Saturday, March 28th, 2015 - 9:56 AM
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Two shops razed to the ground

IMG_5548Family members and police assess the damage left behind by the fire

Fire: Fire, suspected to have started from an electric short circuit, razed two shops to the ground around 1am yesterday morning in Khengthongmani under Kanglung gewog in Trashigang.

The two clustered shops were a single and a two-storied traditional house by the intersection of Udzorong farm road and Trashigang-Samdrupjongkhar highway.

Khenthongmani is around 11km from proper Kanglung.  The fire also charred a red Santro car, after its owners (fire victims from the two-storied house) failed to retrieve the keys from the blazing room.

“We could have salvaged some goods, but the power went off before we could make an attempt,” one of the fire victims said.

A short circuit from the electric wires behind the two-storied traditional house is suspected to have started the fire.

The single storied house was also razed to the ground by the blazing fire from the two-storied house.

Neither of the shops that both ran bars and general shops could salvage any goods and property. “We could barely wear our shoes because the fire had already burnt two rooms when we woke up,” the fire victim said.

By the time they slipped through the backdoor with children, the fire had spread to their bedroom. “None of us had time to grab a cell phone,” she said.  We used the cell phone from the owner of the shop next door to inform the police, she said.

Kinley Wangmo, who lived in the single storied house, said, except for some cash and clothes, she lost all the goods to the fire.

All five family members, including two children, from the two-storied house, and the four family members from the other house, escaped unharmed.

The fire brigade from Trashigang police that rushed to Khenthongmani was not helpful, for the fire had burnt the houses to the ground by the time it reached.

The fire victims received semso from His Majesty’s kidu grant, and relief kits from the department of disaster management.

By Tempa Wangdi, T/gang

The treasure within

Incidence of suicides bring unbearable grief to families and loved ones to learn of a life being cut short by one’s own hands.

There has been several suicide cases this year, the latest being that of a 28-year-old man in Tsirang.

Referral hospital records show there were more than 70 cases of suicide reported this year, including people of varying ages and backgrounds.

When people end their lives and increasingly so, we are left to question why. That way we might try to look for means to stop people from committing suicides.

The matter becomes more urgent especially at a time when, as experts in other societies have pointed out, other vulnerable groups might see these incidents and be encouraged to follow suit fuelling more such cases.

Who knows, the growing incidents recently might have been triggered like so.

Local medical practitioners say such incidents are a symptom of a developing society that occurred in other nations before us.

This makes it sound as though suicide cases are inevitable in the country, a natural trend of all developing societies that existed in other parts of the world and a phase the country has to pass through.

What of the phrase we always utter that are best placed to learn from the mistakes and experiences of other nations that travelled the very path we are today?

Caught in all these frenzied development activities and in our race to do more and compete to earn more, we are apparently losing sight of what we are becoming.

Drawing from the country’s guiding philosophy of Gross National Happiness, we always believed in doing things differently.

We had time, once to conduct our regular religious rituals, which provided us psychological solace, had time to visit friends and relatives that provided much respite after work and other societal and family gatherings, all bonds that gave the society its strength.

Families, friends and relatives were all very close that distressed member felt free to talk about any uncomfortable issues.

In this case, talking about suicide could open a vital line of communication and at a time when the country lacks adequate psychiatrists, it is this social fabric that can serve the purpose and much better so.

If we do not have the time for the activities in which we all once regaled in as a family, a community and a society, we are probably headed the wrong direction.

How different are we then from other societies?

If becoming developed means eschewing all these real facets of the Bhutanese culture and tradition then we become like any other developed country.

How are we unique then?

Mongar DT defines building colours

mongar-town-areaMongar town: Buildings should now be painted in white, red, pink or yellow.

Town structures from hereon may be painted only in white, red, pink and yellow

Thromde: To give the town an aesthetic and uniform look, Mongar dzongkhag tshogdu has decided that, henceforth, its structures should be painted only in four colours – white, red, pink and yellow.

Town thuemi (representative) Sonam Wangchuk raised the issue at the tshogdue last month, after he received a letter from the works and human settlement ministry to have uniform colours for the town’s buildings.

Sonam Wangchuk said the letter from the ministry had asked him to come up with four different colours for the purpose and submit it to them. “But when I discussed with building owners, they couldn’t come to a consensus, because the buildings are painted in different colours,” he said.

He also pointed out that many building owners had refused to choose the colours, because repainting a building wasn’t cheap.

Mongar dzongda Sherab Tenzin said, if building owners have to change the existing paint of their buildings, it would be a burden for them, as repainting involves cost.

To ensure the building owners are not burdened, he said the existing colour be kept as usual, but henceforth there shouldn’t be any more new colours.

Some building owners said, while the initiative was good, the implementation should be planned.  An owner said they chose the colour on their own and if the government wants to make it uniform, it should not be done against their wishes or at their cost.

A civil servant in Mongar said it was a good initiative that would improve the town’s aesthetics, because today there are 33 buildings and 18 old structures in Mongar town.

By Dechen Tshering, Mongar

PM stresses on tourism in Haa

DSC_0495PM at the National Centre for Riverine and Lake Fisheries in Haa on November 24

Lyonchhoen: Work hard to improve tourism, lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay told the sectoral heads and people of Haa during his recent and first constituency visit after assuming office.

“We’ll need to achieve more results,” he said, as people would definitely look for development activities in the prime minister’s dzongkhag. “People may question how will other dzongkhags develop when Haa isn’t developed.”

Lyonchhoen said Haa, as a dzongkhag, has “extra responsibility,” and that he would support in whatever ways he can. “There are already opportunities and, without supporting, I can’t expect good results.”

As of today, Haa has about five farmhouses and two “star” hotels, which, according to a dzongkhag official, was “not enough.”

“Indian tourists have shown tremendous interest to come to Haa,” the official said. “But most of them stay their nights at Paro because of lack of hotels here.”

On this, lyonchhoen asked the people and dzongkhag officials to find out how many tourists would come in the following years, and said he expects the district to do better in tourism and business in 2014 and 2015. “Look at how many hotels can be started,” he said.

According to the prime minister, the first opportunity to build hotels in Haa must be given to local businessmen and shopkeepers.  Otherwise, people from other dzongkhags could be brought to Haa, should they show interest to take up the business.

“If that’s not there, we can also bring foreign investors, who’d definitely come over and build hotels,” lyonchhoen said.

During the meeting, he also told people to make the existing farmhouses as per the tourist standards and requirements.

Lyonchhoen asked dzongkhag officials and people to make a brochure for Haa, which will include festivals, trekking routes, and its flora and fauna.  Opportunities in flowers and fishing are the areas, according to lyonchhoen, that would attract tourists.

“For the next Haa tourism festival, let’s sit together and plan,” he said.

Tourism in Haa was first opened up in 2001.  After Punakha and Wangduephodrang, hotels in Haa saw the highest occupancy last year, compared to the main tourism hotspots, according to the recently launched Bhutan tourism monitor.

By Rajesh Rai

In Pictures: Look at the brighter side

Dilapidated they may be, but helps save energy when its consumption is the highest around this time of the year.
Photo by Karma Dupchu



13 primary schools downgraded to ECR

IMG_5473Tongling PS is one of the four schools that will be downgraded next year

A possible fallout of rural to urban migration is falling student numbers

11th FYP: Short of children in villages, about 13 primary schools (PS) in Trashigang will be downgraded to extended classrooms (ECR) in the eleventh Plan.

Four primary schools, including Yobinang, Tongling, Jangsheri and Rangshikhar, will be downgraded by 2014.

This means that the 13 would limit admission to third grade from their current sixth grade.

These schools have failed to fulfill the required criteria for primary schools, which mandates a minimum of 100 students from pre-primary to Class VI.  At least 20 students each in the entry cohort is also mandatory.

Which means none of the 13 schools have 100 students in the specified class bracket with some recording no new enrolments.

In 2012, schools, like the one in Tongling, went begging for students to enroll in pre-primary.  This year, they had three entering.  They expect about five to join in 2014.

The primary school would also have only 10 students, once it is downgraded from its existing 32.  Nine will graduate from sixth grade next year.  Seven fourth graders are expected to join Tokshimang PS.

It is projected that only 21 children will seek admission in Tongling by 2018.

Others like Jangsheri have only 14 children for pre-primary admissions in the next five years.

Meanwhile, Barshong primary school in Khaling, Berdungma PS in Thrimshing and Thongrong in Phongmey will also join the bandwagon by 2018.

Dzongkhag education officer (DEO), Dorji Pasang, said the students from these schools would probably be sent to nearby primary schools to continue primary education.

“They’ll be placed to nearby primary schools with boarding facility within respective gewogs in different phases,” Dorji Pasang said.

The placement will begin from 2014.

Tongling PS principal, Ten Dorji, said students from his school would be sent to Tokshimang PS.

With the downgrades, Trashigang will be left with only 28 primary schools from the existing 41 by the end of this Plan.

Downgrading of PS tripled in 11th Plan, compared to just three in the 10th Plan.

Dorji Pasang said, although the number of children in the gewog census was quite high, most were from parents living outside the villages.

“Children of parents actually living here, the ones to study in these schools, are fewer,” he said.

Radhi mangmi, Pema Wangchuk attributed the lack of children in villages to birth control initiatives by parents.

“It’s also because of rural-urban migration,” he said.

“Parents are scrambling to enroll their children in schools in urban areas, while schools in villages are being closed from lack of children,” he said.

Meanwhile, downgrading of certain schools like Passaphu PS in Kangpara and Dungmanba PS in Lumang gewog, which have access to world food program would be deferred.

Downgrading of Jomtsang and Baypam PS is also likely to be deferred, to avert exerting pressure on Udzorong lower secondary school.

Dorji Pasang said teachers from these primary schools would be transferred to other schools, as per the required provisions.

“First, the principals would be posted to other schools to manage full-fledged primary schools,” Dorji Pasang said.

When asked about the primary school structures, the DEO said they would most probably be converted to ECR, or gewogs could make use of it.

Meanwhile, should any of these schools see increased number of children in future, options to upgrade remain.

By Tempa Wangdi

Gender bias in quality of jobs

Besides being paid less, women’s employment was less secure or led to poverty

GNP: Women in Bhutan are generally employed in low-paying agricultural jobs, while those employed in non-agricultural sector earned almost 25 percent less than men.

That quality of jobs for women was still an issue today, despite Bhutan making tremendous progress in female labour force participation surpassing the East Asia and Pacific average, was one of the findings of the Bhutan gender policy note (GPN).

Prepared by the World Bank and the national commission for women and children, the policy note was recently launched in the city.

Although there was little gender disparity in terms of overall employment, as indicated by the 2011 labour force survey (LFS), the report states, quality of jobs performed by women was an issue.

About 72 percent male and 67 percent of the female population were employed, according to the LFS.

Besides being paid less, it was also found, jobs held by women were less secure or lead to poverty. “Not only would improving job quality and productivity for women enhance gender equality, but it also could contribute to economic growth,” the policy states.

The policy note states, women tend to work in low-paying sectors, such as agriculture, which accounts for 68 percent of all female workers, against 53 percent of men.

About 34 percent of women were family workers, meaning unpaid labour, against 24 percent of men.  For those, who earned outside the agriculture sector, their earnings were 75 percent less than what men earned.

The primary responsibility of women being household chores and children also served as an obstacle in acquiring the required education and skills for better jobs.

“Improving job quality and productivity for women would enhance gender equality and promote economic growth,” World Bank’s resident representative and senior country economist, Genevieve Boyreau, said.

Education, age, location and type of jobs were the main factors that led to the gap in earnings, the findings say.

Poor academic performance, due to obligation to do housework leaving little time for study, and early pregnancy were the two main factors that prevented girls from studying in universities.

The report states there was no discrimination in wages and basic salaries for men and women, as wages depended on education levels and skills.  The only difference in earnings was for unskilled labour jobs that required physical strength, such as construction and farm work.

In case of white collar jobs, it was found the differences in earnings was as a result of men being able to handle more lucrative assignments, such as overtime, or those that require travel, while women couldn’t, due to domestic duties.

The policy recommends girls should be encouraged and supported to complete secondary and tertiary education.  Vocational trainings, tailored to meet women’s needs, and the challenges they face in the labour market, were also highlighted as equally important.

“Such trainings can marginally reduce the probability of unemployment among urban female youth,” recommends the report.

The report also states social norms about gender roles in households be addressed, and that men should play a greater role in sharing household chores and taking care of children.

“Basic literacy among women should be improved to encourage more open attitudes, awareness of rights and be part of the larger community,” World Bank country officials said.

World Bank’s senior economist of gender and development group, Andy Kotikula, said Bhutan should address the remaining gender gaps through targeted policy interventions. “It should be designed to fit the socio-economic conditions in the country to achieve maximum effectiveness,” he said.

By Kinga Dema

HH consecrates newly extended lhakhang and thongdrol in Drepong

Drepong-people-receiving-wang-from-new-Dolma-ThongdrolDrepong people receive blessing from the new Dolma Thongdrol

Religion: For years, villagers attending annual three-day tshechu in Drepong gewog, Mongar, had to start early to secure a spot at Woob lhakhang that had limited space.

But this need not be the case hereafter.

His Holiness the Je Khenpo, Trulku Jigme Chhoeda, consecrated the new Drepong Woob lhakhang that has enough space.

Along with that, His Holiness also consecrated the 30-foot long and 38-foot wide Dolma Nyeshu Tsachi Thongdrol on December 4.

Drepong gup Sangay Tenzin said work to extend the Woob lhakhang was completed last year, at a total cost of about Nu 3.3M, through government’s fund support.

The thongdrol cost about Nu 2.5M, for which money was contributed by civil servants, shopkeepers of Drepong and other donors.

The gup said, with the completion in June last year, the two-storied lhakhang could accommodate more than 200 people during religious functions.

Drepong’s former gup Pema Tshewang said, because of the small space, they had a difficult time handling crowds.

The lhakhang houses Tempa, Guru, Chenrezig, and Zhabdrung statues as nangten.  The thongdrol will be stored in the lhakhang to be unfurled every year for public veneration at the conclusion of the three-day tshechu and during important religious occasions.

His Holiness also gave long life blessings to hundreds of devotees attending the ceremony, and conferred Dolma Lung (oral transmission).

According to elderly people from Drepong, Woob lhakhang was built in the 13th century by a great Buddhist teacher, Samdrup Chogyel, who had meditated at Tshephu Goenpa in Drepong.

Drepong Woob is 41km from Mongar.  The gewog has more than 240 households, with a population of more than 1,094 people.

Meanwhile, the three-day annual Woob tshechu began yesterday.

By Dechen Tshering, Mongar

HH Penor Rinpoche’s reincarnation recognised

1422833_772059996144043_1046193517_nHis Holiness late Penor Rinpoche and his Yangsi

Religion: The administration of Thegchog Namdrol Shedrub Dargyeling in Mysore, India, officially announced the recognition of His Holiness Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche’s reincarnation yesterday.

“It is a matter of great joy and pleasure to inform all disciples and well-wishers of His Holiness Penor Rinpoche residing around the globe that our beloved root guru has been reborn in Tibet,” a press release from Namdroling administration said.

According to Jadrel Rinpoche’s prophecy letter, Penor Rinpoche’s yangsi or trulku (reincarnation) was born near Lelen Thramo Drag or Dung Lung Thramo Drag, the sacred place where Nyingthig Yabshyi (The Four Cycles of Heart Essence Teachings) was revealed. “Based upon this prophecy letter, combined with pure visions of Trulku Thubten Palzang Rinpoche, the yangsi was authentically recognised,” stated the press release.

A khenpo from Namdroling administration, in a telephone interview, said the trulku was born in the Water Male Dragon year, which would make him about a little more than one year.

The press release, however, said the yangsi would be officially enthroned on July 31, 2014, the auspicious day of Buddha’s first turning of wheel of dharma, corresponding to the fourth day of the sixth Tibetan month.

In the official announcement of the recognition of His Holiness Penor Rinpoche’s reincarnation, Namdroling administration’s general secretary requested all their dharma brothers and sisters to recite the Barche Lamsel (prayer to advert obstacles on the path), Sampa Lhundrup (prayer to spontaneously accomplish all wishes) and the Neten Chagchoe (supplication prayers and offerings to the sixteen elders) for the long life of the yangsi, and to overcome all obstacles thereby ensuring the success of the enthronement ceremony.

His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, one of the most profound Buddhist spiritual teachers, passed away on March 27, 2009 in India following a chronic illness.  He was 77.

The late rinpoche was the third Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche, the 11th throne-holder of the Palyul lineage, and a former supreme head of the Nyingma School in Mysore.  He was born in 1932 in the Powo region of Kham in Tibet.

Rinpoche had made special contributions to the promotion and advancement of Buddha dharma in Bhutan, where he is remembered as a great master and teacher.


By Rinzin Wangchuk

First 5D theatre comes to the capital

IMG_4582The Theatre’s entrance at the Central Plaza

Leisure: Adding a new dimension to the entertainment industry, the country will get its first 5D theatre today in Thimphu.

Located at Central Plaza, the Jigda 5D theatre, a combination of 3D and 4D, can seat 16 people at a time. “Bhutanese movies are the only source of entertainment and, as a businessman, I thought people here could also get an opportunity to get a different exposure,” the owner, Jigme Namgay, said.

Those three years and above can watch 5D theatre but, Jigme Namgay said, it was not advisable for heart patients and pregnant women.

The owner has lined up 30 movies for screening, with each show lasting for 10 to 15 minutes, during which the viewer can “experience all the effects happening in the movie”.

“Snow, wind, bubbles, smoke and movement of chairs, one can feel it all,” he said. “It’ll be a whole new experience and, even if the movies have no specific language, it will be an entertainment.”

Each show would cost Nu 200 a person, while special discounts would be offered for group bookings.

By Pema Dema