Monday, 30 June 2008

Bhutan : GPRS and 3G service users very low

June 28: The GPRS and 3G services introduced by Bhutan Telecom almost two months back seem to be receiving a bleak response. People say the services are expensive and not very practical.

General Package Radio Services (GPRS) and the 3rd Generation (3G) mobile services which allows one to access internet and email services was launched by Bhutan Telecom in May this year. The service also allows users to send and receives other multi media like pictures, sounds and video clips on mobile phones. The user base for the two services has remained rather low with few thousands for GPRS and more than a hundred for 3G.

Mobile users say the services are expensive and not very practical. They said it is more practical to use the inter net at the cafes around the town and at the offices.

Bhutan telecom says it could not carry out a proper survey due to lack of manpower before the service launched. They said there was no bench mark or reference to fix the tariff. Bhutan telecom has received feed back from the customers about the high tariff.

Speaking to BBS, the Manager, customers care unit, Deo Kumar Biswa, said they have spent Nu. 3 to 4 Million for establishing the services. He said Bhutan telecom would like to make it available and affordable.

The 3G package service cost Nu. 400 and the GPRS is charged as per the usage.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Bhutan : A tiny glimpse into a small country

28 June, 2008 - "We’d like to thank the generations of Bhutanese people who have preserved their identity,” said Richard Kurin of the Smithsonian Institution on June 25. This identity is currently alive in the largest overseas cultural exhibition featuring Bhutan in the heart of the United States as a part of the 2008 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Long lines of people are waiting to visit a lhakhang on the National Mall and thousands of people are milling around the tents that have become busy workshops for the zorig chusum, centres for Bhutanese food and drink, and a large concert tent for folk and mask dances. A yak hair tent from Laya, manned by a highly animated Ap Tshering, is always surrounded by fascinated visitors pointing hundreds of cameras at him as he sings and dances and beams at them. Discussions are held all day on a wide range of topics that include the arts of Bhutan, life of monks, Gross National Happiness, folklore and agriculture, traditional healing, the environment, television and the media. And Washington’s National Mall is filled with the victory songs of an archery tournament.

The festival is expecting 1.5 million people and Americans, as well as foreign tourists of all ages, are visiting the Bhutanese exhibition, trying on clothes, taking part in the discussions, learning about Bhutanese food, watching the archery and khuru matches, and generally soaking in the festivity.

As Mr Kurin declared the festival open on June 25, His Royal Highness Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck asked the people to enjoy the “tiny glimpse into the living culture and traditions” of our small country”. “Bhutan’s age-old culture and traditions continue to provide the foundation of our identity,” he said. “It’s the essential feature that distinguishes us from other nations in this age of globalization and we’re privileged to share it with you in this Festival.

His Royal Highness’ address at the opening ceremony was received with repeated enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation. “Bhutan and America are indeed two very different nations … different in size, wealth, geography and population,” he said. “But together we share common values of liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness.”

It was an enjoyable opening ceremony as the governor of Texas introduced his state to the large gathering of people, two Texan bands performed Texan music, Sonam Dorji sang a zhungdra for the festival, and a representative of NASA spoke from outer space.

Many Bhutanese participants, some having travelled outside Bhutan for the first time, say that they are overwhelmed by the interest in the country. All the Bhutanese artisans, food specialists, sports persons, textile promoters agree on one response: “They want to know everything.”

A contributor to the festival, Ms Lisina Hoch, said that she and other friends of Bhutan were initially skeptical about the festival. “We were wondering if the money spent on the festival could be better used for something else,” she said. “But seeing how all the people are responding to Bhutan, I know that it’s really worth it.”

Eighty-year old Harry of the U.S. state Montana walked around the Bhutan section all day. “Thank you for bringing your beautiful country to us,” he said. “We’d never have known about you.”

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Bhutan : HRH Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck at the 42nd Smithsonian Folklife Festival

June 27: As thousands of people throng the National Mall in Washington DC to see the unique offerings of Bhutan, the kingdom has received a welcome marked with goodwill and appreciation at the 42nd Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

The authentic Bhutanese temple at the festival site has been offered by His Majesty the King and the people of Bhutan to the people of the United States in the spirit of goodwill and friendship.

In His speech at the formal opening of the festival, His Royal Highness Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck conveyed the greetings of His Majesty the King, the government and the people of Bhutan to the people of the United States of America.

Earlier in the day, HRH Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, the leader of the Bhutanese delegation was escorted to the Bhutanese temple by in a traditional chipdrel procession. The Marchang ceremony was held outside the Bhutanese temple.

The National Mall looks like a Bhutanese village with the presence of the authentic Bhutanese temple, several tents showcasing the culture and tradition of Bhutan and an archery match in progress.

At the temple, His Royal Highness offered butter lamps and prayers. His Royal Highness then proceeded to join dignitaries for the formal opening of the festival. While Bhutan is the focus country at the festival, the state of Texas and NASA are also taking part.

His Royal Highness was joined on the stage by several dignitaries including the Home Minister Lyonpo Minjur Dorji, the governor of Texas Rick Perry, the Honourable Shana Dale, the Deputy Administrator of NASA and the acting secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Cristian Sampere.

Our reporter Tshewang Dendup says the speech of His Royal Highness touched the hearts of the American people. For the Bhutanese participants, His Royal Highness has been guiding them with daily interactions with the artists, artisans and musicians and dancers.

With His Royal Highness at the festival site to lend guidance, assistance, confidence and inspiration, the Bhutanese delegates told BBS that they are deeply touched by this royal gesture, a gesture which has helped tremendously in making the Bhutanese participation at the festival a colorful, lively and interactive display of the kingdom’s rich cultural, environmental and spiritual heritage.

Bhutan : Poultry alternatives on the table

27 June, 2008 - Livestock officials are looking into the possibility of importing day-old chicks (DOCs) from Delhi and Pune in India to meet the scarcity of poultry and poultry products in the country that has been fuelled by the ongoing ban on the import of poultry products from India.

Two livestock officials are in India to check the viability of this option. They are expected to present a feasibility report to the multi-sectoral task force in Bhutan that would decide if it would be possible to lift the import ban from non-affected parts of India like Delhi and Pune.

The DOCs, if imported, would be reared by the livestock department and sold to farmers at a subsidized rate, according to officials.

Livestock oficials said that, since the ban of poultry and poultry products from India due to an outbreak of bird flu (avian influenza) in West Bengal, it had been tough to meet the demand of farmers and consumers. The recent ban was imposed in December last year.

The demand, according to the chief veterinary officer, Dr Karma Tenzing, was always there. “The import from India helped but, since we have imposed a blanket ban on India, we were unable to meet the demand.”

“Having explored other avenues, there’s no other way but to import from Delhi and Pune on the condition that it will be airlifted. There will be no land travel,” said Dr Karma Tenzing.

Last month, livestock officials brought in 2,520 eggs for egg production service from New Zealand, of which only 585 survived. This result, officials said, was not encouraging and the cost was high. In July, 600 DOCs are to be imported from New Zealand to see if it’s viable.

Officials also said that they tried to source DOCs from Nepal last year. It was unsuccessful as Nepal was not in a position to meet the demand. The cost per chick was as high as Nu 80 in Nepal, while in India, prior to the ban, it was Nu 22. In Nepal, despite the cost, it also posed greater risk due to proximity to West Bengal, said livestock officials. Dr Karma Tenzing further said that they even tried to import from unaffected countries like Europe and America, but it was too expensive.

There are three government poultry farms and three major private farms in Thimphu, Genekha and Gelephu, that are into chicken and egg production. Every year, Nu 200,000 is spent on each government farm.

There are several semi-commercial and small backyard farms owned by farmers in the country. Along with the ban, the demand for pullets shot up over the years, according to officials.

The pullet demand for egg production is 120,000 a year, while the demand for meat production is around 400,000 DOCs a year, according to officials. Of this the government could meet only 20 percent of the total requirement. The rest was met through imports from India.

The ban has served the local poultry farms well. The price of local poultry and poultry products soared every time the ban was imposed.

Today local eggs cost Nu 400 to 450 a tray in Thimphu and chicken costs about Nu 150 per kg.

Dorji Wangmo, a resident of Changzamtog, said, “It’s cheaper to buy meat than eggs. One egg costs Nu 15. It’s been months since we’ve eaten eggs.”

Major (rtd.) R K Pradhan, who owns the Wangchutaba poultry farm, said that supply has been in decline as the cost of production is high.

“We supply a few meat shops in Thimphu for Nu 120 a kg. When production is good, we supply around 300 to 400 kg. Eggs are Nu 200 a tray.”

Last year, 476,848.5 kg of chicken was imported from India. Of that, 1,331.25 kg was rejected. The local production was 73,213.8 kg, of which 1,829 kg was rejected.

The local egg production was 1,614 cartons while 92,362 cartons were imported from India. Livestock department officials, meanwhile, believe that the scarcity will improve in a year’s time. The department has plans to maintain parent stock to offset scarcity in future. They said that the present infrastructure is being upgraded with new equipment.

A poultry breeding centre will also be started in Sarpang next year, which officials say, would help in meeting demand and reducing import from India.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Bhutan : New Dechenchholing town deserted

June 26: The new Dechenchholing town in Thimphu looks deserted and abandoned with no one visiting the town.

A diversion from the main road leads to the town. Located below the newly built road, the cluster of houses which constitute the new town is not even visible from the main road.

11 families live in the new town. Eight of them run shops. They shifted to the new town six months ago. Shopkeepers said hardly any customer visit their shops. Most of the time, they sit around exchanging small talk. They said sometimes they cannot even earn Nu. five in a day.

A few meters from the new town is the old town. Here it is the exact opposite. The shopkeepers are kept busy with a constant stream of customers pouring into the shops. Shopkeepers in the new town says if the situation remains the same, they may even have to close shop and go back to the old town.

The shop keepers said even the city bus, taxis and the garbage truck ply to and from the old town. They said they have approached the concerned authorities and are hoping that something would be done to help them out.

Bhutan : 42nd Smithsonian folklife festival opens in Washington DC

June 26: The 42nd Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC in the United States opened yesterday.

The National Mall is America’s sacred ground. It is here that millions of Americans throng every year to see the history of the nation. And one could say that the sacredness of the ground has been further enhanced by the recent activities related to the participation by Bhutan at the 42nd Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

The moment visitors come to the festival ground, they are greeted by the sight of an authentic Bhutanese temple. Bhutanese builders arrived here ahead of the other delegates to construct the Lhakhang which has been drawing the attention of visitors to the mall.

The temple with intricate carvings and impressive frescoes is a visual delight and is definitely the centerpiece of the festival.

A Layap tent and several tents to showcase the living culture of Bhutan including dance performances are up and ready for the almost one and a half million visitors that will come to the festival.

Visitors will also get to see archery, khuru, degor, sogsum and other traditional Bhutanese games at the festival.

An authentic Bhutanese kitchen will show visitors the daily goings on inside a Bhutanese kitchen. From Sand Mandalas made on the site by the monks of the central monastic body to bamboo bangchungs woven by artisans from remote parts of Bhutan, Bhutan’s participation is spread over an area of three football fields.

There will also be discussions on several topics including media, culture, GNH and traditional medicine. The festival will carry on till the July 6.

While Bhutan is the focus country at the 42nd Smithsonian Folklife Festival, visitors to the festival can also sample the food, music and wine of Texas and 50 Years of NASA.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Bhutan : Pine loppers infect pine trees in Lobesa

June 25: Thousands of pine trees are destroyed every year by forest fire. And when there is no forest fire especially at this time of the year, a caterpillar known as pine loppers are taking its toll on the pine trees.

More than 500 acres of pine trees in Lobesa are being attacked by a caterpillar known as pine loppers. From a distance the pine trees appear normal. On a closer look, it appears as if all the pine needles have fallen. But when you actually get near the pine trees, hundreds of caterpillars, known as pine loppers are seen feeding on the pine needles.

Ugyen Thinley lecturer in forestry at the College of Natural Resources in Lobesa said he first spotted the caterpillars in 2005. With the help of his students he conducted a study in 2005. They found that the caterpillars appear when there is less rainfall and when the temperature is soaring. He said younger trees are more susceptible to the attack.

According to his study trees which grow dense forests and on the slopes are attacked more. This, he said could be due to the less moisture absorbed by the trees. He said trees which grow along the water course are not affected by the pest.

He said as of now there are no preventive measures. The only preventive measure he says is good rainfall and good weather condition. He said since the caterpillars are camouflaged and well adapted to nature, it is difficult for birds to spot them.

The first case of such attack in Thimphu was recorded by the RNR research centre in Yesipang in 1995.

Bhutan : Paro airport expansion proposal

25 June, 2008 - Paro airport could see separate arrival and departure terminal buildings, a broadened runway, modern landing lights, bigger maintenance area, and separate access roads, according to a new proposal plan.

“Our airport is reaching close to its capacity and this plan will ensure that we can handle the increasing number of visitors to our country up to 2030,” said the deputy director of civil aviation, Karma Wangchuk. By 2030 there could be around a million annual visitors on the higher level and around half of that at a medium level, according to a DCA growth scenario. “Even in the next five years, our tourism sector is targetting an additional 100,000 tourists, which will need more infrastructure,” said Karma Wangchuk.

The plan has been divided in terms of priority and size into short term, medium term and long term. In the short term, the arrival hall will see some offices giving space to a broader arrival hall with an additional conveyor belt. Turn pads will also be built on the runway to allow planes to turn around naturally without having to rotate on their front wheels. “This rotation shortens the life of the tyres and also damages the tarmac,” said Karma Wangchuk.

New lights will also be installed along the runway, allowing pilots to better gauge the altitude while landing. Work on relocating the RBA and Indian Air force quarters to a more suitable location near the airport will also start, along with river protection works, according to civil aviation officials.

“The medium term plan will consist of shutting down the present road to the airport and opening up a separate route along the river,” said Karma Wangchuk. He also said that there would be new parking spaces, a new maintenance area, and relocation of the cargo terminal.

The long-term plan will be building a new terminal building, which will mean that the current terminal will be for departures while the new terminal will be for arrivals. The new terminal will also house the arrival and departure section for domestic flights within the country. “Both terminals will be connected allowing tourists and visitors to even take interconnecting flights and avoid other formalities,” said Karma Wangchuk. The runway will be significantly widened on either side, which will meet Airbus airplane specifications, and separate parking areas will be designated for the two terminals. The apron will also be extended, allowing more parking area for more planes.

“If the project is approved under the 10th plan, the time period for the completion of the entire project could be between 5 to 10 years,” said Karma Wangchuk.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Bhutan : Audit Report 2007 record irregularities of about Nu. 200 million

June 24:
The Annual Audit Report 2007, recorded irregularities of about Nu. 200 million compared to Nu. 186 million in 2006.

Of that Nu. 144 million was recorded from budgeted agencies meaning government ministries and dzongkhags. The remaining Nu. 54 million was reported in corporations, financial institutions, ad non governmental organizations.

The Annual Audit Report says one of the major contributors to the increase in irregularities is the focused auditing of the Expressway Project under the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement.

The irregularities were divided into fraud, corruption and embezzlement, mismanagement, and violation of laws and rules, and shortfall, lapses and deficiencies.

Among the government agencies, the highest amount of irregularities was reported in the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement at about Nu. 49 million.

It was followed by the Dzongkhag Administration with 15 dzongkhag administrations showing a total irregularity of over Nu. 40 million.

Among the corporations, financial institutions and Non Governmental Organizations, the largest irregularity was recorded in the state trading corporation of Bhutan at around Nu. 41 million. The irregularity was recorded in terms of shortfalls and lapses.

The irregularity among corporations has decreased from Nu. 80 million in 2006 to about Nu. 54 million in 2007.

Of 500 audit reports in 2007, the royal Audit authority forwarded 32 cases of significant issues to the office of the Anti-Corruption Commission.

The Audit Authority recovered about Nu. 80 million in 2007, the highest so far. In 2006, it managed to recover about Nu. 46 million.

Bhutan ; National Budget 2008-2009 presented

June 24: The Finance Minister Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu presented the National Budget report for 2008-2009 Financial Year in the National Assembly yesterday.

The total expenditure for the 2008-2009 financial year is estimated at Nu. 23,072 million. Of that Nu. 11,500 million is the current expenditure. The capital expenditure is estimated at Nu. 11,571 million.

The social service sector comprising of health and education sectors has been allocated 24 percent of the total outlay.

Presenting the budget, the finance minister Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu said being the first year of the 10th five year plan and the resource picture not being very clear, the budget estimates has been drawn up giving priority to complete the spill over activities of 9th plan and including mainly those activities for which donor funding has been secured.

He said there has not been much time for the new government to prepare the budget in a more comprehensive manner taking into account all the pledges of the new government.

He said no estimate has been included for the Government of India grants since the break-up of the government of India assistance of 100 billion Ngultrums announced for the 10th plan has not been finalized.

Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu said the budget estimates will be updated as and when the actual figures are finalized.

A budget of around Nu. 5,500 million, which is around 25 percent of the total outlay, is projected for implementation by the dzongkhags and geogs.

The Finance Minister also presented the Budget and Appropriation Bill for Financial Year 2008-2009. It is in accordance with the Public Finance Act, 2007. The National Assembly members then began discussions on the bill and the budget report with the Opposition Leader saying that it would not be appropriate to enact the bill without finalizing the 10th Five Year Plan.

The house will continue discussion on the bill today.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Bhutan : Tobacco worth of Nu. 400,000 apprehended

June 23: Custom officials in Phuentsholing have seized tobacco products worth Nu. 400,000. The consignment was being smuggled in a truck.

It was apprehended at around 7:30 am on Saturday at Rinchending. This is the largest consignment of tobacco products to be seized so far. It was being smuggled in a truck hidden carefully under a load of fertilizers.

Custom officials told our reporter Kinzang Yeshey that usually loaded trucks have to stop at the second customs check post but the truck which was carrying the smuggled tobacco products refused to stop. Suspicious, the customs officials followed the truck and managed to catch up with it at Rinchending.

Officials said upon checking the truck they found cigarettes and chewing tobacco hidden below the load of urea fertilizer the truck was carrying. The fertilizers were meant to be taken to Trashigang while the tobacco was to be dropped at Simtokha in Thimphu.

Officials said the driver refused to reveal the name of the person who had asked him to bring the tobacco products.

Over the past few weeks, customs officials have seized tobacco products worth over Nu. 260,000 on three occasions.

Bhutan : Lack of rainfall affects paddy transplantation

June 23: Farmers of Ramjar geog in Trashiyangtse are desperately waiting for rainfall to start the paddy transplantation.

It is the paddy cultivation season and farmers in Trashiyangtse are busy with farm work. Most of the farmers in the dzongkhag have completed transplanting paddy except for the farmers of Ramjar geog. The geog grows almost all type of food crops. The farmers sell potatoes, maize and chilies to generate income.

Our reporter Dorji Dema says had it not been for the water shortage to irrigate their fields, Ramjar farmers would be able to produce rice in abundance. The water shortage is a perennial problem that has beset the farmers fro years now.

As a result today, the farmers in the geog are growing maize in their paddy fields. Some farmers prefer to grow paddy at least for their family despite the water shortage. Therefore they have ploughed their terraced fields and keep them ready for rainfall.

The Ramjar gup told BBS that the geog has an acute shortage of both drinking and irrigation water. Because of this, he said they have to depend entirely on rain water. He said the farmers have performed soelkha to appease the deities and pray for rain.

He said the farmers are now discouraged and some of their fields are left fallow for years. Some have been able to collect enough rain water to transplant paddy but without abundant rainfall, the paddy saplings are withering in soaring heat.

Today the farmers of Ramjar geog sustain themselves on imported rice from India. Ramjar geog has more than 300 households.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Bhutan : Dakpai do-it-yourself afforestation

23 June, 2008 - Torrential rain did not deter 75 people in Dakpai, Zhemgang, from planting tree saplings and live cuttings on a five-acre area above the Zhemgang–Trongsa highway on June 20.

The stability of the area, about 14 km from Zhemgang town, has become important for 15 households of the village as a small stream that flows through the place causes landslides every monsoon, blocking the road and posing a threat to the villagers.

Recognising the importance of the stabilising the area, officials from the divisional forest office and civil servants from Zhemgang dzongkhag planted 5000 champ, bakain, bamboo, persia, angaray, walnut and tooni saplings, along with live cuttings of sapium and erythrina.

The chief forest officer, B B Chettri told Kuensel that the land management campaign, through reforestation, was aimed at creating awareness among farmers on the management of sustainable land system through control of soil erosion and improving land productivity. The area falls in the 26-acre community forest.

The activity was a follow up of the 2005 land management campaign, launched by the agricultural ministry, a reactive action to the 2004 nationwide flood damages.

The divisional forest office also identified Refe in Trongsa as a vulnerable area and will conduct a similar campaign and reforestation activity on June 25.

Bhutan : Right to Information Act – Power to the People

21 June, 2008 - The Right to Information Act, once passed, will allow ordinary Bhutanese to be informed and get a responsible, transparent and accountable government. Though the Act was drafted in 2007, the cabinet is yet to introduce it in the Assembly. “Information is absolutely critical for fighting corruption and the government should introduce the act and enforce it at the earliest date possible,” said the chairperson of the anti corruption commission (ACC), Neten Zangmo.

“The Right to Information Act will allow a fair and just system, sensitise the administrative machinery and empower the people,” said the chief justice, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye.

On the origins of RTI Draft Act, the chief justice, who headed the drafting committee said, “His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo in his great wisdom had earlier asked that the draft of all major acts be ready before the constitution is passed.”

Under RTI, any Bhutanese can go to any government agency and ask for official information, which the agency has to provide within a certain time period or face prosecution in court. For example, a farmer can question the executing agencies on how exactly money was spent for his water supply. “RTI is therefore an enforceable public right to access information in possession of any government ministry, department, nationalised industry, public corporation or any other organisation substantially financed by the government,” said Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye. “Information here pertains to all written papers, documents, drawings, electronic, photographic, film, audio and physical records, including all records of all administrative decisions.” The government agency would not be allowed to question the person seeking information or set conditions for giving information.

“The only exempt information shall be those affecting the security and sovereignty of the nation, personal information with no relation to public activity, protected intellectual property rights, prohibition by court order and prohibition by another act which mentions this act, substantially diverts public resources and interferes with lawful functions,” said Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye.

He said that the clauses could also not be misused by any authority to deny valid information. “Apart from national security issues, the police and the courts will also come under this act,” said Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye.

Under the Act, it will be mandatory for every government agency to set up an information cell headed by an information officer. The responsible ‘public authority’ under the act will be the head of the public authority itself. So it is likely that, in the case of ministries, the public authority will be the secretaries, according to the chief justice.

“The public authority will also have to make available to the public an annually updated detailed organisational and operational statement that describes its structure, functions, budget, decision making procedures, powers, laws, all categories of official information, advisory boards, telephone directory of all employees, facilities for obtaining information, policies, receipt of concessions and permits granted by it,” said Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye.

The public authority will also have to maintain all information in an organised and easily reproducible manner and provide it in the desired format at the cheapest cost possible. “The public authority will also have to submit to the prime minister an annual report on the compliance of the authority with its obligations under the Act,” he added.

“All information will have to be furnished within 30 days from application and an extension of 15 days will only be granted if information asked is of a large volume of records affecting government function, consultations needed to clear the request and also to protect any government interest or rights of any person,” said Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye. He also said that a maximum three-month extension would be possible in exceptional cases like a national calamity of large proportions. But any extension or denial would have to be submitted in written form by the public authority. “If any information is not provided within time or any reasonable extension not applied for in writing, then it can be taken as denial,” said the chief justice.

“In case of denial of any information, the court can be approached which will decide the case under the civil and criminal procedures code of Bhutan on the lines of administrative adjudication, liability for damages, denial of information and contempt of court,” said Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye.

On introducing the Act, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley did not commit to a specific date but said that the current acts were taking longer than expected to be passed and also that the cabinet would have to discuss the RTI Act before introducing it.

The minister for works and human settlement, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, said, “The Act is important for democracy, fighting corruption and keeping people informed.”

“However, since RTI is a fundamental right, even if the government has not passed the act, anybody can go and apply for information and, on being denied, can move the high court, which in turn can ask the government to fulfill its constitutional obligations,” said Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye. The RTI is already a fundamental right given under the constitution to every Bhutanese citizen.

He also said that the powers of judicial review will make sure that the basic framework of RTI and the constitution supporting it cannot be changed.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Bhutan : The balanced path of GNH

21 June, 2008 - "We’ve a very special event with very special people here today.”

The speaker was the president of the Asia Society, Dr Vishakha N Desai. The special event was a discussion on Gross National Happiness and a mask dance programme held at Asia Society’s head office in New York. The special people referred to were His Royal Highness Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck and 23 Bhutanese people, who were in New York for a programme on Bhutan.

Opening the event, His Royal Highness told the gathering that GNH underpinned Bhutan’s entire development strategy in the pursuit of harmony, contentment, and happiness for the people of Bhutan. He said that the concept was gaining popularity as societies everywhere grappled with a balancing act between material development on one hand and social well being - in its broadest sense – on the other.

“… it is important for all of us, especially in Bhutan, not to lose sight of the deeper vision underpinning the concept of Gross National Happiness,” he said. “… and if some way of measuring happiness in numbers is the target of development economists, then it’s important that the numbers remain the servant, and not the master, of the concept.”

“In recent years, some may feel that too much emphasis has been placed worldwide on the material aspects of development – often at the expense of the individual,” Dasho Jigyel said. “But we in Bhutan hope that greater awareness of GNH can help redress the balance – and, if we can succeed, I believe our tiny nation can be an example to others too.”

Speakers – the home and culture minister, Lyonpo Minjur Dorji, advisor to the National Environment Commission, Dasho Paljor Dorji, Chime Pedan of Tarayana Foundation, and Dasho Kinley Dorji of Kuensel – elaborated on the four pillars of Gross National Happiness.

The in-depth discussions covered a range of topics, from monarchy and politics to education, from alcoholism and youth issues to the environment, and from spirituality and culture to the economy. “Happiness has become a frivolous term in the United States,” said one participant. “We thank Bhutan for giving the concept true meaning.”

The discussion, on the four pillars of GNH, was attended by about 110 prominent people from organizations involved in a variety of art and culture projects around Asia and from families that have ties with Bhutan. More than 200 attended a programme of mask dances.

The programme was organized by Asia Society, in partnership with the Bhutan Foundation, which raises funds for projects in Bhutan.

“The event helped raise awareness of Bhutan among influential New Yorkers,” said the president of the Bhutan Foundation and Bhutan’s honorary consul in the U.S., Dr Bruce Bunting. “It was clear that people really did understand GNH better and became excited about it. The pursuit of happiness is in the U.S. Constitution but the society is moving toward materialism. We appreciate that Bhutan is trying to maintain a more balanced path.”

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Bhutan : RCSC announces transfer and appointment of senior officials

June 20: The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) has announced several executive appointments and transfers.

The Secretary of the Dzongkha Development Commission Dasho Tashi Phuntshog has been transferred as the Secretary of the Cultural and Political Affairs of the Cabinet Secretariat.

The former Director General of the erstwhile Department of Aid and Debt Management Sonam Wangchuk has been appointed as the Director General of Economic Affairs of the Cabinet Secretariat.

The former Director General of the erstwhile Department of Tourism Lhatu Wangchuk has been appointed as the Director General of the Department of Bilateral Affairs of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The former Managing Director of Druk Air Sangay Tenzing has been appointed as the Director General of the Department of Roads.

The Director of the Department of Roads Phuntsho Wangdi has been appointed as the Director of Standard and Quality Control Authority.

The former Director of the Royal Institute of Management Sonam Phuntsho has been appointed as the Director of the Department of Information and Media.

The RCSC has also announced the early retirement of six senior officials.

They are the former Zhung Kalyon Dasho Rinzin Gyeltshen, the former Secretary of the erstwhile Ministry of Trade and Industry Dasho Karma Dorji, the former Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources Dasho Pema L. Dorji, the former Secretary of the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement Tshering Dorji, the former Director General of the Department of Forest Dasho Dawa Tshering and the former Director of Dratshang Lhentshog Ngawang Phuntsho.

Bhutan : New Zangtopelri Lhakhang in Bumthang consecrated

June 20:
The new Zangtopelri Lhakhang at Kurje in Bumthang was consecrated on Wednesday.

The consecration ceremony was conducted by the Yangse of His Eminence the Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche, His Eminence Rabjam Rinpoche, and His Eminence Namkhai Ningpo Rinpoche.

His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, their Majesties the Queens, Her Royal Highness Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck and other members of the royal family graced the consecration ceremony of the new Zangtopelri Lhakhang at Kurje in Bumthang.

The consecration ceremony was conducted by the Yangse of His Eminence Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche, His Eminence Rabjam Rinpoche and His Eminence Namkhai Ningpo Rinpoche.

Our Bumthang correspondent Wangchuk Tobgay says the Zangtopelri Lhakhang was built over a period of seven years with financial assistance from Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck.

It was built in memory of her grandfather Gongzim Ugyen Dorji, her grand aunt Ane Thukten Wangmo and her parents Gongzim Sonam Tobgye Dorji and Mayum Choying Wangmo Dorji.

It is also for the well being of the nation and all sentient beings.

Also during the ceremony, His Eminence Rabjam Rinpoche offered Tashi Zay Gay to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

Her Majesty the Queen Mother also constructed a three storied Ka-gong Phursum Lhakhang at Kurje.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Bhutan : Druk Air cuts flights to offset fuel hike

19 June, 2008 - Druk Air, the national airline, has temporarily slashed its flight frequency on several routes to deal with the 25 percent average hike for the year 2007-08 in aviation turbine fuel prices and the lean tourist season.

Flights to Bangkok have been reduced to six from eight flights a week, with the Friday flight via Kolkata and the Saturday flight via Dhaka gone to the chopping block. The four flights a week on five routes from Paro to Dhaka, Delhi, Gaya, Katmandu and Kolkata, have been cut by a flight each.

Druk Air expects to make a cost saving of 28 percent of the operating cost, or Nu 6.5 million a week, from the reduced flying frequency.

It is also timely for the national airline as passenger numbers drop in July, August and September, the lean season for tourists visiting Bhutan. “We sometimes have only about 20 passengers when we can carry 114 and, with the increase in the fuel price everywhere in the world, it has now become imperative to maintain costs,” said the deputy managing director of the Druk Air, Tandin Jamtsho, who went on to add that 45 percent of the airline operating cost goes on fuel.

He went on to say that the management was also contemplating increasing airfares. “We’ll be able to work out the airfare in a week’s time and we want to fix the fare by comparing it to the other competitive airlines,” said Tandin Jamtsho. “We’ll make sure that the rise in the airfare will be marginal so that it doesn’t pinch passenger pockets.”

The regular air timetable will, however, resume with the start of the autumn tourist season in October, said Druk Air officials.

A finance officer in Druk Air, Rinzin Dorji, said that aviation fuel price varied from month to month but since mid-2007 the fluctuation was sudden and very steep.

Following the global crude oil price hike, state-owned oil firms in India have increased additional fuel surcharges by Rs 300 on short-haul routes and Rs 550 on long-haul routes per passenger to cushion the 18.5 percent increase in price of aviation turbine fuel in India.

Druk Air sources aviation fuel from India.

The station manager of Bhutan oil distributors (BOD) in Paro, Sonam Namgyal, said that the Grade JET-A-1 aviation turbine fuel (ATF), that has a freezing point of -470C and a flashpoint of 380C, is the most viable fuel for all commercial flights. The fuel is transported from the Hashimara aviation fuel station in West Bengal, India.

Druk Air lifts an average of 50,000 litres a month from the Bhutan oil distributors’ station in Paro. It also refuels at different airports outside Bhutan.

According to Rinzin Dorji, aviation turbine fuel costs Rs 56.10 in Kolkata, Rs 51.88 in Delhi, Rs 65 in Katmandu, Rs 52.95 in Gaya, Nu 54.31 in Dhaka, Nu 43.80 in Bangkok and Nu 63.17 in Bhutan. “The high price in Bhutan is mainly because of transportation, commission and shrinkage charges that BOD include in their selling price of the fuel,” said Rinzin Dorji.

Druk Air also uplifts fuel from Bangkok, Delhi and Kolkata, where the prices are relatively lower.

Bhutan : Windstorm victims receive Kidu

19 June, 2008 - In order to ensure the effective delivery of kidu to the most deserving sections of society, His Majesty the King has instructed Their Royal Highnesses the Princesses to constantly travel and work in various dzongkhags.

Their Royal Highnesses Ashi Dechen Yangzom Wangchuck and Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck have been based since 2006 in Mongar and Bumthang respectively as His Majesty’s Representatives for people’s welfare.

Most recently, HRH Ashi Dechen Yangzom Wangchuck, on behalf of His Majesty the King, visited the affected areas in Trashigang, Pemagatshel and Samdrup Jongkhar, for over a week and met with victims of the recent windstorm. Her Royal Highness conveyed His Majesty’s kidu to a total of 517 households who had suffered damages.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Bhutan : Key appointees to cabinet secretariat

home 18 June, 2008 -The government has appointed 10 people into the cabinet secretariat to monitor and coordinate activities related to the economy, infrastructure, culture, social, agriculture, coordination and monitoring, economic, information, grievance and good governance.

Of the ten, five are DPT party members hired on contract, while the other five are civil servants.

In reply to rumours that the 10 would be part of the prime minister’s office (PMO), Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley said, “There’ll be no separate prime minister’s office because, in the experience of other countries, a separate PMO leads to a separate power centre, which we want to avoid. These appointees will be working for the cabinet secretariat and will have responsibilities of coordinating and monitoring key sectors for the cabinet.” He also said that these slots had actually been offered by the RCSC much before and the cabinet had taken up only a part of them.

According to reliable sources, there will be three main divisions and some independent sectors. “The main overall function is to ensure that the DPT government’s manifesto programmes are being carried out and, since most will be implemented by the bureaucracy, we need to make sure that they are in sync with the government’s commitments to the people,” said an official. These people will have to see that the plans and programs of the government are being carried out, do research and analysis and discuss any policy issues that may need changes. This team may also do field visits and compile reports for the cabinet.

The first division is the coordination and monitoring division, under which sectors like social, economic, agriculture, culture and infrastructure will fall, each headed by a person. This division will monitor and coordinate with the various ministries for these specific sectors.

The second division, the economic division, led by aformer senior civil servant, will look into the macroeconomic health of the country, in terms of monetary policies, cash reserves and rupee balance, as well as the financial agencies like RMA and the banks.

The third division, for which no appointments have yet been made, is the legal affairs division. This office will be in touch with the attorney general’s office and also the judiciary.

Other cross cutting and independent sectors are the information office, which will issue all press releases and deal with the media. It will also handle any media issues and grievances that come up. The good governance section will look after good governance across ministries and sectors and the grievance cell of the PM will look into all complaints on service delivery issues.

The GNH commission and national statistical bureau (NSB) will be a major source of information for the sector heads. They will also have to coordinate with the policy and planning division of all the ministries, including meetings with bodies like DHI and constitutional bodies like ACC, NEC and RAA.

“The sectors will be taken as a thematic approach and not ministry-based, because all sectors will cut across multiple ministries,” said an official.

The appointments have not yet been formalised with any specific commitments and an observer said that the situation could still be fluid.

The 5 contracted professional appointments from DPT are Khandu Om (Social), Sangay Thinley (Infrastructure), Dr Samdrup (CaM), Dechen (GG) and Rinzin Wangchuk (Grievance).

The five in-service civil servants are Nyim Tshering (Agriculture), Sonam Tobgay (Economics), Namgay (Culture), Duba (Information) and Sonam Wangchuk (Macro economy).

Bhutan : National Council in session

18 June, 2008 -The National Council (NC), as a primary institution of democracy, apart from its legislative functions and as a house of review, will also have the power to challenge government policy through a motion of censures, according to the national council bill.

As per the NC bill, the motion must be proposed by not less than half the NC members, who number 25. “We can, for instance, challenge government policy, like joining WTO, if it is detrimental to the interest of the country and the people,” said an NC member.

The NC can also review whether the executive and the national assembly are functioning in the best interest of the people, by looking at whether the broad policy is constitutional and if it has any vested interests.

The NC also has the power to review and comment on legislative proposals or bills initiated by the government or the national assembly (NA) and ascertain whether the laws and resolutions passed by parliament and the national policies, plans and programmes are being implemented by the government and the people.

According to the NC Bill, the council can initiate and pass bills by a simple majority of the total number of members in the national council. However, money bills and financial bills should originate only in the NA, whereas any other legislative bills may originate in either house.

When a bill is subsequently passed by the NC, after it has been introduced and passed by the NA, the bill would be submitted to His Majesty the King for assent within 15 days from the date of passing such a bill. If the national council does not pass the bill, that has been introduced and passed by the national assembly, the NC shall return it to the NA with amendments or objections for re-deliberation.

In case the NC refuses to incorporate such amendments or objections of the NA, the bill will be submitted to the Druk Gyalpo, who shall then command the houses to deliberate and vote on the bill in a joint sitting.

His Majesty the King graced the first session of the national council yesterday. His Majesty was escorted to the National Council hall in a traditional chipdrel procession. The chairman, the vice chairman and the members of NC offered kusung thukten mendrel to His Majesty the King for his well being and long life and as a symbol of reverence and loyalty of the people. The session was opened with the marchang and zhugrel phuensum tshogpa ceremonies.

The chairman of the national council, Namgay Penjore, said that the council members were fortunate to be part of the council during the reign of His Majesty the King. “We pledge to serve the country with unwavering loyalty and dedication,” he said in his opening statement.

“We felt that it was a special privilege that His Majesty the King chose to attend his first session of the national council after the joint session and we felt immensely proud and greatly encouraged to look beyond ourselves and our constituency and serve democracy in the national interest,” said an NC member.

In its first sitting, the NC will review the national council bill, election bill, public election fund bill and national referendum bill. The NC has formed four groups to look at different bills.

“We aren’t looking for editorial issues like typos, grammar and basic translation errors but focussing on the main issues,” said an NC member. “For example, in the public election fund bill, we’re looking at whether the campaign fund should be determined by constituency size. In the election bill, we’ll discuss how should the national assembly elections go about if there is only one party.”

The major issue in the National Council bill is to distinguish and define the exact review functions.

The NC has also power to call the attention of a minister to any matter of urgent public importance. “It’s important for us to bring the attention of government to the victims of natural calamities,” said an NC member.

The National Council, an apolitical body, has 25-members, including five eminent persons nominated by the Druk Gyalpo.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Bhutan : His Majesty confers Dakyen to Opposition Leader

June 17: His Majesty the King conferred Dakyen to the Opposition Leader Tshering Tobgay yesterday.

His Majesty also conferred the orange scarf and Patang to the Opposition Leader.

Tshering Tobgay was elected as a National Assembly member from Sombaykha constituency in Haa. He is one of the two candidates to be elected from the Opposition People’s Democratic Party.

Tshering Tobgay graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the University of Pittsburg in Pennsylvania, USA in 1991.

Later he obtained a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Harvard University in the US in 2004.

Before he resigned to join politics, Tshering Tobgay served as the Director of the Department of Human Resources. He has also served as the Director of the National Technical Training Authority. He began his career as a Programme Officer with the Technical and Vocational Section of the Department of Education in 1991.

Following the ceremony, the opposition leader Tshering Tobgay offered Ngyendhar in the Dukhang of the Tashichhodzong.

Bhutan : India take part in Coronation Shield archery tournament

June 17: For the first time an archery team from Sikkim, India is taking part in the coronation shield archery tournament. The team took on Kay Dee Timber yesterday.

Two matches are being played simultaneously at the changbangdu archery ground opposite the Changjiji housing complex.

Yesterday Thimphu United took on USD11 and Kay Dee Timber played against Sikkim Archery association.

The secretary general of the Bhutan Archery Federation Dorji Namgay said so far 16 matches have been played. Two matches will be played on June 18. The finals are slated for July 12.

T.B subbha from Gangtok, has been playing archery for the last seven years. In Sikkim an archery team consists of seven players. He said the distance between the two targets is much longer in Bhutan.

However the dacham or the dance performed after hitting the target he said is almost same.

Bhutan Archery Federation organizes four tournaments in a year, two on compound bow and two on traditional bow. The tournament is being organized by the Bhutan Archery federation.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Bhutan : Alterations in labour rules

16 June 2008 - Paid annual leave will be 30 working days instead of 12, sick leave and paid leave will be 10 days and maternity leave will now be two months instead of 1.5 months, according to the latest modifications to the labour rules’ minimum standards being drafted under the Labour Act.

Even the proposal to pay gratuity and the employer’s share after only five years will be re-examined by the ministry.

The changes came into effect after the ministry had a series of meetings with private employers and employees in Thimphu, Phuentsholing and Gelephu.

The catch, however, is that, for the annual leave. employers have suggested that one day of leave be calculated for every 10.5 days of work. Also, it has been suggested that, instead of having the earlier 1.5 months maternity leave for three babies, it be made two months but for only two babies. The provident fund rate will be at the minimum 5 percent contribution from both employer’s and employee’s sides. Employers have also asked that study leave and extraordinary leave be included in the regulations.

Private employers also expressed that the penalties of prison term were too harsh under the child labour system. “Even these conditions are the minimum standards which companies will have to follow and they are more than welcome to follow better terms with their employees” said the director general of the labour department, Pema Wangda. He also said that some kind of minimum standards were needed to ensure that even small businesses could follow the labour laws.

On the unorganized sector, like small restaurants and shops where many Bhutanese workers are present, the director said that even they had to follow these minimum standards.

He, however, clarified that there were certain exceptions like the occupational health and safety clause, that applied to all except for farming, which makes the labour law more flexible.

Bhutan : The ‘stony’ legend of Soe Dzong

16 June 2008 - One legend, that still lives in the minds and on the lips of village folks near the Jomolhari base camp, pertains to the ruins of the Soe Dzong, whose conspicuous stone walls blend with the rocky landscape it stands upon.

The legend unfolds at campfires when visitors ask about the nearby ruins and is used to explain why the area is so sparsely populated.

The fable is about a tyrant king, who ruled Jangothang at a time when there were about 380 households around the present Jomolhari campsite. The king was not very happy with the location of the dzong and ordered his subjects to build him a palace at Bodhola, a mountain further to the south where there are still traces of spadework and cuts in the mountainside.

While the peasants were working and clearing the site for the new dzong construction, they again received an order from the king claiming that the top of a mountain had to be cut off before building the new dzong because it was blocking the rays of the sun.

The peasants were unwilling because the task looked impossible. Among the disgruntled peasants was an old woman with a baby on her back. She pinched the baby and, when it began to wail loudly, she said, “Better to behead a human than a mountain.”

The old woman is believed to have been the deity of the place who had transformed herself into a human and come to the rescue of the put-upon peasants made to work the impossible. She let the baby’s cry hide her voice from being heard by officers deputed by the king to supervise the work.

So the peasants held a meeting and came out with a solution that it would be better to kill the king than behead the mountain.

One fine day, the people planned an excursion for the king near Nubri. They took him to Mapkhay and stoned him to death. Mapkhay is believed to be full of pebbles and rocks.

Fearing repercussions, the people fled to La Chey La Chung, a place near the present day Indian state of Sikkim.

When the peasants left in large numbers for La Chey La Chung, they took stones from the dzong area so that they could pray and perform their annual rituals for the deity that resides in mount Jomolhari. They kept the stones aligned in the direction of Jomolhari and are said to worship thus to this day.

The stone groups still lying around the dzong area are said to be the remnants of the populace when there were 380 households. The present inhabitants of Soe are believed to be a blend of people from Lingshi, Paro and Yaktsa village.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Bhutan : Power Dressing’ from the past

16 June 2008 - The more than 100-year old raven crown and other crowns of Bhutan’s monarchs and queens, their traditional shoes, silken ghos with intricate patterns and dresses of other significant figures of Bhutan are among the items displayed as a part of an exhibition in Thimphu to celebrate 100 years of monarchy.

“Power dressing in Bhutan is depicted through the costumes of our guardian deities in their most ferocious forms when they are at the height of their spiritual powers,” said the director of the national textile museum, Singye Dorji, where the exhibition is being held.

He said that a person’s personality receives a boost from the type of dress he puts on. The exhibits demonstrate the theme of the exhibition ‘power dressing’. Other articles on display are mask dance dresses and some old thankas.

The exhibits were borrowed from Her Majesty the Queen Mother, the central monk body and other individuals. The exhibition will continue for the next nine months.

The exhibition was inaugurated by Her Majesty, Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck on June 12 coinciding with the museum’s eighth anniversary.

Bhutan : Changing Changla with the times

13 June, 2008 - At a rented apartment in Lungtenphu, Tashi Wangmo, a civil servant is scrutinizing a long shopping list written in Dzongkha. Besides meat and doma paney, the list includes beer, maggi (fast food noodles), and raincoats.

As she calculates the cost, her phone rings: “Don’t forget fuel for the power tiller!”

This has been a routine for Tashi Wangmo, who had been helping her parents in Toep Lembjakha in Thinleygang. Every year she takes leave to help her parents during changla (paddy transplantation) and every year she has noticed changes in the list. Taking a closer look, Tashi Wangmo sees a change in the culture of changla at her village.

This year the rain was timely and farmers in Toepbisa, like in many parts of paddy growing regions of Bhutan, are happy that it will be a timely changla. The scorching sun, the sleepless nights from flooding the paddy fields, the toads, leeches and biting insects do not bother farmers because they shall reap in autumn what they sow in spring.

Tashi Wangmo knows it. She has left her two infants in Thimphu with her husband and early on Saturday morning, she is cooking rice in a giant electric rice cooker. A few years ago, Tashi’s mother would be complaining of sore eyes from blowing her lungs out into the wood-fed stove. Now the entire village no longer has such ovens.

With the distant roaring of a power tiller, a line of women are already heading towards the paddy nursery fields - it is 7:30 in the morning. The smell of burning cowdung fills the morning air as it acts as an insect repellent. Looking at her digital Maxima watch, Chimi, one of Tashi’s sisters pulls out her Samsung mobile phone and dials a number. “It’s 7:30, are you coming?” she asks. After a brief pause, she shouts: “Can you call the others, there’s not much balance left in my phone.”

By 8 am a dozen women and men are out in the field. Aum Karma, the family head, had consulted the village astrologer and fixed her changu (start of changla) for Saturday. It is a good date, not just astrologically, because she can have extra hands on her field.

As in many other rice-growing regions, Lembjakha village practises shared labour, but now labourers are getting scarce because many people have migrated to urban areas with their sons, daughters and kinfolk.

“There aren’t many people here in the village now,” said Daw Nob, whose role is restricted to looking after his grandchildren. “Even children are studying in cities with their aunts and uncles,” he said, watching others work in the fields spread before him for miles on end.

Changla is the most labour-intensive and time-consuming of the three work cycles before farmers fill their huge boxes occupying the middle floor of their traditional houses. “Every helping hand at any kind of work is very precious,” said Aum Karma. She is lucky because her daughters work in Paro and Thimphu and are relatively at hand to help her.

Soon it will be the summer break for students and those in Thinleygang are also looking forward to help out their parents. “Everyone’s involved in it, so we also want to take part,” said Thinley Wangchuk, a class five student preparing for his mid-term exams.

Of late, farmers also realized that changla is becoming expensive. It is not the daily wages, but some new changes that farmers face when they cannot send the shopping list to their children in the cities. “Instead of ara (locally brewed alcohol), it’s beer, not tea nowadays but fizzy drinks and no longer simple meals but grand feasts,” said a farmer. Farmers attribute this to the shortage of labourer and blame a few rich farmers who spoil their hired hands. “If we don’t do the same, we won’t be able to hire hands,” she said.

With the mechanization of farming, farmers also feel nostalgic about how a changla is conducted today. Watching the labourers, Ap Daw Nob, 67, recalls how it used to be when he was a young farmer. “It wasn’t only working those days. There was pleasure and excitement during changla,” said Ap Daw. Reputed for his voice and singing the langkoe (a song sung by the man on the plough, directing the bull), Ap Daw laments the disappearing tradition. “Now with deafening power tillers, you can’t even hear the other person. Forget singing,” he said.

Duration of backbreaking work during changla has obviously reduced to a few days from weeks and sometimes even a month butm according to farmers, the charm and excitement has gone too. “I had the best pair of bulls in the village, and all the workers used to pause to look and listen to me when I ploughed my bulls and sang langkoe,” boasts Dorji Gaytshey, another farmer. “Today, even the strongest pair of bulls are grazing in the wild.”

The fun fair, that usually erupts in lewd and earthly jokes, has also disappeared. A strange tradition it may seem, but farmers said that in the past they literally bury, what they call, “feelings of embarrassment” a few days before the changla. “This is because when men make lewd remarks or jokes, family members in the working group do not mind,” said a farmer. “We have reputed people for that. But now, if you try to crack a joke, you’ll be stoned,” he said.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Bhutan : 8th Textile Exhibition

June 13: Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck inaugurated the 8th Textile Exhibition yesterday. The theme for this year’s exhibition was “Power Dressing”.

The exhibition was organized as part of the celebrations marking the 100 years of the monarchy and the coronation of His Majesty the King.

Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck graced the occasion. Their Royal Highnesses Ashi Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck, Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck, Dasho Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and Dasho Ugyen Jigme Wangchuck also attended the exhibition.

The exhibition consists of two sections, Power Dressing and Royal Collection.

The exhibition showcases Bhutan’s rich textile heritage. The exhibits include some of the best textiles of religious and historic significance.

The Royal Collection showcases ghos and kiras worn by their majesties the kings and queens and other ornaments including the raven crown.

During the exhibition, a documentary on the rich textile of our country was also screened.

Cabinet ministers, parliament members, senior government officials and representatives from the international organizations were also present during the exhibition. The exhibition is an annual event.