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Thursday, May 28th, 2015 - 5:53 PM
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Pay rise proves to be letdown

Civil servants feel cheated by the crumbs being offered from a table of plenty 

Salary: The bone of contention today is the pay revision for the civil servants that the National Assembly has approved.  And the civil servants, for whom the rise in sooth was promised by the PDP government, are the most unappeased.

Civil servants feel grossly cheated.  The uniform 20 percent raise that the pay commission recommended for all civil servants from EX to GSP levels, in the end, did not come to much of a rise.

The government proposed a pay raise of 19 percent to EX level, 21 percent to P level, 23 percent to S level, and 25 percent to civil servant from O to GSP levels.  That is, excluding the 20 percent house rent allowance.  And the NA approved the raise.

Dissatisfaction among the civil servants arose because they expected no less than a 20 percent raise, excluding the housing allowance.

The reality, however, is the rise the government proposed was inclusive of a lump sum 20 percent that was already given in 2011.  This means, if the 20 percent from 2011 is excluded, the pay rise for EX level is just 4 percent, 6 percent for P level, 8 percent for S level, and 10 percent for civil servants between O and GSP levels.

So, the actual raise is less than 30 percent, including 20 percent, which civil servants in the bottom rung say is negligible in terms of what they get in hand.

A P4 civil servant, working with an autonomous department, said that the revision of just five to 10 percent was not necessary if that was all the government could do.   “The revision has created a lot of confusion,” he said. “I’m so disappointed that I stopped following the parliamentary discussion.”

As with every pay revision, house rent will readily increase, putting pressure on people, especially low-income families.  And with the rent, prices of commodities in the market will go up, as trends have shown in the past with pay raise for civil servants, the brunt of which has to be born by private sector employees, whose pay doesn’t raise with the rise in civil servants’ pay.

“Most people don’t understand that the actual increase is just five to 10 percent,” said a civil servant. “We feel cheated and unhappy.”

A civil servant with the education ministry said that although he is happy that the revision came through, it was done in order to increase the salary of parliamentarians and high-ranking government officials, which was disheartening.

“What our parliamentarians showed us this week was plain ridiculous,” he said. “We deserve better.”

The National Council (NC) has resolved that the government should review the pay revision for civil servants, excluding the existing allowances.

By Jigme Wangchuk

Council nixes vehicle grant for ministers

Revision: Granting the vehicle grant of Nu 1M for members of parliament to ministers would set unwanted precedence and further hurt the economy, according to National Council members.

The house, in a majority show of hands, denied ministers the lump sum one-time grant, during deliberations on the pay revision report yesterday.

The government’s pay revision report states that all elected members of Parliament, including the ministers, shall be eligible to receive the grant.

Gasa National Council member Sangay Khandu said parliamentarians had proposed a duty car and a driver instead of a grant in 2008.  However, the government then declined the proposal and gave them the grant.

He said that the government’s proposal to give this grant to the ministers contradicts this rationale.

“Does it mean that the ministers are going to surrender their duty cars and drivers, and avail the grant, because it may not be right to take both?” he said.

Further the prime minister, when retiring from office after the completion of his term as leader of the opposition party, surrendered his car to the government and set an example for the rest.

“We’re confident that he’ll do the same in the future too,” he said.

Wangduephodrang councillor Tashi Dorji said, if ministers, who already have duty cars, claim the vehicle grant, then those living in government quarters could also claim the house rent allowance.

Bumthang councillor, Nima, said it would appear like the cabinet is greedy. “While we say the economy is unstable and in a bad condition, at the same time giving such entitlements doesn’t reflect well,” he said.

“The present government members criticised former ministers taking away their duty cars, and now the same people asking for grants, after having enjoyed the duty car during their tenure is contradictory,” he said.

The chairperson added that giving this grant could violate the Parliamentarians Entitlement Act as well.

Dagana Councillor, Sonam Dorji, said the proposed raise in the grant be cancelled too.

The salary hike of the various senior civil servants, prime minister, cabinet ministers and the rest were suspended mainly, because the economy was not in a position to survive the proposed raise, he said.

“We’ve already received Nu 0.7M, taking an additional Nu 0.3M would adversely impact the economy, so it should be omitted,” he said.

However, the house, in a majority show of hands, suspended it like their salary until such time the identified fiscal measures are implemented and start to produce results.

National Council resolved that all civil servants should be entitled to Nu 16 a km mileage for four-wheelers.

The house resolved that local government officials be entitled for mileage and not bus fare.

National Council and National Assembly employees were also proposed to be eligible for an allowance under the new professional allowance during the session.

Two years ago, they were entitled to 20 percent of their salary as overtime allowance.

By Tshering Palden

Money laundering – The spawn of corruption

DSC_1795Phyllis Jane Atkinson interacts with participants

A 5-day course is being held on financial investigation and asset recovery

Training: With the current pace of economic development in the country, it is inevitable that money laundering will happen.

Phyllis Jane Atkinson from the Basel institute of governance (BIG) in Switzerland, who is currently conducting a training course in Thimphu on financial investigation and asset recovery, said.

Participants from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), judiciary, Office of Attorney General (OAG), Royal Monetary Authority (RMA), and the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) are being trained to enhance capacity in investigation and prosecution of complex, including international, corruption and money laundering cases, and recover stolen assets.

“Corruption, in the form of money laundering, can be expected despite corruption not being huge compared to other countries,” she said, adding it was also obvious that, where corruption occurs, money laundering will be present. “It may be happening today.”

Phyllis Jane Atkinson said money laundering was one of the biggest challenges in many countries.

A situation warrants suspicion, it was discussed during the training, whenever there is a transfer or conversion of huge amounts of money.

“It isn’t necessary one will keep the money inside the country,” she said. “It’s all about following the money and who’s really benefiting.”

However, it was made clear the evidences of any offence of corruption or money laundering matched with the elements of the crime. “It could be disastrous otherwise,” she said.

“When illegal money from Bhutan is accumulated in other countries, it’ll then be time for investigators and prosecutors to go abroad and connect to jurisdictions outside the country.”

As far as Bhutan and corruption is concerned, Phyllis Jane Atkinson said understanding the evidence to prove corruption was a challenge. “Proving the intention is a hurdle, for it isn’t like other crimes with direct evidences,” she said.

Other challenges were the construction and procurement sectors, where corrupt practices were common.  Corruption related to land was also common.

An attorney with OAG, Namgay Dorji, said, corruption in construction and procurement boiled down to money embezzlement and bribery.

“It’s very prevalent here and could lead to money laundering in future,” he said.

Namgay Dorji said, people haven’t been prosecuted so far in money laundering offences. “However, it was important to understand in what condition it might appear,” he said, adding economic development was rapid and, at some points, laundering could thrive.

It can also, he said, come in many forms, such as escaping taxation.  There is a need, he said, to know and learn more about money laundering.

At the opening ceremony of the training on June 2, ACC chairperson, Dasho Neten Zangmo, said, corruption had to be understood by all, in particular by investigators, prosecutors and judges.

“It has no victims, it has no crime scenes, it is an economic, and a white-collar crime that generally involves literate, sophisticated and well networked people,” she said.

The country’s high dependence on aid and, being highly indebted, with over 100,000 expatriates working, growing FDIs, growing CSOs, rampant fronting, weak enforcement regime, prevalent culture of impunity, territorialism, according to the ACC chairman, are areas that potentially expose Bhutan to the risk of becoming a safe haven for criminals.

“Recent cases confirm such risks,” she said. “Bhutan has to be prepared to respond to the inevitabilities.”

The five-day training will end this Friday.

By Rajesh Rai 

The Council’s counsel

As expected by many civil servants, and those closely following the pay revision discussions, the National Council yesterday came out with a recommendation that many are approving of.

Whether the expectations from Council members to stop the salary structure endorsed by the Assembly, with some trying to influence and others literally requesting on social media to do so, influenced Council members is hard to say, but the house came out with a more realistic recommendation.

The salary raise for the prime minister is brought down from 131 percent to 67 percent, cabinet ministers, chief justice of the Supreme Court, Assembly Speaker and Chairperson of the Council saw theirs slashed to 27 percent from 67 percent approved by the Assembly.

Centre to the discussion was whether the government’s revenue would allow such a raise, and the spiralling impact it would have on the economy.  It was evident that Council members had done their homework and came up with facts and figures to back their concerns.  The house therefore recommended deferring the raise until such time as when the country could afford to pay.

The ball is now in the Assembly’s court.  Whether this recommendation will be considered is in the hands of the Assembly.

Salary revision qualifies as a money bill, and the Council can only review and recommend, which they did after almost a day-long of intense discussions.  A money bill, by nature, is an urgent bill that must be passed in the same session of the parliament.

The salary revision, if endorsed, will come into effect from July 1.  The Council is limited to their first recommendation, which means, if the Assembly deems the recommendations irrelevant, they can go ahead and approve the revision on their own.  There will be no joint sitting or voting.

But with the supposed beneficiaries, civil servants, not happy with the revision and letting their feelings show, we can expect some discussions in the Assembly when they discuss the recommendations.

A salary revision is long due and it doesn’t happen quite often.  Going by what civil servants say, a second look into the structure is deemed necessary.  A government salary revision is not to make the lives of public servants comfortable.  It is to help build a government that can serve the people better.

The general feeling is that a lot has changed since the last salary raise, but salary.  Not everyone will be happy.  At the same time, we cannot have a pay revision that makes a bulk of the recipients unhappy.  Disgruntled public servants will not serve the public well.

The Assembly in a way is challenged by the Council recommendations.  The government pledged to revise the government salary, which they are on the verge of fulfilling.  It will be an irony if their pledge backfires.

Four fronting enterprises unearthed

IMG_20120101_121214Still rampant: Fronting in Samdrupjongkhar thromde

Business: Five months after a multi-sectorial committee was formed to tackle the issue of business licenses fronting in Samdrupjongkhar, it busted four fronting cases since last December.

Comprising officials from the thromde, regional trade, customs and immigration among other few agencies, the committee was formed last year.

It was during the 8th thromde tshogdu that the decision to form a multi-sectorial committee to tackle the fronting issue came through.

A major issue highlighted during the 9th thromde tshogdu on May 28 was again the need to further dig into the fronting issue.

Going by records maintained with the regional trade office, more than 45 Indians are suspected to be operating on licenses owned by Bhutanese.

The multi-sectorial committee had also listed some 50 shops run by Indian businessmen.

“We know the shops that are involved in fronting, but we don’t have any concrete evidence for now,” regional trade officer, Tshering said.

Regional trade officials said it was not possible to monitor such cases regularly.

As the committee members have to work for their respective organisations as well, it is seen as an arduous task to gather evidences against those involved in fronting.

However, Tshering said that a step-by-step approach would be followed.

“We’ll come across more fronting cases when people come to renew their licenses,” Tshering said.

Trade officials said penalty for fronting is cancellation of license.

Town residents said the issue was still rampant despite numerous shops being busted in the past. After the bifurcation of Samdrupjongkhar into thromde and dzongkhag, the thromde took over the responsibility, said officials.

With such issues, people from thromde submitted, during the 8th tshogdu, for an effective system to keep a close watch on fronting by the committee.

Residents said that the multi-sectorial approach should be taken up, which is currently being followed for a better understanding and coordination among the committee members if the situation has to improve.

“If the committee don’t react soon, Bhutanese businessmen will suffer,” a shopkeeper said.

The representative from the regional trade office explained that fronting was still a big challenge for them and a lot more needs to be done.

“Although people are more cautious now, some shops right in the heart of the town are still running their businesses through fronting” a shoe shop owner claimed.

Garment shopkeepers said they don’t earn as much as the Indians did.

On the other hand, trade officials clarified that some of the Indian businessmen who had settled in Samdrupjongkhar since 1962 have licenses in their names. There are about 15 such license holders.

After repeated hue and cry from the business community, the issue was raised for the first time during the 8th tshogdu.

However, most Bhutanese shopkeepers remain skeptical if the issue of fronting can be solved unless concerned stakeholders implement stringent supervisions.

According to Samdrupjongkhar throm thuemi, Norbu Wangdi, there are about 120 shops in Samdrupjongkhar, of which about 61 shops are run by Indians.

By Tshering Wangdi,  Samdrupjongkhar

Good progress made; more needs to be done

DSC_1993

He will submit a detailed report at the UN human rights council in June next year

Education: Despite the “remarkable progress” made in achieving universal right to education, the UN education special rapporteur, who completed a nine-day mission to the country yesterday, said several areas still require strengthening.

A special rapporteur is an independent expert, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, to examine and report on a country.  This is the first time a UN special rapporteur has visited the country.

One of the areas the special rapporteur, Kishore Singh, said required consideration was the adoption of a legal framework that ensured a minimum percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) or the national budget, for instance between 15-20 percent, was reserved for education. “Such a measure will ensure that education remains one of the highest priorities of the country, even as governments change,” he said.

The education ministry received Nu 6.8B last year, the highest budget allocation for the 2013-2014 financial year.

With Bhutan set to graduate out of the least developed country (LDC) status, international aid and financial support will decrease. “This means Bhutan will need to find domestic, sustainable ways to support its education system,” he said.

A need to focus on quality was also suggested by the special rapporteur. “Teacher training should be increased for many teachers, particularly at the primary level, who remain under-qualified,” Kishore Singh said.

Increasing investment in technical, vocational education and training (TVET) was also called for by the special rapporteur. “I’m very concerned that today the vocational training is considered a program for low performing students in the academic stream,” he said, adding that, in some of the most successful economies, TVET is a valued career path. “As Bhutan modernises, the demand for vocational skills will only grow,” he said.

He added that Bhutan must develop innovative approaches to ensure national human resource policies, and the education system should create a skilled national workforce, particularly for the construction sector, where it is externally reliant.

The special rapporteur also encouraged the government to legislate a regulatory framework for private schools, in addition to existing guidelines. “Government should also ensure that only qualified teachers are employed in private schools,” he said, adding that the regulatory framework should ensure that education was not sacrificed for the sake of private profit.

Primary education, he said, was an inalienable right of all children, and that secondary and higher levels of education must be provided to all without discrimination.  He reminded the government, in his statement, that it should offer at a minimum primary education to all children, without regard to background or citizenship.

On whether he had found instances of discrimination being practised during his visit here, he said that Bhutanese law guarantees universal access to education, and that he had been assured by the government that this was being upheld.  The government had also assured him that, if there were any discriminatory practices, they would be eliminated.

The special rapporteur also encouraged additional measures to improve educational achievements of girls in the later years of education. “It’s a worldwide trend that girls do better in education compared to boys, yet in Bhutan girls are facing challenges, which are preventing them from succeeding in the later years,” he said.  Barriers to girls reaching their full potential needed to be removed, and incentives created for girls and families to ensure they remain in school.

Continuation of efforts also needed to be ensured to achieve gender parity in tertiary education as there were still only three women for every five men in tertiary education, he pointed out.

Kishore Singh also encouraged more subjects to be taught in Dzongkha in schools, while more English be used in monastic system.

“I was concerned to receive reports during my visit that some students were unable to write well in Dzongkha, and that other languages weren’t even offered as second language courses in any curriculum,” he said. “In some cases, particularly with grade 10 school leavers, students were reportedly not fully proficient in the national language.”

Bilingual education, with English, math and sciences be taught in English and all other subjects in Dzongkha, was a strategy to preserve the national language, he recommended.

The special rapporteur also said the monk body should provide math and science training in English, so that its graduates have the required skills, if they wish to participate in the labour market.

Mr Singh did not fully support the idea of virtual classrooms, where one teacher could teach several classes at once, as an alternative to solving teacher shortage.  He explained that one of the major responsibilities of the teacher is inculcate a love of learning, and to pay attention to each and every child, which would not be possible through information communications technology (ICT).  But he did acknowledge that ICT had its benefits, in terms of allowing access to educational material.

During the mission, the special rapporteur met with senior government officials, including the prime minister, parliamentarians, and representatives from civil society and international organisations.  He also visited educational institutions and interacted with faculty and students.

The special rapporteur will prepare a detailed report to be presented at the UN human rights council in June, next year.

By Gyalsten K Dorji

Gaselo awaits joint site inspection

73 households are claiming compensation from PHPA I for damages caused by blasting

Update: About 73 households of Gaselo are waiting for a joint site inspection to verify if blasting at the Punatsangchu I (PHPA) dam site caused the damages to their house, as they claimed.

The villagers claimed that their houses developed cracks after blasting works at the dam site in 2011 and 2012.

Initially, more than 110 households complained that their houses and agriculture land suffered damages and cracks because of the blasting works.  If proven that the blasting caused the damages, PHPA I will have to compensate the affected people, officials said.

Gasey Tshoggoam gup, Rinchen Khandu, said, following complaints from the people, the gewog wrote to project officials, asking them to reduce the intensity of the blasting, as it was affecting the houses, land and irrigation channel.

They received a response stating that they have reduced the intensity, and the blasting intensity remained low for a while.  However, the intensity increased within a few days and people raised the issue again.

The gewog again wrote to project officials and, this time, project officials asked the gewog to route their complaint through the dzongkhag.

“When we wrote to dzongkahg, they asked to file a complete report. A complete report with pictures of affected households, houses, agriculture land and irrigation channel, along with the damage report, was submitted to the dzongkhag, which was forwarded to the project office,” the gup said.

While compiling that report, the number of affected households decreased from more than 110 to about 73, following a thorough verification.

The project and gewog staff then conducted a group-site-inspection.  After going through the gewog report, project officials suggested the need to compile one final report.  Recently, when the gewog submitted a final report to the project, project officials asked them to route through dzongkhag.

Gup Rinchen Khandu said, “Although people claim the damages are caused by blasting at the dam site, we can’t confirm it as we do not have expertise and technology,” he said. “Therefore a joint-site-verification and technological expertise are highly required to conclude the matter.”

Local people claimed cracks on their houses were not there before the blasting at the project site started, and they said they are hopeful that PHPA would compensate them accordingly.

Wangduephodrang dzongrab Pema said the gewog, on May 27, wrote to them, asking the project to conduct a joint-site-verification on the houses.

“We did correspondence and conducted a few site visits and inspections, but we’re yet to write to PHPA I to conduct the joint-site inspection by dzongkhag officials, PHPA I officials and gewog officials,” he said.

Dzongkhag officials said, following the initial complaint, a team comprising officials of dzongkhag, PHPA I, and gewog went twice for verification.  The issue was also raised in several dzongkhag tshogdus.

Meanwhile, PHPA I officials said, since anything to do with compensation has to route through dzongkhag, they suggested the gewog to do so, following dzongkhag’s notification, they would conduct the joint-verification and other necessary technological inspections.

However, project officials said PHPA would be ready to compensate, if the blasting at the dam-site caused the cracks and other damages.

By Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue 

 

Closing in on int. accounting standards

DHI and listed companies have already completed the first phase of BAS on the way there

IFRS: With a good number of companies already striding through the first phase of Bhutan accounting standards (BAS), the country’s aim to adopt the international financial reporting standards (IFRS) by 2021 is a step closer.

Druk Holding and Investments (DH) owned companies and 21 other listed companies have adopted it.

Since BAS is based on IFRS, companies will be preparing financial statements as required by international standards.

When fully adopted, there will be greater transparency and accountability, including higher standards of reporting among companies, which will be useful for investors and regulators.

Although BAS was launched in 2012, only listed companies implemented it, while others maintained the generally accepted accounting standards (GAAP).

DHI’s finance director, Kinzang Tobgay, said, until 18 standards of the first phase were launched, there was no accounting standard companies in Bhutan were required to follow.

Today, DHI-owned companies like Bhutan Power corporation, Bank of Bhutan, Bhutan Telecom, Druk Green Power corporation, Druk Air, DHI-Infra, Natural Resources corporation, and Dungsum Cement corporation are all compiling and implementing the standards under BAS.

“The need to follow GAAP is mentioned in the Companies Act, but the reference is to a conceptual framework rather than a set of accounting standards,” Kinzang Tobgay said, adding that, in practice, most companies relatively followed the Indian accounting standards (IAS). “This was because auditors were Indian chartered accounting firms.”

The Asian Development Bank first specified the need for accounting standards in Bhutan in 2006 as a loan treaty.  A component of the loan was to be applied towards improving accounting and auditing standards.

The project eventually led to formation of Accounting and Auditing Standards Board of Bhutan (AASBB) in April 2010.

After assessments of options that were available, including developing accounting standards, there were choices of adopting Indian accounting standards or the IFRS.

“It became evident that the only logical choice was to adopt IFRS in phases,” Kinzang Tobgay said.

It was chosen because Bhutan, with few qualified accountants (27 in all), did not have the technical capacity to formulate accounting standards.

Since IFRS is globally recognised standard for reporting, Bhutan will have the advantage of credibility and acceptance for financial reports of companies.  It will also make capital sourcing from foreign capital markets easier.

“Besides, it’ll enhance transparency and improve corporate governance, and keep companies up to date with the changing global scenario,” Kinzang Tobgay said.

Since the governing body for IFRS does not warrant using the term IFRS as the national standard until full adoption was achieved, the AASBB will refer the standards as BAS.

In the first phase, BAS will comprise implementation of 18 IFRS standards in 33 companies, comprising all listed companies and DHI owned companies.  Towards the end of the year, small and medium enterprises will implement the same.

DHI companies have also started implementing additional accounting standards that are scheduled for implementation in second phase, which will start in January 2016.

Meanwhile, the significant costs, depending on the size of the company, and the lack of knowledge in IFRS in the local market are two challenges among others, implementation will face.

In the case of the 21 listed companies that are following BAS, the chief executive officer with the Royal Securities Exchange Board, Dorji Phuntsho, said there were no complaints received.

By Rajesh Rai

The fast fading Brokpa lifestyle

With tsamdro rights being withdrawn, a seminomadic life is no longer viable

Nomads: Norku runs a retail shop in the heart of Merak village.  The herder, 40, sold his cattle, about 60 of them, across the border in Arunachal Pradesh and now depends on the shop, operated from the ground floor of his dingy two-storied traditional house.

“I opened my shop with the Nu 340,000 I earned from selling my cattle,” Norku said, content with his business.

But it was not the prospect of a business that made Norku change his source of livelihood in 2013.

With the government reverting tsamdro (pastureland) rights, herders like Norku are beginning to start shifting from their predominantly semi-nomadic life to running a business, or looking for greener pastures elsewhere.

If herders were denied the ownership over tsamdro, previously registered in the thrams, the National Assembly recently decided to implement lease charges on tsamdros.

“If tsamdros has to be leased, poor herders wouldn’t be able to afford the thousands of acres needed for their cattle to graze,” another herder Tashi Norbu from Merak said.

Herders of Merak and Sakteng own between 1,000 and 3,000 acres of tsamdro, and they fear it would be beyond their affordability.

However, the lease charge is not fixed as of now.

Though neither gewogs have statistics on the exact number of people shifting to other professions, Sakteng gup, Tshewang Tshering, said that the numbers are on a steady rise.  But local leaders said around five households in Sakteng and nine to ten in Merak have sold their entire herd of cattle.

“Most herders selling are those who once owned over 1,000 acres of tsamdro,” Tshewang Tshering said. “People think it’s wise to sell cattle than retain them at huge expense.”

Herders are also speculating that their livelihood would come under threat if a high lease charge were levied. “Livestock is the only source of our livelihood and a high lease charge will threaten our livelihood,” Merak mangmi, Jurmey said.

Highlanders also attribute shortage of manpower, and hardship in rearing cattle, to the new trend in the gewogs.

Some herders spend over seven months in cold pasturelands in highlands, like Jomokukhar in Merak, and migrate to lowlands like Sheteymey and Chebling in winter. “The nomadic life doesn’t appeal to the young,” said a herder.

Every family in Merak and Sakteng spends around four months, from July, in the highlands like Kheliphu, which is around a two-day walk from Merak village.  In winter, families spend over three months in lowlands like Chebling with their cattle.

“While young ones have left in search of better livelihood in urban areas, only the old and weak are left in the villages, which makes managing huge herds of over 100 cattle difficult,” Tashi Norbu said.

In winter, lack of palatable grass on the ground often compels herders to risk climbing tall trees to lop branches for fodder.

“Some lives are lost every year in the process of lopping fodder from big trees,” Tashi Norbu said.

Recently, a man from Merak barely survived a fatal fall, while helping an elderly man to lop branches for fodder. “Such accidents are also increasingly compelling the herders to consider moving onto other comfortable professions,” Tashi Norbu said.

With almost every child now going to school, herders are also left with no hands to help with the cattle. “The only solution is to look for making livelihood outside the nomadic life,” Norku said.

Over the years, herders also found that tsamdro fragmentation among siblings was making rearing cattle unsustainable.

When Norku’s parents divided 1,000 acres of tsamdro in Sangdephu and Ramphanang among five siblings, each received only around 200 acres each, enough for 50 to 60 heads of cattle, against his parents’ vast stretch of tsamdro, enough for over 250 cattle.

If livestock rearing ceases, the semi-nomadic community and its customs and traditions that revolve around livestock rearing are also threatened.  Livestock is the source of food, cash income, clothing and shelter for people of Merak and Sakteng.

While, milk from yak meets the food supplies and cash with its sale, yak hair and wool from sheep are woven into clothing for both men and women.

By Tempa Wangdi

Where do gaydrungs belong?

LG: Two weeks after the National Assembly resolved that gewog clerks, or gaydrungs, would not be entitled to benefits, the National Council yesterday resolved that gaydrungs should not be mentioned as civil servants, as proposed by the house’s good governance committee.

The committee had proposed a section in the local government (amendment) bill, 2014, which reflected gaydrungs as civil servants.

The committee proposed that the gewog administration would be staffed by, but not limited to, the following civil servants: administrative officer, accountant personnel, engineer, gaydrung, and any other personnel.

The house adopted it in the session before lunch, but the chairman asked the house to re-deliberate it once again in the afternoon.  It was on whether the new provision should include gaydrungs.

The floor voted, through a show of hands; where of the 23 present, 12 voted to omit gaydrungs from the new section recommended by the committee and leave the rest.

The chairperson Dasho  Sonam Kinga said, if gaydrungs, as proposed by the committee, were included in the Local Government Act as civil servants, then it could contradict provisions in the Royal Civil Service Commission laws and create confusion.

“It’s better to leave it to the commission and the local government department to decide when and how, if they’re to be inducted in to the civil service,” he said, adding that omitting gaydrungs from the section does not mean they are not important in the gewog administration. 

The gaydrung issue was initially raised during deliberations on the local government entitlement bill in the Assembly a fortnight ago.

The Assembly held extensive deliberations, and members debated that gaydrungs neither belonged to the local government nor to the civil service.  The house agreed that gaydrungs could not be included in this bill, as they were not elected members of the local government.

The home minister presented a report on the possibility of recruiting gaydrungs under the civil service to the house after consulting RCSC.

The commission said, if the personnel deployed so far in the gewogs are used properly, gaydrungs might not be required at all.

The commission said that recruiting 205 gaydrungs would go against the mandate of the commission of keeping the civil service small and compact, as reflected in the RCSC Act 2010,

If they were to be inducted in to civil service, most of them would fall in the lowest of the cadres.  The Act also requires them to be class 12 graduates and have three months training in information technology.

“Following this rule, most of them wouldn’t qualify for civil service,” the home minister said.

The commission has plans to gradually phase out gaydrungs, their responsibilities taken over by the gewog administrative officers and other gewog staff.

Gaydrungs, who finished class XII, will have to compete with university graduates for the post.

“The commission recommended not to induct gaydrungs in to the civil service,” he said.

Gaydrungs started serving in gewogs since 1960s.  Their main duties then were to collect taxes and draft correspondences for the gups.  That changed over time, along with their benefits and salaries.

They were exempted from goongda woola, customary labour contributions, and were compensated in various ways in various villages across the country.

In 2002, they were paid Nu 4,000 a month that increased to Nu 9,500 and daily allowance to Nu 300 and porter pony charges Nu 250 a day.  Their term was fixed at five years in subsequent legislations.

Local government rules and regulations mandate gaydrungs to collect taxes and insurance from villagers, facilitate land transactions, and take care of documents in the gewog office.

“We’ve heard the assistant accountants and gewog administration officers haven’t much to do in the gewogs,” lyonpo Damcho Dorji said, adding that, with trained personnel, there may not be enough work for gaydrungs.

The rules say, a gaydrung should be a minimum of class 12 graduate and above 18 years and below 40 years.  However, currently there are 202 gaydrungs, and most of them are not class 12 graduates.

Of the 202, four are dzongkha degree graduate, 67 have completed class 12, 36 completed class 10, three finished class nine, 12 were class eight drop outs, and some dropped school after class one.  Others are lay monks, technical diploma graduates and non-formal education graduates.

By Tshering Palden