05 May 2022

Blame Not Your Country. It’s the Committees

I was chatting with a friend who was reprimanded for writing stuff on Twitter, which, according to a 'disciplinary committee', violated the civil service code of conduct. He said the committee has decided to withhold his promotion for a year as an administrative action. 

He said he didn't write anything so out of the ordinary to be punished. He said they scrolled up and down his Twitter feed to see if he had really written anything so wrong to violate the civil service code of conduct. 

I told him to appeal to the committee and ask them to prove their charges because the official letter states he can appeal within 10 working days.

"I don't think that will work. I might land up making it worse. I will rather resign and go to Australia." He said. 

"If that has pushed you to the brink of resignation, then what's the problem in appealing and facing the committee? What could possibly go wrong? Even if things don't work out, you could still resign." I said.

"Awooo, laakha du mena Bhutan na." He said, which shocked me. His statement paints a different picture of Bhutan. It sounds as if it's dangerous to speak up in Bhutan. 

So, I told him, "Man, don't bash your country for the action of the so called committee that is made up of a bunch of pleasers who think they are doing their job with utmost dedication. Your country didn't fail you; the committee failed you. You are not fighting against your country; you are fighting against the committee. Please know the difference and separate the two."

It was easy for me to say this, but for him, holding that letter in his hand, the fear was real. God knows what sort of big words and names they must have dropped when handing the letter to him. Here is my personal request to all those committees, please don't let ordinary citizens bash their country for your actions. You have to own it up. You can't use names and acts and clauses to threaten people and make them shit bricks. You are doing big disfavour to this country. These committees are whittling away at Bhutan's unique democratic culture that the successive kings have painstakingly built over the last decades. 

The best ways around to help civil servants avoid violating clause, Chapter 3 of BCSR 2018 are;

  1. Conduct social media literacy to help them use the platforms productively. 
  2. Create open internal platforms for dialogues with the assurance that they won't be reprimanded.
Otherwise, it will only breed hostile anonymous communities that will go beyond attacking policies into defaming individuals, family members and even their beloved country. That's worse than violating the civil service code of conduct.  

03 May 2022

Do You Help Your Neighbour?

If a loaded truck pulls into the parking lot near your building, you know that a new neighbour is shifting in. You know it from the load in the truck. No matter how you pretend, you know there has been an empty flat in the building since the last occupant left. You even know why they left and where they moved to. So you have been expecting a new neighbour.

But in Thimphu, you somehow don't come out to welcome your new neighbour. You peek through the window but don't even open your door to say hi. You don't think it's your business. 

Having come from a village --where we come together as a community to help each other build houses, harvest crops, celebrate birth, grieve deaths and so on-- when I see a new neighbour, I go out to greet them and help them unload the truck and carry their stuff up the stairs into their new home. On the other hand, my wife will either prepare tea or arrange cold drinks for the newcomers. We extend the same courtesy to outgoing neighbours too. 

If a friend or a relative is shifting their house and I'm aware of it, I go to help them even if it's not anywhere near the neighbourhood. If necessary, I will take my pickup truck along. And my wife will prepare tea or a meal depending on the necessity of the situation.

When I went to help a friend shift his house today, my expectations were low from his neighbours. Sure enough, no one came out of their homes to help us. Neither in his old neighbourhood from where we were moving nor in the new community. Forget about helping us; there were two incidents where we were asked to move our truck so that they could drive into their parking. They could kindly park somewhere else for a while.

My wife offered to make tea for us, but I had to drive all the way back home to pick it up, so I scrapped the idea. But I thought there would be other friends and relatives with all sorts of refreshments and lunch. Guess what, we had to order home delivery food. I lamented how Thimphu has quickly outgrown our beautiful Bhutanese way of life, community ties, and traditional values.

When I pointed that out to my friend and his wife, they said it's still way better than in Australia, where they can't bother their friends, so they hire professional logistics whom they pay by hours. They are grateful that quite a few of us came to help. Someday even this might become a story to tell.