Showing posts with label Change. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Change. Show all posts

26 August 2015


A few years ago I underwent a training in Paro with an Indian company. Some forty teachers were getting trained to be trainers. On the last day of the ten-day training as we were listening to closing speeches, our Bhutanese managers handed us the TADA bill. Our usual entitlements were Nu.500 daily allowance and Nu.14 per km travel allowance but since it was a 'training' some experienced mates told us that we were entitled to Nu.1000 per day. 

While it looked very normal to us, our Indian counterparts watched us in amazement as we claimed out allowances. They told us that in India and elsewhere to get a certified training like that we would have to pay heavy fees. They were throughly surprised that we get paid instead after ten days of training, free notepads, free files, free pens, endless handouts and heavy lunch.

I was as surprised as they were at the discovery because for us in Bhutan workshops and training were our sources of extra income and if we weren't paid we would not have people wanting to attend.

But last Sunday I was up for a surprise; when Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy(BCMD) announced a Professional Skills Workshop (geared towards helping CSO employees overcome their professional challenges) over 30 people signed up. Unlike our usual workshops this one asked for Nu.250 fees. It was to cover the cost of our refreshments and materials. The training itself was still free but looking at the nature  of all the other workshops in the country I didn't expect this to work.

At least half of the people who signed up actually attended the half day workshop with Mr. Sujeev Shakya, CEO of beed management and Chair of the Nepal Economic Forum. It was my first paid workshop and I felt a certain sense of satisfaction. Every minute with Sujeev paid off and for the first time I took home knowledge as entitlement.

The Attendance 

Date: Sunday 23rd AugustTime: 9:00 amVenue: The Media Lab, YDFFee: Nu. 250 (*This fee will cover the cost of your refreshments and materials)

19 February 2014

Changing 200 Lives

10,659 students appeared class X examination in December 2013, of which 95.93% (10,225) passed the exam. Of course there is hardly any excitement in passing class X because there is a huge gap between passing the exam and qualifying for class XI. While you can pass with just 35% it take 61% to make it to class XI this year.

While the 4.07% of students who fail could repeat in government school, over 5000 students who passed but couldn't score qualification mark are left to their own fate. For some it could be the end of their educational journey.

I don't really understand the Maths and Science behind setting the cut off point at certain percent, so I am assuming that it's fixed based on the available seats in government schools. If that's the case, and hopefully should be, what happens to the seats of those students who qualified for government school but for some reason choose to study in private schools?

Private school business is booming with world class strategies. Within the last few year they have shifted from school for disqualified students to school for toppers. With very welcoming infrastructure and unique systems in place private school are attracting parents and students alike. It has become a culture over the last few year for the brilliant students to leave for private school after class X mostly on scholarship. There are also many students who despite qualifying for free education in government school still opt to pay heavy fees and study in private school.

This trend, I humbly assume, will at least create 200 vacancies in government schools, or twice more. Keeping these seats empty has no benefit for the government. However if these seats are gifted as scholarship to 200 disqualified students who are socially very good, emotionally very intelligent but economically challenged, it can be a national investment. It will be an acknowledgement for being a good human being. They may go grow up to change this country for better. In them we might get the future prime minister of Bhutan. Education should not be limited to those who do well in exam.

Dear Education Ministry, Please use this opportunity to change at least 200 lives.

09 June 2013

A Piece of History in Bajothang

There is an old traditional house standing in Bajothang School and it seemed to have been there before the idea of school came around it. The school itself was founded in 1997 and the building looked like it was there for ages.
The old structure didn't receive any renovation and is slowly giving way to its unknown age. However, my school uses it for storage of books and sports gears, it also houses the Geography lab, and on the ground floor one huge room is used for carpentry and other equally big room is the school agriculture store.
The new developmental plan has two huge structures coming up and to create space for growing numbers of cars in our parking, school has planned to demolish the old house to expand the parking lot. Aesthetically, the building is an eyesore in the beautiful campus and I was looking forward to the change.
However, one afternoon I had a history lesson from the contractor who was building our new structures. He presented a vivid picture of Bajothang some 40 years ago, with names of people who had anything to do with the old house, as if things happened yesterday. His father was among the men who had worked here and he happened to visit the place with his father.

It was during the Third King's reign, when idea of business was farfetched to Bhutanese, that his majesty, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk ordered the construction of the house. It was intended to be the business center for the people of Wangdue, Punakha, Gasa and probably even as far as Trongsa. It was the first known shop in the entire region, and was operated by people on rotational basis. Those day, the entire Bajothang was uninhabited and it was the first and only structure standing. His Majesty instructed people to come and settle in Bajothang but people found the land infertile and not many came, just like the history of Changlimithang.
The business center was later handed over to Tencholing Army and they handled the business until the shop shifted to a new location in Tencholing, currently known as Army Canteen. The man who sustained the business and flourished was granted Royal Kasho to run the business as Army Canteen for generations to come.
After the shop was shifted to Tencholing the house in Bajothang became the center for Agriculture, from where seeds and tools were distributed to people. When the center first brought in a power-tiller and did the demo somewhere near the present football ground, the news reached far and wide. Large number of people came with packed lunches and to see the 'Iron Ox' ploughing the land. 

After hearing the story of the historical house, I went to my principal and shared it, but to my surprise he knew the history already because his brother had engineered the school back in 1997 from whom he learned. He gave me clearer details and when we were finished, the idea of demolishing the house seemed very brutal. We then discusses the possibility of converting the house into a Museum. Though the idea is wild and vague at the moment I strongly that the house deserves to stand there and tell tales of modern business in Bhutan.

***This is a weak attempt to write history, which was not written before, therefore I am in search of more information and old photographs. IF you happen to have please post them to my inbox.

12 May 2013

Breaking Traffic Rule

I am otherwise a law abiding citizen but in Bajothang town I break one traffic rule every day, more under compulsion than intention. I always take the shortcut instead of going around the roundabout because there is a huge pothole waiting behind the roundabout. I break that rule regardless of who is watching because I am waiting for that one chance to tell them to fix the road before applying rules. I want to remind them that this town deserves more than a farm road. I also want to let them know difference between road and drain.
That one chance finally came one rainy afternoon. Three traffic policemen were standing at the junction, as if waiting for me. I shivered a bit and broke the rule anyway. My eyes were on them and theirs on me. I was signaled to stop,
"Documents, please."
"What for?" I asked, as if I didn't know.
"You came from the 'No Entry' side."
"I didn't see 'No entry' sign anywhere."
"You should be coming around the roundabout." He fingered the direction, which of course I know.
"But I always come this way!" I declared honestly. That moment I saw him lose his cool, and called his colleagues. He passed my license to them and remarked, "He says he always come this way." Which means, 'he needs to be fixed up'.
He asked me to park my car somewhere. I did. I came out and went to them and politely said,
"The whole town is in mess, and there is hardly any visible road in the town, I thought traffic rules are not applicable as of now. Moreover that pothole is too deep for my car." I pointed at it. I could see the disgust on their face, and the guy with my license disappeared already.
"I promise to follow the rules when the whole road is blacktopped and all traffic signs are ready. But for now I am sorry but can't risk damaging my car."
red is my car and blue is the pothole
I know these are not the types of justifications that work with police, but neither am I going to give them the type they are ready to listen to. I don't know if traffic police are responsible for reporting bad road to city authority but for some reason I feel when they monitor us they must monitor road as well.
"So, what is the penalty/" I asked impatiently, because the way I presented to them didn't leave any chance for excusing me.
"You will have to pay a fine."
"When?" I asked, seriously I never came in conflict with law before therefore I don't know the procedure. But I was prepared to narrate whole essay on Bajothang town road to their officer before paying the fine.
"Wait, your license is taken to the incharge."
Then I remembered the 6 PM Party President Debate on TV, which was almost beginning. I didn't wait anymore, after all I have to pay the fine.

At home, I received a call from a friend asking me to come back. He saw me with the police while passing by and had come back to help me out. He said he has done the groundwork of requesting, and all I have to do was say some words of apology. But I said I was busy watching the debate and that I will follow the due process since I have some message to convey as well. He hung up angrily. In five minutes he called back to tell me that he has my license. I didn't know if I was to be happy or angry but I thanked him.
I may have to break the rule again until the road is fixed.

01 May 2013

Drunk Chorten on the Sober Road

I was looking for ST Auto Spa, the latest car servicing facility in Thimphu, to give my car a nice treat for the 90,000 km service it provided to my family. I could see the orange building with big signboard but couldn't find the road that leads to the facility. After a short drive I was startled to find a chorten standing on the road, I nearly honked at it. It looked like a drunk chorten on a straight road.
My Tweet! (@Passu_Diary)
For sometime I forgot everything, just came out of the car and stood there wondering what exactly must have happened with the chorten to be there right on the road. I joked about it on twitter but it's anybody's guess that it wasn't the chorten that encroached on to the road. It was standing there for ages not realizing that one day it would be standing on our aggressive road to change.

14 April 2013

Afternoon with Farmer Sangay

Another big thing this weekend is finally meeting Farmer Sangay in person. We have been friends on social media for a long time. The man and his initiatives need no introduction and I am among the many people who couldn't dare to be different like him but I have all the respect and appreciation for the difference he is making. He calls himself a Farmer, but I see him as a social scientist. For the record, he is the founder of Happy Green Cooperative- "the cooperative model of green ideas and solutions to pursue social innovations."
Showing off our daughters!!
Sangay brought along another amazing young man to make my Sunday more meaningful- the founder of Bhutan Kidney Foundation, Tashi Namgay. Sharing table with two of them and measuring their achievements against their age I saw a beautiful preview of future Bhutan. I on my part hoped and prayed that some day some of my students will turnout to be different like them.
Between the Founders
Among the many innovative plans Sangay has, one of my favorites is his Cafe, which is also going to be the Innovation Lab for his Cooperative, where you and I can walk in with our ideas and give them shape and color over coffee. And you know him- He will make it happen!
Our Families 
We both brought along our families but it was a mistake, we should have left our wives alone with their Sunday because two of us had thousand things to talk about, much of which weren't of interest to our ladies. But it was additional pleasure to meet his actor wife, who stands strong behind him in his passion.

To interact with the two guys, Like their pages on Facebook:

11 February 2013

How I Spent this Losar Day

Thanks for all the Losar Greetings you sent me. Losar Lolay to all of you as well, May the new year bring you greater joy, health and wisdom, may you find stronger purpose in living and live life bigger than ever. And most of all make you celebration reasonable, don't drink your health away, don't drive after your heavy losar drinks, don't go on long drives with your family if you intend to drink- make it a happily memorable day.
My family didn't have a plan of going anywhere away from home. I have the company of my brother in-law who just got married and brought his beautiful wife along to spend their losar with us. But later this morning our aunty gave us a call asking us to join her family to Kamichhu. Her husband didn't have holiday on losar, he was on duty somewhere 38km from here. He works as a security personnel and has handsome wage but when it comes to work timing I don't envy his salary.
There were 19 of us in three cars to give our sad uncle a huge losar surprise. The journey was rewarding- there were hundred new things to watch on the way, no one would expect so many people and activities along the narrow valley. There was nothing that didn't change- even the mountains were moved.
But the best experience was driving through the 1.5km highway tunnel, which is the first of it's kind in the country. It was scary and cold inside and it never seems to end. Visibility was low with flying dust, of course the speed limit was 20km. 

The First Highway Tunnel in Bhutan

I was obediently following the speed limit but one blue Bolaro camper taxi was enjoying maximum speed, I would have reported him to police but his blinding speed had the upper hand. Speed could be risky inside.
The Scary 1.5 km through mountain

Highway tunnel may be very expensive in building but this could be the answer to so many problems our highways face in the country. It could reduce distance, mitigate the seasonal landslide problems, reduce the risk of going off-road and can save lots of trees. This is the beginning of the change in how Bhutanese built roads through mountains.

Our surprise for uncle didn't last long because we couldn't locate his work place and we had to call him hundred times to ask the direction- there were many new roads and bridges along the highway and several time we had taken wrong ones. Finally we made it to where he was working. His morning must have been gloomy, thinking about all the fun he missed but three cars full of people coming just for him made his day. He took us down to an island below his site and we began the day. By then we were all hungry and it's fun eating when we are hungry...

How did you spend you losar?

21 September 2012

Our Outdated Towns

BBC was showing a video of a street in London shot over hundred years ago and they were amazed at the architectural farsighted of their ancestors, that even after hundred years they didn't have to change a slightest bit to accommodate modern metropolitan city.
London in 1902
Here in our country, where modern towns are only a few decades old, every now and then we have to demolish structures to widen streets and bring in better infrastructures, only to discover that it needs to be changed again. In last few years Thimphu saw many breakings and makings, yet streets are flooded with rain water every monsoon season, and often we get to smell the overflowing sewage. Thimphu needs to be changed every day and I don't think I will see a finished city ever in my life. Our designers didn't even see what would happen in 10 years time. 
Phuntsholing comes to a standstill every morning and there is nothing anybody can do to solve this problem. The problem is not with the population, not even the number of vehicles because these are expected with the change in time. This change in time had to be seen by our designers and planners.
Lets forgive them now because those days they walked straight out of their villages and saw lesser world to make any significant difference- or so I assume.
Now we have planners and designers who went to the best universities in the world and some of whom have multiple qualifications, they have seen the world and they have better resources in their hand. Therefore what we could least expect is to see our planners and designers build a town as good as the ones westerners did in early 1900.
And what came up in Khuruthang and Bajothang shattered all our hopes. Let alone standing and serving for centuries these two town failed in their own times. Even before completion they have become outdated in their structural designs and efficiency against the growing traffic. Each building accommodates over six families excluding the business operators on the ground floor and visibly there is parking space for only three cars. The parking space takes up half the width of the road.
Bajothang town from a Distance because that's the only way it looks good
Even before we had the buildings we had blacktopped roads, we had even pavements, we had drains, and sewage line. Now we have buildings, rough roads, risky pavements, hidden drains and blocked sewage. Everything that was built before was lost and it seems to take forever to get them back. Some constructions are frozen in time, and the construction material for a three storied house disables 300 meters of public land around it yet they are calm. I saw a construction of 40 storied building in Bangkok that didn't even throw a piece of scrap on the road that runs a few meters along it. Then I knew we Bhutanese are a big show off. Government structures here are like huts- be it Municipal office or the telecom office, perhaps to save cost, but what we don't realize is that we will have to rebuild them in next five years. The cost saving will cost heavily then. Children park and civic hall are like stories from dreams- the big space could be turned into parking lot instead of letting a jungle grow in the town. It's worse in Khuruthang though it is much older than Bajothang.
Bajothang and Khuruthang are repeating the mistakes made by Thimphu and Phuntsholing and the upcoming town could easily copy the trend but what would make the difference is to think differently and plan smartly, after all it is not everyday that we design towns. Hundred years from now when our children look at the pictures from our time they should not feel like they have reached a different world. We should leave behind what will last long than us.

03 August 2012

Florence Nightingale in Punakha Hospital: Golden Gift from Burma

That wasn't my first encounter with rude nurses, I have seen enough of them before. But after coming to Bajothang everything changed. I shared intimate relationship with people in our hospital. They have their children studying in my school and some of them studied here themselves, that made all the difference and I was soon pampered. It made me think that all the rude nurses have either changed or have disappeared.
But last four days gave me the chance to wake up from my fairy tale and see the unchanged reality and untamed nurses. My mother in-law had her womb prolapsed  and was due to undergo a surgery to remove it. But an ulcer somewhere on her cervix needs to be healed first. She needs dressing and packing on daily basis and I could think of no place better than Bajo.
I was waiting outside the hospital and my wife was taking forever. When she finally came out she was almost crying. She said the surgeon would pay any attention, though she presented all the document from Thimphu. The Dressing room nurses send her to ward, and ward nurses send her back. She had to walk the length of hospital several times with her sick mother. She could finally get it done at the ward, though they kept mentioning that it wasn't their job. We thought things are settled but the same ordeal continued the next day and the next. I then understood how ordinary patients are struggling everyday. I noticed that there were many new faces and sadly wondered why do we have to know each other to receive good treatment when their only job is the nurse the sick. On the fourth day the nurse who knew how to do packing wouldn't look at us. She was free but angry with us. She directed two first-timers to deal with it and despite their best effort they landed up bleeding my mother in-law.
That's what took us to Punakha Hospital. The gynecologist there wasn't a Bhutanese either but the moment we saw her it felt like we were breathing fresh air after a long time. She is a Burmese and speaks soft English. It was afternoon when we met her but she was full of energy and smile, something very new to us. That morning she had conducted two Cesareans and if there is anyone who has to be tired and frustrated it's her but she was ready for more. That makes Punakha Hospital the safest place for giving birth.
She took in my mother in-law and educated my wife on all aspects of the problem, which was when my wife got to understand the disease for the first time. The Burmese then instructed my wife to come with plastic bangle - the one we used to on our wrist in high school- so that she could device a way to hold up the womb in its place, by which not only infection could be prevented but also quicken the natural healing of the ulcer. Seeing my wife confused, the lady came out of her chamber and check every visitors' hand, laughing and apologizing, to find a sample and she succeeded. She took my mother in-law in and used the ring.
Florence Nightingale
In Bhutan we are never used to so much attention and care, unless we are related or connected or special. And the Burmese changed my mindset all together; we don't have to be special to be cared for. She knows we come there to seek her help and she helps with whole her heart. I always thought Florence Nightingale was fairy tale character but she made me believe that it's possible to have such people. She herself is a living Florence Nightingale, a golden gift from Burma.
She is the second woman I know from Burma, first one being Aung San Suu Kyi, whom I honour so much for doing their job so well. Thank you so much for coming to Bhutan.
Aung San Suu Kyi, only lady I knew from Burma until I met Ms. Swe Swe

Update 8th August 2012: The kind lady from Burma is Ms. Swe Swe. Her contract with Bhutan will end this year. I only wish if our health ministry could request her to stay for some more year. She is an extraordinarily dedicated expert who has attained greatness beyond rudeness and frustration at work. Please Stay.

29 July 2012

My Business Idea

Bhutan Innovation and Technology Center organized The Business Idea Competition of Bhutan 2012 from April to June 2012 and I walked out of my comfort zone to take part along side some 50 of them. Well it was one totally different and comfortable experience dealing with cooperate people. And on top of the experience my idea of Indoor Menchu Service made it to the top ten Business Idea "for its Excellence".

Thank you Thimphu Tech Park and Bhutan Innovation & Technology Centre for the recognition. I will come with crazier idea next year.


13 June 2012

Please Review The Pedestrian Day

I am a big fan of pedestrian day, not because I live in campus but because it time we slow down and think before we reach a time we have never anticipated. I have other reasons in loving this initiative which was reflected in a post last week: Friendly Road for Walking. While I was writing that piece I was only worry about the sun, as was the weather in Wangdue all the while, and totally ignored the rain.
Get Out in the Rain. Source: Kuensel
Today I see a Kuensel report of Pedestrian Day in Gelephu by Dawa Gyelmo, and though the report reads bright the picture along with the report tell another story. It was raining on Tuesday (of all the days) and people are expected to walk their way to schools and office anyway. Shouldn't we consider this? While umbrella will cover the head and body, who will take care of the wet shoes? We can't control the rain but there are things we could.
Another things to consider is- are the monitoring authorities ready yet? Considering the cases in Wangdue I think officials themselves need to understand what they are to do and where to do it. My brother was heading for Thimphu yesterday and he really had to convince people to let him go, and one of them told him that it's not allowed at all, since Thimphu is observing the day as well. Look who is talking!
And one last thing that didn't do justice to the divine intention of the pedestrian day is allowing taxis to do their business. This idea is attracting taxis from other dzongkhags to join the feast in Thimphu. And so many taxis in the town is more than enough to nullify the whole idea of reducing whatever...

09 June 2012

Friendly Road For Walking

Of all the changes that happened in recent times I loved the idea of walking to office on Tuesdays. And I loved the way many people received it. We were walkers until recent times, our ancestors walked all their lives, and our living parents walked the best part of their lives. We have walking DNA in us, which should still be very much there. It's only Tuesday we are going to acknowledge our DNA, and I hope we don't cheat ourselves by taking cabs and buses. If two cars meet on the road its called accident but when two persons meet on the road the story is different. Walking together will provide long opportunity to interact and form relationships and some day we will look at Tuesdays as vacations.
Chimi R Namgyal on BO
I walked the best days of my life, and it was a day in 2009 that I finally bought a car and became lazy. Cars are like pampered kids, they suck through our pockets day in day out and we still love them. And I love my car best because I have some really bad experience with walking. I wanted my revenge on the once-upon-a-time of my life. Those first two years in Bajothang gave me a few occasions to visit Wangdue Dzong, that was when I asked if we really had 72% of forest cover because that wasn't one tree on the entire road from Bajo to Wangdue Dzong. After having baked and roasted three times on that road I put together all my guts and bought a car.
Typical Treeless road in Bhutan
We have hell lot of trees but they are all in the jungle where monkeys live, if we are to encourage walking we have to have tree by the roadside and make walking a pleasure. I love the road from Paro Town to Nemizampa, we could replicate that very easily. I prefer walking over driving if only roads are friendlier.
Mission Possible
I hope to see the Pedestrians’ Day become very popular throughout the country, and I hope to see green roads where everybody loves to walk. Because in Walking we can regain our lost tradition of social interaction and relationships. 

05 June 2012

Tattoo: The Permanent Character Certificate of Temporary Mischief

Written for Student Digest April-July 2012 Issue.

Tattoo is a design on the skin, achieved by changing pigments of skin. The process is done by repeatedly pricking ink into the skin using sharp needle.  And because it is done inside the dermis layer of the skin it can’t be erased unless done surgically. The technology of removing tattoo hasn’t yet been introduced in Bhutan and therefore to have a tattoo removed could cost fortunes.
Why am I talking about removing tattoo, when everybody does it for keeping? Well I have learnt from experience that at one point in life you would die to get them removed. You would look at it each day and wish if you had never done it. I know you won’t believe me today, because I didn’t believe them then.
I was just like anyone of you, if not naughtier. I was full of energy, energy waiting to explode and there were always choices ahead of me. I made many wrong ones amidst my youthful excitements. And you could land up doing your share of wrongs too, which as you grow up and as you realize, time will forget and forgive. But there are certain wrongs that would last beyond our realization, beyond our righteousness and beyond our repentance.
One such wrong is getting into drugs. It’s addictive and destructive. It gives you an illusion of happiness and stops you from growing. It clouds your judgment and forces you to multiply your wrongs beyond your intentions. Every morning you wake to find that one more person has left your life, and yet you keep moving away from your family and friends. If you are lucky to receive a timely help you may be able to jailbreak but I have seen how the ghost of the past visits your happy home in future. Just when you finally overcome the addiction and decide to settle down, have family and play with your kids then you realize you aren’t left with much life. You had already damaged so many vital organs in your body to live a normal life. Then you feel the unforgiving grip of your youthful wrong holding you back.
While drugs problem is talked about enough there is a subject equally important that didn’t receive much attention. The aggressive love for tattoo is another youthful folly, which literally last forever. At one time you don’t find anything wrong with tattoo because you see so many celebrities showing off their designs, you see all your friends having them and because you probably think you will never grow up. But you have to grow up and you have to know that those celebrities have millions of dollars and that your friends are wrong too.
Technologies with which celebrities create their tattoos are medically safe and the tattoo makers are professionals, they know what they are doing. Do we have professionals? What type of tools are we using? Last year a student of mine tried a tattoo on his neck and landed up infecting some nerves inside. He couldn’t move his neck and had hard time talking; it took over a month of treatment to regain his speech. He was lucky that it was just a normal infection and not tetanus. There are other infections associated with careless pricking that could ruin your life.
Surviving the infection is just the first stage; living with tattoo is another challenge. My tattoos didn’t give me infection because I sterilized the needles I used but tattoo itself is an infection, more so when you are someone responsible in society. People associate tattoo with drug addicts and gang members but I am a teacher and I don’t like to be assumed that way. How could I change that way people think?
When you are young you don’t care a thing about the world. Tattooing your body is just another mischief you try among hundred others. To gain little extra attention you tattoo strange designs and shamelessly find it cool. I have seen arms and legs filled with vulgar words, phrases and signs displayed openly in public. But someday you are bound to change, and you can’t read your future. Look at me; I never thought I would hold this respectable position in the society. All my youthful follies are forgotten with time except these tattoos on my arms but I am very grateful to myself for not having filthy and disrespectful symbols and words.
Your future is waiting for you with greater opportunities and you could be someone everybody looks up to. And from where you are then you can’t afford to show your tattoo and escape wrong assumptions. Future can’t lie in the tattooed arms. Even if you choose to lead a quiet life you have to become a parent someday and when your little child points at the sign of middle finger on your arms and ask you questions, how would you explain the vulgarity of your designs? Therefore, if you don’t yet have a tattoo, don’t bother about having one. You don’t have to keep a permanent record of your temporary mischief. 

18 May 2012

Replace Vehicle Import Quota with Bonus

One of the recommendations submitted by the team that assessed Rupee Crunch was to stop Vehicle import quota for civil servants. At first it seemed like we are going to be deprived of a lifetime bonus but it didn't take long before I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Government may not be worried about the 35% of the total cost of the car it's paying to the quota receiver, it's the 75% that gets dragged along across the border.
Government gives vehicle quota to senior officials upon attaining grade 6, which means at least ten years in service and therefore it's an expression of recognition for unfailing service. But canceling it altogether could be misinterpreted in many demoralizing reasons, thus it's important to device a way to address the rupee issue without depriving civil servants of their rare gift.
As far as the trend goes, most of the civil servants own good cars by the time they reach grade six, and they resort to selling their import quota to private businessmen. The value of a quota is over Nu.400,000 but best price I ever heard of was Nu.150,000 and some surrender at Nu.50,000. By this the bigger portion of the gift from government goes to buyers of the quota. More over quotas are indirectly making the import of cars compulsory, which is the biggest concern now.
Therefore, I suggest my government to replace Quota with Bonus. Pay six months salary as bonus to the employees upon attaining grade six, the amount will be far lesser than what quota is taking away at the moment. This is not only economical for the government but also has big impact on the employees who could receive the full value of the gift. And with this the indirect-compulsion on import of cars will cut down to zero, solving the biggest question without hurting a soul.

27 April 2012

Telling Girls the Truth- Our Principal Speaks

Bajothang finally received a man who could nurse its injuries and help her not only walk but run marathon race. Mr. Shangkar Lal joined us as our new principal last February from Gyalposhing and he has already shown us how he could lead us to a great change. For the first time I going to work under a man who would allow me to be creative, who himself is an artist hungry for creativity.
There are already so many reforms this man has brought to talk about in just three months but for now I would like to pick on the speech he gave to our girls some mornings ago.
He is a powerful speaker and uses his own choice of words, and here I will use my own words to express the same thing he conveyed that morning:
"I come from Gyalposhing, a small town that grew because of the Kurichhu Project and I have seen firsthand the impact of huge population fed by project on to our young school girls. And here am I again, in a place where two big projects are exploding the local population, where you all could fall victims of change. You could be sweettalked by any man with hundred promises but you must remember that you are the greater promise. You should know that you are capable of being more than just a mere woman dependent a man. Look at your vice principal here, tomorrow if madam Deki's husband treats her bad, tortures her and kicks her, she could kick him back and choose her on road in life. Because she has created her own life where she has hundred choices. You have the same right to create your life where you have hundred choices, you must resist any influence from men at this age. I am not saying relationship with men is bad, I am saying the time is bad. There is charm in doing right thing in the right time. If you fail yourself today, you are failing yourself for the life time: the when your husbands kick you, you may have to hold their feet and beg for mercy because you have nowhere to go. Don't let that happen. Give yourselves time to grow, give yourselves time to make good judgement, remain a student when you are one."
 This speech was well timed and well framed to protect our young girls from thousands of men pouring in because of the Puntatshangchu Project. We keep hearing rumors of our girls getting influenced into relationships and I hope this goes on to help them know that they themselves are the greater promises of their lives, the happiness that no man can give them.


12 April 2012

Don't Let Their Death Go in Vain

Last Sunday afternoon's forest fire cost heavily on two families and the police force and I join the nation in offering my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. But I urge them not to let their death go in vain. The questions that arise with that unfortunate incident should not be cremated with their bodies. For once we should understand the meaning of such death, we should confess that it could have been avoided. Let's stop agreeing that death happens because of destiny.

Fire Chopper in Action
It's time we question our ability and capacity to firefight. Hundreds of people are mobilized without relevant equipment to chase the razing fire uphill, which is not only foolish but dangerous. It's our luck that we didn't lose  many lives so far, but we must be the only nation who so much prides in its forest cover and haven't done our best to protect it. We can't fight forest fire with branches and twigs in the hands of exhausted men. We can't drive our fire engines uphill through the forest- they breakdown even on roads.
We don't need scientists to think about a solution, a few think-tanks on Twitter were already discussing about Fire Choppers, which is already being used across the world to battle forest fire. If we really mean forest is our biggest assert then we should invest in protecting it with best resources in the world. The cost of trees we lost so far could have purchased enough fire choppers- it would be wiser to safe the trees than to plant saplings.
The bad, The Ugly
It's also time we question the efficiency of the fire engines and other vehicles our firefighter use, such as the DCM truck that has already run over 200,000 Km. For that matter even the public buses. How many accident must we see, before we realize that some types of vehicles are not safe at all. Theoretically, service vehicles can't run over seven years (see Bhutan Observer) but who care about it?
The ugly TATA and Eicher buses are still polluting the air and beauty of the nation. Coaster buses have proven their worth- both in safety and comfort- and we should be insisting on importing them, and the same applies to Fire Engines. The big ugly ones are as old as me and takes hours in preparation before heading for action, and during the operation it fails suddenly. This brings the moral of the firefighters down, because despite all the bravery and effort they land up being insulted by the onlookers. However, the smaller fire engines work magic with instant-operation capability, and with all logic we should be getting more of those. But so far, as things go, we are still clinging on to those old one that we know will arrive only after the show is over.
The hero who comes after the show is over
In some countries, incidents like this lead to a lot of relative investigations and then reforms, here we cremate the bodies with a lot of respect and that's it. What shall we change first?

22 December 2011

Snake and Ladder in Bhutanese Public Service Delivery

Tshering Wangdi's report on "Revolutionizing Public Service Delivery" in Bhutan Times on 18th December brought me immense happiness after having gone through a long procedure of acquiring a trade license for my brother last week. My eleven page thick application form required signature from over ten individuals from different locations and needed over six legal stamps and numerous photocopying. If it weren't for my support and diligence my brother would have given up on the idea long ago and chose to remain a jobless youth rather. We are still waiting for the committee verification, and recommendation before going to Thimphu again.
G2C in Bhutan Times
Bhutan Times' report highlighted government's move to make services easily accessible by public through Government-2-Citizen (G2C) services. Once done it promises to make acquiring services simple and effective, inexpensive, time saving, and hassle-free, thus guaranteeing costumer satisfaction.

The picture illustration with the report didn't impress me much, because the current situation depicted alongside their vision didn't really tell the truth. The series of ladders in the picture shows that, though time consuming, there is progress in the way services are delivered today, which we all know is not true. Today if you are going to Thimphu for a work you must prepare yourself like your parents prepare for pilgrim to Bodgaya, for in there we are bound to be caught in Snake & Ladder game. I have invested good amount of my time in the following model, trying to depict the way public service is in our country today.
PaSsu's Model of Public Service in Bhutan

03 September 2011

First Weekend in Bajothang

Today is a day to remember in Bajothang, the first weekend after the closing of Gangthangkha. In the last three days after the deadline, town has almost come alive. There were lights everywhere, so many cars and hundreds of people coming out in open for the first time in my five years in Wangdue. The hustle and bustle quite resembled a busy evening in Phuntsholing.
The beautiful evening however might not have been so good for many families who didn't get a parking space, who were stuck in traffic jam, who had to honk and wait forever for the driver who has parked behind them, who got their slippers in sewage overflow, and those who didn't get an apartment to live in yet.
I am full of smiles as I walk the streets and see all the beautiful shops that we never had, so many options to choose from- looks like time has come for all the monopolies to break once and forever.

Earlier Stories:
31st August: Battle of Wangdue Phodrang
1st September: Rough Road to Bajothang

01 September 2011

The Rough Road to Bajothang

August 31st was the date people in Wangdue were waiting for months with different feelings. But nothing much was happening today besides some closed shops and one lone DCM truck carrying a family's belongings to Bajothang. Official notice has been issued, where it is stated that if any shop is found operating from tomorrow their trade license will be seized. The road to Bajothang, to change the history of a place is going to be rough again.
The biggest cannonball that the people loaded in the cannon to backfire the deadline is the readiness of Bajothang. They question the safety of town, hygiene, traffic, accommodation of people and vehicle. While the finished Bajothang town would have answered all these questions but if you visit the half-alive town today, you will see

  1. Many structures are half complete. Anything could fall from above and risk the lives of passersby. 
  2. The road network are blocked by construction debris on almost every street thereby making road inaccessible to cars. 
  3. Sewage from some building are running free on the streets, pollution both land and air. 
  4. All drainage systems are damaged, and nothing has been done till today. 
  5. There is not a single traffic signs erected or line drawn on the road, forget the line, there is not blacktopped road visible in the entire town. Streets are filled with cars parked randomly without following any traffic rules.
  6. All apartments are filled up, there is no room for people living in Gangthangkha to squeeze in.
I have toured both the towns this morning and viewed the situation from the eyes of an ordinary Bhutanese who has nothing to lose or gain for whatever happens. I had taken along my camera and captured shots of things to backs the story of what people claim. All the pictures are taken this afternoon, please go through the photostory.
This is where Children Park will be. Who will construct it and when is the deadline?

The tiny truck parking is being cleared for tomorrow. How many trucks will fit in there?

BOD. Why did they have to late for so long. Will they be ready by tomorrow morning? 

How to get to the other side of the street? Is it a mule track? 

Forget about traffic signs, you can't even see the road. The bridges you are seeing is constructed over sewage overflow. 

Desolate shops in Gangthangkha, left behind by people who have  shifted to Bajothang.

So far only two structures were dismantled. September 10 is the last day for clearing structures in Gangthangkha.

Where is the road?
Lone truck shifting a home.

Tomorrow morning when I wake up, Gangthangkha will be no more the place people will crowd. I wish people all the strength it takes to let go the past and embrace the new place, after all Bajothang is a bigger town, with bigger opportunity, with space for bigger dreams.
And I wish if the responsible authority could play their role swiftly and give themselves deadline, besides giving to others, in making Bajothang business ready.

31 August 2011

Battle of Wangdiphodrang

By tomorrow morning Gangthangkha town in Wangdue will be a history- or so is expected to be. Today is the deadline for the town to shift to Bajothang. In last twenty nine years the town has grown from amazon of cactus to city of matchboxes. Many were born in the tiny hurts and have become adults now. But it was clear from the beginning of history that Gangthangkha was never meant to be a permanent town. Bajothang was destined to be the place where everybody will move to one day, though it came way too late. The time has come yet again, after the failed deadline of 31st December 2010, to leave the slum like homes into the concrete jungle of Bajothang.
Unlike homes in Gangthangkha, Bajothang has homes with multiple rooms, so your no more have to share room with your parents after your marriage. Ceiling of the rooms are high enough for the fan to spare your head. There are at least two toilets in one apartment, so you no more have to take public bath or wait till the night falls to release yourself in the bushes. Literally Bajothang means luxury to people who lived in Gangthangkha.
Gangthangkha as seen this morning. The last day!
As busy as always, but it will never be the same again.

However, not many people want to leave the dusty town yet for reasons of their own, and on the contrary there are many who don't want them to resist beyond tonight. Thus the battle of Wangdiphodrang begins:
There are four groups of people who resist the deadline:
  1. People who are yet to get plot in Bajothang. They want to wait until their plots are given and until they finish their building.
  2. People who got plots in the first round but didn't finish constructions yet. They wish to stay until their buildings are ready. They are not ready even after the deadline was extended for 8 more months.
  3. People who own shops or are tenants in Gangthangkha but are not eligible for plots. They didn't get space in Bajothang to live or operate their business. 
  4. People who got plots and finished constructions also but because their business is running well in Gangthangkha they don't want to shift yet.
There are rumors that a group of people went to Thimphu to ask for yet another extension on the already extended deadline but was denied. Tomorrow we will see what they will do to get what they want.
But on the other side of the same town there are two groups of people along with the government who insist on the deadline:
  1. People who have already shifted into their new building. Because the business is not good yet the tenants are not willing to pay good rent, which leads to difficulty in repayment in housing loan. Some seemed to have threatened that if the deadline is not followed the dwellers of Gangthangkha must bear burden of housing loan.
  2. People who are operating business in Bajothang. Because of the Gangthangkha, business in Bajothang is unsustainable which is why these group also strongly insist on the deadline.
The insistent group has the backing of the government, who had fixed the deadline in consultation and agreement with the people of all sides. However, the resistant group is questioning the readiness of Bajothang to accommodate and deliver needful service to the whole population. 

Whatever happens after today, it should be accepted that the decision to embrace the change was fairly democratic though it still leaves many unhappy. There cannot be a road without a pothole, not at all on the road to Bajothang, after years of controversy.