Thursday, September 16, 2010

Should RTI Act be introduced in Bhutan?

Tshering P. Dorji

Information as a term means giving shape to something and forming a pattern, respectively. It means adding something new to our awareness and removing the vagueness of our ideas.

“Information is a necessity”, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley said. However, Lyonchhen said, “I cannot say if the Right To Information (RTI) Act is needed in our country at this point of time. Thus far, what ever information, whether it’s to media or to any organisation, government has not withheld any information that is required by the public to know”.

Lyonchhen further said, “RTI is not yet a priority because the information is still available. We have got so many Bills that are urgent and needs to be enacted. The Parliament is required to enact these Bills as per the constitution”.

According to Karma Gyeltshen, a civil servant, information is power these days. To share this power is empowering the weakest sections of the society. “It is precisely because of this reason that the Right to Information has been ensured by some developed countries elsewhere,” he said.

While most of the civil servants and media professionals I interviewed had mixed feelings about introducing RTI in the country, the managing editor of Bhutan Observer, Needup Zangpo, said that RTI is one of the central pillars of democracy and that, “If not now, sometime in the future, it should be introduced in the country”. He added that with democracy in the country, the introduction of RTI in the country has become “inevitable”. He pointed out that the government at this juncture “does not feel the need though”.

He added that information is indispensable for the functioning of a true democracy. People have to be kept informed about current affairs and broad issues whether it is political, social or economic. “Free exchange of ideas and free debates are essentially desirable for the government of a democratic country,” he said.

Tenzin Rigden, the editor in chief of Bhutan Today and the former press secretary to the Prime Minister opinions that RTI as of now is not needed. “In the future, yes”, he said, adding that the present government is transparent and that any information that is required to be reached to the people is not being with held by the government. He feels that with the change in government in the future, the need for RTI will arise.

Kezang Dema, a corporate employee is of the view that RTI is a constitutional right as enshrined in the constitution of the Kingdom. “The prerequisite for enjoying this right is knowledge and information,” she said adding that the absence of authentic information on matters of public interest will only encourage wild rumours and speculations and avoidable allegations against individuals and institutions. “And therefore, the RTI becomes a constitutional right, being an aspect of the right to free speech and expression which includes the right to receive and collect information,” she said.

However, on the contrary, Sonam Lhamo a school teacher said that as no right can be absolute, the RTI has to have its limitations. “There will always be areas of information that should remain protected in public and national interest,” she said. Moreover, she said that this unrestricted right can have an adverse effect of an overload of demand on administration, and so the “Information has to be properly and clearly classified by an appropriate authority,” Sonam said.

Towards curbing violence in Bhutanese homes

Tshering P. Dorji

A survivour of gender based violence in Peru, was once quoted as saying, “It is said that we were all born under a star; when I watch the stars at night, I ask which of them is mine, so that I can change it for another one.” Such is the plight of women who fall victim to violence at homes.
At the stakeholder’s consultation meeting on 27th August 2010 held in the capital at Bhutan Chamber for Commerce and Industry (BCCI) the members reviewed the much awaited domestic violence Bill of Bhutan. The members consisted of parliamentarians, health officials, police, officials from the non-governmental organizations and other champions of the cause.
“As we embark on this journey each and every one of us have a responsibility and a duty to leave behind a better world than we found. It is our moral obligation to hand to our children a society free of social malice,” Chimi Wangmo, the executive director of Respect Educate Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW) said. She added that social problem we face today is as complex as it has ever been. “It is a daunting challenge to tackle the issues of substance abuse, aggression, and domestic violence within our society. But every long and difficult journey begins with the first step and we have actually made a leap to begin our journey,” she said.
According to the United Nations to which Bhutan is a signatory, domestic violence, any act of gender based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering for women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) domestic violence accounts for a high proportion of homicides of women internationally. About 40 percent to 70 percent of female murder victims (depending on the country) were killed by their partners/former partners, whereas the comparable figure for men stood at 4 percent to 8 percent.
The study conducted by RENEW on domestic violence concluded that domestic violence has become a cliché in Bhutanese society over time. “Like any other society such form of violence is viewed casually as a private affair and is sanctioned under the semblance of cultural practices, social norms, misinterpretation of religious tenets and misguided jurisprudence often referred as ‘balance judgment’”, the report said.
In a population based survey conducted in Thimphu by RENEW in 2007 indicated that 77 percent of the participants in the survey have experienced domestic violence in the past three years. The statistics from the forensic unit of the National Referral Hospital in Thimphu indicates that 70 percent of the reported assault cases are of domestic violence. In 2008, the forensic unit recorded 339 cases of domestic violence perpetrated against women. In the first half of year 2009, the unit saw 169 cases. 80 percent of the domestic violence cases reported to RENEW is of repetitive violence they have endured anywhere from 3 to 14 years.
The Bill reviewers concluded that gender norms and inequity condone and perpetuate violence against women and that the violence against women is used to support unequal gender roles.
Doctor Rinchen Chhophel of National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) in his presentation said men notion that they have the right to control wives’ behavior and to ‘discipline’ them. He quotes a typical husband saying, “If it is a great mistake, the husband is justified in beating his wife. Why not? A cow will not be obedient without beatings.” The notion, he asserted is that “There are ‘just’ causes for violence.”
The reviewers as well deliberated on some of the myths and realities about gender based violence. “To say that gender based violence happens only to poor and marginalized women and that men cannot control themselves because violence is simply a part of their nature is but a facade. The reality is, such violence happens among people of all socioeconomic, educational and racial profiles,” one reviewer pointed out.
“Male violence is not genetically based. It is perpetuated by a model of masculinity that permits and even encourages men to be aggressive and that blaming the victim is precisely the kind of attitude that has the potential to cause harm to a survivor of violence,” Dr Chhophel said.
According to WHO report, incidences consistently show that most women who experience domestic violence are abused by people they know. “Often the perpetrators are those they trust and love,” the report said.
The RENEW’s report, ‘domestic Violence: social malice’ says that their study revealed 77 percent of the women surveyed in Thimphu have experienced domestic violence within the past 3 years.
Police records indicate domestic violence reports of up to 6 times per week. The forensic unit in the National Referral Hospital recorded 339 cases in the year 2008, and 169 in the first half of year 2009. RENEW alone has catered services to 400 victims of domestic violence so far.
Gender based violence according to Dr Pakila Dukpa is also one of the major public health issues in the country. “Besides socio-economic and psychological impacts, domestic violence also causes severe reproductive health impacts. Forced sex for instance, is directly correlated to fatal diseases like HIV/AIDS,” he said.
The reviewers revealed that world wide, US $ 5.1 billion is spent annually in treating victims of domestic violence. Statistics for Bhutan as of now is unavailable.
Dr Chhophel concluded his presentation saying that the journey is long, tedious and painful but “we must make a start” and with the drafting of this Bill “the start has begun”, he said.

No women, No GNH?

Tshering P. Dorji

A type of governance that considers and is receptive to gender differences is good governance. While, men and women are treated as equals and provided equal opportunities in Bhutan, socially preconceived gender differences thwart good governance.
Based on the results of Population and Housing Census of Bhutan (PHCB) 2005 the National Statistics Bureau’s (NSB) population projections reveal that women constitute half the population of the country implying that they can play crucial role in the economy.
However, women’s participation towards nation building is cheerless, so the figures maintain. The civil service with 19,835 employees consists of 6,166 women which accounts for about 31% of the total. And according to the Opposition Leader, Tshering Tobgay, the civil service currently employs less than one woman for every two men.
Of the 181 executive level civil servants only eight are women with only one at the secretary level. Figures state that except for one government owned corporations the rest are all men. And of the 72 members in the parliament, only 10 are women. Further still, at the grass root level only one woman rub shoulders with 204 other gups. And worse still, we neither had a woman as a dzongdag nor a minister in the cabinet ever.
The effort thus far by the government with regard to women’s participation at the decision making level is according to most Bhutanese Bhutan Times talked to “is either lacking” or “the better halves are not interested.”
Although the Royal Government has maintained a gender neutral position in the formulation and implementation of its plans, policies and programmes, the National Plan of Action’s (NGAP) gender baseline study report revealed that while Bhutan enjoyed a generally high level of gender equality, “More subtle and indirect forms of gender bias did exist.” The study highlighted gender gaps in key areas such as higher education, national economy and political participation.
As affirmed by the Prime Minister, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley in his State of the Nation report 2009-2010, “My fellow subjects of the great king, we must not be passive observers passing judgments. We must directly or through our MPs play a role in correcting and changing what is unjust or inequitable,” Lyonchhen said. “Our duty is to be caring, active, participative and contribute to the making of our country into a vibrant and sustainable democracy.”
However, gender equality cannot be achieved by government alone but should be tackled by society as a whole. The formulation of approaches will need to ensure that these policies, programmes and projects are oriented to both women and men if sustainable development is to be achieved.
“I would remind that ensuring equity and justice in our society is not the sole responsibility and function of the state-it is shared in a democracy,” Lyonchhen said in his address to the nation. “As citizens of a democracy, we must always mindfully be aware that the will and actions of the leaders, and in turn, the state are reflection of the culture and will of the people.”
“To address the issue, gender responsive governance will need to be practiced and further progress required towards promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the next elections in 2013,” said Member of the Parliament (MP) Lila Pradhan. She implied that by encouraging more women to join politics it would give some diversity.
Attempting to achieve the Gross National Happiness (GNH) without conferring on in gender uniformity would increase reduce chances of acquiring GNH. “The noble concept after all is, all about contentment and contentment can only be realised when gender balance is achieved and more so at the administrative level,” Lila Pradhan said.
According to Lila Pradhan sustainable development which has been and still is the top most priority of the government can only be achieved when citizens and social structures work together to make use of the society’s utmost potentials irrespective of gender. “With good and equitable governance, sustainable human development is more easily achieved,” she said.
Attending to gender inequality will reduce poverty and enhance economic growth by increasing the productivity and efficiency of women’s contribution to the not only Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but also GNH, and according to MP Karma Lhamo, it is the lack of university level education that the women in Bhutan are generally found lacking in this front.
“Addressing gender inequality is not about advancement of women’s rights but rather enabling women to make full use of their potentials and skills thus contributing towards a productive workforce for the country and thereby enhancing good governance and economic growth,” Karma Lhamo said.
It is necessary to create an enabling environment for women’s empowerment, a process that will eventually lead to greater participation in social and political processes, greater decision-making power.

Quotas have been viewed as one of the most effective affirmative actions in increasing women's political participation. There are now 77 countries with constitutional, electoral or political party quotas for women worldwide. “Minimum quota system in our country as well would be nice. It would encourage more participation,” said MP Karma Rangdol, adding that such system would also mean forgoing quality.

In a nutshell, whether it is our traditions or the failure to implement gender sensitive policies women’s political empowerment until this day was invariably fraught with challenges and difficulties and is a matter to be confronted now.

By enhancing women’s presence will make parliament more humane, more sensitive to the real concerns of the citizens by better equipping the government to respond to the needs of all sectors of society. By doing so, “Realising GNH is not distant,” the members of the parliament told Bhutan Times.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The RAA report 2009 is flawed!

The audit report of Chukha Dzongkhag according to the latest report is based on the significance of the findings and more importantly, the recommendations made to mend and avoid further lapses. This however, is not true with regard to Tala Hydroelectric Power Authority (THPA).

“We are proud and grateful that Tala Hydro Power Authority (THPA) is one of the biggest projects ever in the country. It as well, so far, is the biggest revenue generator for the government. However, the audit report does not have any details,” the Opposition Leader, Lyonpo Tshering Tobgay said adding that
If the audit of the THPA as per the report was carried out to assess the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the management and share experiences from the pioneer of mega hydro project for the benefit of managing projects of similar magnitude in the future, “the question is how was the audit done without any numerical details on the report?” questioned a civil servant seeking anonymity.
Sangay Dorji, (name withheld) claims that he is related to THPA one way or the other and had read the report thoroughly said, “the report though might claim to have submitted the Detailed Project Report (DPR), however, on the report I don’t see any in black and white.”
The only positive thing in the report about the THPA audit as mentioned in the report is the finding by the Royal Audit Authority (RAA). And that being having successful at meeting the rising demand for power in India, which naturally means a good source of income for the country.
As pointed out in the report the “initial survey and investigations on geological parameters on which the DPR was premised was inadequate. This led to gross underestimation of Bill of Quantities (BoQ) causing substantial actual variations and execution of extra items enhancing the cost of the project.”
The Opposition leader pointed out in the Parliament how the cost of civil works had gone up by more than six times the original estimated cost.
The Opposition leader said that the penal clauses were hardly invoked on the contractors. “Such negligent practice could in the future influence other big upcoming hydro projects to follow the same practice as well,” he said.
“No recommendations is worthy if the audit report in the first placed is flawed because it lacks the details. And how could such a big project’s audit was not in detail just as other audit reports? This is a mysterious,” a senior civil servant said.

The Annual Audit Report 2009 was compiled from 609 audit reports issued during 2009. The total unresolved significant irregularities reported in the Annual Audit Report amounted to Nu. 348.34 million as compared to Nu. 151.00 million that was reported in the Annual Audit Report 2008.

The higher figure this year is mainly due to huge overdue advances in some of the agencies particularly under the Ministry of Education and Tourism Council of Bhutan. The RAA report justifies this saying that the advances in these two agencies pertained to major procurement and ongoing construction activities and that it was “attributable to the substantial increase in the number of reports issued during the year.”

Because the Annual Audit Report 2009 was expected to be comprehensively a significant unresolved findings detected during financial year most people I talked to yawned as they were approached.

Dasho Sonam Penjor the Member of Parliament and the Chairman of Public Account Committee agrees that the audit report “can be wrong sometimes” mainly because of the time factor. “By the time the agencies submit their report to the concerned authorities the deliberations would already have been done,” he said.

Particularly on the THPA matter the Chairman said that the discussion on it’s audit report will continue in the sixth session of the parliament. “We need to hear from RAA and THPA authorities to come to a conclusive audit report,” he said adding that the validity of the current report is questionable.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bhutan warmer and wetter

Meteorological data over the last six years show that Bhutan is becoming warmer.

The nationwide data maintained by meteorology section of the department of energy show an annual increase in temperature and rainfall. They show that, in the last six years, there has been an increasing trend in erratic precipitation and monsoon patterns across the country.

Weather forecast records throughout the country confirm climate change in Bhutan.

In the south, the maximum average temperature in Bhur, Sarpang, has risen from 27.08 degree Celsius in 2003 to 28.49 degree Celsius in 2008. In six years, Bhur has become warmer by 1.41 degree Celsius. The average minimum temperature, which was 17.8 degree Celsius in 2003, has shot up by 0.875 degree Celsius in 2008.
Over the past six years, Sarpang has recorded a rise in the volume of rainfall. In 2003, the dzongkhag received 1127 mm of rain which increased to 2422mm in 2008.

In the central part of the country, Bumthang has seen an increase in both average maximum and minimum temperatures in the last six years. Its average high increased from 17.03 degree Celsius to 17.66 degree Celsius and average low increased from 6.28 degree Celsius to 6.61 degree Celsius. On average, Bumthang too has experienced more rainfall over the years.

In the east, Trashigang recorded an increase of 0.89 degree Celsius in its maximum average temperature and 0.20 degree Celsius in its average minimum temperature with an increase of rainfall by 65 mm over six years.

In the western region, Thimphu recorded an inp1crease in both average maximum temperature and average minimum temperature along with an average increase in rainfall.

The time for snowfall in Thimphu has elapsed so it will not snow this year, according to the meteorology section.

The head of the section, Kinzang Sonam, said, “Neither the satellite pictures nor the data on wind direction, cloud density, humidity and temperature indicate the possibility of snow in Thimphu this year.”

Thimphu recorded an average maximum temperature of 20.35 degree Celsius in 2003 compared to 20.95 degree Celsius in 2008. The average minimum temperature of the dzongkhag also rose by 0.55 degree Celsius from 7.43 degree Celsius in 2003 to 7.98 degree Celsius in 2008. The capital also recorded a consistent increase in the volume of rainfall between 2003 and 2008.

Dasho Nado Rinchen, the Deputy Minister of the National Environment Commission (NEC), said, “Although countries like Bhutan contribute the least to global warming, they will be seriously affected by the impacts of climate change.”

According to Thinley Namgyal, the Project Manager for climate change at the NEC, “Our roads and other important infrastructure will suffer damages from landslides and flashfloods caused by climate change. Furthermore, the rapid melting of glaciers will dramatically increase the risk of glacial lake outburst floods besides affecting the base flow of our rivers.”

Farmers, who make up 79 percent of the population, will be directly affected by temperature changes and unpredictable monsoon patterns.

Thinley Wangchuk, a data analyst and a technician at the meteorological section, said, “Climate change such as increasing temperatures and changes in weather patterns may have been caused by increasing human population.”

Although population density at 12 persons per square kilometre is the lowest in south Asia, the growth rate of 2.53 percent is among the highest in the world.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bhutan’s the largest Thongdroel unfurled

The 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choeda consecrated Bhutan’s largest Thongdroel depicting 8th century Buddhist master, Guru Padmasambhava, in Tashichodzong yesterday morning.

Measuring 108 by 88 feet, the Thongdroel was offered to the royal government by Khenpo Sangay Choeda, a Buddhist monk who hails from Chokhortoe in Bumthang.

Hundreds of devotees attended the unfurling. The Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, MPs and senior bureaucrats as well attended the ceremony.

Khenpo Sangay Choeda is a graduate of the prestigious Nyingma Buddhist Institute in Mysore, India. The Thongdroel was offered by him as Kurim for peace and harmony in the Kingdom.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The presentation on national budget-well done!

The Finance Minister Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu yesterday presented the government’s budget for the financial year (FY) 2010 and 2011at National Assembly session.

According to the national budget report (FY 2010-2011) the initial approved budget outlay for the FY was Nu. 26,304.310mn. The budget estimate at the end of March 2010 shot to Nu 30,451.645mn an increase of 15.77%. The revised budget includes Nu. 4,147.335mn.

The country’s current expenditure projection is revised upwards to Nu. 13,837.352mn an increase of about 1.8% from the original estimate of Nu. 13,594.134mn. The increase mainly is due to the incorporation of additional project funds of Nu. 243.218mn.

The capital expenditure budget estimate has also been revised upwards to Nu. 17,731.429mn representing about 28% increase from the original capital budget outlay of Nu. 13,827.312mn. The increase is mainly due to the incorporation of additional budget for activities such as the construction of Lhakhangs and cottage for nuns at Wolakha in Punakha, acquisition of land for the green zone areas in Thimphu city and for several donor funded activities amounting to Nu. 3,904.117mn.

The domestic projected revenue is Nu. 15,370.223mn an increase from the original estimate of Nu.14,108.766mn or 8.94%, which is mainly on account of increase in remittances from the Tala hydro-power project due to improved generation during the year.

Funds received from donors incorporated as supplementary budget for the FY 2009-2010 is Nu. 2,076.956mn and 104.323 mn under the Royal government’s funding.

The gross domestic product (GDP) of the country since the last two years grew by 11.9% which shrunk to 6.2% in the FY 2008-2009. The electricity sector continued to be the main driver of the economy. It accounted for over 22% of GDP on average, as compared to 11.5% in the FY 2005-2006 and 18% in the FY 2006-2007.

The share of agriculture conversely has gradually decreased from 21.8% in the FY 2005-2006 to 16.7% in the FY 2008-2009. Another important contributor has been the construction sector which constituted about 12% of the economy.
Tourist arrivals in 2009 is estimated to have dropped by more than 15% as compared to the year earlier.

Gross foreign exchange reserves reached the equivalent of US $ 758 mn as of the end of June 2009 against US $ 655.3mn the previous year recording a growth of US 102.7 mn or 15.7%. As of December 2009, it had reached US $ 818.59 mn, sufficient enough to cover more than 19 months of imports.

A significant portion of the grant is provided by the Government of India (GoI) as in the past. For the FY, the total GoI grants of Nu. 8,068.180mn is presently projected of which the programme grant is Nu. 1,400mn and project grants of Nu. 6,668.180mn.

Besides the grants from GoI, project-tied grants of Nu. 2,331.258mn and programme grants of Nu. 505.700mn is expected from other bilateral and multilateral agencies.

“This year’s budget is also like in the past is geared towards poverty reduction and so the primary focus is on the socio-economic development strategies within a sound macro-economic framework,” the Finance Minister told the House.

Like always the government has accorded high priority to the Health and Education sectors. The sectors combined will receive the highest share of about 23% of the total budget.

The amount allocated in these two sectors is not revealed but going by some of the major areas of expenditure over Nu. 400mn in the Health sector and over Nu. 700mn in the education sector will be incurred during the FY 2010-2011.

Understanding that high quality human capital is a pre-requisite the government has committed Nu.369.93mn as human resource development budget. And to accelerate development in the rural areas the government has allocated Nu.
3,547.599mn towards Renewable Natural Resource for the purpose.

For the trade, Industry and private sector development Nu.109.395mn has been allocated to cover development and maintenance of Industrial sites, revision of Company’s act, feasibility studies for the setting up of new industries.
In the tourism sector to gear up for the planned inflow of 100,000 tourists a year by 2012 the government for the FY 2010-2011 Nu. 203.259mn has been allocated.

The total budget in the road sector is Nu. 3,444.806mn which is about 10% of the total budget, the primary aim being to link all parts of the country internally.

The government’s one of the main focuses being on the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Nu. 1,061.3mn and an additional Nu. 193.969mn as a provision for the development of various airports and their operation has been allocated.

A budget of Nu. 2,567.658mn is provided for in the Law and Order sector out of which Nu.1,098.669mn is for the improvement of the living conditions and efficiency of the police force.

The Finance Minister’s presentation on the budget will continue this coming Monday.

Advocating Buddhism from the wheel chair

His eminence Lama Ugyen Norbu, 33, popularly known as ‘Dechencholing Rinpoche’ is a well known Buddhist master to many Bhutanese and tourists alike. He advocates Buddha dharma from his wheel chair but the physical disability does not at all prevent him from advocating Buddha dharma.
He is profoundly well versed in both Kagyu and Nyingma traditions of Vajrayana sect which is mainly practiced in Bhutan.
His eminence received empowerments and oral transmissions from great Buddhist masters like His Holiness Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, His Holiness Trulku Jigme Choeda, His Excellency Lopon Karma Jurmey the yogi who is the disciple of Lama Sonam Zangpo the great lineage holder of Tokden Shakya Sheri, His Excellency Khenpo Tshering Dendrup of Drigung Kagyue, His Holiness Kyabje Penor Rinpoche, His Holiness Kyabje Drubwang Rinpoche, His Holiness Kyabje Peling Thuksay Rinpoche, His Holiness Kyabje Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche, His Excellency Khenpo Karpo Rinpoche the disciple of late Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, His Excellency Kyabje Zhechen Rabjam Rinpoche, Late Dabab Trulku of Trongsa, crazy yogi Bazuguru Lama of Zhemgang, His Holiness Lama Rigzin.
And also from other great masters like Palden Rinpoche (Lobesa Rinpoche) the heart son of Azom Gyelsay Jurmey Dorje, His Excellency Lopon Ugyen Jurmey son of Lopon Choedrak of Lhalung Tibet, His Excellency Kyabgoen Lama Yeshey Choezin Rinpoche of Kurtoe Ugyenphu who is his godly Father, His Excellency Trulku Rigzin Pema, His Excellency Khenchen Katayana and Khenpo Thubten Dorji of Mysore.
His eminence was born to a simple family in central Bhutan in 1977 with few auspicious signs. His father, Yeshey Penjor, vividly remembers how few Tibetan Lamas (Like Lama Yongzin Rinpoche and Kathok Rinpoche who lived in Bumthang after they fled Tibet) prophesied that a bodhisattva will take birth within a year’s time to his wife Aum Kuenzangmo. Lama Yongzin Rinpoche than gave a coral necklace and a white scarf to Aum Kuenzangmo and Yeshey Penjor with a prophecy: “A boy who will be born to the two of you will benefit millions of beings.”
During the time of conception Rinpoche’s mother had an extraordinary dream where a pure white radiant conch flew from a nearby Temple and entered her body from the crown. Unfortunately, the mother expired when he was barely two years old.
Rinpoche learned monastic rituals, grammar, literature and astrology while at Babron Tharpaling Monastery the main seat of Kunkhen Gyelwa Longchen Rabjam in Bumthang for few years.
He spent years as cow herder and finally had the chance to go to school when he was 13 years old. He had to discontinue his Bachelor's degree course from Sherubtse College to pursue higher meditation in Vajrayana Buddhism in late 1990s. The period saw him spending full time in retreat and meditation practices. It was during which time His eminence had the good fortune to receive precious Kagyu and Longchen Nyingthig tradition of Ngagyur Nyingma from the above mentioned bodhisattvas.
After having spent many years in meditation his masters advised that the time had come for him to begin teaching and propagating Buddhism. From then on he started teaching his devotees. His devotees include youth, common lay people, office goers, job-seekers, monks, nuns, lamas and trulkus. He spends most of his time these days attending to his visitors that come to get his blessing, oral transmission, meditation instructions, spiritual courses, counseling, astrological reading and anything to do with Buddha dharma.
The free time that he sometimes happens to have for himself, he spends it in prayers and in meditation called ‘watching the mind.’ When asked what he in particular practices, Rinpoche humbly said, “Well my main practices are Guru Yoga (Lamai Nyeljor) of Longchen Nyingthig and Vajrakilaya.” On the advice of his masters he had already undergone Munjusheri Jetsun Jampelyang retreat divination for a year long, Vajrapani Pelchakna Dorjee, Vajrakilaya Pelchen Dorji Zhoennu, and had profoundly learnt Tibetan and Bhutanese astrology.

I managed to interview some of his devotees. Phuntsho Thinley, a Park Manager with the ministry of Agriculture said, “Rinpoche is a highly learned being. Besides his convincing teachings as a result of his profound knowledge, he also has a great sense of humour.”

“To me he is like a Buddha himself. Just by the sight of him I fell as though all my sufferings are vanquished. His prediction for me until this time had all come true. I visit him almost on a weekly basis. The more I interact with him the more I find myself leaning towards him faith wise. He is just like any other truly learned Buddhist Lama,” said Sonam Tobgay, the Deputy Managing Director of Bhutan Post.

Sonam Tshomo, a nurse working for Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral hospital prefers to receive the teachings in English language. She said that after the counseling her friends who were into smoking received from Rinpoche, “They have stopped it all together. For youth like us, someone like him is as precious as our parents, if not more.”

One of the ardent devotees of Rinpoche is Jangchuk Dorji (Buddhist name) a Christian born American who had turned Buddhist on his own choice had this to say about his root Guru: “Because I found him ridiculously humble, modest, a being with no pride, no arrogance It took me a very long time to garner my respects for him. From where I come from people with such extraordinary traits could be taken for a fool by most. I think that’s because we like to be more critical. Now I know I had been overtly arrogant then. I wish it had not taken me that long to feel for him the way I feel now.” And added that he feels for the Rinpoche just the way Christians would feel for Jesus if he had been alive now and the way Muslims would feel for Prophet Mohammad in person or for that matter a Jew would feel for an alive and kicking Moses.

Under the strict guidance of His eminance, all his devotees are into practicing Chakchen Ngondro and Dzogchen Longchen Nyingthig Ngondro (Preliminary Practices) every day at their respective residence. After every month the devotees go to see him for further instruction on the practices.

Each day multitude of sick people visits His eminance to get remedial blessing and to seek guidance. “I am available any day, any hour. I always, like any Buddha dharma practioneers consider it my good karma whenever I am of help to them. Humanity is just one big family. I suggest that Buddha dharma be practiced religiously by all beings for their own benefit and for the benefit of all sentient beings. Youth especially should come forward-It is my dream to preach the teaching to the young minds for they are the future torch bearers,” Rinpoche said.

“What makes you not a Buddhist” by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche is the recent book in English read by His eminance and says, “The contents in the book are thought provoking. I have enjoyed it thoroughly.”

His eminence resides in a rented house in Dechencholing, Thimphu with few monk attendants. He pays his rent and survives with the offerings his devotees offer him. “Health wise, Rinpoche is not doing well at all and yet he insists that he see all his visitors,” said one of Rinpoche’s attendants.

Lets bet on the ball !

Little wonder that the World Cup being one of the biggest events in sports attracts millions of football fans from around the world. The feverish game has it’s fans across Bhutan betting for their favourite team.
Some of the most popular teams amongst Bhutanese are Brasil, Argentina, England, Spain, Italy and Netherlands.

“If you enjoy betting on sports then you will definitely not want to miss the action at the World Cup 2010 as it’s a perfect time to pad the bankroll,” Karma Dorji from Bumthang said. “I have in small amounts have kept bets in office, at bar and at the snooker house. If Italy wins, I will get richer by Nu. 15, 000,” he added.

The most common bet in the country amongst the fans is the single game wagers where one picks a winner or a draw. “This system of betting allows one to make either make fast cash or turn broke instantly,” said Ugyen Tshering who had recently won Nu. 1,000 after Argentina won over Nigeria.

Another popular wager is betting on whom one thinks will win the entire World Cup. “This pays out the best,” said Nima Gyalpo, an Engineer. Some government offices in the capital have come up with a betting system where by a lot is drawn and the winner at the end will take home the major portion of the bet money. Over 20 fans in each office have put forth Nu. 300 each.

“Betting in Bhutan is in small amounts. In my country we have a system where by one can go online and bet millions of dollars,” said Andres Gomez, a Columbian.
Aum Zam, a hotelier in Phuentsholing said that she received a text message from some anonymous person asking her if she wanted to bet Nu. 10,000 but she declined.

“It is important that you learn all the wagers you can make because then you will be able to take advantage of the bets with the best odds. Learning the teams inside out starting early will allow to have a much better grasp on betting the outcomes of matches throughout the World Cup,” said Sonam Dorji a contractor stationed at Samtse. He has put some substantial amount on Spain. He refused to reveal the sum.

According to Yeshi Dorji, a civil servant in Trashigang, even if one does not enjoy betting on sports typically, one will find making an exception for the World Cup. “It is definitely worth it. Watching the World Cup when you have wagers on the matches is a lot more entertaining then just watching the game, just make sure you don’t bet more then you can afford to lose,” he added.

"Some of the game has been fantastic. The games were very good. The super eights should make the competition more stiff and engrossing and betting more compulsive" Ugyen Tashi, a corporate employee in the capital said.

According to section 393 of the Penal Code of Bhutan (PCB), a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of gambling, if the defendant stakes or wagers something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under the defendent’s control or influence upon an agreement or understanding that the defendant will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.

Further the section 395 of the PCB states that except for an authorized lottery all else are to be considered gambling and therefore illegal.
Betting on this football extravaganza is high and fans have reported record wagering activity as punters flock to back their favorite teams.

Drooping TI rating of Bhutan

Bhutan is one of the least corrupt countries in south East Asia according to the latest Transparency International (TI) 2009 reports. The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) showed that Bhutan had scored 5.0 out of 10. The rating was done for 180 nations based on perceived levels of corruption in the public sector.

The CPI scores countries on a scale of zero to 10, with zero indicating high levels of corruption and 10, low levels. That ranking is based on data from country experts and business leaders at 10 independent institutions, including the World Bank, Economist Intelligence Unit and World Economic Forum.

However, according to the Commissioner of Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), Kezang Jamtsho it is not something we should laud ourselves about. “Our corruption rating is becoming worse by the year. Corruption is one of the biggest emerging challenges for Bhutan in general and for ACC in particular,” he said.

“Over the past one year ACC had received and dealt with about thrice the number of corruption cases than it has five years ago. So to say that we are one of the least corrupt countries in South East Asia is debatable,” said one of officers of ACC.
The commissioner said that even going by the TI reports, “Bhutan stood at 26th position in 2006 and barely three years after we have slumped down to 49th position. This in itself is an indication that says it all.”

According to TI 2009 report Bhutan had 5.2 as its CPI score in 2008 and a year after it dropped to 5, however, the position remained constant at 49th.
Kinga Tashi, a civil servant is of the opinion that Bhutan indeed is one of the least corrupt countries in South East Asia. “We have a good government. Bhutanese generally are honest people. And we have strong ACC to monitor corruption in the country. Every one hesitates to come under ACC scanner,” he said.

Pema Tshering, another civil servant disagrees. “I refute that we are one of the least corrupt countries in south East Asia. Well, it may be true some decades ago, but now it is a different story all together. With time the influence of globalization is apparent. How do you suppose a civil servant is able to afford posh cars like Prado and Land Cruiser in about less than a decade’s time in office?” he quips.

Samten Wangchuk a businessman said that corruption in Bhutan if not curbed from the offset is likely to become endemic with time. “There are so many instances of unreported corruption practices in our society-nepotism for an instance,” he said.
“Corruption is rampantly on the rise. Most likely, it is just the perception of the person on the street. I don't know how they accounted for various cultural differences. TI report is a typical screwed up Westerner's immature perception of the world,” said Lhendup Dorji a student of Economy.
A feature of 2009 CPI was that the vast majority of the 180 countries included in the index had scored below five.

Transparency International has found that a strong correlation between corruption and poverty continues to exist, jeopardizing the global fight against poverty and threatening to derail the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, and New Zealand are perceived to be the world's least corrupt countries with scores above 9 out of 10. And with scores below 2 are Somalia, Iraq, Haiti, and Myanmar and seen to be the most corrupt in the world.
Countries that have significantly improved their rating since the 2007 index were Albania, Cyprus, Georgia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, South Korea, Tonga, and Turkey. Some of the countries that have a significantly worse rating since 2007 include Bulgaria, Burundi, Maldives, Norway, and the United Kingdom.

Citizens boo the revision!

The ministry of finance’s decision to levy revised Sales Tax (ST) and Custom Duty (CD) on imported vehicles entering the country is not well received by the general public.

However, vehicles imported from India are subject to only revised sales tax.

As per the finance ministry’s notification the revised rate for vehicles with a cylinder capacity of up to 1500 cc is 30 percent CD and 20 percent ST respectively. Similarly, 30 percent will be the ST and 30 percent CD for vehicles up to 2500cc. However, the ST for petrol vehicles with a cylinder capacity above 2501 cc remain similar to that of 1500 cc with a 20 percent increase in CD.

The ministry’s revised ST and CD rates for private busses and motor vehicles for transport of goods is almost equivalent to light vehicles.
Most people I talked to in the capital city on the matter were of the opinion that the rate of increase was high.
“The government sometimes have wanton ways of coming up with policies like this one. They think that levying increased taxes will discourage people from buying cars-lets wait and see,” said Tandin Wangyel, 37, a business man said.
While Jigme Wangchuk, 41, a corporate employee said that just about a decade ago cars were a luxury but today it has become a necessity. “Why is the government tightening it’s noose around people’s capacity to afford what has now become a necessity?” he questions.
The ministry’s justification behind the increased tax and duty as a progressive taxation for Karma Phuntsho, 33, hotelier, is but “a progressive taxation towards increasing government revenue.”
According to the proprietor of one of the car outlets in the capital, the revised duty and tax was not appropriate. “The effect on our business as I see it is nil. Even after the increase people will keep buying cars like anywhere in the world,” the proprietor said.
Yeshi Dorji, 44, a civil servant said that if the increase is because of the traffic congestion, “I see roads being widened. And if it is because of the environmental issues, why isn’t the government providing some subsidies on the import of electric cars?” he solicits.
For someone like Sonam Yeshey, 39, a businessman, the revision is good news. He expects to fetch better price for his two second hand cars which he intends to sale.
For Deki Yangden, 25, a business woman, the revision means having to depend on taxis for another few more years before she can accumulate enough cash to buy a car. “Bus services are not reliable. Taxi fares are phenomenally high. I feel victimized,” she said.
According to the Opposition Leader Tshering Tobgay the only solution to control the growing number of vehicles in the country is to “improve public transport and discontinue quota system.”