Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Bhutan - Mountain people at centre of development process

Development issues are slow in mountain region and development is incomplete without participation of the people living in mountainous region, particularly women.

Bhutan +10, an international conference, which began today, is looking to address some of these issues in the region and beyond, in the next four days.

Participants representing mountain people, researchers, policy makers and development practitioners in the conference have one common agenda- to put mountain people at the centre of development process.

The Agriculture and Forests Minister, Dr. Pema Gyamtsho, said such conference brings a wider knowledge and platform to share experiences and good practices.

“We can learn from each other and replicate the good practices that are working and avoid those that are not working. In this way this conference will help us to link gender with development and that development is based on equality, on equal footing between men and women.”

The Director General of ICIMOD, Dr. David Molden, said women carry quite a load as far as managing natural resources already. “With Climate Change and migration of men to cities, women carry most of a burden and that does make sense if they are doing the job, there should be more women in leadership position.”

Focus has been called to address women concerns on climate change and adaptation given that women play substantial role in taking care of natural resources.

ICIMOD’s Gender Specialist Dr. Manohara Khadka said one of the learning experiences from Hindu Kush Himalayan region is that government in this region are ahead in terms of developing people centered policy.” But if you look at these policies, there is an exclusion of women and people who really have a grassroots experience. Policy making process are happening but without engaging women in policy forum.”

According to key findings on gender and biodiversity management in the Himalayan region, rural women are more involved than men and they are also the backbone of mountain agriculture, livelihoods and natural resources management.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Bhutan - Restoration of Yongla Goenpa misses deadlines

Yongla Goenpa in Pemagatshel is one of the sacred Goenpas in the Country. It is blessed by many revered lams. In September 2009, the Goenpa suffered a major damage caused by an earthquake. Three years on and the restoration of the Goenpa is yet to be complete.

Our reporter, Thinley Dorji, in Pemagatshel says without a proper Goenpa in place, the local people are facing many problems, especially while performing religious rites.

The Shumar Gup, Lepo, says although renovation works are in full swing the progress is slow.
The Goenpa also serves as the summer residence of Pemagatshel Rabdey. Currently, the monks are put in a temporary shelter.

“In the first year we had to perform the Drupchen in the open ground, and later we requested the Dzongkhag to build a temporary building for us to keep our relics,” said the Lam Neten of Pemagatshel Rabdey, Jampel Sangay. He said their Drasha was dismantled for reconstruction last year. “Now our monks don’t have proper place to stay. They have been put in huts.”

Earlier the Rabdey used to move to the Goenpa on the 1st day of fifth Bhutanese month and stay there till 30th day of ninth Bhutanese month. But now they stay there for only about a month. Even the Phurpai Drubchen had to be preponed.

According to Zobel Gup, Pema Dorji, the decision has made many people unhappy.
Even as the restoration work continues, the Dzongkhag says they are facing numerous challenges to complete the work.

The District Engineer, Ugyen Norbu, said as the site is located at high altitude, it is very difficult to set the cement and labor is another, especially during winter. “None of the Bhutanese labor is willing to work there. We have to hire the non-national labourers who are demanding high wages.”

The history of the Goenpa dates back to some 200 years ago. Although nobody knows when the Goenpa was exactly built, the elders say it was founded by Lam Rigzin Jigme Kuendrel. The Lam built the Goenpa following the instruction of his master Terton Rigzin Jigme Lingpa.

Since then many revered Lamas served and blessed the Goenpa. During the Lam Sonam Zangpo’s in 1976, the Geonpa saw a major renovation.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Bhutan - Bridge opened in Chhuboog Gewog, Punakha

The 118 metre new bridge over Mochu River under Chhuboog Gewog in Punakha is now open. The bridge at Bali village, will benefit some 27 households under Chhuboog Gewog. The new bridge will benefit especially the students and villagers of Bali.

In the absence of a bridge, students have to cross Mochu River, which is the only short route until the bridge was opened. The other route to the school is a two hour walk from the village.

The bridge was constructed 11 months, at a cost of Nu 1.2 million with funds from Helvetas, and labour contribution from the beneficiaries.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Bhutan - Journalism’s onus and curse

If engendering a GNH-based democracy is a process, so is ethical journalism.
It is not something that can be achieved, but a goal, a standard to strive for.

It is like reaching the moon, each time we stretch out for the stars, but the goal is to not settle for that.

Therein lies the beauty of it all.

It is a pursuit, like happiness, and at various individual levels.

The information and communication secretary at the ethics conference yesterday in Thimphu said, it was the state’s responsibility to create an environment conducive for its citizens to pursue happiness.

If only they felt the same about the functioning of the Bhutanese media, particularly at a time when the whole system seems to be working against it.

A modicum of transparency within the bureaucracy is all that is required to foster that enabling environment.

But why that transparency, if it is for the purpose of reflecting a ministry and the various agencies under it in negative light?

As public figures and elected representatives, public scrutiny is a part and parcel of life, and the media plays a role of exposing instances of corruption, or should there be renege on election promises.

There is, however, no arguing if reporters misquote people, invade their privacy, defame them, publish unreliable information, are biased and play up stories, for they sit at the core of ethical journalism.

Worse still, if news outlets refuse to run clarifications and letters following errors.

Ethics and professionalism, the secretary also said, were related.

If that is true, then most news media outlets lack ethics, for most of them are not necessarily run by people trained in the profession, and thus not professionals.

In that case, the weaker the news media outlets are, for lack of professionals, the greater the chances for ethics to suffer.

In that case, training people in the trait of journalism is a must, because it is how we report, and what we report, and how we tell stories that are indicative of the principles we stand for as individuals, and ethics as an organisation.

That, however, does not seem all that likely, for media organisations do not want to invest in building human resources, institutions established to help facilitate training of reporters are sitting on the funds, and reporters do not consider a training as one, if it does not entail having their baggage tagged.

We need to show ethical journalism, by building our credibility with our readers, with our understanding that everyone has opinions of their own of what is acceptable and not in our society.

In journalism, as in life, it is near impossible to please everyone.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Bhutan - In the shadow of the GNH sun

By all accounts, the high level meeting on happiness and well being, convened by the Bhutanese government last week at the UN headquarters in New York, to define a new economic paradigm for the global community was a landmark beginning.

The Bhutanese delegation reportedly felt overwhelmed by the response, and intimidated by the expectations of the global community.

To be able to influence the global community towards a new economic model that is more sustainable, holistic, inclusive, and equitable takes some doing, and Bhutan has done that. It should be a matter of pride for every Bhutanese.

At home though, the mood has been anything but happy, with critics and skeptics labelling the meeting as a waste of time and resources. The Indian Rupee situation has not helped either, with it basically blanking out everything else, exposing some structural weaknesses, and leading to a good deal of discourse on what should be done to be more financially secure.

But critics and skeptics are, and rightfully so, pointing to the problems facing this country of GNH, and questioning why so little attention is being paid to them by leaders and decision makers. These outpourings could be interpreted as citizens in a democratic Bhutan, exercising their right to expression, even if there is nothing good to say; instead of just saying the politically correct thing, without really meaning it.

GNH may have taken birth in Bhutan, but most agree, including the leaders, that Bhutan is far from being a GNH country. There is so much more to do, because the business of happiness is a serious one.

Yet, as much as the world needs a new economic paradigm Bhutan also needs as much the GNH vision to keep it from going off course because there are indications that it just might.

While the world’s greed in ravishing the planet is scoffed at, here citizens are morphing from needy to greedy consumers. That is why the GNH vision is so relevant to Bhutan and her citizens.

In last week’s meeting, the global community identified four dimensions for the new economy: wellbeing and happiness; ecological sustainability; fair distribution; and efficient use of increasingly scarce resources.

With Bhutan to take the lead on further expanding the basic construct of the new economy, there is much to do to put wellbeing and happiness at the centre of development, not only for the global community, but also and especially at home.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Bhutan - His Majesty grants audience to scholarship students

Mar 16 2012

His Majesty the King and Gyaltsuen granted audience to about 184 undergraduate scholarship students at the Royal Banquet Hall this morning.

These students will be pursuing higher studies in various universities outside the country. His Majesty congratulated the students for their achievement and prayed for their success.

In an informal discussion with the students, His Majesty said that they should be proud and be good ambassadors of a strong, peaceful and special Nation. His Majesty also spoke at length about values and the importance of becoming good human beings.

His Majesty also added that “learning how to lose is the first principle in life, and failure is the prerequisite to success”.

Refreshments were also served to the students.

Meanwhile, His Majesty the King granted an audience to the Joint Secretary, North of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Akhilesh Mishra. While in the country, the Joint Secretary met with the senior government officials to discuss the issues related to bilateral affairs.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Bhutan - Their Majesties join Japanese community to mark Japan tsunami anniversary

His Majesty the King and the Gyaltshuen joined the Japanese community in Thimphu today to mark the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami which struck Japan last year.

Their Majesties offered butter lamps and prayers for the victims at Changgangkha Monastery.
Over a hundred Japanese community led by the Resident Representative, Tomoki Nitta, also joined Their Majesties in offering the prayers and butter lamps.
Later, His Majesty and the Gyaltshuen interacted with the Japanese and expressed condolences.

Some of the Japanese said they are extremely touched by their Majesties taking out time to be with them and offer prayers and butter lamps for the victims.

Some of them said that this will also strengthen a relationship between the two nations and also at the people to people level.

The Prime Minister, Jigmi Y Thinley, and Finance Minister were also present at the ceremony.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Bhutan - Pemagatshel dzong construction pushed to June

Denchi The construction of the new Pemagatsel dzong at Denchi, an hour drive from Pemagatshel town, has been pushed back to mid year from February end as the department of culture is still receiving request for proposal (RFP) from consultants for the design of the new dzong.

Pematagshel is one among the five dzongs in the country that will either be renovated or reconstructed within the current plan.

The Chukha dzong construction team comprising 35 workers including five carpenters are expected to be mobilised to Pemagatsel along with the new project manager who was recently appointed by the prime minister.

The head of division, conservation of heritage sites, Nagtsho Dorji said a lot of time was consumed in taking over the 116 acre land in Denchi which was only completed at the end of last year.

“We had to compensate the private land owners whose land we acquired for the dzong,” she said.

She said that getting skilled workers to build Pemagatshel dzong would not be a problem as most other projects were wrapping up and workers their could be diverted to Pemagatshel.

“But our biggest concern is how getting un-skilled workers,” Nagtsho Dorji said. “But we can start construction with fewer workers.”

There are five on-going projects around the country under the department of culture.

Basic infrastructural plan in Denchi is on-going like the dzongkhag water treatment plant set up, internal road connection and the approach road widening which the dzongkhag is overseeing.

The new dzongkhag administration at Denchi is expected to be more spacious and will have within the 116 acre area the district hospital, financial institutions, farmers market, recreational park, bus terminal, truck parking and sewerage treatment plant among others.

The construction of Pematagsel dzong is to be done as a spill over project in which Nu 100M is to be utilised within the current plan of the Nu 250M. It is a GoI funded project.

By Nirmala Pokhrel, Samdrupjongkhar

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Bhutan - Alcohol and Bhutanese culture

Alcohol is bad but it is alright in Bhutanese society. It is normal for Bhutanese to drink, some at a very young age. Alcohol is something which is becoming more and more a part of Bhutanese culture.

According to specialists, alcohol does act at a suppressant to negative emotions at first. It, however, changes after a while and is a leading cause of depression. Alcohol is a big problem when it comes to physical health.

The government spends over Nu. 30 million every year for referrals to treat alcohol related patients.

The effects of alcohol are felt not only by the individual but also by society.
I also paid a visit to the Traffic Division of the Royal Bhutan Police. I wanted to find out if alcohol and accidents have a relationship, if any.

The traffic police say that driving under the influence of alcohol has been one of the main causes of injury and even death to many motorists as well as pedestrians. They brand it a criminal act. They say that there is a rise in the number of driving under the influence of alcohol cases and accidents related to it.

Go to any bar in the capital. The bartender will pour you a drink as long as you have the money. There is no age bar or time, although there is notice clearly specifying the restriction.

If you are intoxicated then there is a very high chance you will hurt yourself and end up hurting other innocent people as well.

In Thimphu alone, over 20 cases were reported to the traffic police. They say many more cases go unreported.

Alcohol abuse is a leading cause of domestic violence as well. Hundreds of families throughout Bhutan are victims of domestic violence. It not only affects adults but has a more adverse impact on children.

Although most people thought there were both positive and negative aspects of alcohol some had very strong views. One person said “alcohol is really doing a lot of damage to our society. The government should really do something about it. There are more bars than people.”

Another person said that alcohol is the cause of most problems. “You do things that make a mockery of yourself and others when you drink alcohol,” he said.

One lady said: “When we old people drink alcohol we drink a little bit since it is good for health in small amounts but the youth these days don’t have any control, they are very irresponsible drinkers.”

Respect, Empower, Nurture and Educate Women or RENEW sees many cases of domestic violence every month. Most of them are because of alcohol abuse.

Alcohol and traditional games mix well in Bhutanese society. Some people say Bhutan is the only country where alcohol and sport goes together. According to Mila Tobgay, the vice-president of the Indigenous Sports Association of Bhutan, there is law or restriction saying the archers cannot drink.

“Almost everyone drinks alcohol, but you see there isn’t a rule saying that you have to drink. We don’t have a law in our country saying that you can’t drink while playing these sports but we do have a rule saying that people aren’t allowed to drink in the field of play. They, however, drink alcohol in their respective team tents. We really can’t say anything about it without the presence of a law in place.”

Alcohol abuse is a problem but it doesn’t always have a sad ending. I attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting here in the capital. Some of its members have been sober for over 6 years now.

“This programme is designed for me, to protect me, to save me because I am the enemy of myself. Addiction is all in the head. At the meetings everyone faces similar problems. If there are about 20 people at the meeting everyone won’t have identical problems but at least two to three will have the same problems. We then share our problems and we learn a lot from each other about how to cope with these problems. It helps me and it does help everyone as well,” says R K Dorji, a recovering alcoholic.

Drinking alcohol is a culture- a culture deeply rooted in our tradition. According to World Health Organisation report, Bhutan has the highest per-capita alcohol consumption in South Asia. There are close to 5,500 bars and about 700 of them are in the capital alone. For a small society like Bhutan the number is quite high.

Bhutan - Thousands attend the Purjang of Late Dungse Rinpoche

The Purjang ceremony of Late Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche was held today coinciding with the 10th day of first Bhutanese month. Despite the cold, tens of thousands of devotees gathered at Dagophu Goenpa in Paro as early as 4 am. The Sungchoe prayers were presided over by Dudjom Yangsey, lams and lopens.

Their Majesties the Queen Mother, Tshering Yangden Wangchuck and Sangay Choden Wangchuck, members of the Royal family, the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament and senior government officials were present.

Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, a great teacher of Buddhism and a primary holder of the D├╝djom Tersar lineage, passed away on 27th December last year in California, USA. Rinpoche’s Kudung arrived in Bhutan on 1st February this year.

Dungse Rinpoche was born in 1931 in Kongpo, Tibet to His Holiness Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorji and Sangyum Kusho Tseten Yudron. He first came to Bhutan in 1958 upon the invitation of Lam Sonam Zangpo to preside over Terser Wang at Khenpa Jong in Lhuentse.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Bhutan - 45 ft. Buddha statue to stand tall at Centenary Park

Coinciding with the32nd Birth Anniversary of His Majesty the King, a group of Thai people laid a foundation stone to erect a Buddha statue. The 45 feet tall statue of a walking Buddha is the first of its kind in the country. The abbot of Thailand Venerable Phrakhrusangkharak Boonsong Upasamo and Minister for Works and Human Settlement laid the foundation stone.

More than hundred Thai people and Bhutanese gathered at the Centenary Park to celebrate the Birth Anniversary of His Majesty by laying the foundation stone for a walking Buddha.

Ninety nine balloons were released and candles were lighted for peace. Thai and Bhutanese monks then chanted prayers. As part of the celebration, classical Thai dance to worship Buddha, traditional Bhutanese dance and mask dance were performed.

The statue is worth approximately Baht 500 million. It is expected to be built within 38 days and will be consecrated on April this year. The princess of Thailand personally donated about three million baht while the rest were donated by the people of Thailand.

The statue facing Thimphu town will be built on a platform of lotus along with symbolic animals like horse and elephant among others.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Bhutan - Nation celebrates His Majesty’s Birthday

Feb 21 2012

His Majesty the King and Gyeltsuen joined with the people of Sarpang to celebrate His Majesty’s 32nd Birth Anniversary today. Thousands of people gathered at Gelephu public ground to mark the day.

His Majesty the King and Gyeltsuen were received in a traditional chipdrel ceremony followed by Jepai Pawo and Marchang.

Rabdey, civil servants, Thromdey, armed forces and the public of Sarpang Dzongkhag offered Kusung Thugi Mendrel to His Majesty the King.

A guard of honour was also presented by the Armed Forces. Students from different schools then performed the March past.

Addressing the gathering, His Majesty the King expressed gratitude to the fourth Druk Gyalpo for giving him knowledge,

skills and trust and to the people for wonderful support and prayers.

Various cultural activities and entertainments were performed by the students. Their Majesties took part in the entertainments programmes.

His Majesty the King and Gyeltsuen personally met and interacted with the people and students.

The day ended with Trashi Labey. A lunch was also served to the people gathered.

Celebrations in Thimphu and other Dzongkhags

In Thimphu, thousands of people gathered at the Changlimithang stadium to observe the day. His Royal Highness Prince JigyelUgyenWangchuck also graced the occasion.

The Chief Guest, Minister for Works and Human Settlement,Yeshey Zimba, highlighted the significance of the day. He called on the nation to join him in paying tribute to His Majesty the King on His Birthday. “Let us all, especially the youth who are here today and those across the country, pledge to His Majesty the King to stop indulging in unwanted activities like drug abuse and other problems.”

Students from different schools in Thimphu performed various cultural programmes as part of the celebration.

In Punakha the celebration was graced by Her Royal Highness Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck.Over in Paro, His Royal Highness Prince Jigme Dorji Wangchuck graced the celebration at the Ugyen Pelri Palace ground. Students from schools in Paro, Gewog dancers, and mask dancers performed various cultural activities. Hundreds of people took part in the celebrations.Similar celebrations, including the offering of butter lamps for His Majesty’s long life, and for the peace and prosperity of the Kingdom, were observed in all the 20 Dzongkhags.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Bhutan - Booming handicraft shops in Paro

Paro is one of the popular tourist destinations in the Country. Important historical sites and its scenic surroundings make Paro a must visit place for the tourists. Also because Paro is the gateway to Bhutan by air.

Every year thousands of tourists visit Paro and as a result many handicrafts and souvenir shops have come up in recent years. A detour of the Paro town, and one will come across so many handicraft and souvenir shops. In fact these shops have outnumbered other shops like grocery, garment, and hotels. About four to five such new shops are being established every year in Paro.

How are they doing in terms of business? The shop owners say that all is not well with the business, especially at this time of the year.

Enter any shop, there is not much varieties in the items sold. Most of the items for sale are hand woven ghos and kiras, religious and old traditional items.

In order to give choice to the tourists, some of the shop owners bring similar items from Nepal and New Delhi in India. However, according to one of the shop owners, Tshering Dhendup, tourists prefer to buy locally produced garments and items. „Most of the tourists come through Nepal and India, so they are not really interested to buy.“

One of the most popular items sold during the tourist and Tshechu seasons is the hand woven ghos and kiras. Therefore, most of the shops are adorned with expensive garments like Keshutharas, Metshimathras and other embroidered Ghos and Kiras among others. There are also some tourist couples who come to Bhutan to get married.

Some of the shops have weavers for themselves so that they do not have to buy from others to sell it to the tourists. „It is cheaper and easier if we have our weavers. We can also design and weave according to the demand in the market,“ said of the shopkeepers.

One of the biggest challenges faced these shops is lack of customers, especially at this time of the year. And also as the number of shops has gone up, some of the shopkeepers say, the business is not that lucrative anymore. They also say that, roadside sellers and hawkers, during important events and occasions, also hamper their businesses.

Although tourists are scarce at this time of the season they are, in deed, looking for the tourists season to arrive in few months time. For now, that is their only hope.

There are about 50 handicraft and souvenir shops in Paro.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Bhutan - Hydropower projects to be guided by Country’s Law

In the recent 8th Empowered Joint Group meeting in New Delhi, India it was decided that the joint venture hydro power projects will be carried out as per the country’s law. One of the major demands put forward by the Indian Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) was that they will not return back the hydropower project free of cost after 30 years. But, after prolonged negotiation it was resolved the projects will be given to Bhutan free of cost in good running condition.

The Empowered Joint Group meeting also decided that the term of ownership of the project will be only for 30 years as per the law of the land. The PSUs demanded the ownership for 35 years. The Indian PSUs had also agreed to pay the 12 % royalty of the power generation to the government during the loan period. After the loan period is over, the PSUs will pay 18 % royalty to the Bhutanese government. It will also pay corporate tax for 10 years after commissioning of the power plants.

Meanwhile, the Indian PSUs will own 51 percent of the projects while 49% will belong to the Druk Green Power Corporation. The PSUs will pump in 70 percent of the 17 billion rupee required to construct the power plans while the remaining 30 percent will have to be managed by Bhutan. Government of India has also agreed to grant the money for Bhutan.

The board of the projects will have equal member from both the sides with a maximum of five members each.The four power projects are the 670 megawatt Chamkarchu in Bumthang, 600 megawatt Kholongchuin Trashiyangtse, and 600megawattWangchu and 180 megawatt Bunakha reservoirs in Chukka. Meanwhile the four joint-venture projects will have a combined capacity of 2,000 megawatt. The construction works of the four mega hydropower projects will begin from end of this year or early next year.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Bhutan - Season of love and marriage

It is a season of love and marriage in Tsirang. Couples are tying their knots in elaborate wedding ceremonies. Every nook and corner of Tsirang is echoing with the sound of jubilation.

The wedding ceremony is a grand and elaborate affair in the southern Dzongkhags. For a couple to begin a new life, it is mandatory to undergo the wedding ceremony. The wedding celebrations begin days before the actual wedding day and go on for weeks. Several pre-wedding ceremonies take place before the actual wedding day.

The pre-wedding rituals are traditional customs that are considered to be auspicious for the wedding and the married life of the would-be couple. It is also a way to mentally and emotionally prepare the bride, groom and their families for the marriage. The pre-wedding rituals take place both at the bride and the groom’s place.

Today, Nar Bahadur Pradhan is going to the bride’s home, to officially seek permission to marry her. “I am happy because I am going to get my wife. I feel nervous at the same time fearing that I might miss something do during the wedding ceremony,” says the nervy groom.

On the other side, Dik Maya Pradhan, is preparing the biggest day of her life. She says she feels sad to leave her parents behind. “So far I have been living with my parents.”

The actual wedding ceremony takes place at the bride’s place. The wedding ceremonies mostly happen in the night. But it differs according to location and caste.

The couple ties their knot officially in front of many people. Family members, relatives and neighbours gather for the ceremony and rejoice throughout the night.

A short ceremony is held in the morning, before the groom takes away the bride. This ceremony is usually an emotional ceremony for the bride and her parents. The ceremony marks the end of bride’s stay with her parents to start a new life with the groom’s parents.

“I feel unhappy to give my daughter to someone. But it’s our tradition that we should sent our daughters to her husband’s home. Our ancestors have been following the tradition. So am trying to be strong and happily send her with her husband,” says Gita Maya Pradhan, the bride’s mother.

It is a tradition for the bride to leave her house and live with the husband’s family. Only if there is no male child in the bride’s family, then the groom will live with the bride’s family.

The ceremony is held mostly in the keeping with the tradition.

But the tradition is undergoing change with time.

For example, in a traditional marriage ceremony, the bride and the groom have no choice of their own. The weddings are arranged by their families and are bound to accept their parent’s choice. The marriage was also held at a very young age.

“Previously, we were married against our will by our parents. Before that marriage took place as early as seven years old,” says Lachi Maya Pradhan.

According to Kasi Nath, there were more divorce cases because people were forced to marry very early. “I got married at the age of eleven years old.”

But today, marriage is about choice. Arranged marriages are rarely happening. The boy or the girl can choose their own partners and propose their parents for the wedding ceremony. If their parents deny their proposal, they elope, after which most of their parents accept their relationship.

It is mandatory for relatives living in other parts of the country to come and participate in the wedding. It is also customary for those living outside their village to come and get married in their village.

“We have to come and attend the wedding ceremony. The bride is related me so I came from Thimphu to attend her wedding. We come and help them,” says Laxmi Narayan Pradhan.

People, both young and old, attend the wedding ceremony. For the younger ones it is a reminder that they have to undergo such ceremonies in the future. For the old ones, it is a time to reflect how successful their married life has been. It not just a ceremony for a couple to come together and start a new life but also a rare opportunity for the family members, relatives, friends and neighbours to get together.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Bhutan - His Majesty the King offered prayers and Khadars to the Kudung of late Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche at Dagophu in Paro today.

His Majesty the King and the Gyaltsuen, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Their Majesties the Queen mothers and the princesses offered prayers and Khadars to the Kudung of late Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche at Dagophu in Paro today.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Bhutan - Late Dungse Rinpoche’s Kudung arrives in Bhutan

The Kudung of late Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche arrived in Paro from New Delhi today. On arrival to Paro airport, the Kudung was received by Her Royal Highness Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck, National Assembly Speaker Jigme Tshultim, Finance Minister Wangdi Norbu and devotees.

Our reporter, Chimi Dorji, says that hundreds of devotees lined up along the roadside leading to Dagophu under Lamgong Gewog and received blessings from the Kudung. The final rites will be carried out at Dagophu on March 3. The Kudung will be kept in Paro till 4thFebruary for the public to receive blessings.

Before being flown to Bhutan, the Kudung was received by the Bhutanese embassy in New Delhi yesterday. About 100 Bhutanese residing in Delhi came to receive blessing from the Kudung

The Kudung will be flown to Yonphula where it will be taken to Rangjung Woesel Choeling monastery in Trashigang. It will also be taken to Chador Lhakhang in Bartsam and Yonphula Lhakhang and back to Paro on February 15.

Born in 1931, late Dungse Rinpoche was a prominent master of Nyingma lineage, a renowned teacher and an author of numerous books on Buddhist teachings. Dungse Rinpoche passed away on December 27 at California in United States. Rinpoche last visited Bhutan in October 2009, on the invitation of Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Bhutan - Copyright registry established

For the first time, people can register their work with the copyright registry established under the Intellectual Property Division (IPD). It is a voluntary deposit and registration system where the right holders of the copyright and related rights works get to establish prima facie proof of authorship or ownership of their work. Those who want to register can apply to the IPD beginning next month.

The Director of IPD, Sonam Wangchuk, said that people can still enjoy the copyright even without registering or depositing the work with the IPD. “The purpose of this is, firstly, to provide the owners of the copyright with the prima facie evidence to show that they are the owners of the work. Secondly, to have a kind of repository of works with the division so that public can search and look into what are the literary and artistic works that is being created”.

The IPD will publish the notification in its website about the work to be registered. If there is no objection within one month, the copyright holder will be issued a certificate of registration. But it doesn’t guarantee against infringement. And this is the problem many copyrights owners are facing these days.

According to the General Secretary of the Motion Picture Association of Bhutan, Sherub Gyeltshen, the biggest violation that is happening is on the films. He added that pirated movies are readily available in the market.

The extent of copyright violation is huge. There are over 200 pirated Bhutanese films seized in the past from Wangduephodrang. The General Secretary said the judiciary, police and the Department of Revenue and Customs are the three enforcement agencies. But, he said, nothing has been achieved even when there is Copyright Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2001.

“We do not again expect special checking purely for pirated films and songs. While you do search tobacco, drugs and other illegal stuff why can’t you even do a small favour by even checking, seizing illegal CDs and DVDs that have been bought,” said the General Secretary.

And it is worse when the songs and movies are shared on computers and mobile phones. The impact is clear. A walk into the market and one will see less or no people buying Bhutanese films and songs.

An award winning music composer, Yeshi, shares the same sentiment. “In the past there were many music albums because it was profitable. But now not many people are producing music albums. And movie makers also do not release albums,” he said.

The Act says any infringement of a right protected under this Act, if committed willfully, or by gross negligence, and for profit-making purposes, shall be punishable by imprisonment for a period of up to one year or by a fine of up to Nu. 10,00,000 or by both.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Bhutan - India’s 63rd Republic Day

The Indian Community gathered at the Indian embassy in Thimphu to celebrate India’s 63rd Republic day, today.

The Gyalpoi Zimpoen,Dasho Penjore, and other senior government officials were also present at the celebration. The celebrations began with the hoisting of Indian national flag.

The Indian ambassador to Bhutan, Pavan K Varma read out the President of India’s address to the gathering. In her address, the President said that India should set example before the democratic world of progress and growth.

“We seek to build bridges of co-operation and friendship with all the countries of the world. We constructively engage with international community to find responses to global challenges. The role and stature of India has been growing and our nation has been scaling up to the ladder of the comity of nations,” reads the message.

The Republic Day of India commemorates the date on which the Constitution of India came into force.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Bhutan - What lies beneath…

The way the Parliament resolved the much debated election amendment bill on January 19 was significant in the sense the speaker, for the first time, used his sole authority to decide how to go about with a bill.

Also for the first time, the joint committee who studied the disputed portions to draw recommendations for the Parliament to vote on could not come up with one.

Deprived of recommendations, the speaker decided to do without voting and announced the original election Act stand, meant the state funding for political parties, proposed in the bill, flopped.

But was the speaker’s decision, many asked, to withhold the voting process and revert to the former Act the only option the Parliament was left with?

When the session took off, assembly’s legislative committee chairperson, Ugyen Wangdi, who introduced the bill in the 6th session, suggested on withdrawing it.

But this option was shot down when the speaker clarified that this could be done only in individual houses of the Parliament and not in a joint session.

Without any recommendation, an alternative the joint committee comprising members from both assembly and council had considered the night before the joint sitting, was to vote on the draft bill.

In it featured the proposal to fund state funding for opposition and ruling parties with government deciding the amount in consultation with election commission.

But this did not happen and rather, the legislative chairperson proposed withdrawing the bill.

While one could only guess what led to the change in course, after clamouring so much for state funding, it is even more intriguing to learn why voting was not opted. It’s not like there wasn’t enough support.

Of the 69 members present that day, 46 “yes” votes was all that was required to pass the bill by a two-third majority.

Excluding the speaker and the foreign minister, there were 43 DPT members who were all ayes for state funding. Of the two opposition members, going by the past deliberations, at least one would have voted in for state funding.

That garnered 44 “yes” votes. Of the 25 council members, at least two had already made known their interest to support state funding. That took the vote to 46, meaning the required majority was achieved.

Even if the gathering was short of a vote to attain the two-third majority, considering both the opposition members voted “no”, the legislative rules of procedure allowed the speaker to cast the deciding vote.

That way, the passage of bill was possible.

Even otherwise, the bill was fated to die. In the course of deliberation, assembly members, including the prime minister, divulged on their position to have state funding for not just the ruling and the opposition parties, but for others as well.

Since the amendment bill assembly members proposed did not have that, the formula to come out with an inclusive bill in future was to let the current bill die. That required assembly members to vote against their own bill.

Declaring a bill “dead” invited much criticism in some countries since it was seen as Parliament’s inability to do its job. But chances of this happening was rare as the bills, unlike in Bhutan, could be tossed between the two houses countless times. What was even more rare was the frequent joint sitting of the houses.

Here, the law mandated the houses to sit together and decide on the bill once it was deliberated in the two houses and differences prevailed.

State funding, for one, saw endless debates in the two houses over more than three years.

The issue drew media’s attention when council members, in the first session, highlighted its unconstitutionality as finance minister presented to the house the 2008-09 budget and appropriation bill.

In the same session, council submitted to the assembly the discrepancies they detected.

Interestingly, in the assembly, following a detailed deliberation, members deemed it unconstitutional and resolved “that the political parties would not be provided with state funding”.

The issue resurfaced in the third session when the prime minister, in his first annual report on the state of the nation, highlighted on political parties “struggling to stay afloat”.

“Our parties need financial support and that is not available from our people who are few in number and short in cash,” the report stated.

In the 6th session, the assembly put up the election Act for amendment and inserted a clause on state funding. After exhaustively deliberating on it, with one member after another speaking in its favour, the bill was endorsed with 36 “yes” and two “no” votes.

In the 7th session, the council rejected the amendments and reached the joint session this year.

Meanwhile, the logic to return with more inclusive bill in future is welcomed by many, especially those with intentions to form new political parties and deem state support important.

A write-up offering options to fund political parties, circulated among Parliament members before the January 6 joint sitting, states: “provision of equal fund to all the registered political parties becomes baseless or unconstitutional when they do not have any representation in the Parliament”.

Alternatives like offering slightly higher amount to the ruling and opposition compared to other political parties was also laid down on the paper.

Considering elements such as these, perhaps the speaker’s decision to neatly wrap up the matter this time was the safest.

It provides a good opportunity for members of both houses to take a step back, re-look the issue and return with fresh perspectives.

By Kesang Dema