30 March 2013

Social Media Monitor

I am officially appointed as the Social Media Monitor for 2013 Election by Election Commission of Bhutan since 10th March 2013. I will be working under office of Media Arbitrator in Chubachu with a team of media experts and a lawyer.
I have willingly agreed to undertake this role because of my love for social media. Now I can official be on twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, and online forums for 24 hours without upsetting my wife.
But I also have fear of being misunderstood by my cyber buddies-you might start thinking I will be policing on you and restrict your freedom on social media but in reality we are as free as ever as long as we follow rules. And ECB Social Media Rules and Regulation of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2012 has nothing more than ordinary rules we follow in life, what makes it different is it stresses on election. It's just a question of few months for the sake of Free and Fair election.

The rules are there to
  1. "Promote the responsible use of Social Media..."
  2. "Ensure a level playing field for all contestants..."
  3. "Prevent and Control any violation of the Electoral Laws in the use of Social Media in elections."

Click on the Picture to Download the book (Just 15 pages)
Let me quote few lines from the Rule book that will give you an idea of what you can and cannot do on Social Media during the Election Period;
Every user of the Social Media shall have the responsibility to carry out oversight duty and report to the election authorities any violation of the laws, in particular the Election Code of Conduct by a Political Party, Candidate, Voter, media, electoral officer or worker of a Political Party.
No individual shall communicate/transmit/post hate messages or any content with intent to defame or reduce the electoral chances of an opposing contestant or Political Party.
And under "Fair and Accurate Reporting" I'd like to highlight one point:
A Party, Candidate or their supporters shall not include rumour or unsubstantiated statements that have potential to mislead or deceive the reader, listener or viewer.
Role of our office is as stated in 4.6 (however the online version needs to be updated with changes made)
"The office of the Media Arbitrator shall put in place facility to monitor the Social Media forums effectively during the election and be responsible to arbitrate all media related disputes."
And in case of violation of the Electoral Laws by Anonymous users on Social Media:
4.9 (It's not in the online version)
"An ISP shall be required to put in place a system that can lawfully intercept and provide the necessary information on the identity of social media abuser using its services"
And two Solid Don't's you must remember during the election period are:
8.2 An online poll on support or opposition to Political Party or Candidate shall not be permitted during the Election Period.
The 48 hour period before poll and until the close of Polls, is also referred as Blackout Period or the 48-hour no-campaign period under the Laws, during which:
No one shall publish, broadcast, or transmit any item that is of the nature of election campaign supporting or opposing any Political Party or Candidate.
 **The views expressed on this blog are my own (except the Quotes) and not those of the Election Commission of Bhutan or the Office of Media Arbitrator. It's for my fellow social media users for information.

23 March 2013

Poetry Marathon in Agra Lite Festival

If you find me writing too much about my Agra journey, you must forgive and understand that it was my first time attending a Literature Festival. But I was prepared by Tshering C Dorji not to expect too much and to enjoy the places and traveling experience. He told me that Writers are strange species of people who wouldn't listen to your story without finishing theirs- and each has a story that will last a life time, which means no one would be interested in listening to us.
Once upon a poetry stage- 11/3/2013
On the second night we finally got our share on the stage to read our poetry in Poetry Marathon, but unfortunately both of us weren't poets for quite some time. Tshering chose to tell a story from his life and I thought I would speak of Blogging in Bhutan. However, I noticed that we cannot speak peacefully if we run longer than a few minutes therefore I readied an old poem from my poetry blog. Tshering found it interesting and encouraged me to go ahead with the poem. And I did!

Shut Up Grandma
Shut Up Grandma,
Your stories are lies.
Sing us a song instead,
But do you even remember the tune?

I’m old enough, grandma,
I have found my own tune.
Forgive me if it hurts you,
Because I've always forgiven you.

Thank you, grandma,
For the life you chose for me,
But sorry again, I rewrote my destiny,
To walked my own free road.

Whose blood runs in me, Grandma?
It feel so cold in my heart.
There is dirt in that, grandma,
I have bled all of it.

There is a question I feared ask, Grandma,
Because I have always felt your answer.
But it doesn’t matter anymore,
So tell me grandma, did you ever love me?
 This was written many years ago when I was a high school boy and I don't know what I meant in these lines. I chose to read it because it sounded very naughty, and also it was short enough to please the writer audience who were waiting to read their poems.

21 March 2013

Taj Mahal and The Guide

After seeing Taj Mahal for myself I was convinced that no one can fully express the beauty of the ancient wonder to you. The so many stories, descriptions and poems I saw on TV, read in books and heard from people are nothing compared to what stands there in Agra. Every piece of stone has a story to tell, no wonder it took 22 years to build.
At Taj with Prakash Subedi of Nepal

I can't do justice and therefore I won't dare attempt to describe Taj Mahal but I must tell you this is something you must see in your life time. Thanks to Ajeet Cour and Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL) team for taking me to the greatest art of human civilization.

On the other hand, If you have watched Slumdog Millionaire you would remember the little tourist guide at Taj Mahal, which of course is fictional but our guide to Taj was even more entertaining, he has every detail of Taj Mahal by heart and delivers it like a robot in English language of his own. His name is Raj, and he calls himself "Raj by the Taj". Watch my YouTube of the Guide.
And Raj explaining the optical illusion -

19 March 2013

How to Celebrate Happiness Day?

The World recognized Bhutan's Philosophy of Gross National Happiness and decided to observe 20th March as International Happiness Day. Bhutan is going to celebrate the day for the first time tomorrow. Schools will not celebrate because students are expected to enjoy the day with their families at home, towns across the country will have programs for families are go out together and spend time meaningfully.
My students were excited about the holiday, so I asked them, "how are you going to celebrate the happiness day?"
Following are random answers I could grasp from their chorus:
"I will laugh the whole day!"
"I will go on picnic with my friends."
"I will play football."
"I will go for swimming."
"I will sleep whole day."
"I will chat with my best friend."

I told them, "These are things you do every day, every Sunday, every holiday. These are things you do for fun, for pleasure. You will forget those experiences when you wake up the next morning. Tomorrow is different, tomorrow you should do special things."

Then I suggested some things they could do:
"When we were young like you we spend our free time around our parents and grand parents begging of them to tell us stories. Those days we consider them the source of wisdom. Nowadays, you find them unexciting and outdated, and what they say don't make sense to you because they don't know Facebook and they complain about your hair. Many of you don't even live with your grandparents and some of us have our grandma as babysitter and grandpa as housekeeper. They were the loving parents who invested all their lives on our parents and on us, now they need our love and attention. They may not hear clearly, they may keep repeating some things, they may complain but tomorrow sit near them and talk to them, listen to them, cut their finger nails and ask them if they are taking their medicines on time. If they are not with you call them on your cell and talk to them. Promise to yourselves that you will do it often.
"How is your relation with your parents? Nobody in the world loves you like they love you. They complain a lot about you but they are the only people praying for you everyday. Girlfriends and boyfriends are people who didn't mean to you anything before you met them and perhaps won't matter anymore in a year or less. They will come and go but parents don't happen everyday. They were with you from your birth and will live till the end. But how often do we sit with them and talk? how often do we pay attention to their words? How many holidays have you spent with them? How many movies have you watched with them? How many time did you try to make them laugh? How much time did you spend in thinking about impressing them? Well tomorrow is your chance to reconnect with your parents and prove yourselves worthy of their unconditional love.
"How many of you have your best friend among your siblings? Your brothers and sisters are friends sent by god but many have our own friends outside our family. We are jealous about how our young brother is favorite of our mother or how our elder sister is our father's pet. What we must know is that our sibling are the people we know best and you will always find your most trusted friend in them. If ever we could show all the love we show to our friends we will find the best friends at home.
"Tomorrow is also about reaching out to people with whom you had misunderstanding with, to explain and apologize rather than spending the rest of life with hatred and regret. It's also the day to check through your contacts and call those people who have influenced your lives and say thank you rather than chatting with strangers on Facebook.
"Celebrating happiness is not about laughing, opening a champagne like in movies or doing things that you alone enjoy, it's about doing things that will bring smiles on the faces of people around you and in making them feel better. You will be surprised to realize how happy you become in giving happiness to others.
"Happiness is in these simple things you can do everyday. You don't have to buy big gifts nor write long letters or put on expensive make ups, just be with your family and try to catch up with all those things you have have missed so far. A good child at home will be a good students in school and good person in the world. Begin at home!"

Of course I wasn't so structured while speaking to them, but I told them everything that's here in this piece. And I hope it made sense to at least a few. I wish all my readers a meaningful day tomorrow, may you make difference in someone's life...

The Bhutanese Asha Pasa Theory of Economy

Phuntsholing Custom officials were shown on BBS camera obediently performing their duty of dumping hundreds of cases of confiscated beer and energy drink, which could be worth hundreds of thousands. Import of those seized drinks were banned and therefore it was a job well done by the customs.
But what is the logic behind destroying the valuable goods when it could be auctioned outside the border to regain the rupee invested on importing it? Is it illegal to auction seized goods? or are we trying to prove our ethics?
Picture from Kuensel
Bhutanese with Ngultrum currency are greeted with higher prices across the border because rupee issue is still bothering our economy, and on the other hand we seem like a rich country with luxury to dump beer which are imported on rupee. It's not the first time we are seeing such incidences- millions worth of tobacco were burned in last years. Why are we being so Asha Pasa?
I am at least happy that Phuntsholing Customs is going to sell the empty beer bottles and cans to scrap dealers to be exported to India- Is it more ethical to earn Nu.2 per empty bottle than to reimburse Rs.50 per beer bottle? In that case I suggest them to sell the metal caps and cartoon boxes as well. This may go on to invent our own economic theory called Asha Pasa Theory!

11 March 2013

Literature Festival in Agra

I am attending the SAARC Festival for Literature organized by Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL) in Agra on a personal invitation. I am recommended and guided by Tshering C Dorji, the writer of 'Shadow Around the Lamp' and 'Living the Bhutanese Way'. His many years of experience at this festival across the south Asian nations has earned him great respect among the members and I am enjoying walking after him into the warm group of writers.
This is my first attendance at any literature festival and I didn't give a second thought in accepting it. Besides quenching my literary thirst of meeting writers from different nations I also wanted so much to meet the founder, Ajeet Cour, who has put together all her life in uniting and promoting young poets and writers of south Asian nations against many odds. The charismatic lady welcomed me in her arms and joked to the crowd about how we Bhutanese were scared of train. I will write about this in a later post.
The festival has brought together over 100 writers from the SAARC nations and we were just two from Bhutan. We have lots of writers in Bhutan and I am surprised that many of them had attended the earlier editions of this festival but they never returned though the doors were always open. Tshering C Dorji returned year after year with new members and has become a part of FOSWAL family.
The festival showcases hundreds of publications of SAARC Writers and works of Ajeetji herself and of her artist daughter Arpana Cour's.
Morning are for academic paper presentations and afternoon till late evening we get to listen to poetry from different nations and in various forms.
Four writers were awarded Young Poet Award for their works in poetry. And five new books were launched at the festival. Tshering C Dorji's Timeless Diary will be launched soon.
Today is our turn to recite our poems but I don't know when I last wrote one, I rather proposed to talk about blogging in Bhutan.
Tomorrow we are visiting Taj Mahal and traveling together in a couch back to Delhi from where we will fly back to our own countries.

Ajeet Cour, The Founding Lady of FOSWAL, and undying force behind it!

Young Poet Award Winners

Ajeet Cour taking Tshering C Dorji into her arms

Showcase of Publication by members

Literature Festival Venue- Grand Hotel, Agra

06 March 2013

Elephant Problem, Bee Solution

I was watching a documentary on Aljazeera last evening that gave me a wonderful surprise- can you believe elephants are afraid of bees? Jim Carey is right, size doesn’t matter. Well this is one of nature’s many unusual phenomenons. After seeing how elephants panic and run away when they hear buzzing of bees my heart went out to the coward giant.
But the documentary was not intended at insulting elephants whatsoever, it was rather about how farmers in Kenya have used this weakness in elephant to defend their crop. Elephant is the last animal anyone wants to see in their fields because they are infamous for wiping off the entire harvest in a night. Kenya is home to a large population of elephants, which is good news for nature lovers but a very bad one for farmers whose only source of livelihood is their crop. They have been in continuous state of war for survival ever since the natural habitats of elephants were disturbed by the growing human population and developmental activities.

Killing elephants is the only option the farmers had but that was illegal, and other option was to die of hunger. They don’t have the luxury of using electric fence like Bhutan (They don’t even have the power to light their homes). But out of the blue an idea came that is going to change everything. Now farmers are encouraged to do bee farming along with their usual crops. The bee hives are hung strategically around the field interconnected by a string that runs around the field like a fence. When elephants encroach into the farm they will touch the string, which will shake the bee hives and excite the bees. And you know that happens when elephants hear the bees buzzing- right they run for their lives.
Bee Fence!
In southern Bhutan, our farmers are bothered by elephants too, and the best we have done so far was setting up electric fences around the fields. Due to heavy investment government could not provide electric fences to all the farmers. It will take another round of foreign grants from friendly countries to have our southern farms protected against elephants. But there are a few questions we have to ask:
1.       Is the investment worth the return?
2.       Is the method sustainable?
3.       Is it Eco-friendly?
4.       Is it safe for other wildlife?
5.       Is it safe from humans?
Bee fencing method will not only be the answer to all the questions but also give farmers sweet harvest of honey. It will defend them from elephants and also enhance their harvest with so many bees pollinating their crops. Solar electric fence might sound like a very green idea until you see the cost attached with it. After listening to Gunter Pauli, the founder ofBlue Economy, I admire what Kenyans have learned from nature. When will we do this? 
This Video explains Blue Economy!

01 March 2013

Rejected Seats in Government Schools

Last year at this time I was going through a similar feeling and almost the same thought when I wrote "The Best School in Bhutan" where I was trying to differentiate my definition of best school and the definition people and even the authorities have put together. Nothing changed ever since but it brought personal gratification, having figured out the foolishness with which people hunger for reputation and glamour.
Education Ministry defines Class XI intake capacity every year, based on which the qualification mark is set but the recent trend of brilliant students choosing private schools over government school raises one important concern: has the government studied and considered the number of qualified students not take their privileges and therefore leaving seats in government school vacant, which could be otherwise given to students who ran short by a few points? I am of the opinion that we should keep at least over 100 students in standby, who could be considered in government schools after private school admissions are over.
There are students with brilliant marks who are welcomed into private schools and there are students with brilliant parents who can take their kids to private school for so many reasons despite having qualified but on the down side there are students who neither have brilliant marks nor have brilliant parents, for them it's the end of their schooling life. Giving away those seats rejected by the lucky students to those for whom the road has ended would be godly. No less than 100 seats are rejected every year, which could other wise change 100 lives forever.

There should be a system in place to find how many more students can each school take after the admissions are over to make full use of government resources, after all a class of 20 students takes as much resources as that of class with 40 students.
A simple example from my school might shed light on the wider picture: 66 students qualified for class XI, of which the top five students (with 85%- 92.8%) have opted to move to private school on special admissions and one has changed school. A few new students came in from other schools but the whole total could only make up for a section of Science and Commerce stream each. One student who want to take up Arts stream had to be moved to Punakha because we didn't have enough students to begin that stream. We have done the same for the last three years in row after we phased out boarding felicities. My school alone has provision for at least 30 Arts students who can put up on their own as day scholars, and I am sure there could be many schools who same capability.This happened not because of our ministry's miscalculation but by the outflow of qualified students to private schools- which of course is not tracked and considered.
How do we track the outflow? What provisions can be created to make maximum use of government schools and give higher education to as many children as possible?