His Holiness the Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Chhoeda consecrates the Kuenphen Yoeselcholing monastic school in Gyalpoizhing, Mongar, yesterday. Spread over 20 acres, the school, which can accommodate 200 monks is equipped with facilities such as library, dinning hall, academic block, and staff quarters. The government of India funded the construction, which cost about Nu 50M.
Education: Without a Chemistry teacher, the Class XII students of Gaselo higher secondary school in Wangduephodrang are anxious, some worried enough to swap school instead of waiting for a teacher.
A student said he is leaving for a school in Samtse where he got admission. “If I stay here, I fear we won’t be able to cover the syllabus on time,” he said. “A few students were also worried about failing.”
The student said they have been requesting school authority for a teacher but nothing has happened yet. Our lives depend on how we perform in Class XII, and for this reason I have decided to leave,” he said.
The school’s principal, Dorji Wangchuk, said there has been no chemistry teacher since the academic session started.
“An expatriate teacher who was teaching chemistry resigned last December and no replacement was sent,” he said.
A teacher trained in teaching lower secondary classes has been teaching higher secondary classes on substitution basis.
“However, it is not true that students are leaving because there is no chemistry teacher,” he said. “Every year, a number of students either drop or change school because of health issues or parents move to other districts.”
Dorji Wangchuk said it has been only a month since he had joined the school. “Records show that the school had written to district several times requesting for a chemistry teacher”
The issue, he said, was also raised during annual district education officers’ conference held recently in Bajo.
“The school has been following up with the district education office constantly. “We were told that there is a major shortage of chemistry teacher in many high schools,” he said. “They told us that the arrangement will soon be made.”
Wangdue’s district education officer, Tshewang Penjore, said students are leaving not because of lack of Chemistry teacher.
“We have put up the requisition to education ministry and we were told they will send one shortly,” he said. “Primary schools face a bigger teacher shortage compared with high schools.”
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay during the recent meet-the-press session said there is no teacher shortage in the country. The student teacher ratio is 1:20, which is a good one, he said.
Lyonchhoen said there are enough teachers in numbers but we need to look at the qualification and type of teachers and share the resource more meaningfully.
He, however, said there is need to rationalise the teaching resource and use the limited resources carefully.
By Dawa Gyelmo , Wangdue
E-Governance: The government will have to wait for a few more months before they can start using the online office suite – Google Apps.
Information and communications secretary Dasho Kinley Dorji said it could be a few months before a source of funds is found and Google Apps is deployed.
The government’s subscription to Google Apps began in January and it will be paying Nu 15m or USD 250,000 in the first year. However, the secretary pointed out that despite the subscription beginning from January, Google will only begin charging the government once deployment starts. “So we don’t lose anything,” said Dasho Kinley Dorji.
The secretary did not comment on why the government is only now looking for funds. The information and communications minister who is currently abroad,did not respond to the questions.
Deployment includes training 5,000 civil servants on how to use the system. This is expected to take at least three months.
There has been some criticism that the deployment activity could have been carried out by a local company.
But Dasho Kinley Dorji pointed out that Google “insists” deployment be done by a Google certified company. A list of five companies in the region was provided to the government. Selection is yet to be made.
It was also earlier pointed out that Google would not guarantee security if a company not certified by it carried out the deployment.
“We will go with a Google certified vendor,” said Dasho Kinley Dorji, adding that there is a misconception that deployment simply means teaching people how to use Gmail. “The training is more complex.”
The department of information technology and telecom (DITT) will also be involved in the deployment. Its role will also include training private sector representatives on eventually taking up deployment activities.
DITT applications chief, Jigme Tenzing, said that deployment for users of different levels of IT literacy would be complex. “We were told by Google that deployment for this many users of varying ICT literacy would involve certain complexities in change management, work flow identification and implementation, backend configurations and training proficiency,” he said.
He pointed out that Google had informed the government that only their enterprise level deployment partners would have the required competence.
“We would like to give the work to domestic firms but do we want to do that if it risks the success of the entire project?” he asked.
The government decided to adopt Google Apps as part of its governance efforts. The system is expected to increase the efficiency of the bureaucracy, provide the government with a reliable and secure communications system, and reduce the amount of paper used.
Its adoption has not been without opposition. But concerns about data sovereignty and non-transparent selection has not changed the government’s commitment to using Google Apps.
By Gyalsten K Dorji
With the Mongar district court asking about a dozen building owners in Gyalpoizhing to forfeit their buildings, the owners are feeling aggrieved.
The building owners will appeal, some say they are already planning to.
We can understand their grievances- not because forfeiting property to the state is painful and embarrassing, but because of reasons leading to the forfeiture, if ever they do.
They claim that they are bearing the brunt of a mistake, which was not theirs. They claim that as far as they were concerned, they got the land where they have constructed permanent concrete structures “legally” and having to forfeit their property was a decision that could leave them devastated.
As the verdict was announced, many counted the loss. Some had taken huge loans and some have invested entire life savings in trying to make a living.
With the prospect of becoming the commercial hub of eastern Bhutan, the once mosquito infested Gyalpoizhing suddenly became a place to invest. And when the dzongkhag administration allotted land, people applied, some as far as from Trashigang.
Albeit those who got theirs through unfair means, there seem to be case to raise their voice.
Land is scarce in Bhutan and even worse in urban areas. Investing in a construction is a gamble, ask the people in Thimphu. An entire life saving is not enough to build a three storied concrete building and loans needs to be availed at a high interest rate.
The government may compensate them after estimating the cost incurred on the construction and the tax they paid, but letting go a property after investing too much time, energy and money is a painful process.
Going by the book of law, they will have to as the verdict stated that the land allotted had to be cancelled and restituted to the state in accordance with section 48 of the Penal Code of Bhutan.
The court found that land allotted to 75 recipients was illegal and that they received the land despite not fulfilling the criteria. Going by the criteria, commercial plots would be allotted first to people conducting businesses in the area, followed by local residents before it was opened for others from different parts of the country to purchase.
The court had already punished, those who violated laws or manipulated them. The plot allotment committee, including the chairman were responsible and paid the price for manipulating laws or for failing to perform their duties with due diligence.
Those who applied for plots say they are not partners in crime as they had applied to open invitations to apply for plots in the town. Therefore, the reasons to feeling aggrieved.
Going by what building owners say, there is a reason to look into the case before the properties are restituted. Our system believes in not letting a single innocent being punished even if hundred criminals go scot-free.
Agriculture: About 2,500 acres of arable land, which went fallow for want of water is expected to come back to life with renovation of Khamdang irrigation channel, inaugurated yesterday, nears completion.
The 11.4km concrete irrigation channel was built in 1976 under the command of His Majesty fourth King.
Renovation works like improving the dilapidated cracked concrete drain and construction of retaining walls began in 2012.
The channel is diverted from Buyang water source and meanders down through Tsankharla before reaching lower villages like Khamdang and Yartse.
“You must bring life back to the once arable land with cereal, vegetables and fruits,” agriculture and forests’ minister Yeshey Dorji, who inaugurated the channel yesterday, said.
“Perseverance to food self-sufficiency is a responsibility that should be shouldered equally and not left to the government alone.”
Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji lauded the formation of the water user group and reminded them to be prudent and sustainable in use of water. The user group was formed this year to inculcate a sense of ownership and for efficient use of water. The group will supervise and manage the irrigation channel.
Khamdhang gup Ugyen Wangdi said the much-awaited Buyang irrigation channel, which benefited communities for 36 years before it went dry, during renovation works, would help cultivation thrive.
“The irrigation channel would help revival of paddy cultivation in Khamdhang, Yartse and Tsankharla which was discontinued because of lack of water,” he said.
When the irrigation channel was under renovation people replaced paddy cultivation with maize, which is less water intensive.
Wengkher renewable natural resources center’s site engineer, Tshewang Gylteshen said the irrigation channel had other benefits too.
“Besides, helping revive paddy cultivation the water from the irrigation channel would seep into the ground and help replenish the depleting spring water in villages located downhill,” Tshewang Gyeltshen said. “It can also make cultivation in winter possible.”
Farmer Pema Dorji from Khamdang said villagers no longer have to wait for the rain to start cultivating.
Meanwhile, community members said while the channel was inaugurated, repair works were yet to be completed.
Members of Buyang irrigation channel user group said unless the contractor rectifies ‘multiple shoddy works’, the group would decline to take over the channel from gewog.
The channel will be handed over in the second week of April.
“Without the rectifications we cannot take over because if something goes wrong, the user group cannot take the risk,” a member of Buyang irrigation channel user group from Shazam, Pema Rinzin said.
Site engineer Tshewang Gyeltshen refuted the allegations saying people are making “mountain out of a molehill”.
“The contractor rectified the works twice before, so some slight defects are expected but not as grave as people hype about,” Tshewang Gyeltshen said.
The deadline for renovation works, given on contract for 10 months was missed couple of times.
By Tempa Wangdi, Trashigang
As a part of the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) programme, six volunteers have arrived in Thimphu to work for various government agencies such as the education, health, agriculture and forestry. Under the AVID programme, volunteers are selected on the basis of how they can help build capacity, share skills and develop relationships in priority areas identified by the government. As the third batch of volunteers to Bhutan, they will be in the country for up to two years.
With new leaders at the helm of the government, Bhutan is once again fancying WTO membership. While a final decision lies with the leadership of the government, the national interest must ensure that other voices also be heard while making the final decision.
Several questions thus arise.
WTO membership entails free trade, open market and globalization, but are we ready to hand over our country to the multi-national companies so they can do whatever they want for economic gains?
Are we desperate enough for economic gains to gamble with our future; are we ready to give up our cautious approach to modernization and dive with the rest into the murky waters of development?
Are we prepared to surrender our souls to the mindless pursuit of materialism and become a runaway consumerist society?
We are already witnessing unprecedented consumerism. Ancestral lands being traded for cars and compound bows, unattended monasteries and stupas are robbed off. Consumerism is itself manifesting in self-destructive forces.
The drive for economic success not only degrades our environment but also pushes the poorer and the weaker further into the backwaters.
And inevitably, the rich gets richer while the poor becomes poorer. Also the traditional way in which our farmers live today can be sidelined.
Once bound by international laws and regulations under the WTO regime, we will be powerless and helpless. Imports of many packaged food items will lead to an increase in the amount of waste than the country can handle.
But there will be no one to help us develop landfills and provide technology to deal with increasing waste.
A report called the Far Eastern Economic Review, which was published, recently carried a story on how some farmers in Philippines were unable to feed themselves because of the failure of a World Bank project.
The World Bank had advised the farmers to abandon their traditional rice cultivation and rather asked them to enter into a massive production of soybean to be exported in the global market.
However, the project failed and the farmers tried to revert to the old practice of rice cultivation. But by then the quality of the soil had undergone so much change with all the chemical inputs that it could no longer support rice cultivation. The World Bank and the other multinational companies left to attend to other businesses.
Similarly, farmers in Latin America also entered in commercialization of their agriculture sector and grew only select crops that could be exported in the global market. While it seemed promising for a year or two, gradually market forces changed and global demands for their products decreased. Soon, farmers in Latin America did not even have the money to buy foods.
Unsound banking practices in the United States caused a major global financial meltdown. This not only affected the big corporations but also cruelly affected small savers.
Should we be a part of such a system?
For a small player like Bhutan, getting too involved in the global market can be very dangerous. Getting into the ring with the big boys will only get us thrashed. Given the economies of scale and the resulting lower costs of production, cheaper goods from the international market will flood our country, and our own produces will be forced into disappearance.
When global production and trading suffer the many upheavals of the global system, we will be affected. And, we will once again have to look towards our good friend and neighbor, India, to bail us out – just like during the rice crisis, when countries shut down all exports of rice in order to be able to first feed their own people at home.
The question is how often can we ask for help? We have also thrown our Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s policy of food self-sufficiency out the window and are busy plotting towns on the best agricultural lands in every dzongkhag.
We are a GNH country. We have a national goal that subscribes to happiness for all, and a strong conviction that economic success and material progress are not the principle vehicles.
This belief is reinforced by our Buddhist teachings of impermanence and emptiness, borne of worldliness. We believe in a rich natural environment, living in a sound eco-system, in harmony with nature. We believe in a sustainable life style, so that future generations may also enjoy the same. As latecomers to the table of modernisation, we want to be cautious and pick what is palatable and safe for us.
We must remain in control and not hand over our choices to the whirlwind of globetrotting, profit-seeking business executives.
WTO symbolises concepts and beliefs that are in sharp contrast to all that we hold dear. The forces of the free market system, in which it believes and attempts to regulate, is driven by the need to compete, grow and profiteer at any cost.
It’s ludicrous; although resources are finite, all economies around the world aspire to keep on growing. Global leaders are politicians, and because their terms are marked by uncertainty and brevity, their focus is necessarily short term and often irresponsible.
The absence of long-term vision and commitment in leadership allows a vacuum to form in which people and societies drive themselves into madness in the pursuit of material progress. As long as there is a profit to be made, fellow citizens of the world can be exploited to destitution, and the planet, with all its other life forms and resources, may be exploited.
The gratification of greed seems to be an accepted norm in the global economic order. We know that no company or nation may visibly and deliberately act this way, but in the end, this is the footprint they leave behind.
There is so much of over-production of goods in the world, in almost every imaginable form – military-ammunitions, household appliances, clothes, footwear, toys, and even food. But, the thoughtlessness in the system assures that these surpluses do not reach those who need it.
The irony is that there is so much real hunger and abject poverty in the world. Although equal tenants of the planet, the ones to suffer do not know that they have an equal right to these resources and that these are being abused and carelessly exhausted ahead of time.
They will arrive just in time to pay for the consequences; just like climate change is affecting, most of those who have nothing to do with the causes or had no reason for climate change. In many senses, WTO is a champion of such a global order.
We fervently hope and pray that our legislators will give utmost thought to this weighty decision.
Wangchuk N. Thimphu
Stall owners prepare for the three-day Tsirang’s annual tshechu that begins from today.
Health: Most dengue cases in Phuentsholing last year were reported in Pasakha and the core town area, records with the Phuentsholing general hospital show.
Dengue cases from these areas has been attributed to pollution from the industries, automobile workshops, and scrap dealers, hospital officials who conducted a survey said.
The report was presented at the dengue and other vector borne diseases advocacy workshop for local residents and agencies on April 5.
Phuentsholing hospital’s Dr Jimba Jatsho said these areas gave more room for mosquitoes to breed.
For instance, he said lot of solid waste was dumped in which water clogged and mosquitoes could breed easily.
The hospital recorded about 3,083 dengue cases from 2004 to 2012 that were either confirmed through laboratory tests or were clinically diagnosed.
“People should take precautions before dengue serotype 4, a more severe form, hits Phuentsholing,” Dr Jimba Jatsho said.
In 2013, a total of 119 people tested positive for dengue of which about 51 percent of them were male. 32 were admitted at the hospital while no casualties were reported.
Only two cases were reported in 2012.
“Despite the first dengue case reported in Phuentsholing, people are still not aware of it,” Dr Jimba Jatsho adding people just knew about malaria. “We need to create more awareness.”
Hospital records showed that dengue was most common in people aged between 20 to 49 years.
“This could be because they fall under the working age bracket,” he said. “It’s good that dengue wasn’t reported in younger children.”
The cases picked up between August and October after the first case was reported in April.
Hospital officials said the increasing population, rapid urbanisation, porous border, and lack of awareness made it difficult to curb dengue.
“We conduct awareness and cleaning campaigns apart from indoor residual spraying and thermal fogging,” Dr Jimba said.
Meanwhile, the dengue GIS risk mapping in Phuentsholing conducted on a web based surveillance system showed that the two most vulnerable zones were Sampheling and Phuentsholing gewogs.
About 234 dengue cases were reported in the two gewogs, of which 111 were tested positive from 2004 to 2012.
Public health department’s director general Dr Dorji Wangchuk said there is a need for active participation and support from Phuentsholing thromde as dengue was a well established vector borne disease in Phuentsholing.
“If thromde could intervene, we can have a serious surveillance and case reporting at the grassroots,” he said, adding talks are underway.
As a growing town, Dr Dorji Wangchuk said the acute housing shortage led to many people residing in the Indian border town of Jaigaon, which was one of the reasons why dengue spread more in Phuentsholing.
“Although dengue was reported in other dzongkhags that shared borders, the virus that transmits dengue is mostly seen in Phuentsholing,” he added.
Meanwhile, the World Health Day will be celebrated in Phuentsholing today.
By Yangchen C Rinzin, Phuentsholing
Officials of Trashigang dzongkhag administration takes nangtens from Trashigang dzong to Gomphukora for the Gomphukora Tshechu which begins today.
The nangten will remain in Gomphukora for over two weeks.