checks the license’s date of issue to determine the amount of business income tax (BIT) payable, while others inspect the shop. The amount of BIT payable depends on the number of years the enterprise has been in operation, location and stocks available with the shopkeeper.
“I don’t have enough sales in my shop,” the shopkeeper says. “It’s difficult to even pay rent.”
The officials explain to the shopkeeper how BIT is calculated and fix the amount payable on the spot. The BIT payable for the shop adds up to about Nu 4,000.
DRC officials have been working their way through the town, going door to door, collecting business income tax (BIT) since January 1. The collection of BIT will continue until March 31.
However, by going door to door, tax officials could be relying on inefficient manual processes to track BIT payers. “The BIT payable depends on the capacity to pay,” an official from DRC in Thimphu, Dorji Phuntsho, said.
Nima, a businessman dealing with imported utensils in the heart of the town, said the tax collection system is unfair and leaves room for revenue leakage. “Big shops pay more tax, while smaller shops that do not maintain books of accounts but still earn more profits pay less then us,” he said. “This is unfair.”
He explained that some people open a small shop, but authorities cannot trace if they also owned a wholesale business. “They’ll be hiding their stock somewhere, while some operate wholesale business, but only have a small shop to show customs officials,” he said.
However, the tax officer said that everyone would be traced, as they will have to come to DRC for a clearance certificate. “Some shops may be left out, but they come to our office to file BIT,” he said.
Small and medium enterprises maintain proper books of accounts and file tax based on the profit. “We ask the tax officials to lower the tax if we don’t have a good turnover,” a garment shop owner Pema Choden said. “It’s natural that they have to lower the tax amount, if we don’t have income.”
She also maintains proper records and files BIT based on her profit. “Only small shops pay tax in lump sum,” she added.
Nima said he has been running his shop for the last eight years, and last year he paid about Nu 85,000 as BIT. He also said that small enterprises that buy from wholesalers pay tax only once.
“Whereas we have to pay customs duty and BIT, so we’re taxed twice,” he said. “It would be better if we’re allowed to pay tax in lump sum like micro enterprises.”
He said he also annually pays Nu 10,000 to a consultant to prepare his accounts.
Those, who run businesses without licenses, also cause revenue leakage. “We’ve encountered a few shops operating without license, but we can’t do anything, because anything to do with license is the work of the trade department,” the tax officer said.
While some say that their license is under process, some taxpayers do not pay on the spot. A shopkeeper at Changjiji did not pay BIT when tax officials came to collect it from her shop last week. “It’s better for me to go to the revenue office, because I know someone there who can lower my BIT amount,” she said.
Meanwhile, some shopkeepers said BIT has been rising rapidly while income has remained stagnant. An elderly grocery owner at Changjiji said his BIT shot to Nu 4,000 this year from Nu 700 three years ago.
“But our income hasn’t increased so significantly,” he said. “We hardly have any sales enough to earn a profit.”
He said the opening of Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) sales counters at various places has affected small businesses. “We can’t compete with FCB, because they can sell all goods at lower prices, and customers come to us only when they want to buy on credit,” he said.
The national budget 2014-15 estimates that collection from BIT for the current fiscal year will be slightly more than Nu 2B, an increase of 8.3 percent from the previous year. There were a total of 22,331 business licenses at the end of 2013.
The government has also exempted small and micro businesses in rural areas from BIT to encourage growth of small and micro-businesses in rural areas with effect from last year.
While this is expected to incur some revenue loss, customs officials said this exemption is expected to ensure greater fairness and equity in the system. “Currently, the tax burdens borne by the small and micro businesses in the rural areas are relatively high compared to PIT payers,” states the 2014-15 budget report.
Approximately 11,122 taxpayers will benefit from this incentive.
By MB Subba
Class XII: Despite the huge controversy surrounding the class XII board examination’s English II paper leakage, there was no clue of widespread leak, Bhutan Council for School Examination and Assessment (BCSEA) officials said.
“Scrutiny of papers indicated no hard evidences of leakage,” BCSEA secretary Kinga Dakpa said yesterday while declaring the examination results yesterday.
The council collected feedback from the markers after the evaluation was completed.
He said, during the marking of the paper, the markers made their observations on the basis of whether there were any traces or evidence of mass leakage; if the marks of students indicated any undue gains or loss by students, and on the impact of the leakage on overall student performance in English II.
“Besides, the random analysis of the marks was carried out and suspicious papers were scrutinised,” Kinga Dakpa said.
However, he said, there were three candidates, who provided ‘Googled answers ‘to some poetry questions, indicating to some extent that these students may have had some information of the particular poem being in the paper before the examination.
“But their answers were to their disadvantage, as they were wrong,” he said.
Kinga Dakpa said the comparative analysis of marks in English I and English II showed that the difference between English I and II marks ranged from 0-33 with varying results in different candidates, where some performed better in English I and some in English II. It was difficult to conclude that the leak did or did not supplement in student performance in English II, he said.
Mean marks for English I and II were 49.22 and 50.89 respectively. Pass percentage for English I and II were 91.21 percent and 94.03 percent respectively. The highest performance in English I was 87 and 84 in English II; and lowest in English I was 4 and English II 12.
“Most candidates, 50.22 percent, scored between 40-50 marks in English II indicating that the paper was easy as mentioned by markers and students themselves,” he said.
Council officials said that a random analysis of marks did not indicate any concrete evidence of leakage and therefore concluded that the leak had minimal impact on the performance.
“The leakage was felt to be largely a rumour,” Kinga Dakpa said. “The council, following the board’s decision and the Cabinet directives on the line of actions against the individuals involved in the leakage, decided the penalties within the purview of examination rules and regulations.”
The council cancelled the results of students involved in spreading the leak, and barred them from appearing examination in the next one to three years. They could sit for the examination after the completion of barred period.
“The adult individuals involved in the case are eternally barred from participating in any of the BCSEA activities,” he said.
Kuensel learnt that the individual responsible for the leak was traced by the council’s investigation. However, the council was limited by its mandate to prosecute further, thus, the OAG has been reviewing the issue.
Further investigation and prosecution by appropriate professional agencies are recommended for appropriate legal or administrative actions on them.
The council has sought help from the cabinet secretariat, Office of the Attorney General, and Royal Bhutan Police.
The marking of BHSEC 2014 English II was carried out from January 14-27, at the College of Science and Technology, Phuentsholing.
By Tshering Palden
Need to build capacity and experience of troops
UN: While Bhutan will gradually expand its peacekeeping contribution, there are currently no plans to deploy armed troops under the UN flag.
Bhutan began contributing to UN peacekeeping in September, last year. There are currently nine Bhutanese deployed with three peacekeeping missions.
One is serving as a military observer in the Middle East, two as staff officers in the Central African Republic, and six as UN police in Liberia.
On whether Bhutan plans to expand its role and contribute armed troops as peacekeepers like neigbouring countries, the foreign affairs ministry said that there are currently no such plans.
“Bhutan does not have the capacity to deploy troops on a large scale similar to India, Bangladesh or Nepal who are among the top troop contributing countries to UN peacekeeping missions,” the foreign affairs ministry responded in a statement.
Bangladesh was contributing 9,400 military and police personnel combined, India was contributing 8,139, and Nepal, 5,089, as of December, last year.
Bhutan’s participation will progress in a gradual manner. “What we hope to achieve is to make a modest contribution to the United Nations peacekeeping missions commensurate with our own capacity and wherewithal,” the foreign affairs ministry said in its statement. “Bhutan’s contribution to UN peacekeeping missions is being pursued in a gradual manner, as we need to build our capacity and experience before we decide to contribute troops.”
The ministry pointed out that while Bhutan already possesses a “well-trained and professional army”, deployment for peacekeeping missions will require more training and equipment to ensure that Bhutanese troops are prepared and well equipped to fulfill the mandate of the mission they are deployed to.
It was also highlighted that Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) officers and troops undergo various military training courses in India like the Centre for UN peacekeeping in New Delhi, the National Defence Academy, the Indian Military Academy, and the Defence Services Staff College. This collaboration between the RBA, and the Indian government and army has strengthened the professional capacity of the RBA for which the country is grateful, the ministry pointed out.
India has been participating in UN peacekeeping missions since 1950.
“Our current peacekeeping engagement with the UN is being pursued incrementally through the deployment of individual officers from our armed forces including police as Military Observers and Staff Officers who are unarmed and carry out non-combatant roles,” it added. “Such officers will be able to acquire experience and knowledge of peacekeeping operations and help build our capacity.”
The foreign ministry clarified that the financial benefits of UN peacekeeping would not be a primary incentive for Bhutan to expand its UN peacekeeping contribution. The UN pays at least USD 1,028 per soldier a month.
However, UN does not pay military observers and staff officers a monthly salary. They are paid a mission subsistence allowance similar to UN personnel on the ground to meet expenses relating to accommodation, food, and incidental expenses, the foreign affairs ministry explained. They also continue to receive their monthly remuneration from the government.
“Peacekeepers have to operate in very harsh, demanding and challenging conditions, particularly in many parts of Africa,” the ministry states. “At the same time, operating in a conflict situation carries with it a lot of risks too. Considering these factors, the financial package is modest.”
The ministry points out that the primary reason for Bhutan’s participation in UN peacekeeping is to play a constructive role in addressing UN issues, and that conflict prevention, peacekeeping, and peace building is a key objective of the UN.
“The UN and its agencies have contributed immensely to Bhutan’s socio-economic development. Therefore, Bhutan would like to, in a small way show its appreciation by contributing to international peace and security,” it is pointed out by the ministry.
Meanwhile, the prime minister has received feedback from the UN secretary general that the Bhutanese peacekeepers have been performing very well. The secretary has in fact encouraged Bhutan to send more peacekeepers, particularly women officers.
Of the nine peacekeepers deployed, one is a women officer of the Royal Bhutan Police.
There were almost 103,800 peacekeepers deployed for 16 UN peacekeeping missions as of December, last year. A total of 128 countries were contributing personnel.
Statistics maintained by the UN also show that there were a total of 1,543 fatalities recorded in current UN missions.
By Gyalsten K Dorji
Working holiday: Students spend their winter vacation harvesting wheat in Jabaa village in Mongar
Pemagatshel may be a backward dzongkhag, economically, but when it comes to expressing their rights, they are not far behind.
The villagers of Nangkhor stopped a private mining company from digging below their village. When villagers were consulted about the mine, not many agreed to the idea. A vote was called for and only six villagers gave it the green light. The remaining 53 were adamant that mining was no good for them, even if they understood it would benefit the country’s economy.
We can cheat a yokel once, but not over and over again. And Nangkhor villagers have learnt their lesson well. The dzongkhag is rich in minerals and still has a couple in operation. But the benefit, it seems, didn’t trickle down to the villagers. They were very outspoken about who benefited from the mines. The villagers didn’t, for sure.
According to villagers, they were promised economic benefits when mining first started in the dzongkhag about three decades ago. Apart from the transportation provided by the trucks transporting gypsum to Samdrupjongkhar, not much filtered down to the community. Rather, for many years, villagers had been complaining of pollution that damaged both food and cash crops.
Many villagers depend on orange for cash income. Stories of dust from the mines spoiling orchards are not new. Apparently not much was done to help them. That’s why they abhor the sight of a mine, let alone letting some more open in their dzongkhag.
Mining recently has become a thorny issue, with communities complaining of its impact, or trying to stop it at the proposal stage. This is a good development, but only if it for genuine reasons, like harm to health and wealth of communities. With power vested in the local community to give the go ahead, communities can stop a mining proposal in their area.
What we have to be careful of is to ensure that they are doing it for the right reasons. Sometimes, a few influential members of the community, with a vested interest, can stop a mining activity. This will hamper economic development. But if communities feel it is for the general good that they are stopping, we should respect their rights and decision. After all, democracy is about respecting rights.
Communities are becoming aware of legislations and rights. They cannot be bulldozed, even if the economic prospects are huge. In a democracy, political parties can do that to achieve their promises and pledges. If only a few individuals are benefitting from national wealth, that too at the cost of the community, it should be stopped.
At the same time, a proper and honest feasibility study should be carried out, including the impact on the community around the mines. Involving villagers in decision making right from the beginning is a good idea.
Displacing villagers or hampering their livelihood for the benefit of a few individuals will be a disaster in planning. There will be no trust in governance.
Mining: After several discussions and almost a four-hour public consultation meeting, villagers of Nangkor, Pemagatshel refused to allow private mining below the village.
Only six villagers gave “Yes” votes; 53 voted “No”.
The villagers said that, while they understand that mining would contribute to the economy of the country, they were concerned about the future of the environment and people in the village. Khotakpa gypsum mine in Shumar gewog has done significant environmental damage, say the farmers.
The villagers refused to allow mining in the village because of damage it might do to two schools, about 89 of the 252 households in the village, a BPC power stations, and RNR centre.
“We were promised same economic benefits some three decades ago when gypsum mining was first proposed. We cannot let this happen again,” a villager said.
“Ultimately, mining benefits only an individual. There is nothing for the community,” Ugyen Tshering, 58, said. “Destruction will be huge. We’ve seen how over the years mining has literally killed mandarin production in the area. Water sources have dried.”
Villagers say that mining activities have affected the new Pemagatshel Dzong in Denchi.
Tshogpa Deki Lhamo said that the present gypsum mining in Khothakpa is proof enough for farmers to not allow new mining in Nangkor.
“We had to relocate about 14 households in Khotakpa when the mine came. If mine comes in Nangkor, we may have to relocate 89 households. That’s very difficult,” Shumar gup Lepo said.
The dzongkhag’s environment officer Chimmi Wangchuk said the investor would have to conduct a feasibility study and justify that the mining will not affect the village and the people.
“Nothing has been decided yet,” Chimmi Wangchuk said.
Tharchen, who proposed to start the mine in the village, said that a detailed study would be carried out.
By Yangchen C Rinzin, Samdrupjongkhar
Education: Class nine students will have Environmental Science as an optional subject from this year.
The subject will be introduced in class nine and eventually be offered between classes nine to 12.
While it will be introduced across the country it will not be compulsory for schools to offer the subject to the students.
Department of Curriculum Research and Development (DCRD) specialist, Wangpo Tenzin, said that the purpose of having Environmental Science is to give importance to the environment as it is one of the pillars of Gross National Happiness. The other purpose is that environmental science has many opportunities for research as it will require learning through life related activities.
“Having environment as a subject is not a new idea, it is a part of the 10th Five Year Plan,” said Wangpo Tenzin. “We also found good reasons to have Environmental Science as a subject.”
He said students are in environment and through environment they will try to understand issues. Students have many opportunities for learning using environment.
The subject includes topics like pollution, biology, the eco-system, climate change, people and environment, and sustainable development.
DCRD curriculum specialist Wangchuck Rabten said the subject is about raising awareness so that the environment is protected.
“The subject will be about environment like global warming, climate change, conservations, and give idea to students about how we can go sustainable development,” he added.
DCRD officials said local authors were asked to produce the class nine and 10 Environmental Science text books for Nu 50,000 a chapter. However, the resulting text book was similar to journal reporting with lots of information and no concept, he explained. He said it is important for a text book to have concept and each chapter to have 12 to 15 pages.
The text books were made with the assistance of the Centre for Environment Education (CEE) in Ahmedabad, India. About 70 – 80 percent of the text books written by the local writers have been altered but the information provided still used.
DCRD, Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) and school teachers conducted the final review of the book.
DCRD will improve the text book based on feedback from teachers and students. After two-three years of use, DCRD will publish the first edition of the text book.
More than 70 teachers, who will teach the subject, were trained by RSPN and science teachers in Bajothang in January. Currently, another 107 school teachers are being trained in Gyalpoizhing.
Teachers nationwide were invited to attend the training. Officials said that based on the number of participants, almost all schools are interested in introducing the subject.
“Having this course will give children more options to choose in place of IT and Economics,” said an official.
The introduction of the subject is a joint effort of RSPN and DRCD. Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation funded the introduction of the subject.
By Dechen Tshomo