Friday, March 6th, 2015 - 12:42 AM
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Ugyen Academy principal wins unique honour

20131217-907A7547Principal Norbu Gyaltshen receives kabney and patang from His Majesty yesterday

An educationist for 27 years, he is the first recipient of a white scarf without fringes 

Award: The principal of Ugyen Academy, Norbu Gyaltshen, became the first recipient of a white kabney without fringes and a patang from His Majesty yesterday, setting a new bar for educationists.

Norbu Gyaltshen, who was the former tutor to His Majesty the King, received the award for his dedicated service and contribution to education in Bhutan as a teacher and principal.

The honour was bestowed in recognition of the important role of teachers in nation building.  His Majesty the King said such honours would be bestowed upon other exceptional educators in future.

“It was a bolt from the blue,” Norbu Gyaltshen said, as he searched for words to explain his feelings.  After a pause he said, “I thank His Majesty for the recognition, and my colleagues and family for having supported me thus far.”

“If ever there is a successful principal, surely behind him or her are more successful teachers,” he said.

Norbu Gyaltshen left his family home and came to Thimphu alone. “We thought it was probably for some personal reason or a common merit medal,” he said.  His wife was the first to congratulate him on the award. “My family is happy beyond measure.”

Born in 1965, Norbu Gyaltshen from Gechukha, Haa, was never interested in teaching during his school days.  After he completed class XII in 1983 from Kanglung, he had to wait for six months before joining college or any other institution.  He ended up as a temporary teacher, since there was acute shortage of teachers.

“It was then that I came to like the profession and ended up joining the national institute of education,” he said.

Norbu Gyaltshen has a graduate certificate in science from the University of New England, New South Wales, and a master’s in science from the same university in Australia.

He first served as a royal tutor, and then went on to become the first national scout commissioner in 1996 at the education ministry’s youth guidance and counselling division.

He was one of the key persons in drafting the Bhutan scout guidebook and developing ‘A light on your career path’, the first career book for students, and the GNH module book.

The fourth among the seven siblings, his father was a soldier, who later became a civil servant and served for 44 years.  He has three children.

After 27 years of teaching, Norbu Gyaltshen has not really thought of quitting. “Teaching is a profession which, after some time, really gets addictive, and you don’t want to leave,” he said.

However, seeing unemployed youth, he wishes to retire and work as a volunteer teacher some day.

Some teachers from his school came to Thimphu to offer khaddar, and then the rest waited at Thinleygang with suja desi for a reception, as he headed home with his award.

By Tshering Palden

Educationist receives medal of appreciation

20131217-907A7443His Majesty with Maina Kharga before awarding the medal of appreciation

Award: Her students remember her as a smart, yet stern, figure on campus.  She was known for being uncompromising, when it came to keeping a check on students, study and discipline wise.

As students, they dreaded the almost “iron clad” lady but, later in life, they bore gratitude for her in churning the best out of them.

Thus, when her name reverberated at Changlimithang stadium during the National Day celebration yesterday, some of those who clapped the loudest were those students.

His Majesty awarded her National Order of Merit (Gold), for her contribution to education as teacher, principal and in education ministry.

For Maina Kharga, who served for 32 years with education ministry, the announcement came as a surprise.

“I wasn’t informed and it took me by surprise,” the mother of two, who started her teaching career in Damphu school in 1982, said. “I was completely humbled and honoured at the same time.”

She was in Thimphu on a vacation, having secured a job as deputy registrar of South Asian University in New Delhi in India early this year.

“It was my fortune that I could attend the event,” she said, adding she felt immense honour in having His Majesty reading out her name.

Having taught His Majesty in Yangchenphug higher secondary school, where she served as a teacher and assistant principal, she vividly recalls His Majesty as “brilliant and creative student”.

“He was very passionate in learning and helping other students,” she said. “He was a lovable person and, sure enough, a lovable king today.”

The award, she said, was indicative of the immense importance given to teachers and teaching profession.

“I want to share it with all the teachers and those in education ministry,” said Maina Kharga, who last worked with department of adult and higher education before resigning this January.

“I’d like to urge all the teachers to continue working hard with utmost dedication,” she said, adding, as for herself, she has given her best so far and would continue working hard to serve every possible way.

Originally from Tsholingkhar, Tsirang, she served as the principal of Motithang Higher Secondary School for the longest time.

By Kesang Dema

Forester honoured for lifetime of service

IMG_9711Kaka Tshering and his wife

Chief forest officer in Paro Kaka Tshering, received the National Order of Merit

Award: It was only after His Majesty announced his name that chief forest officer of Paro division, Kaka Tshering realised he was one of the recipients of National Order of Merit (Gold).

“By then, a chamberlain was already in front of me to escort me to the ground,” he said.

Kaka Tshering, 56, said, with many similar names in the country, he thought it was some one else and, like many people who gathered at Changlingmithang and listened to His Majesty’s address to the nation, he  thought it was Paro’s National Council member.

“I was surprised, since I only came to attend the National Day celebration but wasn’t aware of the award” he said. “But I’m so happy that His Majesty had recognised my 31 years of service protecting nature and its resources.”

Kaka Tshering said he and his family were over joyed to receive the medal from His Majesty.  He also received the civil service award (Gold) on Sunday.

Receiving the two medals instilled a sense of more responsibility and dedication in his heart, and he would promise to continue working hard to conserve nature and deliver public service in the next two and a half years before he superannuates, he said.

Claiming to know the forest in the country like the back of his hand, he said his contribution was in implementing laws framed for nature conservation and curbing illegal forest activities.

From Nemjo in Paro, Kaka Tshering studied in the then Paro central school, Sherubtse college and did a forest ranger course from Kurseong, India.

He served as camp in-charge officer for forest resources and development division, range officer in Samdrupjongkhar, instructor for the then Bhutan forest institute, division forest officer in Tsirang and Samdrupjongkhar.

His major achievements, he said, were in developing infrastructure like forest check post to curb illegal movement of forest products and risking his life patrolling and apprehending poachers, both within and outside the country.

Within a year after he came to Paro division, more than 200 poachers were apprehended in the area, and a fine of more than Nu 5.2M was imposed.

Dedicating the National Order of Merit to his family and colleagues, he said it was important for all foresters to serve the nation with full sincerity.

“I’m almost superannuating but I don’t have any assets. My children are my only assets,” he said. “It’s a must for foresters to refrain from involving in corrupt practices at the cost of natural resources.”

His award, Kaka Tshering said, should motivate other foresters.

The chief forest officer’s daughter, Tshering Zam, who is also a forest officer at wildlife conservation division, said the family was often disappointed he broke promises of being together because of work.

“But the award made up for all the times he couldn’t be with us. We are so proud of him” she said. “We thank His Majesty for such an honour awarded to our father.”

By Tashi Dema

National Day celebrated internationally

996073_10151702828956887_5-copyMelbourne, Australia

Occasion: The 106th National Day celebrations transcended borders this year, with Bhutanese communities living abroad joining in the celebrations.

More than 90 students from different universities in Bangkok joined the nation yesterday by coming together at the Royal Bhutan Embassy to celebrate National Day.

Although some students from several universities could not attend the program, as it coincided with their final examinations, some from Shinawatra University made it to the celebration, despite the “tight exam schedule.”

A press release from the Bhutan students’ association (BSA) in Bangkok states, “It was a time to remind the Bhutanese citizens how our forefathers have struggled to build our peaceful nation.”

The ceremony started with the hoisting of the national flag and singing of the national anthem, followed by a marching ceremony.  Members of BSA Bangkok performed a variety of cultural programs to celebrate the day, and watched His Majesty the King’s Address to the nation that was telecast live.  The BSA president, Dorji Penjor, also made a presentation of the BSA annual report.

The ambassador to Thailand, Singapore and Australia, Kesang Wangdi, joined the celebration as the chief guest, along with officials from the embassy.

In Australia, the Australian-Bhutan friendship association (ABFA) in Melbourne celebrated the National Day on December 15 by organising a picnic at the royal botanical gardens.  A cake in the colours of the national flag was also baked to celebrate the day.



Geneva, Switzerland

Meanwhile, in Japan, a symposium on Bhutan and democracy was held by JICA and the Japan-Bhutan friendship association. It was attended by JICA volunteers (both former and current ones) and members of The Japan-Bhutan friendship Association as well as Bhutanese studying and living in Japan.

The permanent mission of Bhutan in Geneva, Switzerland, hosted a reception to celebrate National Day on December 10 at the WHO restaurant, Appia 20.  The reception was attended by officials from the Swiss foreign ministry in Berne and the Geneva state council, ambassadors and diplomats, officials from UN and other international organisations, along with friends and Bhutanese living in Geneva and other parts of Switzerland.

By Tshering Dorji

Civil service award instituted

Those in govt. will now have something to show for their long years on the job

RCSC: Coinciding with the 106th National Day, which was themed “civil service” the royal civil service commission, on the command of His Majesty the King, launched the ‘royal civil service award’ yesterday.

The award, comprising a medal and certificate signed by His Majesty the King, will now be a regular annual feature, a press release from the commission states.

“The ‘royal civil service award’ is a way of acknowledging, thanking, and expressing gratitude to our civil servants for serving the Tsa-wa-Sum for so long and with so much dedication,” the press release states.

It states that today, civil servants, on retirement, have nothing to show for their services. “With the medals and the certificates, they’d have now at least something that they can show at the end of their long and dedicated career services to the nation.”

There are four types of service medals instituted.  The dedicated service awards has three categories where bronze medals are awarded for services of 10 years and above, silver medals for services of 20 years and above, and gold medals for services of 30 years and above.

The  civil service award was one of the new chapters included in the Bhutan Civil Service Rules, 2012 and shall be given with benefits.

Bronze medal awardees would get “one increment”, which shall be granted to the civil servant monthly until superannuation, over and above the normal increments.

Silver medal awardees would get “two increments”, granted monthly until superannuation, over and above the normal increments.

For Gold medal awardees, the service benefit would be “promotion to next higher position level if within the broadband or three increments,” the rules states.

“This award may be combined with the Meritorious Promotions granted by the RCSC,” the BCSR 2012 states. “In case of increments, the amount shall be granted to the civil servant monthly until superannuation and which shall be over and above the normal increments.”

The fourth is the lifetime service awards, where lifetime gold medals are awarded to civil servants, who had retired on or after May 20, 2011 – the day the Civil Service Act of Bhutan, 2010, was granted royal assent, after serving the country for their entire life.

While the medals and the certificates awarded this year are ‘service awards’, based strictly on the number of years in service, the commission states there will be yet another type of award for meritorious services, called the ‘royal civil service awards for excellent service.’

“Such medals will be very few in number and awarded for highly meritorious services only,” the press release states. “The RCSC hopes to initiate the ‘award for excellent service’ next year.”

While the commission officially handed over the dedicated service awards to the heads of agencies on December 7, the lifetime award recipients received the awards in person yesterday during the National Day celebrations in Thimphu.

“The number of awards for this year is rather large, due to the previous years’ backlog, but it should reduce drastically from next year awards,” the press release states.

“On this twin happy occasion of celebrating our 106th National Day with the theme ‘civil service’, and on being awarded the royal civil service awards, it is a unique opportunity for our civil servants across the country to pay tribute to our beloved monarch His Majesty the King,” the press release states. “His Majesty is honouring the importance of civil service by dedicating this year’s National Day to the civil servants, and awarding royal civil service awards including certificates signed in person by His Majesty.”

By Sonam Pelden

READ Centre opens in Mendhagang

IMG_3343The READ Centre at Mendhagang is the fifth one in the country ( Info and photo by Ngawang Phuntsho, READ Bhutan)

The Mendhagang Community in Punakha got a community library and resource centre on December 15, making it the fifth READ Centre in the country.

Marking the 106th National day, the READ Centre is named as Ugyen Wangchuck Payzoekhang, was opened by the Punakha dzongrab and the executive director of READ Global Tina Scabia. The day also marked READ Bhutan’s fifth anniversary.

A READ Centre houses, a library with 3,000- 5,000 books, magazines and newspapers, an ICT room, a women’s empowerment room that provides a safe space for women and girls to attend classes and trainings and receive medical examinations. It also has an early childhood room with child-friendly furniture, educational toys and reading materials, a multimedia and communications rooms including TV, video, DVD player, telephone, fax, Xerox, and a training or meeting hall.

Mendhagang village has a population of 2,086 people and has a primary school, a secondary school and an extended classroom.

Picture story

Black-headed Gull (Larusridibundus) spotted on November 23 at the Royal Manas National Park is a new addition to the list of birds in the country. This is the fourth gull species known in the country and takes the total number of birds to 689. (Courtesy: UWICE)


In Pictures: 106th National Day


Currency reserve stands at Nu 57B

The central bank has also been able to clear loan it took from commercial banks in India 

FOREX: Financial assistance received from the Government of India and other donor agencies in recent times has helped the country build its foreign currency reserve.

As of December 7 this year, Royal Monetary Authority that manages the reserve, recorded an equivalent of Nu 57B in foreign currency, Rupee and convertible ones.

That amount is made up of the USD 805M and Rs 7.1B it received so far.

Except for the borrowings made under the Government of India line of facility, the central bank managed to pay off the remaining costly borrowings from the Indian commercial bank’s overdraft facility and the swap arrangement with the Reserve Bank of India.

Central bank officials said the GoI facility from which Bhutan had borrowed Rs 10B was like soft loans, as it charged only five percent interest. Borrowings from the Indian commercial bank’s overdraft facility, which was all liquidated, had interest rates as high as 10 percent.

Besides, the reserve money that is invested in Indian banks earns the country, an average interest of around six to seven percent, which is higher than the interest paid on borrowings made from the GoI facility.

Borrowings under the swap arrangement, which amounted to around Rs 5B was also liquidated this year.

The swap arrangement with the Reserve Bank of India was an outcome of one of the recommendations the previous task force under the previous government made as a short-term measure to ease Rupee shortage.

Central bank officials said the Rupee situation had improved, partly because of restrictions on import of vehicles and housing loans.

The housing and the transport sector were identified as major sectors that drained the country’s Rupee reserve.

However, some economists said the Rupee position had improved because the government had not yet begun major capital works.

“Once major infrastructural activities pick up, it will start draining the reserve,” a central bank official said.

Rupee reserve will reach Rs 8.5B as the government last week received the second tranche of assistance from India for the economic stimulus plan amounting Rs 1.5B.

Such financial assistance go directly into central bank’s reserve, from which it then released an equivalent amount of Ngultrum when activities under the economic stimulus plan is implemented.

Meanwhile, the government is expecting another Rs 1.5B from India for the stimulus plan during the current fiscal year.

Dungsam cement plant, which is expected to be commissioned early next year is seen as another means to help ease Rupee position.

At one point of time, Rupee borrowings had reached a staggering Rs 20B.

By Nidup Gyeltshen 


Counting the cost of the windstorm

IMG_1365Dawakha villager help clear the highway

As victims pick up the pieces, a damage assessment teams does the rounds

Update: With 92 houses suffering damage from the December 15 windstorm, Dogar gewog in Paro was the worst affected gewog.  All 92 houses had their roofs blown away by the storm.

Villagers were assessing the damage to their property as early as 6am yesterday.  Some were tearing down damaged roof structures, while others were watching in disbelief the damage the storm had caused in the gewog.

It was still windy yesterday morning in Dawakha, one of the most affected villages in Dogar gewog.  Laden with bags and surrounded by kitchen utensils, like rice cooker, boiler, micromave oven, chairs and a few baskets, an elderly man was climbing to the Haa-Chunzom highway.  Panting and perspiring, he said he was trying to escape another storm.

Those unaffected were helping others or clearing the highway, which was blocked by fallen trees, entire roofs ripped off from structures, safety signs and falling rocks.

Still in shock, most of the affected villagers were waiting for local government officials to come and assess the damage, so that they could apply for insurance.

A house in Haa

In Haa town, most of the shops remained closed and the town’s residents were sharing experiences of the storm.  Kinley Bidha, a Haa resident, whose roof caved in, said her family was waiting to celebrate the birth of their first grandchild. “We were left homeless as we had to leave,” she said.

Another resident, Wangmo said they were busy preparing for the annual lochoe yesterday, when the storm blew off the roof. “Everybody ended up gathering the timber and planks strewn around the house,” she said.

Meanwhile, Haa dzongda Sonam Wangdi said an inspection team, including officials of royal insurance corporation of Bhutan limited (RICBL), district officials, local government, disaster officials, district kidu officer and thromde thuemi, started the damage inspection yesterday.

He said the damage inspection that started from Samar gewog has reached Haa town, and completed about 27 affected households in Haa, which includes eight houses in Eusu and Samar gewogs and 19 houses in Haa town.

The damage inspection, dzongda said was taking a long time, because of having to take records of all damage, and fill up RICBL insurance claim forms.  It would continue in Eusu gewog and others from today.

Dzongda Sonam Wangdi said, three other inspection teams, each including one RICBL official, has been sent to Sambyakha and Galking gewogs, yesterday.

Around 19 desuups and soldiers of the Royal Bhutan Army helped removing the roofs of the dzongkhag administration and court building.  On completion of inspection, the soldiers and desuups would help other houses in removing affected parts.

Meanwhile, officials of Bhutan telecom and Bhutan power corporation of Haa were busy repairing the transmission and cable lines damaged by falling trees and roofs blown off from structures.

By Dawa Gyelmo, Haa