Govt. takes one step further towards fulfilling its campaign pledge
Agriculture: The 70 gewogs in the six eastern dzongkhags will get a power tiller each by the end of February, the agriculture minister, Yeshey Dorji, said during the 14th meet the press session last week.
The government had pledged to provide one power tiller in each of the 1,040 chiwogs in the country. The power tillers, however, would not be provided for free. “To use it, villagers will have to hire it,” lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said.
Hiring charges range between Nu 1,200 and 1,500 an acre, depending on the terrain, which is half the existing commercial hiring rate in the villages.
Hiring power tillers to farmers started almost a year before the government pledged one for each chiwog during the 2013 election campaign. Today almost 87 gewogs in 18 dzongkhags have the power tiller hiring facility.
The Agriculture Machinery Centre’s (AMC) program director, Karma Thinley, said AMC stopped selling power tillers to farmers since they started providing power tillers on hire. Currently there are about 160 such machines provided on hire across the country.
“We’re setting up service centres in the gewogs. Eight service centres were set up last year,” he said, adding that currently centres are being established in Lhamoizingkha and Tsirang.
In fulfilling the pledge, eastern Bhutan would be given first preference, given the small number of power tillers in the east today. Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said, while east has less than 300 such machines; western region has more than 1,000 power tillers.
Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said 84 percent of people in the east are engaged in agriculture farming, while the nationwide figure for people dependent on farming stood at 62 percent.
One of the main problems faced in the east, he said, was labour shortage in agriculture and power tillers would help ease the shortage.
“AMC officials are already working on the deployment strategy,” he said. However, gewogs that do not have arable land would not get the power tillers.
Program director, Karma Thinley, said although requests for 1,450 power tillers have been made to Japanese government, it would be difficult to deliver all by next month.
AMC would receive 239-power tillers by the end of this month, which the Japanese government is providing under the KR II grant. Of the 1,450-power tiller requested, discussion with Japan International Corporation Agency is underway for early delivery of 400.
“These 400 power tillers will be distributed to eastern districts on hiring basis,” he said.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay had made the request for 1,450 power tillers during his official visit to Japan, in July. He had then pointed out that the Japanese government had agreed “in principle” to this request. The request for power tillers was made under the chiwog grant assistance for farm mechanisation and services.
The country has so far been receiving power tillers and other farm machinery from Japan through the KR-II grant assistance, made available to the country since 1984. Under the KR-II grants, Japan has provided 2,795 power tillers so far.
Agriculture ministry early last year had estimated that 6,000 power tillers are required, if all available farmland in Bhutan is to be mechanised. Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that a power tiller per gewog would be provided phase wise.
By Nirmala Pokhrel
If the level of a society is measured by how public facilities are maintained, we are not very far from being barbaric. This is particularly true when it comes to public toilets.
And there is no denying that when it comes to the toilets at the two football stadiums. The renovated national stadium boasts of huge sitting capacity and artificial turf with floodlights. But there is no adjective to describe the state of the toilets located beneath the stadium.
Sinks stained with doma juice and blocked by cigarette butts, and broken toilet pots greet the visitor. If that is not embarrassing enough, there are sticks and stones – a habit Bhutanese cannot seem to get rid off to clean themselves after answering nature’s call – blocking the flush system. Water is as scarce as a chance to play at the new stadium.
With toilets broken or blocked, the shower compartments are used as smoking rooms and toilets. Smoking in public places is banned in the country. Smoking in sports facility is banned all over the world. The Changjiji football facility is no better. Developed long after Changlimethang, Changjiji ought to be in a better condition, but is religiously following the Changlimethang trend. A common observation is that when the toilets are dirty, people choose to relieve themselves in the open.
The national stadium hosts important events beyond sports. They may be cleaned and tidied when important events approach. But the place is always busy because of the thrill of playing on artificial turf, and so the toilets cannot be ignored.
The irony is that is that the two facilities are quite new. And, unlike in the past, they are making money. It costs a lot to play on the expensive artificial turf. With roughly six games a day and both facilities charging between Nu 3,000 to Nu 4,000 a match, there should be enough to maintain a crucial part of the facility, the toilets. Those who complain about the facility feel that from the income, those responsible for maintaining the facilities could afford two full time cleaners. There may well be cleaners; if so, they are not doing their job.
The bigger irony, however, is the misuse of the facility by users, who are the so-called educated and civilised urbanites. The fee makes sure that only a few get to play. These fortunate ones include the likes of civil servants, corporate employees, and some students – all those who preach hygiene and sanitation. Much will depend on how the facilities are used.
A dedicated cleaner can do only so much if users continue to abuse public facilities. It takes two hands to clap. If the toilets are clean and have running water, users wouldn’t mind paying a nominal fee. We have good examples around the city.
Visit: To explore possibilities of collaboration and partnership in drug education and rehabilitation services between the Princess Mother National Institute for Drug Abuse Treatment (PMNIDAT), Bangkok and Bhutan Youth Development Fund (YDF), the President of YDF, Her Majesty the Queen Mother Tshering Pem Wangchuck is in Bangkok for a two-day visit
Vice president of the foundation, Her Royal Highness, Ashi Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck, is accompanying the Queen Mother.
Possible areas of collaborations with regards to effective treatment module, capacity enhancement, occupational skills-based programmes for reintegration into mainstream society and exchange programmes will be explored.
The partnership is envisioned to address the concern of the nation to curb the growing numbers of youth abusing drugs and alcohol, a press release from the foundation stated
YDF established the Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Center with the rapid increase in the numbers of youth abusing drugs and alcohol. Currently the center caters about 100 clients a year.
Meanwhile, with the support from the government of India, YDF had started the construction of a new facility in Tsaluna, Thimphu. The center will be inaugurated this year to mark the 60th birth anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth King.
Police records maintained by Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency (BNCA) between 2001 and 2014 showed that approximately 36 percent of drug offenders are school students followed by 34 percent unemployed.
According to the findings of 2009 national Baseline Assessment conducted by BNCA and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the most prevalent substance abuses are cannabis, glue sniffing and pharmaceutical medicines.
The Bhutan delegation comprises of key representatives of the Colombo plan, BNCA and YDF officials.
By Dechen Tshomo
Savings of Nu 500,000-600,000 can be made given the Japanese currency value today
Import: The fall in Japanese currency (Yen) recently has turned out to be a boon for Bhutanese aspiring to buy Toyota luxury cars. The State Trading corporation of Bhutan limited (STCBL) in Phuentsholing has confirmed 115 vehicle orders.
The highest order placed this year, according to STCBL figures, has been for February with 53 vehicles. January and March has 31 orders each.
Of the total ordered vehicles, 48 are Prados, 22 are Hiluxes, and nine are RAV4 vehicles, while the remaining 36 are coaster and Hiace buses.
A manager at STCBL, Dilliram Adhikari, said the bumper orders received were because of the fall in the value of Yen. “The queries have increased drastically along with demand,” the manager said.
Dilliram Adhikari said buyers could benefit a difference of Nu 500,000-600,000 with the Yen value today. The cost of a Prado (full option) before was around Nu 3.6M (without taxes). Today the car comes for Nu 2.95M.
The Japanese Yen value started falling in October in 2014 and has been sliding since then.
Today the value of a Yen in Bhutanese currency is Nu 0.525. In October last year, the Yen was around Nu 0.64.
In 2014, STCBL was able to sell 86 Toyota vehicles. Today, about 29 vehicles are already in transit, while 25 are in shipment stage.
The transit stage is when the vehicles are being transported from Kolkata to Phuentsholing, and the shipment is when the vehicles are brought to Kolkata from Japan.
Meanwhile, Zimdra Automobiles also sold about 500 vehicles last year, most of which occurred after the ban on import was lifted in July.
However, today all authorised car dealers, especially those that deal with Indian cars, are having a tough time, following the increase in Indian excise duty this month.
A manager with Zimdra said customers, who had booked vehicles at the price before the excise duty changed, are complaining.
“They booked at the old price, which is less, but will now have to bear the new price,” the manager said. “There are some who understand, but most don’t.”
Although any increase in tax has to be borne by customers, as per Zimdra reservation rules, the company has now decided to compensate its customers by providing car accessories.
After the excise duty revision in India, the price of an Alto (standard) car has climbed to Nu 384,140 from the earlier price of Nu 369,880. This is the lowest revision impact. The highest is on the Ertiga (full option) that has climbed to Nu 1.061M from the previous Nu 1.015M.
Although Zimdra didn’t share numbers on how many customers have been affected because of the excise duty change in India, Kuensel sources said that there are close to 100.
By Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing
Post-reinvestigation RBP report on Serzhong LSS incident comes up with suggestions
Suicide: It’s not known what happened that September 25 night at the girls’ hostel of Serzong lower secondary school in Mongar last year. All that has been reported is that it started after some girls saw two men leaving the hostel.
What followed after the men left cannot be determined either, but on September 27 afternoon the school lost a 16-year old student. The class VII student had ended her life.
Following a reinvestigation into her death, as requested by the student’s uncle, and based on similar incidents in the past, the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) has advised the education ministry to frame a written guideline for all schools regarding “inappropriate and unauthorised relations between girls and boys.”
“These guidelines should be adequate enough to deal with students having unauthorised or inappropriate relations,
which is inevitable and unavoidable in schools, especially among students of 15 years and above,” the RBP suggested.
Police said that such unauthorised relations are prohibited and against the discipline of any school and, in such cases, “girls should be questioned and inquired into by female teachers only.”
“Nevertheless, due to the unavoidable nature of the problem, the solution is not to punish and outcast such students, but to properly counsel and reform such students, and make them realise the wrong footing they are indulging into,” the police suggested.
“Inquiry and counselling in such cases should be made discreetly, so as to avoid embarrassment to the girls.”
Although police ruled out foul play in this case, its suggestions implied that the school administration could have handled the situation more sensitively.
The class VII student isn’t the first to take her life on school premises. The education minister shared at the National Assembly session last November that 11 students had committed suicide last year.
A study on ‘reported suicide cases in Bhutan from 2009-13’, found that, of the 319 “completed suicides”, about 14 percent were students, after farmers at 45 percent. About 62 percent of the completed suicides were between 15-40 years, and about 28 percent of completed and 49 percent of attempted suicides were youths.
It was also found that, of the 319 people, who had taken their own lives, 64 had attempted suicide earlier, and a majority (48 percent) had attempted at least once, 28 percent had attempted twice, and 11 percent had attempted thrice.
“It is surprising to note that one person had attempted suicide seven times, indicating that there was no support from the family members for that individual,” the study stated.
The study pointed out that there was lack of concern from caretakers/guardians regarding the warning signs of suicide that they projected. “Even when someone had history of several attempts of suicide in the past, there seems to be little or no support to seek help.”
It was also found that a majority of those who either completed or attempted suicide had symptoms suggestive of a mental disorder, and had also experienced at least one stressful event in the last one-year period prior to the incident. “However, few were diagnosed to have a mental disorder,” the study states. “Among those diagnosed, the most common diagnoses were psychosis and depression.”
Meanwhile, after the task force submitted the report to the Cabinet, health minister Tandin Wangchuk said the Cabinet instructed them to come up with an action plan and to draft a national suicide prevention strategy that spells out the responsibilities of each agency.
The executive order on “matters concerning suicide cases in Bhutan,” which the prime minister’s office issued on February 16 last year, called on all relevant agencies for their concerted efforts in combating the situation, which will have great impact in a society with a small population.
“It is imperative for the nation to come up with a ‘National Suicide Prevention Strategy’ to prevent people from taking their own lives,” the executive order states.
Among other directives for immediate follow-ups, the health ministry was to establish a separate unit specifically to look after the matter, and to create awareness on prevention of further suicide cases in the country.
The health ministry has started a suicide prevention program, and had also selected a suicide prevention officer. However, Kuensel learnt that the civil service commission is yet to approve the officer’s appointment, citing the ongoing organisational development (OD) exercise.
Meanwhile, the student’s uncle, Pema Thinley, however, had called on the education ministry to fix accountability and take necessary administrative action against those who were responsible.
“Lessons must be learnt from the smallest of tragedy but, as its reoccurrence of 11 students in 2014 alone shows, we’re failing as a nation to learn anything from the tragedy of our children, who lose their right to live out their lives.”
By Sonam Pelden
Visit: Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay visits the Solar Park at Charanka in Gujarat yesterday after visiting Vadnagar, the hometown of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in north Gujarat.
Upping expenditure in the sector by 10 percent would result in a far more stable growth path
Report: While hydropower is and will continue to be the bedrock of the country’s economy, higher investment in education, health, and efforts to diversify its economic base through tourism and other niche sectors like agriculture can yield a much higher growth output.
Projecting a growth of 6.8 percent in 2015 fiscal year, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) attributes this to construction of hydropower projects and the removal of credit and import restrictions, which will boost consumption and trade, pushing economic growth.
ADB’s report, ‘Unlocking Bhutan’s potential’, asserts that impressive growth in the past was driven by doubling investment in hydropower, and that such growth is vulnerable to external shocks.
The report states that improvements in human capital through investment in education and health would not only raise productivity directly, but also improve the labour force’s skills and productivity in the economy.
“Although the government’s social expenditure has been increasing over time in absolute terms, it has not kept pace with the economy’s expansion,” the report stated.
While numbers may have gone up, the government’s current and capital spending on education, as a proportion of GDP, has been showing a declining trend.
This, according to the ADB has implications on productivity and overall development. ADB’s projections reveal that, if spending on education dipped to 5 percent of GDP in 2014 and 2017, it was not satisfactory.
It was stated that raising government expenditure on education by 10 percent would result in a much more stable growth path. Under this scenario, potential output growth averages 7.5 percent during the forecast period (2013–30).
The hydropower earnings, which averaged between Nu 10B to Nu 11B, according to figures from the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA), that also reveal that tourism earnings last year recorded the highest at USD 68.9B. This is however exclusive of the earnings for December.
Meanwhile, support to the economy, according to ADB, would be provided by economic stimulus package worth Nu 5B financed by India. Almost half of the fund was made available to banks for priority lending to potential growth sectors, such as small and cottage industries.
In its report, ADB found that the manufacturing sector had not contributed much to Bhutan’s overall productivity growth. Instead, it was the steadily growing service sector that led productivity in the Bhutanese economy.
However, imports of materials for construction of hydropower projects are expected to widen the current account deficit to 29.9 percent in FY2015.
By Tshering Dorji
Update: The Cabinet yesterday submitted the details and evidences of the charges it had made against the three government secretaries to the Royal Civil Service Commission, just before the deadline ended at 4pm.
Civil service commission officials confirmed receiving the details in a sealed envelope just before the two weeks time the commission had given to the Cabinet for submission.
The commission on December 29 has asked the Cabinet for details and evidences of the charges against the secretaries for them to investigate the case. Without the details, the commission had conveyed to the Cabinet that it was not in a position to accept the “surrendering of the secretaries.”
Citing the legal provisions of the Constitution, the Civil Service Act of Bhutan, 2010, and the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations, 2012, the commission had informed the Cabinet that, “the three Secretaries in question will remain on authorised absence with benefits until the matter is resolved.
A month ago, the Cabinet had surrendered Cabinet secretary, Dasho Penden Wangchuk, economic affairs secretary, Dasho Sonam Tshering, and the foreign secretary, Yeshey Dorji, for RCSC’s action, or until the completion of the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) investigation.
According to the Cabinet, the economic affairs secretary has misused the institution of the Committee of Secretaries to raise, discuss and take action on allegations made on him by a foreign magazine.
The foreign secretary is said to have misrepresented the government by sending a formal letter to the Government of India without the approval of the foreign minister or the Prime Minister, while the Cabinet Secretary was charged for not keeping the Prime Minister informed of the Committee of Secretaries’ discussions and decisions.
Jailbreak: The Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) yesterday arrested the three male inmates, who had escaped Wangdue police custody four days ago.
The men were nabbed around 12.30am yesterday from Gomthang, Wangduephodrang.
Following a tip off from a cow-herder, police found the three inmates in Gomthang, about a three-and-a-half-hour walk, from Bae Langdra.
Chief of police, brigadier Kipchu Namgyel, said the person would be rewarded Nu 30,000 as announced after the three inmates had absconded.
“I’m grateful to the public, who rendered full support, and particularly the person, who informed police, that led to the arrest of the inmates,” brigadier Kipchu Namgyel said. “As promised, the person will be rewarded.”
The three inmates, according to police, will be immediately escorted to Chamgang central jail.
The three inmates from Sephu gewog, Wangduephodrang, escaped through the toilet window, after cutting the iron bars between 7.30pm to 8pm. Sangay Penjore, 24, Passang Dorji, 24, and Tashi Namgay, 31, were sentenced to life imprisonment for chorten vandalism.
The three, all farmers, were convicted for vandalism of three chortens in Sephu gewog – the Namgay Khangzang, Wangdue gonpa and Darlo sephu chortens – in April last year.
They were arrested in July 2014 and the district court sentenced them to life imprisonment on December 24 last month. They were to be transferred to Chamgang central jail but escaped police custody before the jail van from Thimphu reached Wangdue. They are also connected to another chorten vandalism case. Police said they were to undergo a trial in Trongsa for vandalising Danglo chorten in Tangsibji, Trongsa.
Brigadier Kipchu Namgyel said the three men were to be transferred to Trongsa for the court hearing from Chamgang central jail.
“But now we’ll have to see how we can go about it, for which we’ll have to talk to court officials in Trongsa,” Brigadier Kipchu Namgyel said.
As soon as police learnt that the three inmates had escaped, a search team was fielded across Wangdue. An investigation team from the headquarters in Thimphu, led by the deputy chief of police (crime and operations), and two officers visited Wangduephodrang.
Two female and a male police personnel, who were on duty when the inmates escaped, were also confined in quarter guards (detained). According to police, a thorough investigation into circumstances that led to the escape of the three inmates would be carried out, after which “appropriate action” would be taken against the concerned officials.
“Besides, steps to prevent such incidences in future shall be implemented,” a police officer said.
By Kinga Dema
Parlours: Despite the trade department issuing a notification, some beauty parlours in Phuentsholing are still providing massage services.
After the police in town raided the massage parlours in December, two non-Bhutanese were caught red-handed in one of the massage parlours.
Following the raid and media reports, the regional trade office had notified the beauty parlours and instructed that they could only operate beautification activities, and not massage services.
However, Kuensel has learnt that a parlour on Pelkhil lam still entertained massage service, and there were two non-Bhutanese waiting for the service yesterday.
Another parlour was also found offering services on an hourly basis, by charging Nu 1,000 for an hour and Nu 500 for 30 minutes.
In the town’s core area, Gaten lam, sources said parlours are still providing massages, even though owners are more alert, following the recent inspections from trade.
Meanwhile, the regional trade office in Phuentsholing has also cancelled the license of one of the parlours that provided massage services, and simultaneously offered sexual favours. This was the same parlour where the two non-Bhutanese were caught red-handed. There are still eight parlours that provide massage services.
The case of the parlour, whose license was cancelled, was sent to court on December 26. Hearings are ongoing, but the non-Bhutanese man is on bail.
Prostitution is rampant in Phuentsholing town, and sources say there are about five pimps operating the flesh trade. One of them is a non-Bhutanese man married to a Bhutanese woman, Kuensel has found.
There are also a few restaurants and hotels, which have waiters that manage the racket.
By Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing