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Tara Lhaden Zhingkham lhakhang sanctified

20140608-GJ1_9364His Majesty The King and His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo graced the consecration ceremony of the Tara Lhaden Zhingkham Lhakhang at Pangrizampa, Thimphu yesterday. His Holiness the Je Khenpo presided over the consecration rites

Pangrizampa: With the inauguration of the Tara Lhaden Zhingkham lhakhang at Pangrizampa, Thimphu yesterday, the kingdom has gained another sacred and important national monument.

The lhakhang and its 21 Drolma or Tara images, plated with gold, were sanctified, and its pure spirituality immortalised with the sacred consecration ceremony on the 8th, 9th and 10th day of the fourth Bhutanese month (June 6-8, 2014).

His Holiness the 70th Je Khenpo, Trulku Jigme Choedra, and Gyalse Trulku Jigme Tenzin Wangpo performed the Tshepamey Sungchog, dedicated to the Buddha Amitayus, to sanctify the lhakhang and its nangtens built on the site of a sacred site near Pangrizampa monastery, which was blessed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in the 17th century.

It is believed that the monastery appeared in Zhabdrung’s vision, which directed him from Tibet to Bhutan in 1616.  The lhakhang was believed to have been built by Ngawang Choegyel, Zhabdrung’s great-grandfather, and was the Zhabdrung’s residence when he arrived in Bhutan.

His Majesty the King and His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, members of the royal family, cabinet ministers, senior government officials, and officers of the Bhutanese armed forces attended the consecration ceremony.

The rabney concluded with the unique Tashi Ngasoel ceremony, with Their Majesties and His Holiness the Je Khenpo leading the entire gathering in an elaborate procession to circumambulate the lhakhang. The procession carried the tashi tagye (eight lucky signs) and tashi zegye (eight precious objects), and offered prayers in the ultimate celebration of the auspicious occasion.

One of its kind, the lhakhang of the 21 forms of the Tara was built under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck.

By Rinzin Wangchuk

The occasional capital

Thimphu city is being modified.

Much to the honour of the government and the happiness of the Bhutanese, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has chosen Bhutan for his first foreign visit.  The capital city is busy preparing to receive our special guest.

Bridges and gates are being painted, drains cleaned, trees and plants planted and, very soon, we will see flowers suddenly blooming around to deck up the city.  Don’t be surprised if there is another mass cleaning campaign in the next few days.

Curious motorists slowed down on the Babesa-Thimphu expressway, as swarm of workers, on a Sunday, were busy dismantling the iron mesh that divides the two lanes.  The thromde staff, especially the labourers, will be the busiest as they rush for an eleventh hour preparation.

A prime minister’s visit is always important.  A newly elected prime minister, choosing Bhutan as his first foreign destination after assuming office, is even more significant.  The visit came as a surprise, and there is not much time between now and Sunday.  Therefore, we see a lot of activity around.

As we eagerly prepare and wait for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit on June 15, there are plenty of lessons to learn from organising the capital city.

Why are our drains not clean always?  Where are the plants and flowers we planted earlier?  Why are our zebra crossings and road marking not clearly marked at all times?

It has become a tendency to clean and decorate a town or a city only on occasions. That is why we see these last minute rushes.  If we remember, we had planted so many plants and flowers when Thimphu hosted the SAARC summit in 2010.

The city underwent a sea change and looked spick and span.  There were evergreen plants planted and lots of flowers adorned the roundabouts.  Plenty of trees were also planted.  Where are they?

Had we taken care and nurtured them, we wouldn’t have to hire flowers with pots to be put up at strategic locations.  To be fair, the cold weather in Thimphu doesn’t allow keeping the city green and flowery all round the year, but had we taken care of what we did in 2010, the city at this time of the year would have looked more beautiful.

A capital city is important.  As the seat of government, all important events and visitors will be hosted in the capital city.  In our case, it is even more important, as other dzongkhags lack better infrastructure than Thimphu.

If Bhutanese are good at procrastinating, our habit of not respecting public property does not help either.  A lot of flowers, some borrowed for a few days, reportedly went missing, while ornamental tree saplings disappeared within a few days of their planting.

Had all of us taken care of public property, the city would have been more beautiful.  We would have to rush to plant another round this time or clean the streets.

Tobacco Act amended … yet again

In a bid to get real, the penalty has been reduced and the quota increased

Assembly: What does it mean when an Act is repeatedly amended?  Failure. This is what some Assembly members felt, when discussing the tobacco control (amendment) bill.

So it is with the Tobacco Control Act 2014.  The National Assembly on Friday endorsed the Tobacco Control Act 2014 with 37 “yes” votes.  Five voted “no” and two abstained from voting.

The Act, which was first endorsed in 2010, had to be amended twice in the space of four years.

Yet tobacco will always remains an illegal substance in the country, although the Act has reduced the penalty related to it by much.

According to the amended Act, a person shall be liable to pay a fine equivalent to a minimum of 12 months and a maximum of 35 months national daily wage for harvesting, cultivating, manufacturing and trading tobacco and tobacco products.  And if the offence is repeated, a person shall be charged with fourth degree felony.

Fearing the proliferation of black market, the National Assembly’s legislative committee suggested a three-fold rise to the permissible import of tobacco products.  A person can now bring in 900 sticks of cigarettes, 1,200 sticks of bidis, 150 pieces of cigars, and 750 grams of other tobacco or tobacco products a month.  Even with such allowance, the black market will continue, said some members of the National Assembly.

However, the National Assembly didn’t endorse the lifting the ban on the sale and distribution of tobacco products in the country endorsed by the Council.

But smokers feel that parliamentarians have made the Act a joke. “If the rationale of the amendment was to reduce tobacco use in the country, the Act ought to have been left untouched. The fear that it instilled was discouraging people to use tobacco products,” said Sonam Tashi, a private sector employee.

The Act allows people to smoke within a designated smoking area.  But smokers say that the clause of the amended Act should come with teeth.

“This requirement was there before. We hope that it ‘ll be implemented well this time round,” said Sonam Phuntsho, a businessman in Thimphu. “We’re bad at implementing things. The Acts would mean nothing otherwise.”

The health minister Tandin Wangchuk said that the amended Act would benefit the people and the country.

“We hope that the Act will now not have to be amended again,” said the health minister.

Speaker Jigme Zangpo said the Act was amended twice since 2010, and that authorities should now strictly implement the Act.

By Jigme Wangchuk

Woman charges pharmacist with assault

Police are attempting to get to the bottom of an unseemly incident at the emergency dept.

JDWNRH: A 31-year-old woman has filed a case against a pharmacist on duty at the emergency department of Thimphu referral hospital for allegedly assaulting her on the night of June 7.

The woman visited the dispensary for her daughter’s third dose of injection for rabies.  She said she walked inside the room, as she thought patients, who came for injection, could walk in directly.

“He told me rudely that I should’ve come before 4pm,” she said, adding that the pharmacist then asked her to leave. “I said I won’t move and that I’ve to get the injection done.”

“That’s when he came to me, gripped my neck and pushed me thrice,” she said, adding she charged back in self-defense.

“If the patients didn’t mediate, he would’ve killed me,” she said. “My children were terrified and cried.”

The woman said the pharmacist was drunk and charged her without any basis.

On the other hand, the pharmacist said that it was the woman who charged him first, when he told her that she should have come before 4pm.

“While trying to protect myself, I gripped her by her neck and pushed her,” he said.

The pharmacist had scratches all over the face, while the women had bruises on her neck and legs, and bumps on her head.

“After the fight was over, a man, who identified himself as a member of Parliament came to the woman’s rescue,” the pharmacist said.

“He threatened me, saying he is an MP and could do whatever he wanted with me.”

However, the MP denied the allegation, and said that he was there to help the woman, who is his friend’s wife.

“By the time I reached the scene, the fight was over and the pharmacist kept asking who I am.”

The MP said, he did not threaten the pharmacist, and that he said he was a MP upon being persistently asked by the pharmacist.

By the time police arrived at the scene all witnesses had left. As of last evening police were trying to get details of the patients who had visited the emergency department when the incident occurred.

“We don’t know who charged whom first,” a police official said.

Police tested both the pharmacist and the woman for alcohol using a breath analyser. Some level of alcoholic content was found in the pharmacist’s breath.

The pharmacist, however, said he only drank on the afternoon of June 7, and not while on duty.  He was on night duty on that day.

Medical Superintendent Dr Gosar Pemba said they will hear the case from the pharmacist today and decide on it.

By Kinga Dema

Tashi Air adds Kathmandu to its route

Aviation: Tashi Air subsidiary Bhutan Airlines expanded its route network with an inaugural flight to Kathmandu, on Saturday.

Scheduled flights to Nepal will commence from June 16.

The private airline will operate twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, to begin with. Daily flights will be introduced between Paro-Kathmandu in the tourist season between September and October, followed by three flights a week from October to March 2015.

The private airline is looking to primarily capitalise on the tourist traffic flowing through and using Kathmandu as a Himalayan hub, and the large number of international airlines that fly to Tribhuvan international airport. “Many big carriers operate to Kathmandu and it’s a preferred hub for the Himalayan region because of the connectivity, many big carriers operate to Kathmandu,” said Tashi Air commercial manager, Ugyen Tenzin.

The Paro-Kathmandu-Paro sector is the second most travelled after the Paro-Bangkok-Paro sector. Passenger traffic increased 13.6 percent in 2013. A total of 38,077 passengers were flown between Paro and Kathmandu by national airline Drukair, in 2013. Drukair already operates daily flights to Kathmandu.

While the two airlines will now be competing on this route, the competition will mostly be on services. Tashi Air will not introduce lower airfares. The fares will be around Nu 12,000, same as Drukair. “We want to compete on customer services and on-time flight performance,” said Ugyen Tenzin. He added that an airfare would cause both airlines to lose.

Tashi Air plans to add New Delhi, India to its route network by September. It will fly to the Indian capital both directly and via Kathmandu.

It is also expecting to add one more aircraft, an Airbus A319, in July.

With the addition of Kathmandu, Tashi Air now will be operating to three cities, besides Bangkok, Thailand and Kolkata, India.

Information and communications minister DN Dhungyel was the chief guest on the inaugural flight. Health minister Tandin Wangchuk was also on the flight along with the representatives of more than 30 tour operators.

They were received by the Nepalese minister for tourism.

By Gyalsten K Dorji


The elevator rider

The only compulsion on owners to build one comes not from the thromde but market forces

Buildings: Tired of climbing the stairs to the fifth floor of your building?

The choice is to either move out to one with an elevator or hang on until the building owner installs one.

Thimphu thromde will not force building owners to install elevators, even if it is planned in the drawing when getting approval for construction.  The provision of elevators in building taller than four storeys is a must, but market forces will determine if the owner will install one.

Officials from the thromde’s development control unit said that they would not penalise people, who have not installed elevators, even with provisions kept for the facility. “The market force will pressure building owners to install it,” the head of the unit, Jigme Dorji, said.

“There is a lot of cost implication, besides there are no experts to provide services, so we leave it to the market force,” he said, adding that tenants will move out when other owners start elevator services.

Jigme Dorji said the provision of a lift was decided in 2012, when the then government allowed the conversion of attic provision to fifth floor.  Construction of buildings approved after 2012 were to keep the provision.

But installing an elevator, according to building owners, is not only expensive, but a problem in waiting.

“It will be an added facility, but the priority today is not elevators,” said a building owner. “It’ll be difficult to manage, besides being expensive,” she said.

Owners are also not sure how the service would help, without readily available technicians. “Without a power back up, installing a lift could be a problem,” said an owner, Rinchen, 49.

A civil servant residing in Rinchen’s building said, a lift would be a boon for the tenants. “Every time I have to change my LPG cylinder, it’s a torture,” he said. “What about people with disabilities? It restricts their movement.”

Thromde officials said they are welcoming the proposal to provide elevator services. “We encourage that,” said Jigme Dorji.

By Yeshey Dema

Building on ‘borrowed’ land

A Goshi farmer is disputing a re-settler’s appropriation on her ancestral property

Dagana: With a file neatly tucked in her handbag, Savitri Chauhan is a busy woman, going from office to office in Thimphu.

The 66-year old farmer, from Goshi in Dagana, claims that a man, resettled in her gewog, has started to construct a building on her land illegally.  She wants the land back, but help, she claimed, was hard to come by.

The woman said that the land, measuring 2.80 acres in Goshi gewog, was received through kidu in 1996.  The land actually belonged to her father-in-law and was divided between his two sons, one of whom is her husband.

“This particular land was given to my husband’s brother,” the woman said, adding that her brother-in-law had left the country, giving the land to her husband.

Although the construction has been stopped today, Savitri Chauhan is not satisfied and wants to appeal.

Earlier, land commission officials had also said that the disputed land was not sold to anyone, and had questioned how the construction started.  Officials had then asked the local authorities to tackle the dispute.

The village’s tshogpa, Dhaney Sherpa, confirmed that the land belonged to the woman’s father-in-law, and that it was the family’s ancestral property.

“The thram of the land must be in the name of Savitri Chauhan’s father-in-law,” he said, adding that the area where her land rests don’t have any resettlement plot there. “Nobody knows if a survey had taken place in this land for settlement.”

Something is wrong somewhere, Dhaney Sherpa said.  About the construction, he said, it had begun without any knowledge.

The construction work functioned during the nights.

Savitri Chauhan, meanwhile, still carried the papers, which had asked the couple to visit the dzongkhag office when the kasho was announced and given.  However, the woman claims the kasho was then returned to the office.

Although she had not paid tax for the particular land for eight years now, Savitri Chauhan claims the land to be their ancestral land, in which the family has cultivated for many decades.

Meanwhile, it was learnt that one Jigme Tshewang had sold the land to another man, Phuntsho, who started to construct a house on the land.

Phuntsho is also running from pillar to post in order to restart his construction, tshogpa Dhaney Sherpa said.

Phuntsho and Jigme Tshewang couldn’t be contacted.

By Rajesh Rai

Where failing Bhutanese hearts are fixed

IMG_0179The heart centre

Mission Hospital, Durgapur is the new centre to which our cardiac patients are now referred

Health: One of the major industrial estates of India, Durgapur, near Kolkata, is fast becoming the cynosure of many a frail Bhutanese heart, young (including infants) and old.

Many Bhutanese families from as far as Laya in the north, Tendu along the southern foothills, Chali in the east and Ura in central Bhutan, meld in with the locals of several hundred thousands under blistering temperatures of more than 38 degrees.

There are no pilgrimage sites or major shopping malls that Bhutanese are often associated with during their visits to any neighbouring nations.

This is where they come to mend failing hearts.

It is a comfortable three-hour drive to Durgapur, on a luxury bus from the bursting old Indian capital of Kolkata, along the smooth Kolkata-Delhi highway, characterised with shacks and huts on either side.

To save passengers, who might grow weary of the journey, the operator plays one of the new Bollywood flicks, Gunday, a film based in Kolkata during its most unsettled times, perhaps in the ‘70s – the operator’s way of welcoming passengers and introducing them to the city.

Going by the movie, not quite a City of Joy as it is synonymously referred to, made popular by French writer Dominique Lapierre, who wrote about his experiences in Kolkata.

Chairman and senior cardiac surgeon Dr Satyajit Bose


Liaison officer Jigme Dorji help patients settle in


Distinguished by evenly spaced out, uniform heights of two to three-storied residential houses that are connected by a network of intertwining roads, is Durgapur.

At the heart of it, towering over all other structures stunted by the local law is the eight-storied and laterally expanding Mission Hospital, the heart centre.

Heart patients from various parts of west India, Nepal and, of late, Bhutan, seek respite and pin their last hopes here.

Surrounding the hospital are several guesthouses, prices of which range from Rs 100 for a single bed, lined across a dormitory, to Nu 400 for double-bed rooms, with attached bathrooms, TV and air con.

Bhutanese, accompanying heart patients, usually live in guesthouses adjacent the hospital, windows facing that of their patient’s ward, most of them in rooms that come with TV, attached bathrooms and air con.

It is easy to locate a Bhutanese living in a guesthouse from congeries of steams coming out from rice cookers mixed with those of red hot chili dish that fill up a corridor.

It becomes a home of one big joint family until patients are released from the hospital, which can vary from two weeks to more than a month.

The same familial bond spreads to the hospital among patients, where old patients visit the wards of new admits, and spend hours talking about how they landed where they were, confiding and comforting, blasé of the gimlet eyes that hospital staff cast.

A civil servant, Tashi, is one of the oldest patient-attendants, in terms of the number of days she spent at the hospital.

She spent almost a month at the hospital with her four-year-old daughter, who was referred with a hole in her little heart almost at the eleventh hour to the Mission Hospital.

The rules are strict and more strictly followed, one attendant a child-patient, none for adults and limited visiting hours.

No wonder some patients and attendants are often seen communicating with gestures through windows.

Several times a day, Tashi carries her daughter and stands by the window of the post operation patients’ ward, both gesticulating out the window.

Beaming from the other side, her husband gesticulates more frantically, trying to gain his four-year-old’s attention, recuperating from a recent heart surgery.

Elevators almost always brimming, most patient attendants walk up the spiraling steps to where surgeries are done on the third floor, and to the fourth where patients are kept post operation.

On either side of the wide stairway are confused and despondent-looking locals waiting outside doors of the operation theatre for words from doctors, who take a gambling chance at the frail hearts.

On certain days, some are seen quietly sobbing, their palms capped on the forehead, some women take to breast-beating and, at other times, it’s sighs of relief that almost verge on the note of jubilation of a new born.

Amid the many locals are a few Bhutanese, like 50-year-old Cheki, wearing a full kira and a rucksack with Bhutan telecom logo on it saddled on her back, murmuring prayers, trying to hide her eyes welling up with tears, by staring away from passersby.

Besides the image of an open-heart surgery being performed on her eight-year-old grand daughter, it was the unfamiliar glum faces surrounding her in an unfamiliar place that was dispiriting.

From Chali in Mongar, Cheki never travelled out of Mongar.

This is where Jigme Dorji, the hospital’s 32-year old liaison officer, especially hired to help Bhutanese, particularly farmers and villagers, who might feel disoriented when suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar way of life.

Dressed in smart casuals, his hair gelled up, mustache that makes wavelike motion as he constantly chews on Rajnigandha, the portly young man is swift on his feet, throwing ajar doors to the hospital’s most restricted of chambers.

Gentle and understanding with Bhutanese patients and their attendants, and there is no arguing for hospital staff with this man, the mere mention of whose name can get any Bhutanese past any guarded doors of the hospital.

With him, attendants have access to some of the most restricted chambers of the hospital, like the post operation ward manned by several guards and several more nurses within.

He also arranges guesthouses for attendants, their tickets, and picking and dropping Bhutanese patients from various bus and train stations.

For the last almost five years, that has been Jigme’s job.

Jigme is also the main conduit between the hospital’s chairman and senior cardiac surgeon Dr Satyajit Bose, a name to be reckoned with throughout Durgapur city.

Having practised between 1995 and 2008 in various private hospitals of numerous metropolitan cities of India, Dr Bose, with some fellow cardiologists, promoted the 250-bed Mission Hospital, which began operation since February 2009.

The hospital sees more than 1,800 heart patients a year, of which Bhutanese make up about 200.

On a monthly basis, the hospital sees more than 10 Bhutanese patients.

So far, Dr Bose said he operated on more than 600 Bhutanese hearts, mostly referred at late stages, with a 99.5 percent success rate.

Dr Bose said, when he looked at the Bhutanese referral bills during his visit to the country for marketing purposes, most Indian hospitals had charged exorbitant rates.

While it is unsure how much other hospitals in India that Bhutanese heart patients are referred to charge for heart surgeries, gauging from bills of Bhutanese patients referred to Mission Hospital, the cost ranges from Rs 200,000 to Rs 300,000.

“Bhutanese were being taken for a big ride,” he said. “I established this hospital to give right and ethical treatment.”

Comparing herself to patients from other neighboring countries and other Indian states, civil servant Wangmo said Bhutanese were far better off that they didn’t have to avail loans or borrow money for such critical treatments.

“A true gift it is indeed from our government, a legacy of  our benevolent monarchs,” she said.

By Samten Wangchuk

Picture story

Thimphu Modi-fied: Workers remove the iron mesh along the expressway. Over the weekend, in preparation for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to the country, the capital city was spruced up.


Green to face Thimphu UTD in the final

Archery: Green Team defeated defending champion Damchen in the semifinals of the Coronation Silver Jubilee National archery tournament at Changlimithang archery range in Thimphu yesterday.

With both teams completing a set each, the final set went into extra time until 7pm. That was when Green team went on to win.

Having trailed by a point, before the last round, Green Team managed to scored five points to make it 21. The organiser decided for extra time. In the last three rounds, Damchen however tried best to defended their title.

They hit six kareys while their opponent managed only four, in what would be the last round. With that, they had four points enough to win the game.

The match was a continuation from Saturday, when Green team lost the first set to Damchen. In the second day, Green team managed to complete the second game.

The Coronation Silver Jubilee National archery tournament final will play on June 14 and 15.

By Tashi Phuntsho