Saturday, 28 February 2009

Bhutan : Private schools in Thimphu grapple with admission pressure

February 27: Private high schools in the capital are grappling with increasing admission pressure in class 11 as the new academic session begins. Principals of the schools said there are more students seeking admission than seats.

This morning, many high school students who did not qualify for admission in government schools rushed to private schools in the capital to seek admission. Holding files of academic transcripts and other documents, the students queued outside the schools waiting for the selection interview. The principal of Kelhi Higher Secondary School said they have received over 500 admission forms but the school can enroll only about 350 students who have scored 57 percent and above.

Nima and Rinchen Higher Secondary Schools are also taking in about 350 students each. Both schools have received more admission forms than the available number of seats. In Nima Higher Secondary School, students are enrolled in class 11 based on the character certificate and other documents. Rinchen Higher Secondary School is taking in students with a minimum of 45 marks in English, Maths and Dzongkha. Students who did not get admission in private schools in the capital said they will apply in private schools in other dzongkhags.

In government high schools in the capital, the majority of the students are opting for science stream. At the Yangchenphug Higher Secondary School, more than 250 students are seeking admission in science stream against 160 slots. Last year over 7,500 students sat for class 10 board examinations.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Bhutan : His Majesty grants audience to cabinet ministers and government secretaries

February 25: As family and friends got together to celebrate Losar, His Majesty the King granted an audience to cabinet ministers, government secretaries and other senior officials at the Lingkana Palace today.

Cabinet ministers led by the Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley offered Losar Tashi Khadhar to His Majesty the King. The Chief Justice Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, the Opposition leader, the National Assembly Speaker and the National Council chairperson also presented Losar Tashi Khaddar to His Majesty the King. Also present at the Lingkana palace were the wives of the cabinet ministers. His Majesty then granted them an audience.

Government secretaries and other senior officials also presented Losar Tashi Khadhar to His Majesty the King. His Majesty then granted audience to the officials.

Many officials, BBS spoke to, described the losar this year as a memorable one and said they are honoured to be able to begin the New Year with an audience with His Majesty.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Bhutan : His Majesty grants audience to 2008 toppers

February 22: Coinciding with the birth anniversary of His Majesty the King, His Majesty met the toppers of last year’s classes 10 and 12 Board Examinations at the Lingkhana palace yesterday.

His Majesty spoke to the toppers and congratulated them for excelling in their exams and studies. His Majesty said he is proud to see such young brilliant students.

The students also offered Tashi Khadhars as birthday greetings to His Majesty the King. There were 14 students in total. Out of that four students topped class 10 examination and the remaining 10 are toppers from science, commerce and arts stream of class 12 examination.

Speaking to BBS, students said they were deeply honored and pleasantly surprised. They said His Majesty’s advice has motivated and inspired them to study even harder and perform better in future.

Last year over 7,500 students appeared for the class 10 board examinations and over 5,000 students sat for the class 12 board examinations.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Bhutan : His Royal Highness Dasho Jigme Dorji Wangchuck opened The Dragon’s Gift

His Royal Highness Dasho Jigme Dorji Wangchuck opened The Dragon’s Gift:

The Sacred Arts of Bhutan exhibition at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco yesterday. Members of the board of directors and special patrons of the Asian Art Museum, Home Secretary Dasho Penden Wangchuk, Ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk, and Bhutan’s representative to the United Nations, among others, were present at the opening ceremony. The exhibition was organised

by The Honolulu Academy of Art.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Bhutan : Yonphula domestic airport in Trashigang to be operational soon

February 18: Two of the proposed sites for domestic airports in Trashigang have been found feasible. They are the Bartsham airport site and the Yonphula airstrip. The Information and Communications Minister, Lyonpo Nandalal Rai, officials from the civil aviation, Trashigang Dzongkhag officials and geog leaders visited the two sites recently.

The Information and Communications Minister Lyonpo Nandalal Rai said the Yonphula airstrip will be operational soon. With that more tourists will start visiting Trashigang. Trashigang does not usually get many tourists because of the long journey.

Two domestic airports sites have been in Trashigang, one at Yonphula and the other at Dungphu in Bartsham. Both sites have been found suitable. The Information and Communications Minister said the Yonphula domestic airport will be operational soon as it already has an airstrip with proper road communications.

The Ministry will also study the feasibility of expanding the Yonphula airstrip for heavier air traffic.

Yonphula is located about 34 kilometers from Trashigang proper towards Samdrupjongkhar. It is remains gloomy and foggy almost throughout the year. Asked whether the climatic conditions might pose any problem, Lyonpo Nandalal Rai said it has been found feasible for planes to take off and land in the mornings.

The minister said the proposed site at Dungphu in Bartsham is approachable from all directions but a meteorological survey needs to be carried out. Dungphu is more than an hour’s walk from the nearest road at Chador Lhakhang in Bartsham.

Meanwhile the villagers are waiting eagerly for the new domestic airports to open. They said the domestic airports will change their lives for the better.

The Ministry is also looking for air connectivity in southern, western, and central Bhutan. To do this, the Minister said they are looking for public private partnerships. The infrastructural will be provided by the ministry but the service will be operated by the private sector.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Bhutan : His Majesty’s address at the 3rd convocation of Royal University of Bhutan for Samtse and Paro Colleges of Education, February 17, 2009

It always makes me very happy to meet and spend time with you. And when we do get the opportunity, we all want it to be a happy time. However, we must also understand the difference between getting together as friends to talk and laugh and then getting together to work for our people and country. At this moment, with so many senior officials gathered together, we must say we are here for work.

I can say so many good things today about the success of our country, about the hard work of our people. We have done our work well, our policies have been good – everything we have done we have done with the interests of our people and country in mind – that is why we are here today as a unique and successful nation. But my saying these things will not change anything. It serves no purpose or bears no fruits. Praising what we have already done will not bring new rewards. It is better to see what our weaknesses are, where we have not done very well, where we need to do better.

My duty is to worry every single day about our people and country. And to voice these worries frankly so that we do not get carried away, get caught unaware, or become complacent. So bear with me as I speak to you about my concerns about our education system or standards. Those of you who work in the ministry of education or related agencies must not feel singled out.

I am a firm believer that if there is one word that will stand out above all other words when we describe our country’s amazing journey of modernization over the last few decades - it is Education. Our institutions, our leaders of today – all of us, including me – are the proud products of the Bhutanese education system.

Our education system built and nurtured with your hard work and dedication has served us well. But we must understand that the times have changed here in Bhutan and all around us in the world. We cannot face new challenges with the same tools. The private sector is adjusting itself to new challenges and opportunities; the bureaucracy is finding its place in a new system of governance; the entire country is adapting to new roles in our young democracy. Thus, every person and institution must evolve to meet the aspirations of our people and the changing needs of our nation.

Today I speak on behalf of our teachers and students – our teachers will always be committed and dedicated teachers – our students will always be diligent and loyal students – but it is the duty of parents, policy makers and the government to put the right tools in their hands – the right books, the right curriculum, the right direction.

For this we must first ask ourselves where do we want to go as an economy, as a democracy, as a nation. In other words, what is the Vision for Bhutan? Then we must build an education system that nurtures people with the right skills, knowledge and training to fulfill this Vision. The sooner we realize this the better.

The word Vision is such a profound word and yet one that is so commonly mis-used. I feel that there is no better reason to use this word than to describe the importance of education. For if our Vision for the nation is not contained in the pages of the books that our young children hold, in the words of our teachers as they lead their classrooms, and in the education policies of our governments, then let it be said – we have no Vision.

We can dream of a strong bureaucracy of the highest standards but we must not forget that those standards must be set in school where our future bureaucrats are.

We can dream of world class IT parks, of being an international financial centre, of competing at international standards but we must not forget that we can have none of these if our schools and colleges do not bestow such talents and skills.

We can dream of a nation of environmental conservation, GNH, a strong economy, a vibrant democracy and yet none are possible or sustainable if we have not already toiled and sweated in the building of a strong education system.

Our nation’s future lies in an ever-shrinking world. Our government’s goals, and the 10th plan reflect this reality. If we take even a cursory glance at the immediate goals of our nation, we will see goals such as developing hydropower, mines, health, tourism, banking, Information Technology; roads, domestic and international airports; and so on. You hear terms like ‘knowledge based’, ‘niche’, ‘broadband’, ‘innovation’, ‘data centre’, ‘sustainable’ and so on. These goals and terms are perfectly normal and as I said, reflect the reality of the changing times.

But if changing realities bring new ambitions and goals, it must also bring new plans and preparation. Most importantly, we have to ask ourselves how do we build and nurture the people who will implement the plans and fulfill our goals? The answer lies in Education. But statistics show that while we pile dream upon dream like floors on a skyscraper, the foundation needs to be strengthened.

Let me make an extremely broad and elementary observation. In all the countries where progress has been strong in the areas we strive to develop, the strength of the education system has been in Math and Science. In fact in India, the favourite subject for most students is Mathematics. In Bhutan, Mathematics is one of our main weaknesses – most students do not like Math and the majority score less than 50%. We have similar weaknesses in Science and amazingly, even English.

I have studied our own official statistics, which show these in great detail – you should look at them too- but for today, what we need to do is ask ourselves the question – “does our education system reflect our changing opportunities and challenges?” Contemplate this question.

Contemplate! For what a grave mistake it will be to stand proud as nation on the hard work of our forefathers, the successes of our past and on the admiration and respect of the outside world today. And fail to see that it will all disappear tomorrow, if we lose sight of the fundamental reasons for our success.

Contemplate! For what a grave mistake it will be to dream with great optimism of taking our nation from this successful democratic transition into a future of even greater success, without realizing that it is not us but our children who must secure that success for the nation.

I have said it time and time again, “a nation’s future will mirror the quality of her youth – a nation cannot fool herself into thinking of a bright future when she has not invested wisely in her children.”

We always repeat what HM the fourth King once said, “the future of our nation lies in the hands of our children.” We must know that His Majesty, my father, meant that quality of education for our young Bhutanese is of paramount importance. And that it is our duty as today’s parents, leaders and citizens to provide it. We must ensure that their young little hands grow to become strong and worthy of carrying our nation to greater heights.

I cannot go into details of the education sector – there are experts among us who can do this. All I know is, as simple as it sounds, that our hopes and aspirations as a nation must be reflected in what is taught to our future generations in the classroom. This is my view. I urge parents, policymakers and the general public to reflect on this. Keep in mind:

  • That our culture, traditions and heritage are the foundation of our Nation and our People are our greatest asset.
  • That we have a small population – but our people love the country – with the right tools we can achieve anything.
  • That educating our People is the first step to fulfilling our aspirations as a nation.
  • That it is not enough to provide free education – we must provide education of such quality that it will guarantee a distinguished place for our youth anywhere in the world.
  • And that our window of opportunity is small – today the largest section of our population are Youth – how we address quality of education now will determine whether we will build strong young citizens who will ensure a long bright future for the nation - or fail and confine such a large number of our young children and their children to generations of hardship and struggle.

When the sun sets every evening, we go to sleep in the comfort that it will rise in the morning and things will be the same. Do not however let the light of education ever go out. For if it should become dark, even for a moment, we will find that generations of our children will suffer its effects and the light on a bright future for our nation will take decades to shine again.

Parents and teachers, I want you to know that as King my passion will always be to nurture our youth, day after day, year after year - for it is their skills, their labour and commitment to the country that will build our future. There is no other path – no other tool - for Bhutan’s future success.

I end with the words – “Our nation’s Vision can only be fulfilled if the scope of our dreams and aspirations are matched by the reality of our commitment to nurturing our future citizens.”

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Bhutan : His Majesty graces 3rd convocation of Paro and Samtse Colleges of Education

February 17: Educating our people is the first step to fulfilling the aspirations as a nation. His Majesty the King was addressing the 3rd convocation of Paro and Samtse Colleges of Education. His Majesty said providing free education alone is not enough.

Speaking to the graduates, His Majesty said it is also important to provide education with quality that will guarantee a distinguished place for the youth anywhere in the world. His Majesty is also the chancellor of the Royal University of Bhutan. The convocation ceremony was held at the Paro College of education today. Her Royal Highness Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck also attended the convocation.

Of the 1,681 teacher graduates of 2006, 2007 and 2008 from Samtse and Paro colleges of education, around one thousand received their certificates from His Majesty the King today.

As His Majesty the King awarded the certificates, His Majesty made a special gesture for the teacher graduates and through them to the teaching profession. His Majesty stood beside each and every one of the 1000 graduates to take a picture with them.

His Majesty’s message is clear. Addressing the graduates, His Majesty the King said standards must be set in schools. His Majesty said how we address the quality of education now will determine whether we will build strong young citizens who will ensure a long bright future for the nation or fail and confine such a large number of our young children and their children to generations of hardship and struggle.

About 500 teacher graduates from the two colleges of education every year but still there is a serious teacher shortage. To meet the gap, the Royal University of Bhutan has been increasing the intake by 15% every year. There are also plans to establish new teacher colleges in Bhutan in the 10th Five Year Plan.

After the graduation ceremony, BBS spoke to some of the graduates. They said they were deeply inspired by the address of His Majesty the King. They said they were also deeply touched by the gesture of His Majesty the King, for awarding the certificates personally and the special gesture that His Majesty made by taking pictures with every single graduate.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Bhutan : His Majesty the King grants audience to Indian Foreign Secretary

February 15: His Majesty the King granted an audience to the Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon at the Dechencholing Palace yesterday. Mr. Menon is accompanied by Joint Secretary North Mr. Satish C. Metha.

Mr. Shivshankar Menon assumed the post of Indian Foreign Secretary in October 2006. Rising rapidly through the ranks, he has served as Indian Ambassador to Israel, Sri Lanka, China, and Pakistan over a career spanning more than three decades.

His Majesty the King also hosted a lunch for the Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and his delegation at the Dechencholing palace.

Mr. Menon arrived in the Kingdom on a two day visit yesterday morning.

Also yesterday afternoon, Mr. Menon called on the Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley and the Foreign Minister Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering.

The Indian Foreign Secretary left for India this morning. He was seen off by the acting Foreign Secretary Daw Penjor, the Chief of Protocol, the Paro Dzongda, Foreign Ministry and Paro Dzongkhag officials.

The Indian Ambassador to Bhutan Sudhir Vyas was also present to see off the Foreign Secretary.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Bhutan : Party coordinators out in the cold

14 February, 2009 - The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) dzongkhag party coordinators are in a crisis.

With party offices in the dzongkhags running out of money, they are pondering whether to resign or hang on. Most of the dzongkhag coordinators have not paid their rent since March 2008 and some have not received any money from the head office in Thimphu, apart from the Nu 20,000 imprest money received in March last year.

The dzongkhag offices run on credit, while coordinators and office assistants survive without salary and zethue (miscellaneous allowance). Their telephones have been disconnected and some coordinators are on the verge of being chased away by landlords.

Dagana dzongkhag coordinator, Kinley Wangdi, said the money they raised through contributions and fees was insufficient for day-to-day party activities. He added that there were only a few people making contributions, that too in small amounts.

Tsirang’s dzongkhag coordinator, Dorji, said the DPT party may dissolve if they have to depend on contributions and membership fees. “For a country to have a vibrant democracy, the ruling party needs enough money. How long will the party depend on contributions, because people may not contribute all the time?”

“We ran out of money a long time back,” said Dorji, who now works from his home, after he couldn’t afford the house rent.

The Election Commission of Bhutan does not permit any fund raising for a party apart from memberships fee and contributions.

Most coordinators said they joined the party not in a hope of getting money but, without money, to meet even basic requirements, such as telephone and electricity bills, was difficult.

After the election, coordinators held executive committee meetings at the dzongkhag level, accompanied ministers and MPs during constituency visits and initiated party fund raising activities.

The dzongkhag co-coordinators were paid Nu 5,000 a month as miscellaneous allowance. Office assistants were employed regularly and got Nu 7,000, while gewog and constituency coordinators drew Nu 1,500 in a month.

DPT deputy secretary, Dorji Wangchuk, said that, although they could not release salary regularly, they had nonetheless sent lump sum amounts, based on the genuine need of the dzongkhag. He said that party workers must look for new members and contributors.

With only 100 new members after the March election and little contributions, it was difficult to sustain with limited source of funds, said Dorji Wangchuk. In the 2008-09 financial year, DPT raised over Nu 4 million, but their monthly expenditure exceeded Nu 800,000 a month. “There were over 12,000 members registered with DPT but, after the election, we have only 589.”

DPT today has an Nu 15 million overdraft (OD) with the Bank of Bhutan, of which Nu 180,000 is deducted as monthly interest. DPT’s head of administration and finance, Tshewang Rinzin, said that the OD saturated a month ago.

In July 2008, the two parties had proposed for a Nu 15-20 million state funding for political parties, but the proposal was rejected by ECB and the National Council stating that it was unconstitutional.

Today, DPT ministers and MPs contribute 10 percent of their salary to the party fund. There is, however, a ray of hope. ECB has recently increased the ceiling of member’s contribution from Nu 100,000 to Nu 500,000.

By Tenzin Namgyel

Friday, 13 February 2009

Bhutan : Druk Air to fly via Bagdogra

February 12: Beginning April, Druk Air will fly to Bangkok via Bagdogra, a domestic airport in West Bengal, India. Flights to Bangkok via Bagdora will operate four days in a week.

On Tuesdays and Saturdays, the Druk Air flight from Paro to Bangkok will stop at Bagdogra instead of Kolkatta, Dhaka or Gaya but flights from Bangkok to Paro will fly via Kolkatta as usual.

On Sundays and Wednesdays, Druk Air flights from Bangkok to Paro will stopover at Bagdogra instead of Gaya and Kolkatta.

The Commercial General Manager of Druk Air, Tshering Penjore said flying through Bagdogra would ease the traffic as no international flights are using the airport at the moment.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Bhutan : A demon-inspired migration

10 February, 2009 - Farmers in rural Bhutan abandon their villages when wild animals attack crops or humans, or they lose their farmland to landslides or even in search of a better life.

Phungshing villagers in Thrimshing dungkhag have a spookier reason. Villagers started leaving Phungshing in the early 1990s when the local paw (shaman) told them that the death of a middle-aged villager was caused by a demon that resided below the village. More people died in the following years and villagers started abandoning Phungshing in droves.

Located on a gentle slope of a low hill descending into the Ngera Ama chhu (river), Phungshing is a fertile village where farmers grow maize, potato, chili and orange. According to villagers, since the shaman’s warning, many people, who did not heed the warning, died. They say most deaths were sudden and strange.

About half a dozen people from that village have perished so far. A household, according to villagers, moved away for good after losing two members in successive years.

“My father was healthy and strong when he died in 2006,” said Thukten Tshering, 35, who left Phungshing that year itself. “Those, who died after my father, were all young and healthy men. We had no choice but to leave the village,” said Thukten.

From more than a dozen domiciles in the early 1990s, today only two households located above Phungshing are occupied. Most houses in these parts are two-storied traditional structures with CGI roofing. All the houses are closed in by khengpa (artemisia) bushes.

Villagers have since moved over to nearby and safer villages. Thukten lives with his paternal uncle in Sako. “Its pains me to look at my land going to waste in front of own eyes. It used to be full of maize, potato and chili,” he said pointing towards Phungshing, where several houses can be seen surrounded by thickets.

In 1993, three households left their village together when their children died suddenly, without falling ill, according to Phuntsho Norbu from Sako, a neighbouring village.

Pema Wangchuk, 40, from Thungkhar, had taken in his doubly widowed mother when his stepfather, aged 50, died all of a sudden in 2007. “He had come to vote in a tshogpa election in which I was a also nominee. He died a few hours after he fainted suddenly,” said Pema Wangchuk. “He didn’t have any sickness.”

Although living with someone away from their village is difficult, villagers dread going back to Phungshing, even after a chorten was erected to offset any evil influence.

“We might invoke the wrath of the demon if we go back and work on our fields,” said Pema Wangchuk. “We’ve invested a lot in building the houses,” he said.

About an hour’s walk from Phungshing, another farmer, Yonten, is constructing a new house. He left Phungshing a year ago when his immediate neighbour left for Tsirang, to live with relatives.

The chorten was consecrated by Garab Rinpoche last year and nothing strange has been recorded since. But villagers fear a recurrence. “It’s risky to go back,” said a villager.

By Tshering Palden

Monday, 9 February 2009

Bhutan : Another scare for Druk Air

7 February, 2009 - Cracks on a flight deck windscreen yesterday forced a Druk Air plane to make an emergency landing at Kolkata international airport. No one was hurt.

Druk Air flight KB-123 was flying from Bangkok to Gaya.

The Druk Air pilot, on noticing the cracks, contacted Kolkata air traffic control for an immediate landing. The aircraft landed safely at 10:00 am without any injury to passengers and crew members.

This is the second such incident to have affected a Druk Air flight. The first occurred in May last year.

Druk Air’s managing director, Tandin Jamtsho, told Kuensel that they sent technical engineers to Kolkata, along with a new windshield.

Tandin Jamtsho said that the cause of the cracks was not known, adding that, in such a situation, damaged parts were sent to the manufacturer for investigation.

The flight to Katmandu and Nepal, scheduled on February 6, was cancelled because the aircraft was used to carry the stranded passengers at Kolkata to their destination.

Druk Air’s engineering and maintenance division, general manager Thrimchong Wangdi, said that the cracked windscreen was replaced. He said, however, that fatality in such situations was minimal, as there were other elements, such as nuts and bolts, that prevented the windscreen from blowing out.

“In a similar incident in May last year, the report from the manufacturer blamed a short circuit of the heating elements in the multi-piled windscreen that prevent fog and frost,” he said.

The windshield bought earlier for about US$ 9000 would be sent to its manufacturer in the United States and the aircraft with the new windshield is expected to be back in Paro by 8:30 am today. Around 50 passengers to Delhi and Kathmandu were stranded yesterday because of the cancellation of their flight.

By Passang Norbu

Friday, 6 February 2009

Bhutan : Sarpang gets its own Zangdo Pelri

5 February, 2009 - With the construction of a three-storied Zangdo Pelri lhakhang in Sarpang, people of Shompangkha need not travel all the way to Gelephu to seek the spiritual help of Tali dratshang.

Inaugurated by Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, and consecrated by the Dorji Lopon of the central monastic body and lams and monks of Tharpaling dratshang on February 2, the new monastery serves as a much needed religious centre.

Called as the Pelri Sangchen Yoedsel Choling, the lhakhang was constructed at a cost of Nu 9.467 million by Ap Dorji Wangdi, an individual based in Sarpang, with support from the government and contributions from devotees.

The government financed Nu 2.8 million for the construction of Zangdo Pelri and another Nu 1.0 million for the boundary wall and goenkhang, while the dzongkhag administration provided technical support and supervised the construction, which began in December 2004.

The lhakhang stands on a five-acre plot of land, also provided by the government. Built in traditional style, the three-storied lhakhang’s main deity Guru Nangsi Zilnon is housed on the ground floor (Trulku lhakhang), flanked by Guru Rinpoche’s consorts, Lhacham Mendral Rawa and Khando Yeshi Tshogyal, Dorsem Yab Yum and the image of Kuenkhen Longchen Rabjam, the first lam of Tharpaling dratshang in Bumthang.

A separate goenkhang for the protecting deities and eight Desheg Chortens were constructed in the same complex. The government also financed Nu 4.2 million for the construction of monks’ living quarters.

According to Ap Dorji Wangdi, he initiated the construction of Zangdo Pelri lhakhang as prophesied by the eighth Khamtrul, Kelzang Denjued Nima Rinpoche in 1975 for the benefit of all sentient beings. There was a small monastery at the present site constructed by Ap Dorji Wangdi’s family on government land in 1972 that was dismantled to construct the new one. “The lhakhang was built not only to promote the dharma but also to help overcome the shortage of chœps or monks in Sarpang,” said Ap Wangdi.

Ap Dorji Wangdi, 80, said that when the monks of the Tharpaling dratshang move to their summer residence in Bumthang, the people of Sarpang are hard-pressed to find chœps to perform rituals, especially when someone died, although one lam and a few monks stay back in the lhakhangs.

By Rinzin Wangchuk

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Bhutan : His Majesty appoints chairperson and members of RCSC

February 3: His Majesty the King has appointed the chairperson and members of the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC). The appointment is as per article 2 section 19 (g) and article 26 section 2 of the constitution. Article 2 section 19 (g) states that the Druk Gyalpo shall, by warrant under his hand and seal, appoint the Chairperson and members of the RCSC in accordance with section 2 of Article 26.

Article 26 section 2 states that the Commission shall consist of a Chairperson and four other members appointed by the Druk Gyalpo from among eminent persons having such qualifications and experience as would enhance the performance of the Commission, from a list of names recommended jointly by the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of Bhutan, the Speaker, the Chairperson of the National Council and the Leader of the Opposition Party.

The former education minister Thinley Gyamtsho is the new chairperson. The four members are the Managing Director of Druk Seed Corporation Prithiman Pradhan, the Chief Human Resource Officer of RCSC Secretariat Kinley Yangzom, the Chief Planning Officer of RCSC secretariat Bachu Phub Dorji and the Samtse Dzongda Sangay Dorji.

The appointments come into effect immediately.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Bhutan : Weighing machines in meat shops in Phuentsholing faulty

February 2: Next time you visit a meat shop in Phuentsholing, please be cautioned. The weighing apparatus can be faulty. In fact, most of the weighing apparatus have been found to be faulty.

Our Phuentsholing reporter Tenzin Wangda visited several meat shops after receiving complaints from customers.

To confirm their complaints, our reporter weighed a book using a weighing equipment in one of the shops. The reading showed 420 grams. The same book was weighed in several meat shops. Each shop revealed different readings.

The difference varied from five grams to 30 grams. The difference is minute even at 30 grams but if you are to buy a lot of meat, say 20-30 kilograms, it adds up. Many Bhutanese who come here to buy meat purchase huge quantities of meat, especially beef and pork.

Trade officials said they do go around checking the calibrations of the weighing machines in the shops at least once in a week. But they said so far they have not come across any manipulation. They said if this is in fact happening, the vendors could be changing the calibrations once the inspection is complete and the inspectors are gone.

Trade officials said they will look into the possibility of contacting the suppliers of the weighing machines. They said they could seal the weighing machines so that they cannot be manipulated.

Gas stations were also once criticized for similar kind of manipulation and to stop this malpractice, the oil pumps were sealed. This has worked and there is no complaint of manipulations now.

Meat vendors who are found to be manipulating the calibration of the weighing machines can be fined Nu. 2000. Repeated offence can result in the cancellation of the license.

At the moment one kilogram of boneless meat costs Nu. 120 while meat with bone costs Nu. 80. So next time you visit a meat shop to buy huge quantities of meat, make sure nobody pulls the wool over your eyes.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Bhutan : Gelephu hot spring needs maintenance visitors say

February 1: Every winter, thousands of people from various parts of the country visit the Gelephu Tshachu. But with the number of visitors increasing by the year, the general condition at the Tshachu has deteriorated.

Visitors said the guest house is in need of repair, there are not enough toilets, and there is no proper drinking water facility.

Some of the visitors live in the guest house but the majority live in tents near the hot spring. They say the guest house is badly in need of renovation with many windows and doors broken.

The Tshachu area is also littered with garbage.

People visiting the hot spring are of the opinion that a proper drainage system will improve the cleanliness.

There are not enough toilets and people defecate everywhere. Visitors say the existing toilets need to be repaired and additional toilets built to cater to the increasing number of visitors.

There is no proper drinking water facility in the area according to visitors.

The Gelephu Tshachu is one of the popular hot springs in the country and is believed to cure several diseases including ulcer, joint pains, and tuberculosis.

The caretaker said the dungkhag is planning to construct more toilets and provide proper drinking water facilities.

Visitors said lack of civic sense on the part of the people who come to the Tshachu is also contributing to the deteriorating conditions. They said if the visitors are not made responsible and the area remains dirty and unhygienic, people could suffer from infectious diseases after visiting the Tshachu.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Bhutan : 10 million hazelnut to be planted in Bhutan

January 30: Over the next five years, 10 million hazelnut trees will be grown across Bhutan. This project will be undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture and Sage Private Limited, a private enterprise based in the US. The project aims to improve the livelihood of the farmers, generate employment and promote environment conservation.

A memorandum of understating for the project was signed between the Ministry of Agriculture and Sage Private Limited today. It was signed by the Agriculture Minister Lyonpo Dr. Pema Gyamtsho and Managing Partner of Sage Partners Limited, Daniel Spitzer.

Hazelnut cultivation is new in Bhutan. Except for some research trial plots in Yesepang and Khangma, currently there is no hazelnut plantation in the country. More than 20,000 acres of degraded, barren and agriculturally unproductive land all across the country will be used to cultivate hazelnut.

The Agriculture Minister Lyonpo Dr. Pema Gyamtsho said it will be a private-public partnership project. He said the project will bring in multiple benefits.

“If this hazelnut project succeeds, first of all we would be utilizing all those barren, unproductive land, entire slopes, where at the moment there is no vegetation. It will not have any bearing in terms of land being used for hazelnut at the cost of rich production or other crops. It will be those lands which are not suitable for growing other crops. So the farmers will be earning some income from these land which otherwise will not bring them any benefits,” he said.

The first objective, Lyonpo said is to enhance the income of the farmers.

“Once we have the quantity and the quality that is required to meet the export demands, then it would also bring sustainable revenue to the government. One of the other major benefits would be the ecological benefits,” the Agriculture Minister said.

The Managing Partner of Sage Partners Limited, Daniel Spitzer said he wanted to introduce the project in Bhutan inspired by His Majesty the Fourth King. He said the scale of the project is larger than any other private investment in this country.

“Ultimately the market for the nuts is international export market. This is entirely an export oriented production operation. We will be building a world quality production facility and this actually will be the first pure export fruit business in Bhutan which means that we would be using the international practices, equipment and standards which I think is not established in this country. It is a great opportunity to penetrate international markets and to positioning of Bhutan as a producer of premium quality food product. But that’s challenge,” he said.

Daniel Spitzer said hazelnuts are used to produce hazelnut oil, chocolates and cookies and is one of the main sources of cash income for farmers in other countries.