Sunday, March 29th, 2015 - 9:05 AM
Yangphel Housing Banner.gif

First set of overseas workers leaves for Qatar

The six men and three women will work at a resort/convention hotel as room attendants

Employment: Nine Bhutanese made up the first batch to leave the country under the government initiated overseas employment programme, when they left to work in Qatar on January 22, labour ministry officials claim.

The six men and three women will work at the Sheraton Doha resort and convention hotel as room attendants with the house keeping department, labour ministry’s employment department officials said.

“The youth sent to Qatar have completed their class X and XII standards,” program officer Tshewang Rinchen said. “They will be kept on probation for six months, after which they’ll be regularised based on their performance. ”

Regulations on employment of Bhutanese overseas mandates all workers to go through employment agents.  However, with the agents still unable to set up offices at the moment, the labour ministry stepped in, said officials.

Tshewang Rinchen said the ministry supported the applicants, by attesting security clearance certificates to process for visa to work in Qatar.  Labour officials said the youth had applied themselves for jobs online, but had to obtain official documents, like clearances from the government, to work there.

“We could intervene as the overseas employment program was in place,” labour secretary Pema Wangda said. “We endorsed all the documents.”

The secretary added that wasn’t the case before. “So many Bhutanese go abroad for employment opportunities, but we never got involved in the past,” the secretary said.

But observers said the ministry endorsing the documents of the nine Bhutanese to work abroad doesn’t mean it could claim the overseas employment program as having taken off.  That the ministry has not yet started registering job seekers for the overseas employment programme indicates the program is still not on.

The overseas employment program is an initiative of government to achieve full employment, as pledged during the election.

Labour officials said three of the six agents, who submitted proposals, were issued clearances. “They’ll take about a month to set up their offices and obtain licenses,” labour secretary Pema Wangda said.

Economic affairs ministry will issue licenses to agents, who have clearance from the labour ministry.

Labour officials said, after the agencies are licensed, they would receive detailed information from the principal agents abroad.  Vacancies would be advertised to register potential candidates, and selected ones will be sent abroad.

In December, the ministry received 19 applications for overseas employment agents, of which seven were short-listed.  They were given until January 8 to submit their proposals and documents.  The regulation on employment of Bhutanese overseas states workers will be placed through employment agents, who would pay Nu 100,000 as registration fee to the government.

The program is open to only those job seekers, whose employment situation in the country is not favourable, which would be determined through a research by the ministry.  The scheme caters to unemployed people, aged between 21-40 years, with a minimum of class X qualification, and basic skill in any trade.

Some of the proposed overseas destinations include English-speaking countries like Australia, Canada, and Singapore, according to labour ministry.  The proposed areas of employment are tourism and hospitality, non-nursing health professionals, teaching (non-trained), information technology professionals, accounting and finance, technicians, sales representatives, care givers and those providing secretarial services.

By Kinga Dema

Three-year term for 660g

Tobacco: Thimphu district court, on January 20, sentenced a Thimphu businesswoman to three years in prison for possessing chewing tobacco (baba) more than four times the permissible quantity.

A person is allowed to import only 300g in a month, according to the amended Tobacco Act, 2012.

The convict, Nar Maya Pradhan, had with her 1,410g (about eight dozen 10-gram baba packets), when police raided her shop in July last year.  Police also found 44 pieces of Marlboro, two pieces of Classic, 38 pieces of Gold Flake cigarettes and 28 pieces of bidi.

Since the baba tobacco was beyond the permissible limit, police forwarded the case to the office of attorney general.

OAG officials charged Nar Maya with violating section 51 A and C of the amended act – a fourth degree felony.

Nar Maya Pradhan produced three tax receipts for 750g of chewing tobacco and petitioned for bail.  However, the receipts belonged to her sister and two brothers.  She also submitted before the court the tobacco products were kept in her shop to be taken to her village and were not for sale.

But OAG prosecutors argued that, although Nar Maya produced receipts, the receipts were not in her name and they belonged to her siblings.  The official stated the amended tobacco act stated that a person could import 250g of chewing tobacco in a month for personal consumption, but did not state that a person could import in another person’s name.

The court verdict stated that the court could not buy Nar Maya’s argument, since she didn’t have receipt for 660g of chewing tobacco, although she possessed receipts for 750g. “The receipts were also not in the defendant’s name.”

Nar Maya has 10 days to appeal.

By Tashi Dema

The ill within

For whatever reasons the nation-wide drug bust operations are being carried out, but it is something that should have been done much earlier.

Not that it is late, but simply the thought that we could have saved one more life, had the intervention come in a little earlier, cannot be waived.

Many parents have had to suffer the pangs of losing their children to drug abuse, or were fighting to lure them to depend on support the family provided and not on psychotropic substances.

Such parents desperately sought policy maker’s intervention.

We all knew what controlled substances our youth abused, where these controlled substances were coming from, to an extent also how they were being brought into the country and suggested measures to counter them.

Alas, they fell on deaf ears.

As our decision makers keep uttering the rhetoric of the country being best placed to draw lessons from experiences and flaws of other nations, we are falling into the very pitfalls they caution us of. We have exhibited our natural tendency to learn the hard way, through trials and errors that others warn us of.

It is a matter of wonder how our law makers see not this issue of substance abuse and the issue of alcohol that is consuming many of the country’s young, in the same light as they do tobacco.

It is hoped this government finds it worthy of consideration to do something about the psychotropic substances that easily enter into the country, rather than revisit the tobacco law that continues to be a contentious subject for discussion.

Should that be done, it would be seen as holding the same end of the stick the previous government did, the wrong one.

But what the recent operation to clamp down on drug peddlers revealed was all the more disturbing.

The connivance of our law enforcers with drug peddlers, the very people we repose our trust to go tough on such illegal activities, was disheartening.

What the constables, who were allegedly involved in the process of drug peddling sounded off, of even police officers being involved in this seedy racketeering is a cause for alarm.

While how to go about this issue is a different matter, what is important for us is to put our efforts together to cull this social ill before it gets to one of us.

Almost halfway there

Dam-2At the dam site: Work is on to build Punatsangchhu II dam at Rurichhu

Nearly 50 percent of the work on the country’s second biggest dam is complete

PHPA II: After helping generate power in the 1,200MW Punatsangchhu hydroelectric project I, the glacier-fed Punstangchhu (river) will be trapped once again for yet another production about 3km downstream.

This will be done through country’s second biggest dam, the Punatsangchhu hydroelectric project II, which is being built at Rurichhu, about 22km from Wangdue zam (bridge).

Among major components of the dam, the construction of upstream cofferdam has begun, following diversion of Punatsangchhu river in May last year.

“Before the monsoon sets in, we’ll complete the upstream cofferdam to a height of 16m from the riverbed,” one of the senior engineers, who sought anonymity, said.

The structure is expected to hold 1,118cum of discharged water in peak monsoon, when the river volume increases.  Overflow of water from the height would mean seeping of water in the dam, which will hinder work.

Along with the upstream cofferdam, a downstream dam, which will measure 11m from the riverbed, is also built.  For now, loose materials from right and left bank of the river are being removed.  To ensure stability of riverbanks, the natural walls on the banks will be treated with rock bolts and others.

“We’re hoping to complete the bank stability treatment by coming May,” project officials said.

After that, the digging of riverbed to about 30m will start.

Upon completion, the 86m high Punatsangchhu dam II will stand at the spot, with less than one-third of it immersed in the riverbed.  It is calculated to hold seven million cubic metres of water once complete.

Meanwhile, excavation work of four power intake tunnels, each measuring 6.4m diameter and two kilometres long, has been completed.

The power intake tunnels will carry water from the dam and send it to head-race tunnel (HRT) through four de-silting chambers, where sedimentation of water will take place, before sending the water to the powerhouse.

The excavation of four de-silting chambers has also been completed, while work on benching or laying concrete on the surface, to prevent sliding, is being done.

Doing the job at the dam site are more than 150 dumpers and tippers, 20 excavators of different capacity, scores of drilling equipment, dozens of cranes of varying capacity, dozers and loaders, among others.  About 2,500 people, including skilled, unskilled and semi-skilled, are working at the site.

The construction of the dam and its components, including hydro–mechanical work, was awarded to Jaiprakash Associates ltd at Nu 12.24B in June 2011.  The project was to be completed within 66 months.

Project officials said, for now, less than 50 percent of the work on the dam complex is completed.

By Tenzin Namgyel, Wangdue

First emergency medical services batch trained

The weeklong course comprised clinical orientation and training on ems, trauma and obstetric care

Health: Forty-one medical professionals are all set to rescue lives in different parts of the country.

They include 26 medical doctors, six dentists and nine nurses, who completed clinical orientation and training on emergency medical services, trauma and obstetric care, the first of its kind being carried out in the country.

“The fresh doctors and nurses are ready to go and do their duties,” the chief trainer, who is a neurosurgeon and head of emergency department, Dr Tashi Tenzin, said.

He said, as the medical graduates came from different countries and colleges, it was important to ensure uniform standard in the country’s context.

Another objective of the training, officials said, was to enable the doctors working at the forefront areas to provide timely and efficient basic life saving emergency services in absence of specialists.

Dr Tashi Tenzin said because of the shortage of doctors in the country, the skills and knowledge in emergency medical services, trauma, and obstetric were enhanced through the training.

At present, Dr Tashi Tenzin said the emergency medical services were not as good as it should have been.

“This program will boost the services and its effectiveness,” he said.

Meanwhile, one of the trainees, dentist Tsheltrim Namgyel, said, although he studied giving CPR to adults, the training equipped him to handle infants, besides many other skills.

A nurse, Sangay Choden, said her experience here was different from what she studied in India.

“There are many doctors and nurses in India, so they could focus on doing just their part,” the 24-year-old said. “But with the shortage we’re facing here, nurses will have to do doctor’s job.”

A doctor, who did his medical studies in Sri Lanka, Chezang Dorji, said the training should be provided to not just the new ones, but those already in the profession.

“New things come up every time, and such trainings will update health people with the necessary information,” he said.

At the closing of the program, director general of department of medical services (DoMS), Dr Ugyen Dophu said the degrees and certificates that doctors and nurses bring along weren’t enough to function in the health service sector.

He said they needed skills to be applied in the work place.

Ugyen Dophu also said that Bhutan today has the in-house capacity to carry out training, and that there was no need to send people overseas.

The programme was part of the recommendations of Bhutan Foundation, health ministry, and Bhutan Medical and Health Council to make clinical orientation mandatory program, before deploying new doctors and nurses to the fields.

The specialists from various departments of Thimphu referral hospital served as resource persons for the program, which started on January 16.

By Rajesh Rai


One farm road’s nowhere near enough

Momring-village-in-Lauri-2Momring village in Lauri is about seven hours walk from road end

The Jomotsangkha-Jompa link reaches the gewog centre; villages are still more an hour’s walk away

Lauri: Although Samdrupjongkhar’s remotest gewog, Lauri, is getting connected with a farm road from Jomotsangkha, it still needs more to reach its villages.

For now, the 69km farm road from Jomotsangkha would reach only until Jompa, the gewog centre.  From there, the villages that are scattered across mountains require at least an hour to reach.

Lauri gup, Pema Dendup, said the gewog would still need more farm roads to connect its chiwogs, because of scattered settlements.

“Most of the far-flung villages, like Momring, Zangthi and Tshothang would still be hours walk from gewog centre,” he said.

A tshogpa of Zangthi, Wangchuk, said the need to build farm roads to chiwogs repeatedly featured in gewog tshogdes.

“Following our pleas, gewog has included construction of farm roads to Zangthi and Dungmanma in this plan,” Wangchuk said. “But with the government already suffering from budget constraints, we’re concerned whether the plan will be realised

He said they were “hopeful” the new government would prioritise road connectivity to remoter places like theirs.

Momring tshogpa, Sonam Jamtsho, said connecting chiwogs with farm roads was crucial, for it was the only way out of poverty for the communities.

Sonam Jamtsho said that, if roads were built to chiwogs, people would be able to market farm produce easily.  For now, most products were spoilt in villages.

“Lauri has high potential for vegetable because its peak growing season coincides with vegetable off-season in Assam in India,” he said.

Road was crucial too to enable people to market non-wood forest products that were available in villages and would  fetch good income.

Wangchuk said, without road, even developmental activities could be affected.  Transporting construction materials was a tedious process with pathways giving way to erosion and landslides often.

Except for Zangthi and Dungmanma, there is no mention of road for villages like Momring, Phajo gonpa and Tshothang under the present plan.

“It’s worrying because this would mean we have to wait for another five years,” Pema Dendup said, adding Lauri people would be left behind in terms of development by that many years or even more.

By Tempa Wangdi,  Samdrupjongkhar

In Pictures: Game plan

Save the rim or bear the brunt of vandals 

Photo: Karma Dupchu


Former Drabi Lopon’s purjang ceremony today

Rites: The purjang ceremony of the late former Drabi Lopon, Kinley Gyeltshen, will be held today in Punakha.

The funeral rites prayer ceremony will be conducted from two directions.  His Holiness the Je Khenpo and two lopons of the dratshang will preside over the Chenrizig sungchog (prayer dedicated to Avalokiteshvara or embodiment of the compassion of all the Buddhas) from the east direction, while Dorji Lopon, along with two other lopons, trulkus, lam netens and khenpos, will conduct Mithrugpa (dedicated to Akshobhya) from the west direction.

Sungchog prayers, according to the Kanglung shedra khenpo Karma Rangdrol, who was a disciple of the late lopon, will begin at 7am, and the ceremony is expected to conclude at 2pm.

Thousands of devotees, well-wishers and disciples of the former Drabi Lopon have gathered in Punakha to attend the ceremony.

Lopon Kinley Gyeltshen, a recipient of the Thuksey medal from His Majesty the King during the 106th National Day celebrations in 2013, passed away peacefully in his residence in Semtokha on the evening of January 1.  He remained in  thugdam (meditative state) for five days.

Lopon Kinley Gyeltshen’s kudung was taken to Lekshey Jungney shedra in Punakha on January 6, where monks performed kutsig tshogkhor until yesterday.

Considered a highly learned and accomplished spiritual master, lopon Kinley Gyeltshen was suffering from chronic liver disease and under medication until he passed away.  He was 67.

By Rinzin Wangchuk

Picture story

His Royal Highness Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck visited the Princely State of Liechtenstein in Europe from January 14 to 19 on the invitation of His Serene Highness, Prince Philipp von und zu Liechtenstein, brother of the Reining Prince of Liechtenstein and Chairman of the Liechtenstein Global Trust.

As part of the visit, HRH attended a workshop, which is linked to the initiative of Bhutan Olympic Committee’s collaboration with The King’s Challenge (TKC). TKC is a social venture that aims to build social capital and mobilise development funds for the purpose of environmental conservation, cultural preservation and youth engagement in Bhutan.

TKC’s inaugural journey will take place in Bhutan in October this year. TKC has committed to mobilise resources of US$ 2M for social investment in Bhutan by the end of 2014; $13M in 2015 and $24M in 2016. The adventure is designed to connect people and capital to its portfolio of environmental conservation, cultural preservation and youth engagement initiatives in Bhutan.

Now that it’s blessed, works can begin

Specialised agencies will be hired to execute remedial works around slide-affected areas to be completed before monsoon

PHPA I: Works on Punatsangchhu I project will be in full swing in two months.

In preparation for that, His Holiness the Je Khenpo yesterday presided over the installation ceremony of sa-chhu-boom-ter (holy vases) at the project’s construction sites.

His Holiness performed installation ceremony around the landslide area on the right bank of the project’s dam site, some 10km downstream from Wangdue bridge.

The slide that occurred in July froze all works of dam construction.

Two teams from India, Central Water Commission (CWC) and Geological Survey of India (GSI) drilled holes and carried out seismic tomography data assessments in October last year.

Further examination of the site continued until mid-November, the results of which were analysed in three separate units.

Project consultants like WAPCOS, CWC and GSI approved the investigations along with proposed solutions of seasoned experts from Indian Institutes of Technology, Delhi.

Punatsangchhu I project managing director RN Khazanchi said grouting with high pressure concrete, which required filling up weak band of earth with high speed concrete and micro piling were recommended.

“Since the job needs highly specialised equipment, we are hiring two contractors for the task,” he said, adding they were completing the remedial works before peak monsoon this year.

He said there were two reasons for that.

“Firstly it will take time because there are only a few of the required equipment available and secondly because of shortage of funds,” RN Khazanchi said.

The landslide cost the 1,200MW project an additional Nu 3.5B and delayed its commissioning until December 2017. The amount was injected to carry out remedial measures.

“We’ll ensure the measures are secure and that the hill masses don’t move,” he said.

His Holiness also oversaw the installation of some 19 more vases around areas where important equipment would be situated soon for at under-construction powerhouse.

“We’re about to start the erection of the equipment and before that we wanted to seek the blessings of His Holiness,” RN Khazanchi said. “In the power house we have come to a stage where the main generators’ turbines have to be installed.”

That stage, he said was at the bottom-most level of the powerhouse.

The powerhouse is 50m in height, 23m wide and 200m in length.

By Tshering Palden