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Monday, March 2nd, 2015 - 8:56 PM
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Chief Economist at the World Bank Kaushik Basu called on Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay yesterday in Thimphu. Lyonchhoen and Mr Basu discussed about investing in information technology and possibilities of developing data centers in the country.

     

24 central schools to open next year

With funds approved, the education ministry is all set to start the works

Education: With funds approved to set up facilities, infrastructure and construct additional structures, the education ministry is all set to start the next academic year by piloting 24 central schools across the country.

Director general of the department of school education, Karma Yeshey, said construction works on central schools would immediately start as per the work plan.

The work plan includes construction of additional classrooms, laboratories, hostels, kitchen and stores, dinning halls, multi-purpose halls, play fields and games facilities, staff quarters, toilets, and procurement of school vehicles, furniture and equipment.

Karma Yeshey said a total of 49 central schools would be instituted in the country, which would all be financially supported by the Government of India.

Of the 49, 37 schools would be supported through project tide assistance (PTA), for which Nu 3,487.196M has been approved.

According to the education ministry’s list, of the approved 37 schools under PTA funding, boarding schools such as Dorokha Middle Secondary School (MSS) in Samtse have been allotted the highest budget of Nu 253.33M followed by Tsirang Toe MSS with Nu 192.10M and Norbugang middle secondary school in Samtse with Nu 176.47M.

Phuentsholing MSS  (day school) and Gesarling MSS, a boarding school were allotted the least budget of Nu 53.24M and Nu 53.50M respectively. Other schools were allotted budget between Nu 60M and Nu 100M.

Director General Karma Yeshey also said for the remaining 12 central schools, about Nu 536.428M has been proposed under the small development project.

“When we say 24 schools will begin as central schools by 2015 academic session, everything may not be in place at once,” he said. “But it would come slowly depending on the requirement of additional constructions and facilities of the particular school.”

However, he said there are schools like, Yelchen in Pemagatshel, Wangbama in Thimphu and Chundu in Haa, which could directly begin as central schools, as the schools are new.

He said for central schools with boarding students from classes PP-II, health services, nursery facilities, washer men and caregivers would be provided. School uniforms and bedding facilities among others will also be issued once the central schooling begins.

He said they are expecting about 80 percent of student as borders and 20 percent as day scholars for central schools.

On concerns from public on opening of central schools would result in closing rural schools, Karma Yeshey clarified that there are no plans to close schools in rural area. However, he said students of rural schools have choices to attend a central school, as there would be boarding facilities.

The initiative to institute a central school policy came up following issues on the quality of education issues as well as to help ease the problems of changing many schools. As of now, students have to change four to five schools to complete their school education.

Studies have also shown that whenever a student changes school, he or she tends to perform poorly. The number of students studying in classes IV, VII, IX and XI were found failing more, as they have to change schools. Officials said when students changed school, they tend to lose a sense of belonging in the new school, which in turn affected their interest in studies.

The central school and school reform program, which would be a priority for 2015, are also part of the Education blueprint 2014-2024.

Education minister Mingbo Dukpa also said the minimum number of students in a central school would be 1,000. However, if enrollment increased, the school would be expanded.

He said with centralisation, they could provide more number of children with adequate boarding and educational facilities to provide wholesome education, which meets the overall needs of the child.

The minister also said if the 24 central schools worked well, they would plan for more central schools in the next two to three years.

Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay said central schools would involve huge cost but all required infrastructure would be provided and its establishment prioritised.

“If rural villages want a rural school to run as it is, then it shouldn’t be closed,” Lyonchhoen said.

By Dawa Gyelmo, Punakha

 

Land fraud case judgment draws close

Update: The alleged corruption land case involving a land record officer is 80 percent complete.

This was revealed yesterday during Sonam Norbu’s rebuttal, where he submitted to Thimphu district’s bench IV his four-point argument and maintained that he is innocent.

However, the closing submission, where parties submit the summary of their arguments on the case thus far, has not been scheduled yet. The court would issue the judgment within 10 days after the closing submissions.

OAG charged Sonam Norbu with having manipulated documents to increase Chang Ugyen’s land holding in Omkha in Changjalu to 3.02 acres from 0.02 decimals, and for registering seven acres of land in Lubding, above Changjalu.

Of the six officials who worked with him, three have submitted their statements to the court. One attended the hearing yesterday.

“As indicated by them, I have no role whatsoever in this case,” Sonam Norbu said.

“I have no idea of the issue and only the gup, who has benefitted from the transaction, would know how it had happened.”

Further, during shortage of staff, officials would fill in for those missing and perform the tasks. So it does not necessarily mean he manipulated and tampered Chang Ugyen’s thram, he said.

He is alleged of colluding with the former royal advisory councillor, Chang Ugyen, when he was the official assigned to keep the land records of Chang and Kawang gewogs in 1987.

Sonam Norbu is alleged to have written to the then land record office that Chang Ugyen’s thram (ownership certificate) had to be changed.

In 2004 the then NLC director Lhakpa Duba and six other clerks working with NLC asked for forensic investigation to find out whose handwriting it was, but nothing conclusive has come out of it.

Sonam Norbu, in an earlier court hearing, said that the land replacement he acquired in Punakha, was a sokshing belonging to Chang Ugyen, was a land substitute after government took his mother-in-law’s land for developmental activities.

Meanwhile, in 2006 the Royal Civil Service Commission asked Sonam Norbu to resign on compulsory retirement. However, OAG prosecutor Tashi Gyalpo yesterday could not produce any more evidence as documents were destroyed in the Wangduephodrang dzong fire mishap.

By Tshering Palden

The due process

It is no exaggeration to say that of late, the phrase “due process” has become the buzzword.

The High Court recently reinstated a civil servant as his parent ministry had not followed due process and compulsorily retired him. The three government secretaries that were surrendered to the Royal Civil Service Commission has not followed due process in making important decisions. The opposition party has accused the government of not following due process in surrendering the secretaries.

The Cabinet responded that the same due process, which the opposition referred to was duly followed. Now the RCSC writes to the Cabinet conveying that they are not in the position to accept the surrendered secretaries as due process was not followed.

In the meantime, those following the developments are confused. What is this due process? The phrase is related mostly to legal fairness, but in loose terms, due process is treating someone with fair procedures or procedural due process so unfair or unreasonable decisions are prevented.

The RCSC has quoted several provisions of the Constitution, Civil Service Act and the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations on which its decision was based. It said that the Cabinet had not followed due process as the Civil Service Act clearly spells out that a  civil servant cannot be removed, demoted, terminated or administratively penalised without due administrative process.

The Cabinet had not removed, terminated or demoted the secretaries, but by surrendering them to RCSC, it has in some way removed them from their post. A due process would have been completed, had the Cabinet submitted all charges against the three secretaries with evidences and formally forwarded the case to the RCSC.

The government will not be surrendered for not following the due process! It has welcomed the RCSC’s decision and committed to provide details and evidences of charges to the Commission. With this due process followed, we will get a clearer picture.

Until the Commission issued the decision through a press release, all eyes were on the Commission on what actions it would come up with. With the Commission now asking the Cabinet to furnish evidences, some are pitching the elected government against the civil service. This is not the case. The RCSC is an independent body and will not be bogged down by such hollow reasoning.

It will go through the evidences the Cabinet will provide and come to a just conclusion. They have nobody to side or nothing to fear. The case in the hand is a test for the Commissioners as it involves the Cabinet on one hand and three senior civil servants on the other, but there is nothing to be overwhelmed or awed by the case in discharging their duties.

A fair verdict following the due process is what all are awaiting.

GoI approves Nu 238.8 M for Trashigang

SDP: The government of India (GoI), under its small development project (SDP) programme, has approved about 95 percent of the projects proposed by Trashigang dzongkhag for the fiscal year 2014-2015.

GoI approved 21 projects worth Nu 238.819M. The dzongkhag had proposed for projects worth Nu 251.268 M.

A majority of the approved projects include construction of new farm roads and blacktopping of the gewog center (GC) roads, which the department of road will do.

Although funds are yet to be released, the dzongkhag has already completed ground works like surveys and design works. Dzongkhag planning officer, Thinley, said tenders for the works were also floated after the approval of SDP funds.

“The ground works were already completed but tenders were not floated earlier because we were not sure about the funding,” he said. “As soon as the project funds are released, we would be awarding the works.”

GoI would first release 30 percent of the funding to kick start the projects while the remaining 60 percent would be sanctioned based on the progress.

GoI has approved Nu 3M for one kilometre farm road from Tongling Pam to Kharangpagpa in Radhi gewog. Radhi gup, Jigmi Namgyal said the budget would be enough to construct more than  four kilometres of road till Dui goenpa point. It is expected to benefit about 23 households

“With the construction of the farm road, villagers need not travel all the way to Chaling chiwog under Shongphu gewog to reach Dui goenpa,” he said. “Completion of the farm road would also mean 100 percent road connectivity in the gewog.”

A rural water supply scheme (RWSS) at Sakteng gewog will also be constructed. Sakteng gup, Tshewang Tshering said it would benefit 280 households of Sakteng and Tengma chiwogs.

He said that households in these chiwogs are divided into groups to share water from a single tap. In doing so, villagers were misusing the water supply with some keeping taps open for 24 hours.

“Because of such practices, there are high possibilities of water sources drying up. With RWSS, every household would be provided with their own water taps and management would drastically improve,” he said.

Under the SDP programme, construction of farm roads in Bidung, Kangpara, Lumang, Phongmey, Thrimshing, Yangnyer and Udzorong gewogs would be carried out. About 48Km worth of GC roads would be blacktopped as well.

Other projects include construction of an irrigation channel in Bartsham, a bailey bridge in Khaling and permanent structures at Kanglung and Samkhar gewogs.

GoI has committed to release Nu 1.8B in the first year of the plan to fund SDPs in Bhutan. GoI’s total contribution for the plan stands at Nu 8.5B.

By Tshering Wangdi,  Trashigang

 

High Court acquits defendant sentenced for rape

Lower court sentenced him to nine years in prison

Judiciary: The 20-year old man who was sentenced to nine years in prison for the rape of his girlfriend, a16-year-old girl, returned home in Gelephu after the High Court overturned the lower court’s verdict.

Gelephu dungkhag court on November 7, sentenced Narayan Kumar Kami to nine years in prison despite his girl friend challenging the rape charges against her boyfriend. She also submitted before the court that she was responsible for having consensual sex with him and not her boy friend.

The victim argued that she went after her boyfriend and lured him, since she had the personal right.  “It was my mistake and I’m responsible. But why should other innocent person be punished by shifting the burden?” she had asked the court.

The lower court, however, ruled that it couldn’t consider or minimise the sentence, even if it was consensual sex, as the law clearly says that a defendant shall be guilty of the offense of rape of a child above the age of 12 years, if the defendant commits any act of sexual intercourse with a child between the ages of 12 and 18.

Defendant Narayan Kumar Kami appealed to the high court to review the case.

Reversing Gelephu’s judgment, the High Court on December 24 ruled that the appellant has not committed the crime intentionally or knowingly that victim was a minor.

“Narayan Kumar Kami had affair with his girlfriend after she misinformed and misrepresented to him as well as to local government officials that she was born in 1996 and was already 18 years,” stated the judgment passed by the HC’s bench I.

While reviewing the case, HC’s justices established that the girl and the appellant, who were meeting over the phone for many years, met in person in July this year after the victim called him to meet her when she arrived in Gelephu from Trongsa.

It was also found that both  the appellant and his girlfriend before getting into physical relation had approached the gup’s office in Chuzargang where the girl informed the mangi and Chaskhar tshogpa that she was born in 1996 and was already 18 years.

“After informing the gewog officials and confirming her age the appellant decided to marry her,” the high court’s verdict stated.

Later, the girl ran away when her brother came to Gelephu to take her home. Then her brother reported the incident as a missing case with the Gelephu police. On investigation, it was found that the girl was only 16 years old.

“Since appellant Narayan Kumar Kami was ignorant of the crime the High Court has reversed the decision of lower court and released him from prison as he had already served more than eight months,” stated the judgment.

A justice said any person who commits a crime because of misrepresentation by the victim and the offender, who genuinely believes that he has not committed a crime, has the right of defense in the court and get reduced sentence or acquitted. “Therefore, the court acquitted him after confirming on his sentence which he had already served,” he said.

This was, according to HC’s verdict, also based on section 75 (a) and 76 of penal code, which states that, “ignorance or mistake as to a matter of facts shall be a defense if the ignorance or mistake negates the purpose, knowledge, recklessness, or negligence required to establish a material element of the offence”.

Section 76 also states that the defense of ignorance or mistake may reduce the sentence of which the defendant may be convicted.

By Rinzin Wangchuk

Connecting agriculture and tourism

The program aims to open up business opportunities by bringing together farmers and hoteliers

Tourism: A partnership program has been initiated to connect agriculture and tourism sector by bringing together farmers’ groups or cooperatives and consumers especially in the hospitality industry.

The initiative was decided following discussions between the Association Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) and Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC) to bridge the agriculture and tourism sectors and also productively contribute to the rural communities.

In the first phase of the program, 40 participants from various cooperatives and farmers’ groups from Thimphu, Paro, Tsirang, Wangdue and Punakha were trained last week.

According to ABTO officials, the five-day training focused on informing farmers of the various opportunities and institutions that could benefit their business. A networking program was also included to bring together community groups with the hoteliers.

“The first phase of the initiative would help build awareness and strengthen the capacity of farmers to understand the benefit,” an official from ABTO said, adding this would help create opportunities to benefit from tourists through their produce in future. “One such opportunity is a committed partnership with hotels that cater to the tourism industry.”

The training will be followed by facilitating a forum for networking and linkage besides signing of memorandum of understandings (MoUs) between cooperatives or farmers’ groups and hotels.

“The MoUs are expected to ensure mutual commitment to help them work together,” the official said.

The program is expected to build partnerships between eight to 10 cooperatives and hotels on several areas of partnership. The venture, according to officials, can then gradually grow and up scaled to include more participants and products.

The program is part of the Bhutan low carbon tourism project to create platforms to take benefits of tourism to rural communities and also fulfill the project’s objective of promoting sustainable consumption and production.

The low carbon tourism project for sustainable tourism was launched in 2012 to promote sustainable production and consumption practices across the tourism value chain.

Initiated by ABTO, the Bhutan low carbon tourism project is funded by the European Union (EU) ‘switch Asia programme,’ the largest international donor, and also the strongest global advocate of sustainable development.

ABTO officials said the program is dedicated to the 60th Birth Anniversary celebrations of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

By Kinga Dema

Gyetsa to conserve black-necked crane habitat

unnamed22 black necked cranes arrived in Gyetsa in November

The community together with RSPN is laying out a plan

Wildlife: Seeing an increased number of black necked cranes flocking at Gyetsa, the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) in consultation with the community are laying a conservation plan for Gyetsa as a winter roosting ground for the endangered bird.

The number of the  seasonal visitor increased to 22 this year from just seven about 20 years ago.

“RSPN’s plan is to initiate a project proposal either from local or global funding agencies who agree to fund conservation projects should the community be interested in protecting the cranes,” RSPN programme coordinator, Tshering Phuntsho said.

Following reports of attacks from stray dogs causing death to one crane, RSPN, community and relevant stakeholders came together to discuss and lay down plans to ensure safety of its winter home.

“RSPN is here to discuss conservation issues and based on these constraints will frame measures to address these issues,” RSPN field coordinator, Jigme Tshering said.

During the meeting, members of the community raised numerous issues related to both the safety of the birds and its dwindling habitat. Gyatsa tshogpa, Chundu Tshering said that naked electric wires running overhead the roosting ground in Urukthang is one issue that needs to be addressed immediately.

“Recently one of the cranes reportedly struck on the line,” Chundu Tshering said, adding  though it survived the clash, it still poses serious risks.

It was proposed that the transmission lines be either buried underground or realign it depending on the affordability.

The community also emphasised on importance of addressing human wildlife conflict to increase farming activities especially if it influenced the number of cranes visiting the community.

An assessment on the bird by Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) also highlighted loss of agricultural land and wetland as major factors contributing to decline in the number of the cranes in Bumthang.

“Most of the places now deserted by the birds are either from the loss of agricultural land or wetland to human activities,” researcher from UWICE, Rinchen Namgay said.

Samdru from Gyetsa also said that the study to assess the diet of the cranes must be conducted to find out whether it relied on wetland or farmland for its chief diet while here. “The plan must then be laid down based on the study whether to conserve wetland or increase farming activities in the village to avert adverse effect on the habitat,” Samdrup said.

Pet control, castration and sterilisation of stray dogs were also called urgently following its attack killing one crane.

Camera trappings of the birds showed that the cranes have stopped roosting in Urukthang after the attack from dogs. Rinchen Namgay said the birds are moving further down following attacks at every roosting ground in nearby villages of Gyetsa.

“There are reports of the flock getting dispersed at least once every night even now,” Rinchen Namgay said.

Chumey gup, Tandin Phurba also raised concerns over the health and safety of the endangered cranes with increasing waste management problem. The community also asked to lay down stringent rules on use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the fields.

WWF and RSPN will initiate the project proposal after observing the arrival annually.

By Tempa Wangdi

FCB to open shop in Pemagatshel

Business: Pemagatshel town shopkeepers are in despair that the Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) is about to open a retail shop against their request to the dzongkhag administration.

They say it would adversely impact their business.

About 22 shopkeepers including include 18 grocery shop owners, wrote to the dzongkhag about a month ago requesting it to stop the FCB from opening a retail shop.

However in response, the November 19 letter, signed by the dzongda stated that the decision to establish a retail shop was not proposed or planned by the dzongkhag administration.  It was the agriculture ministry’s decision through an “executive order.” The order, the dzongda’s letter read, stated that the ministry would establish retail shops in all 20 dzongkhags to stabilise the trade balance including food items.

“Hence the dzongkhag has no authority to stop or cancel their proposal for the same,” the dzongda wrote.

Dzongda Kezang Tshering said the dzongkhag was directed to look for space in the town to open the shop. “We’ve already provided the space but we cannot cancel the proposal made by the FCB as it is government’s directive that would actually benefit people,” he said.

But this decision has left shopkeepers worried. The officiating thromde theumi Dorji Wangchuk said the new shop would definitely affect their businesses because customers would prefer FCB retail shop’s cheaper prices.

“We get goods from FCB and then sell it at maximum retail price (MRP),” he said, adding they already have a FCB depot in Nangkor that supplies goods, so a retail shop isn’t necessary.

The shopkeepers said as the present town is a temporary one, no new licenses were approved. The existing town would shift to Denchi soon.

“But dzongkhag has approved FCB’s proposal to open a shop while there were many private shopkeepers whose licenses were not approved,” Dorji Wangchuk said.

Many shopkeepers said they pay tax for their businesses and a FCB outlet would kill their business. “The town is small and there are already enough retail shops.”

Another grocery shopkeeper Shawla said, “We have to pay tax so we can’t compete with FCB rates.”

Meanwhile the FCB regional manager Pema Wangchuk said the retail shop is to stabilise and regulate prices and not to affect business in towns.

He said it was found that the essential commodities were sold at a higher price than the MRP. “This was initially shared by local leaders sometime in April during a meeting,” he said.

The FCB outlet would sell only essential goods like rice, cheese, milk powder, salt, sugar and vegetable oil. “All goods have been sent to Pemagatshel and the retail shop would open by January 7,” he said.

However, the shopkeepers shared that their only hope now is from their elected representative in the Parliament to take up the issue with the government.

By Yangchen C Rinzin, Samdrupjongkhar

RCSC not in a position to accept surrendered secretaries

Latest: The Royal Civil Service Commission had asked the Cabinet to follow the Civil Service rules and submit with details and evidences of the charges against the three secretaries to the government.

In a press release that was handed over in envelopes, the RCSC said that they are not in a position to accept the surrendering of the three secretaries.

The three secretaries – cabinet Secretary, Dasho Penden Wangchuk, economic affairs secretary, Dasho Sonam Tshering and the foreign secretary, Yeshey Dorji, will “until then remain on authorized absence.”

The Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet surrendered the three secretaries to the RCSC on December 12 for exceeding their mandates, breaching rules, misusing the institution of the Committee of Secretaries (CoS), misrepresenting the government, and not keeping the Prime Minister informed of CoS discussions and decisions.