EU officials said they are increasing assistance to countries where results were best
Aid: The European Union (EU) will triple its development assistance to the country by committing Nu 3.5B or Euro 42M between 2014-2020.
The EU ambassador to Bhutan João Cravinho announced this in Thimphu yesterday.
Like previous EU assistance, the money would be divided among local government, civil society and the renewable natural resources sectors.
Most of the money will be injected into the decentralisation and devolution of power process, reinforcing civil society organisations and public finance management support.
The rest would go into supporting sustainable agriculture and forestry.
Cravinho said the support is being provided to two sectors he described as “fundamental” for the country.
“There will be other activities complementary to that as well,” he said.
He also said the excellent results of EU assistance to the country had allowed for increased assistance.
“We find that Bhutan is an excellent development partner,” he said, adding the investments it made in Bhutan produced results in terms of development. “Therefore, it was quite easy to bargain in Brussels that Bhutan should see an increase in development assistance,” he said.
Cravinho said the EU is redistributing its assistance globally and increasing it to countries where results were best.
The EU ambassador is leading a delegation of three other European ambassadors from Austria, Ireland, and Poland to Bhutan.
Cravinho said it is important that the success story of the relationship between Bhutan and EU be shared with other member states.
“At the end of the day the development assistance that comes from the EU comes from the member states of the EU and taxpayers of those member states,” he said
Polish ambassador Piotr Klodkowski said that he had pointed out to the prime minister, whom the delegation met earlier in the day, that education could be a “profitable” area of cooperation, especially in primary and secondary education.
He said Bhutan could also become a destination for Polish interested in Buddhism.
Austrian ambassador Bernhard Wrabetz said this year marked 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
He said this milestone provides an opportunity to further “fortify relations”.
Another potential area of cooperation was organic agricultural products.
Cravinho said Bhutanese organic agricultural products should find their way to European supermarket shelves once a certification mechanism was operational.
One of EU’s objectives, he said was to support the country to diversify its exports.
While acknowledging the challenges the country faces given its terrain and a complicated environment, the ambassador said Bhutan could increase its exports in organic agricultural products to Europe. He said the EU is supporting Bhutan to come up with a proper certification mechanism.
Notwithstanding the increased assistance, Cravinho said the EU do not see the necessity to open an office in the country.
“We feel we can continue to work the way we’ve been doing because we’ve a very close relationship of trust with the Bhutanese governmebnt,” he said.
Cravinho said he will visit the country twice a year and that EU officials will visit the country more frequently as assistance activities have now increased.
Cravinho added he is aware of the debate on foreign missions to the country, but that Bhutan shared a long and close relationship with the EU.
EU assistance to Bhutan began in 1982, and amounted to Euro 46M between 1982 and 2002.
Between 2002-2006 the EU provided Euros 15M, and Euro, 14M between 2007-2013. EU assistance is provided in seven-year cycles.
By Gyalsten K Dorji
Judiciary: The High Court’s larger bench yesterday upheld Paro district court’s verdict that sent a woman to a year in prison for deceiving 190 people into mortgaging her three-storied house to borrow their money.
Of the 190 people, 104 appealed to High Court.
It was in December 2013 that Paro district court passed 188 judgments involving 190 people from Haa and Paro against Deki from Changkhar in Paro within 27 days.
Besides prison term, Deki was asked to pay Nu 117M within eight months to 188 people from whom she had borrowed money.
Of the 188 people, 104 appealed against the lower court’s judgment.
The grounds of appeal, court official said, was that the eight-month period to recover the money was too long.
The appellants also stated that the court’s decision to distribute money proportionally to them after selling the woman’s three-storey building in case she failed to return their money, was unsatisfactory.
The building was also used as a mortgage to borrow money from Bhutan National Bank.
“The people asked if there was no money left after paying Bhutan National Bank, how will they recover their money,” a court official said. Paro court granted priority to BNB to recover the money as it was a legitimate financial institution.
High Court’s larger bench elaborated that in case the money was insufficient to repay all lenders, Deki would have to repay the money within a month.
“If she fails, she will be dealt in accordance with law,” said the verdict.
The larger bench dismissed Deki’s appeal to not acquire her husband’s properties into account as he was not involved in the case.
The court verdict stated that according to Marriage Act, a couple should be considered as one and the same person and that they had to celebrate success and share the burden together.
“Deki’s husband cannot claim that he was not involved,” said the verdict.
The larger bench also dismissed Deki’s plea to declare her as bankrupt. This, the High Court officials explained was because the 1999 Bankruptcy Act specifies that an insolvent person can declare bankrupt against the loans taken from financial institutions only and not within private parties.
“Deki’s declaration of bankruptcy against private individuals will not be covered by the Act,” said the verdict.
The court also said that the case was similar to a Ponzi scheme or a pyramid scam.
But since there was no money laundering or illegal transaction charges framed against the defendant, the High Court treated it as a private lending case.
By Tashi Dema
Reform: The education system is up for an overhaul in the next decade with the ministry having started preparations to draw up Bhutan Education Blueprint 2014-2024.
Education minister Mingbo Dukpa said a comprehensive review and consolidation of the entire education system through a time bound blueprint or roadmap is necessary. “This will help a rapid and systematic transformation of the system,” he said, adding that the initiative was timely.
“The present system has come under increasing public scrutiny and debate with rising societal expectations that has begun to seriously question the quality of education through various platforms,” he said.
It is only through continuous education reforms that national challenges can be addressed effectively.
The ministry would review the education system and come up with innovations to bring about tangible improvement in the quality of education.
“The ministry is hopeful children’s learning outcomes are comparable to international standards especially in mathematics and science within five to 10 years,” the minister said.
Bhutan 2020, the vision document, has targeted to achieve student competencies to international level by 2020.
Royal Education Council’s study in 2009 pointed out a huge gap between the current and the desired state in quality of education. The council recommended appointing ‘capable school heads’, ‘improving teacher quality’ and giving schools more ‘autonomy’.
Some of the suggested activities are reviewing the curricula, examination and assessment systems, improving teaching standards in core subject and infrastructure, and collecting the views of the populace on their desired education system.
“The whole exercise takes about two years elsewhere but we’re doing it in about six months because there is no time to waste,” education minister said, adding the ministry is using its own human resource on a budget of Nu 4.3M.
“We’d build on the strengths of the present system, while improving those that need change, but all of this would take place gradually, not ad hoc,” the minister said.
Unlike in the past, parents now question what has been taught in schools. “So we’ve to bring about a system that can satisfy the aspirations of these parents and make youth employable, with better values.”
Prime minister Tshering Tobgay has also been floating the idea of school consolidation in public meetings. He asked whether they agreed with the idea of consolidating schools. The government’s idea is to close those schools with fewer children and provide better facilities in the schools.
The cabinet, after a two-hour deliberation on the issue, approved the preparation of the document last Tuesday. The document is expected to be ready by November this year. Implementation starts beginning of next year.
By Tshering Palden
Pro Bhutan Association, Germany donated 280 mattresses to Dechenphodrang Monastic School in Thimphu yesterday.
What does a cow give?
This was a question posed in a class test in one of the primary schools in the country.
Much like one of those smart answers to similar questions that people post on the social networking sites nowadays, the student answered, dung.
Since that did not conform to the prescribed answer, the teacher marked it wrong.
The next day, the parent of the student who saw the paper went to the teacher and informed that the answer her child gave was not necessarily wrong.
Another student in yet another school appeared for a similar class test in which one of the questions, a fill-in-the-blanks type was: If people cut down trees…
The student wrote that he would call the police, which again fell far short of the conventional answer that it would cause soil erosion and the student lost a mark.
However, in this case the parent probably sided with the teacher that the latter was not challenged into looking beyond the prescribed answers.
But as the society changes, with children gaining more exposure and assisted by various media, the internet being the biggest player, students are introduced to disparate answers to a classroom question.
The challenges will only mount for teachers.
In some primary school classrooms, students who are more up to speed with world current affairs intimidate their teachers.
Therefore, the question of changing the teaching methods and modules come into view.
Within that too lies the answer to an oft raised issue of quality of education.
Quality of education is often linked to the quality of a teacher and the strategies they use to impart knowledge to their pupil.
There is a need for our education system to embrace the sort of teaching ambiance that encourages students to use their cognitive skills, to give them the space to go beyond what they acquire within the confines of a classroom.
Rather than reject a students effort to questions that can have more answers than one, it would be encouraging if they were allowed to reason how and why they reached the response.
That way, it also helps towards a more interactive classroom, one in which children grow up more open-minded and more accepting of various ideas and points of views.
The ways of teaching our schools are accustomed to have served their time.
There is a need to encourage our teachers and the education system towards a pedagogic endeavor that verges more on showing students and not telling them.
The incident is the third such in Paro in the month of April alone
Crime: Police detained a 29-year-old man from Tsento Mesi, after investigations revealed that the concealed sandalwood, found by foresters on April 24 belonged to him.
Police sources said he had brought the sandalwood from Jaigaon in India, and he intended to take it to China. The sandalwood was found concealed under sand transported in a truck.
Police had detained the truck driver, also the owner, who ferried the wood from Phuentsholing to Paro on April 25. A forester, who was guarding the truck out of suspicion, was injured.
Chief forestry officer in Paro, Kaka Tshering, said foresters received a tip off and had split in two groups to conduct patrolling along the Shaba-Paro road.
“The truck refused to stop when foresters signalled him to stop in Shaba. The foresters intimated the other group and, when they stopped, the driver denied having the consignment,” he said, adding that the driver then said foresters should follow him and check when he unloads in Shomu, about three kms from Paro.
The foresters followed the truck, but the driver stopped for over an hour in town. The truck then did not ply the usual Paro-Drugyel route, but took a farm road and, along the way, slipped into a drain. It was 9pm by then.
Foresters dropped the driver home around midnight. But around 2am he came back and joined the foresters guarding his truck. The foresters made a fire a few metres away from the truck to keep themselves warm.
“Around 2:30, one of our team members saw people unloading sandalwood and he alerted the others,” Kaka Tshering said. There were three men. “We, including the driver, who had picked stones, went after them.”
“Suddenly stones were thrown, and one of my foresters was hurt,” the CFO said. “He sustained wound on his head and had nine stitches.”
Police said they are still investigating who assaulted the foresters, the unidentified men or the driver.
The truck driver was accused of carrying 726kg of sandalwood. There were 57 pieces of sandalwood, packed in gunny bags and ready to be transported on horse.
Foresters said the incident calls for a better attention from policy makers, as it poses great risks to their lives.
Kaka Tshering said sandalwood is the most smuggled consignment in Paro, and the incident was the third in April alone.
Sandalwood is a schedule two item and Bhutan, as a member of the ‘convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora’ (CITES), does not allow the country to be used as route for such illegal activity.
CITES is an international agreement between governments, and it aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
Foresters explained that people doing sandalwood business would be given transit permit if they show proper documentation, declare the consignment and pay import fees. “But the problem here is our people bring it illegally from brokers in Jaigaon, and don’t know who’s the real dealer,” a forester said.
Foresters also explained that forest and park services department, after learning about the rampant sandalwood smuggling, increased the fines in October 2013.
A lump sum fine of Nu 50,000 is imposed on vehicle owner and Nu 5,000 per animal illegally transported. Illegal transportation of sandalwood is levied a fine of Nu 750 a kg.
“But this isn’t helping curb such illegal activities,” a forester said.
By Tashi Dema
Crime: Wangdue police have arrested five men – a site supervisor of Punatsangchu hydropower project authority II (PHPA) and four expatriate workers with Jaiprakash Associates – in relation to an assault case on the night of April 28.
Police officials said the chief security officer of PHPA II reported the case to them at around 10:30pm.
A fight broke out between the site supervisor and the mechanical engineer, when the former was complaining to Jaiprakash officials that they were mixing water in the chemical used for concrete production.
According to the site supervisor’s complaint to police, three expatriate workers held him and let the engineer hit him. The engineer said that it was only after the site supervisor punched him that he decided to retaliate.
The site supervisor was admitted to hospital, yesterday evening. Police are investigating the case.
Efficiency: Having acquired skills to build clay brick stoves, non-formal education instructor Phuntsho Rabten aspires to impart his skills to those in his village in Lhuentse.
The clay brick stove is ‘fuel wood efficient and emits less greenhouse gases’.
Phuntsho Rabten said his village in Tsango under Khoma gewog was mountainous area and most people depended on firewood for cooking and heating purposes. “They use the traditional stove, which is a health hazard,” he said. “It keeps the house warm but it produces gas and is dangerous especially when no one is at home.”
While using the traditional wood-fed stove, Phuntsho Rabten said he noticed black substances while blowing nose. “The clay stove has a chimney,” he said.
Like Phuntsho Rabten, other instructors are also expected to teach and assist communities and create awareness on the improvised cooking stove. The stoves come in three different types, two-pot stove, three-pot stove and fodder stove.
Instructor Dorji Phuntsho said if villagers accepted and moved to the improvised stove there were many benefits. “Firewood consumption will be reduced, and the house would be free of smoke and stains,” he said, adding it would also improve health of the tenants.
Project officer Cheki Dorji said it has been proven that the stoves consume less firewood than traditional stoves. “The stoves are designed in such a way that its construction requires locally available materials and local expertise,” he said. “Dried clay brick, asbestos boards and some metallic parts are required.”
The metallic parts are used for the door, chimney and plates where the pots are placed.
The seven-day training which imparted the skills to 64 non-formal education instructors in Lhuentse and Mongar ended on April 29.
The training was organised by Bhutan Sustainable Rural Biomass Energy Project under economic affairs ministry and adult and higher education department under education ministry.
As a pilot project, it was first introduced in Trashigang last year where 47 instructors were trained. “There are about 170 such stoves being used in Trashigang,” he said. “Since it is affordable, energy efficient and clean it is an important solution for sustainable rural energy requirements.”
The project is support by global environment facility (GEF), UNDP and Bhutan trust fund for environmental conservation fund. The target is to have 14,000 of such stoves in all dzongkhags by 2015.
By Dechen Tshering
Agriculture: Lack of timely rainfall has left many farmers in Sarpang worried. Some have taken to reading poti (religious texts) and are conducting choekor (making rounds with poti).
Farmers say lack of rain could affect crop and vegetable production this year.
“We normally get rain around this time of the year. There hasn’t been much this year. Maize plants are at the verge of dying,” said a 61-year-old farmer from Barshong, Sangay Tshering. “About 40 areca nut trees have already died due to lack of water.”
Farmer Sangay Wangchuk from Pemathang said lack of rain is slowly killing his maize.
“We’re desperate,” said Sangay Wangchuk said.
Farmers say that if rain doesn’t come soon, the dzongkhag that is identified as one of the winter vegetable growing districts in the coountry, may have not much from the fields this year.
Due to lack of rain this time round, most farmers have left their land fallow. Water sources in the dzongkhag are also rapidly drying.
“Forget about putting water in the garden, we don’t even have enough to drink,” said Phurpa Dolma, a vegetable grower from Sangkha.
By Tshering Namgyal, Sarpang
Religion: His Holiness the Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choeda appointed Khentrul Garab Dorje, 45, as the president of the Mahayana Foundation and overseer of the Mahayana Buddhist Monastery in Kheng Buli, Rigdrol Lhakhang in Thimphu, and Raling Mebar Chhoeling Monastery in Pemagatshel.
Khentrul Garab Dorje, known also as Khenpo Garab, is the founder and owner of the Mahayana Buddhist Monastery in Zhemgang.
Garab Dorje was recognised by Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche and Trulzhik Rinpoche as the reincarnation of Kathog Chhoeying Rangdrol.
Khentrul mastered Buddhist philosophy and arts from many great Buddhist scholars when he was at Semtokha Rigzhung College for nine years. He also studied for additional nine years at Palyuel Dharthang Shedra in Nepal.