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‘Babesa sambar’ was fifth deer to be rescued this month

SambarThe doe that was seeking refuge in the sewage tank in Babesa, Thimphu on February 4

Wildlife: The sambar (deer) that foresters rescued from the sewage tank in Babesa on February 4 did not jump into the sewerage tank by accident.

Sambar , foresters say, run towards river or water bodies, if they are near, to protect themselves from predators.

The deer was rescued and later freed in the forest above Khasadrapchu, and not Decehncholing as reported earlier. The latest rescue, he said was the third of a sambar from the Babesa sewerage tank.

Wildlife rescue and rehabilitation unit head, Kinzang Gyeltshen, said, since it is the dry period, without enough grass in the forest, deer come closer to human settlement in search of food, and get chased by stray dogs.

He said more and more strays are roaming the forests in the outskirts of the city, as picnickers leave leftover food. One good example, he said, is at the Kuenselphodrang.

Meanwhile, it is the fifth deer rescued in a month in Thimphu alone. Foresters rescued four barking deer and one sambar this year.
Records maintained by the unit show that in Thimphu 17 sambar were rescued in 2013, the highest so far. In 2012, 11 sambar were rescued.

Wildlife rescue and rehabilitation unit rescued 70 wild animals in 2013 and 49 animals in 2012.

The animals include takin, deer, goral, Himalayan black bear, wild cats, wild pigs and falcon and owls.

By Tashi Dema

Two pronged-approach to jobs for all

NCInformation and communications minister, DN Dhungyel answers council’s question yesterday

One, a Nu 1B newly named employment guaranteed program, and two, a direct employment onea

Report: If the cabinet endorses the proposal, about 2,500 unemployed youth will be guaranteed jobs in a year.

This would be done under the unemployment benefit scheme, which will now be called “employment guaranteed program”, an initiative under the new government as pledged.

A report, prepared in response to the assembly’s Kengkhar-Weringla representative Rinzin Jamtsho’s question, stated that the program would fall under “the special support scheme,” which comprises 20 percent (Nu 1B) of the economic stimulus plan package.

In questioning what the government was doing to achieve 100 percent employment, Rinzin Jamtsho said, nothing much seems to have been done about the unemployment benefit scheme.

However, with the labour minister absent during question hour on February 4, a written answer was provided.

The ministry will take up two approaches under the new scheme, employment guarantee program and direct employment program.

The employment guarantee program would have youth provided with jobs in sectors, such as construction, agriculture, hydropower, tourism and hospitality and information and technology, among others.

In the case of direct employment program, jobless youth would be given jobs in the education sector. The jobs include areas such as managing kitchen inventory, library, and gardening in schools.

Home and cultural affairs ministry, in addition, will also provide jobs in dzong renovation and construction works.

Private constructions, distribution of drinking water in rural communities, maintenance and construction of irrigation channels, and forest plantation were other areas.

Renewable natural research centres in gewogs and basic health units were also potential fields, where jobless youth could be gainfully employed, the report showed.

Along with the employment guaranteed program, two others, higher education support and senior citizens support, also come under the overall support scheme. But first, the cabinet will have to take a look at the report.

Under the new approach, attempts will be made to pool skilled and semi-skilled human resources in the country, and to provide guaranteed employment opportunities to jobless youth.

In addition, it is also expected to encourage “dignity of labour” among the unemployed, while achieving self-reliance in the country’s human resource strength.

At present, figures with the labour ministry show more than 50,000 expatriates work in different sectors, mostly construction, across the country.

The report stated labour ministry was hopeful the government would review these recommendations for appropriate decisions.

In aiming at gainful employment for youth, the government had pledged that it would have short term and long term plans to bridge the demand and supply mismatch in the job market.

Under the unemployment benefit scheme, the government had promised to provide incentives to jobless and deserving youth during the time they were searching for work.

By Rajesh Rai

Ancient rock art of Bhutan

RockThe rock face on which the art were made

Archaeology:Located along a riverbed in the upper reaches of Thimphu are a series of open-air rock art. These rock art are set on a single, exposed rock face that stands along a tributary of the Thimchu.

The contents of the rock art are varied in style, media, and theme. The earliest assemblage, which I label ‘prehistoric,’ includes several pictographs in red, along with a single petroglyph.

They are all zoomorphic in subject. The assemblage comprises a rather handsome looking mammal of the equid family; a four-legged animal with a pair of horns, rendered in an entirely different style, making it look a lot older; another horse-like mammal that is slightly engraved; and finally, two animals in flight. There are also other blotches of red – likely hematite pigments – but no comprehensible form could be deciphered from them.

The next assemblage is also in red, but is predominately made up of the letter ‘ༀ’, signifying clearly the arrival of writing and the prevalence of Buddhism in the region. This series, for obvious reasons, is from the historic period and, therefore, distinct from the paintings in the earlier series that lacked textuality. The historical layer is superseded by more modern mani writings in charcoal, and this layer in turn is succeeded by yet more mani mantras, in contemporary, synthetic paint.

Locals splash water on the paintings to make them more visible. This practice is, no doubt, detrimental to the survival of the paintings in the longer run, as it erodes the pigments from the surface. But part of the belief here is that the paintings are rangjung or self-arising, which is why they have not disappeared after centuries of washes.

It could be deciphered from the observations that the pictographs on the rock face represent several episodes of human habitation and expression. That the series of images evolved through time is not unusual for archaeological sites, but they must be understood in the right context in order to avoid the imposition of current belief systems to what is found from a distant past.

It is important to understand that, while the production of permanent marks on the environment may allow, especially in societies dependent on oral transmission of knowledge such as ours, those marks to be used as mnemonics and to establish the importance of the habits and practices of the mark makers, the transmission itself may not remain faithful through time. The images produced and the thinking behind their production are both subject to evolution, and therefore require careful contextual examination.

Thus, in this case, while there exists a cultural relationship between the site and the people living in the region, ethnographic analogies alone are unable to give us the answers. The ethnographic data collected informs us the rock art site is locally believed to be a ‘sacred site’ of the Zhabdrung.

The Zhabdrung would most likely have seen the pictographs, at least the earlier series, as it was along this very stream that he walked to Barshong from Mentsiphu on his flight to Bhutan from Tibet. Religious men and hermits, who wander about the mountains, also believed the site to be sacred. One of the paintings on the rock is that of Guru Padmasambhava’s riding pony. What is remarkable here is that the ethnographic data alone takes the date of the earliest pictographs back over a millennia to the 8th century AD. It is my belief, however, that the earliest zoomorphic pictographs are pre-Buddhist and, therefore, much older.

In the absence of a proven chronological benchmark, one could argue that the presence of the equids could be used as the terminus post quem. This is the most logical approach of establishing a chronology, but it needs further scientific testing.

Dating ancient rock paintings are extremely challenging, as the research on rock art made with organic and mineral paints is a lot less developed. It is at times possible, however, to relatively date these work.

In this case, the floor of the rock surface on which the rock art is found remains flooded for many months of each year, as the stream nearby swells during monsoon. The water, and the fact that the ground adjacent is washed off by the flowing stream annually make any attempt of archaeology within the vicinity almost ineffectual.

The horse-like mammal (zoomed in)

I have, therefore, attempted another relative dating methodology in this case – Uranium-series disequilibrium (U-series dating).
The successful use of U-series dating to date the calcite flowstone formed atop the surfaces of paintings in Spain by Pike et al (Science, 15 June 2012) provides us with a promising method to date the paintings in Bhutan, which are also layered with calcite growth. This is a less intrusive method, as only the calcite growth on top of the paintings is collected for dating, and not the pigments of the paintings.

Several such calcite samples and samples from the rock on which the art is painted were collected to be sent to relevant laboratories to accurately obtain a minimum age for the art. Assigning dates to the paintings is central to understanding when art and human symbolic behaviour began in the region.

Whether a Laptsa chorten, an engraving of mantras on rock, or a painting of a Buddhist master on a cliff face, we still alter our landscape, permanently marking our religious, social, and cultural identities and expressions. It is, therefore, worth to recognise rock art of great antiquity, so that we are able to protect and study them.

Our history not only began late, but is also punctuated by large periods of obscurity. Further, we know very little about the lives of the common people inhabiting the region, as the early available literatures primarily concerned with the religious communities, who were then the ruling elite. The earliest series of rock paintings are the first known prehistoric rock art in Bhutan, and give us a glimpse into a period of our land that has yet to be documented and understood.

I hope that this is the beginning of many such findings and the discovery of our ancient past. Let us keep our eyes and minds open, so that we are able to recognise and appreciate works of great antiquity, in order to better understand our distant past.

Contributed by Kuenga Wangmo.
She is a Bhutanese archaeologist and is currently a National Geographic Explorer.
She can be reached at [email protected]

Wizards lift winter championship trophy

BBThe finalists with Secretary General of Bhutan Basketball Federation, Tokey Dorji

For the second tournament in a row, team Phojas turned out to be second best

Basketball: Team Wizards once again got the better of their archrival, Phojas, when they beat them to lift the winner’s trophy of the winter basketball championship in the finals played yesterday.

This was the second consecutive final Phojas lost to Wizards. Wizards became the first club champions in May last year after beating Phojas.

Both teams reached the final without losing a single game and knew their opponents well.

Phojas were quick enough to take the lead through the first quarter. They kept scoring from every position with very few misses. While Wizards looked unsettled with their positions, their defense frequently slackened. But they kept chasing the score.

Ten minutes into the game, and Phojas led by seven points, 24-17.

In the second quarter, Wizards quick no-look passes and drives resulted in bridging the gap. But Wizards’ vigorous defense resulted in more fouls, while Phojas were maintaining the lead with most of the free throws.

Wizard players repeatedly questioned the referee’s decision.

However, Phojas lead lasted only until the last minute of the second quarter, which ended 32-33, Wizards leading by a point.

Wizards’ made use of their sharp shooter, who managed to sink almost every three pointers he attempted, in the third quarter. Phojas were then lagging behind by nine baskets, 62-44.

As the game advanced towards the final quarter, Phojas were desperate to narrow the score margin by attempting numerous three pointers. But they could sink only a few.

In the end, Wizards managed to hold on to their 13-point lead to end the game comfortably, 81-68.

Both winner and runner-up were awarded individual trophies and championship take-away trophy.

Passang Norbu of Phojas was the most valuable player of the tournament.

By Tshering Dorji

Ban must stay: gups

Local officials feel the situation in rural Bhutan warrants its continuation

Tobacco: National Council’s (NC) recent resolution to allow import and sale of tobacco products in the country did not go down well with most of the gewog officials in Trashigang and Trashiyangtse.

Except for a few, more than 20 gewog officials in the two dzongkhags Kuensel spoke to, mostly gups, claimed that coming in of the Tobacco Control Act and its implementation worked well in curbing both sale and consumption of tobacco in the rural backwaters

While amending the Act, the NC, on February 3, endorsed through show of hands lifting the ban in import and sale of tobacco and related products, while deciding that manufacturing would be disallowed.

“The number of tobacco consumers dropped drastically in the villages since the Act came into being,” Toedtsho gup, Dechen Wangdi, said.

He said he could actually tell that less than 25 people in his gewog of more than 500 used tobacco products.

“Even these people just chew tobacco,” Dechen Wangdi said. “Before the ban, more than 50 percent handled tobacco.”

Other gewogs like Yallang, Merak, Bartsham and Ramjar also attributed dramatic drop in both sale and consumption of tobacco in the villages to the coming in of the law.

“If we continue with the ban of tobacco, Bhutan can one day do away with smoking from society,” Merak gup, Gaydhen said.

Shongphu gup, Kinzang Wangdi said, within a short span of time, save for some exceptional cases, both sale and consumption of tobacco had largely become an urban phenomenon.

“We don’t have black markets dealing tobacco in villages,” he said.

Gups fear allowing tobacco sale would entertain even those off the habit because of its availability.

“Allowing tobacco sale would definitely flare the number of smokers that has now dropped to only a handful of villagers,” Bumdeling gup, Tshering Gyeltshen, said.

Shongphu gup said the ban must stay for the sake of personal health, which could save government millions invested in treating tobacco related illnesses.

Gups also said the societal ills of allowing sale of tobacco products surpass the good it entails.

Yallang gup, Chesung Wangdi said allowing import and sale of tobacco would be an opening for youth to pick up immature smoking habit that can worsen to bigger problems like substance abuse.

“The ban might not have curtailed adult smokers in urban areas but its heavy taxation and non-availability deterred juveniles from picking up the habit,” he said.

Jamkhar gup Cheku said the regulatory agencies must strengthen its grip at checkpoints, instead of legalising sale of tobacco altogether, because of thriving black-market.

“Implementing agencies are solely responsible for the black market that flourished,” he said, adding that the country, already suffering from widening rupee deficits, could worsen with importing of everything, including tobacco.

“To avert the situation, tobacco cultivation within the country should be allowed, if its sale is to be really legalised,” he said.

However, the gups maintained the ban stay.

Although some people ended up behind the bars because of the Act, gup Kinzang Wangdi said the larger interest of the country should be considered.

“I’m sure there are other ways to tackle this,” he said.

Meanwhile, some officials reminded that move to ban tobacco sale came from the gewogs and got enforced in some dzongkhags after much debate and deliberations.  It later went nationwide, with the coming in of the legislation.

Officials said there is a need for vigorous consultation before “the whole thing changed”.

The amended Act will be forwarded to the National Assembly in the summer session to seek consensus on the changes made.

By Tempa Wangdi, Trashigang

USD seized at Paro airport

Currency: Customs officials at the Paro airport yesterday seized almost Nu 4M worth of foreign currency.

Customs officials found the money on a Bhutanese businessman bound for Bangkok.

According to airport sources, the man had a little more than USD 47,000 and at least INR 1M in his possession.

The foreign currency was detected at the first x-ray checkpoint by customs and civil aviation officials.

While the man was eventually released, the money is still in the custody of customs.  It has also been learned that the man has claimed not to be aware of foreign currency regulations, and that he was carrying only one piece of luggage, in which the money was stored.

Foreign exchange regulations require that foreign currency, equivalent to or more than USD 10,000, be declared to customs at the time of departure or arrival.

The case is currently under investigation by customs.

In 2012, a woman was also detained after she was found carrying almost Nu 4M worth of foreign currency.  Customs officials then seized about USD 16,000 and about 0.4M Chinese yuan.  The woman attempted to smuggle the foreign currency in a box containing cordyceps.

Learning what it takes to become a leader

Some 100 youth took part in a weeklong YDF/UNICEF-sponsored training

Camp: Understanding one’s strength is what makes one a perfect leader.  This was what some 100 youth took home from a weeklong training at the “ethical leadership and mind training” camp that ended on February 5 in Phuentsholing.

Ranging between 13 to 20 years, the participants were both students and school leavers from various dzongkhags, including Pemagatshel, Tashigang and Bumthang.  A volunteer group, “young volunteers in action” brought the participants together.

“The camp taught me to focus on my strength and not on my weakness,” Sonam Yangchen, 17, a student from Phuentsholing high school, said. “You do small social work for the community and lead the people forward.”

Like her, many said that, to become a leader, one doesn’t have to be an adult.  A school leaver, Sangay Tenzin, 19, said the camp taught them how a leader should be active and respect the community he or she works for.

The youth development fund and UNICEF organised the camp.  Program coordinator Roma Pradhan said the objective of the camp was to let youth learn about “learning to live together.”

She said the camp organised activities like learning to make decisions, encouraging communities to do something good, and treasure hunt, which helped youth understand the importance of working as a team.

The founder and director of Ingenious Faces, based in Delhi, Apoorv Bamba, who trained the youth on ethical leadership, said the training was based on the UNICEF book, Learning To Live Together.

“A good leader will always work together and live together with a community,” he said. “A person should always use his leadership skills for people’s benefit.”

He said these youth were targeted for leadership training, because a youth need to understand what they are good at to lead a community.

The participants have been given assignments to help find their strength and help bring change in one of the communities. “Then we’ll try to find out if they were able to understand the training in our next camp, after six months.”

While the training on leadership is the first, this was the sixth camp the youth development fund organised.

By Yangchen C Rinzin, Phuentsholing

Picture story

Gearing up: Nyagoes (strong men) learn shot put skills, which will come in handy during the finals of the strong men contest on February 21 to celebrate His Majesty the King’s birth anniversary

Bhutanese taxi driver robbed in India

A Bhutanese taxi driver, Kuenzang Tobgay, 35, was robbed off his red Eco van, its documents and Nu 7,000 from his room at Hotel Alakananda in Patshala, Assam in the early hours of February 5. He alleged his two men passengers committed the crime.

Kuenzang Tobgay filed a case against the two at 8am yesterday at Nganglam police station. According to the statement with the police, the victim (Kuenzang Tobgay) was offered Nu 10,000 by the two accused to  hire his taxi from Phuentsholing to Samdrupjongkhar.

The taxi left at 11:30am and reached Patshala, Assam around 5:30pm, where the passengers had suggested the driver to spend the night at a hotel. The driver alleged that one of the passengers had mixed an intoxicating substance in his tea.

When the victim woke up the next day, his passengers were gone along with his car and cash. Nganglam Drungpa and the Officer in Command (OC) of Nganalam police station, Captain Kuenchap went to Pastshala to investigate the case yesterday. “We don’t have much clues now but we are investigating,” Captain Kuenchap said.

By Tshering Wangdi, Samdrupjongkhar

Consider reducing tax, interest on loan…

DrDr Harish Ahuja

…keeping the revised electricity tariff as it is

Tariff: Instead of a reversion on the new electricity tariff rates the government recently implemented, it is considering reducing tax or interest on loans for local industries.

This was one suggestion that emerged from the seminar on different models of electricity pricing held yesterday in Thimphu.

Hindustan Power Project president Dr Harish Ahuja, who was the speaker yesterday said besides electricity, there were several other factors of production that went into manufacturing any industrial produce.

He said there was a slump in the global market, the demand for industrial produce in the local, regional and global market had dropped in recent times and this was affecting their businesses.

“In my personal opinion, regulators who have revised the rates have done justice within the existing regulation,” he said, adding they had carried out their jobs within the regulation, to set the tariff based on the cost of supply and generation.

“Now if we were to ask the industrialists to sell their produce at a subsidised rate below the cost of production, they wouldn’t listen to that,” he said. “Similarly a distribution or a generation company cannot sell electricity below the cost of production.”

An industrialist at the seminar said electricity was the only cheapest raw material in the country, whereas the rest of the raw materials like labor and other factors of production were relatively more expensive.

After the seminar, a Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) official, while agreeing to this point, asked whether the cost of generating electricity was adequately scrutinized, and also whether the generation and distribution companies were efficient enough with their cost of production.

There is obviously a lack of due diligence in scrutinising the investments of the generation and distribution companies, which had led to increase in cost and hence consequently increase in prices.

“If you start using a Mercedes for the same purpose, which a Maruti car can serve, your cost will definitely increase,” he said.

He also said the return on equity, which was fixed at 10 percent for both Druk Green Power Corporation and Bhutan Power Corporation was unjust, given that it was six percent before the revision.

“Of course, cost would have increased by then, but when it comes to return on equity, the cost is already covered,” he said.

An official from a Ferro alloy industry said while they might have to make do with the revision, they were expecting some incentives in the form of lower tax contribution or lower interest loans.

With Bhutan Electricity Authority turning a cold shoulder on any rollback, industrialists were worried they might just be headed towards closure.

During the seminar, it was also suggested there should be competition at the generation and the distribution levels so monopoly was quelled, cost was reduced and prices kept competitive in the market.

“If there is more than one generator and distributor, consumers, both industrialist and household users, will avail electricity from those that provide the most attractive prices,” a BCCI official said.

The seminar was organized by QED, a private consulting firm along with the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The seminar was also attended by officials from DGPC, Bhutan electricity authority, economic affairs ministry, BPC, BCCI and some industrialists.

By Nidup Gyeltshen