Sunday, December 10, 2017

History of Bhutan and its relevance.

Recently I read a very eloquent write up on why Bhutanese history should be taught in Dzongkha. And that made me think of the content of our history in school text books as well as in other writings by scholars. 

In whatever language history is written or taught, it should be accurate and should have profound details. Only then the nation and we the people whether youths in  schools or adults elsewhere will derive vsluable benefits.

It makes no sense to write history short on facts and excess in poetic phrases like ' Shabdrung preparing his ride towards the South''. But naturally Bhutanese history written and taught in Bhutanese language would make learning richer.

We need more indepth details and less flowery praises. Like how or why Shabdrung went into meditation and his death kept a secret for over 50 years.The secrecy around the death of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel  could well be the most successful palace coup by a coterie of palace officials in the history of all palace coups in the world. Who gained and who lost through this secrecy? Was Shabdrung forced into retirement/ meditation and thereafter silenced/ died?

Why there was no reincarnation during that long period of 50 years? Why did Shabdrung not believe in his own line of  reincarnation? He married to produce an heir and when his only child died, Shabdrung went for adoption and named Tenzin Rabgye as his Gyelsey ( Crown Prince ).  He never envisioned roles for his incarnations. So did Shabdrung actually believe that the true Druk Ralung Kagyu Lineage belonged to Passang Wangpo line?

History can be so rich if told in honest setting. Like how King Ugyen Wangchuck managed to consolidate national administration and  establish the Wangchuck dynasty? Who were his staunch supporters and adversaries ? Such information will illustrate in depth the personal qualities, leadership abilities and administrative acumen of our first King.

Everything should not be explained in religious terms like  prophecy or call of Palden Lhamo. Faith the essence of religion is poor in attendance when it comes to actual test of history and convincing educated minds. History must be worth remembering in substance than just statistics of numericals, dates and role of faith and fate.
 
What made King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck convert Thimphu as the seat of the Throne?  How did King Jigme Singye Wangchuck succeed in re- negotiating the 1949 Bhutan- India Treaty? Was it a sellout as India claimed during Doklam transgression or did it strengthen Bhutanese sovereignty by asserting Bhutan's right to manage her own external affair?  Through renegotiation of 1949 Treaty in 2007,  the Triple Gem King succeeded in removing the clause of 1949 Treaty that required Bhutan to  seek Indian advice in matters of External Affairs?  Was the para on annuity payment by India to Bhutan reflected in 1949 Treaty removed as a barter exchange for Bhutan gaining her right to conduct her own foreign affairs? These are vital issues and should not be buried in silence.

Bhutan history book should have full text and particular circumstances governing the time of  Singchula Treaty between Bhutan and British India as well as  Bhutan- India Treaty of 1949 and the 2007 renegotiated Treaty with India.  Also the Border Treaty between Bhutan and  China. And the terms and circumstances of the Treaties should be fully discoursed so that Bhutanese generations can comprehend the endeavours of their leaders.

Also we need full text of Nehru's speech given at Paro Ugyen Pelri ground to the people of Bhutan and the full address made by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to the National Assembly of Bhutan because these record India's historical acknowledgement of Bhutan's sovereignty.  Like wise the major adresses of our Kings to the Indian people or major press releases should be part of Bhutanese school history books. The nation should be truly informed.

Instead our history books leaves a big void in facts and relevance when crisis happens as it did during Doklam. When India cited 2007 Bhutan- India Treaty as India's right to invade Bhutan on pretext of defending Bhutan from China, our fairy tale type of history books proved to be useless reference points.  History of a nation should not wholely comprise of just poetic praises for rulers and statistics of development works as important as these are as part and parcel of nation building process.     

History is part of nation nuturing process. It is wrong to shape history in the light we want in hindsight. Just because someone alluded that King Jigme Singye Wangchuck may be a reincarnation of Shabdrung, modern Bhutanese scholars took to claiming that Shabdrung created the Bhutanese nation. The great Lama certainly made major contribution to nation building. But Druk Yul was there even before Guru Rimpoche was invited to Bumthang and that was long, long time of some 800 years before the Ralung Lam sought refuge in Bhutan.

By the way, His Majesty our great Fourth is a Truelpa of Triple Gem qualities in his own right. And facts of history should never be distorted to please or displease any individual, race or region. Such twisted recording would be prejudiced political narrative not authentic history of a nation. 

We need to stick to known historical facts. Drul Yul provided refuge to Lam Ngawang Namgyel who fled Tibet to escape the laws of his home country. He was a great Kagyu Lam and he was backed by  his powerful Bhutanese Chieftan benefactors and therefore, found easy acceptance among the Bhutanese populace especially the Kagyu clans established by Phaju Drukom and his descendants whose root goes back to Druk Ralung and great Kagyu reviver Tsangpajari. Further, Shabdrung 's rise could also have been fostered by powerful Bhutanese clans who understood only too well the Tibetan ploy of using religious figures to enhance their own authority. That was how Monasteries in Tibet spread their influence and on same model, Tibet was largely administered before 1959. Great Lams and Trulkus were figure heads with coteries of monastic or palace officials exercising real powers.

Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel is undoubtedly a great political and religious Ruler of his time. He deserves all the national venerations.  However, the man who really was responsible in bringing the east and the west under one central rule was Chogyel Minjur Tempa. The Chunipai Losar of the Eastern Bhutan could be a legacy that began under Chogyel Minjur Tempa because  Shabdrung was dead by that time. And in Bhutanese history books, Chogyel Minjur Tempa's achievements and contributions does not even warrant half a page. Is that a correct and sincere reflection of Druk Yul history? 

By nature Bhutanese like many others  have blind faith in religious figures. Even during rupee crisis, people had no hesitation to demand rupee from the government to go to India for attending  the yearly Kagyu Moelam Chhennmo conducted by renowned Kagyu Rimpoches and HH Dalai Lam's Teachings at Dorji Dhen. Likewise, the greatness of Shabdrung and deep faith in his spiritual and temporal powers are ingrained in Bhutanese society.  However,  Bhutanese history and people cannot ignore other forces and their contributions . Their roles, too, cannot be discounted in Bhutanese nation building history of past centuries before the Wangchuck dynasty was instituted in 1907. We need to correct Bhutanese written history to reflect honest facts before deciding upon any medium ( english or dzongkha) for transmission of the history of our nation. 

Thus  substance is more important than the language used to impart history. I do certainly hope that we attain the age and wisdom of teaching our worthwhile history in our own laguage. Palden Drukpa Gyal Lo!           

 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

National Day 17th December 2017 celebrated together with Haa Lomba Day the 29th Day of 10th month of Bhutanese calendar

All enthusiasms and planning to make a great joint celebration graced by Their Royal Majesties and His Holiness.  The area for staging the celebration seems limitted of space. The rehearsal photo in Kuuensel confirms the space constriction.

Haa has a great traditional and naturally formed open stadium on the other side of the Haa Dzong site across the Haa river. It is near about or maybe larger than Changlingmithang stadium in Thimphu. Certainly far more scenic. Haa river flows on one side and on the other side rises the huge hill known locally as Jho Tok- Khap. Few would know that this hill is the Singye
Karmo-Ri  and about the bowl shaped stone in the midst of Dumchho village said to be the milk bowl of the Snow lion. I was educated about this legend by an elderly friend from Dumchho village.

The most historical event held in this open stadium ( much before my birth ) was during the reign of His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck the Second King of Bhutan. The ground is popularly known as Dha- Chab- Sey- Pang ( Official archery ground of Haa Valley when required and all other times the cattle grazing area of Wangcha village ). 

At that long ago historic national event an archery match was played with players selected from all geogs of Haa and the two teams led by His Majesty King Jigme Wangchuck and the His Excellency Dasho Deb Zimpon Sonam Tobgay Dorji. HRH the Crown Prince Jigme Dorji Wangchuck the future Third King and Dasho Haa Drung Jigme Palden Dorji the future Prime Minister were present. Both " so young and handsome and great friends " and so it appeared to elders of my village who were never tired of repeating  the tale. I wish I had paid more attention to many  oral history witnessed live by them during their extraordinary days of history making.  

A grand Tokha was held for the people of Haa. The future King and Prime Minister handed out the the Royal sorlrey/ shudrel  of silver coins to the congregation. My father who was one of the archers thought the two future great  leaders of Bhutan were competing in youthful spirit to outdo each other in the coin distribution. I guess most would have shared the same thought. In Shudrel Phuentsum Ceremony the speed at which shudrel is offered to the gathering  is that of sportsmanship competition spirit.

Today this natural stadium is still a huge open ground except that IMTRAT has fenced off access to Haa Public and has converted this Traditional Official Event Stadium cum cattle grazing ground into Indian Army golf ground.

And poor sorry Haa Dzongkha Administration had no courage or traditional duty sense to hold perhaps the most historical event ( this 2017 National Day Celebration ) since the reign of the Second King,  at this ancient naturally set open  stadium. The Spirits of our Forefathers must be  perplexed by subdued spirit of Haa people. It was far more fiery and dedicated to Palden Drukpa pride at one time of Haa history.  

So dear fellow Haaps let us cramp ourselves in the couryards of Lhakhang Karpo whilst golf balls fly about from foregn hand held clubs at the spacious natural stadium.

Happy National Day! And its never too late to assert one's rightful rights! With Risum Goenpo as our collective witness and inspirations,  wishing all for brighter  sovereign days ahead.
 

       

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Do not feel disadvataged so easily.


A few days back a fb friend who is also a fellow ( much younger ) of same village root expreesed that there were two laws: one for rich and one for poor. I guess he has had some disappointments. Out of natural affection for a fellow village colleague, I shared my following thoughts. Maybe some of you would find a trace of similarity.   

" There are no different laws for poor and rich though application may differ at times so one has to fight harder if you are devoid of backing. Thats what I do.  What is fundamentally right cannot be turned into wrong. That I learned from  my proven life long experience.

I never think in rich or poor term. The first rule I still follow as I did as a village boy is live within one's means. Do not gamble. Do not waste.  And do not try to keep up with elites or those far fortunate than you. And above all never accept that you are disadvantaged. Every human being is basically equally born and die in like manner. Never ever envy or be daunted ". 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

National Council at peak of performance

1. BBIN ratification ( Bhutan Bangladesh India and Nepal Road Transport Agreement in name but in essence a mini SAARC organisation structure) had to be deferred as NC had wisely  opposed it.

2. The Media Act got passed only after NA accepted all the changes demanded by NC.

3. The Money Bill ( passed by National Assembly ) regarding promotion of tourists to the six Eastern dzongkhags has been rejected by NC. Possibly this will result in the death of the Bill. I still wonder why the Government could not include Zhemgang the least developed Dzongkhag in this tourist incentive Bill if economic enhancement was the main reason. Was the Money Bill a political move aimed at the coming General Election? I am not sure.

In a meeting 2 years back with Lyonpo Sonam Kinga ( I had gone to lobby against Parliament decision to establish Thromdes in all 20 Dzongkhags. I had already  met the Honorable Prime Minister His Excellency Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay and later also met the Honourable Speaker Lyonpo Jigme Zangpo. They all patiently heard me out but felt that rules did not permit over turning of Parliament decision immediately. Miraculously much later, Supreme Court Ruled against the immediate estsblishment of the new Thromdes). During the meeting with the Honourable NC Chairman, I had tried to educate myself on how exactly the Upper House worked on proposed Bills.  His Excellency the Chairman of National Council Lyonpo Sonam Kinga patiently described the working methodology of NC. I was very impressed. My response was " Thats quite a workaholic machinery, Lyonpo. Perhaps a direct connect with stakeholders could further strengthen the position of the House because many stakeholders in the proposed Thromdes were kept in the dark by the Executive Agencies". Since then I have paid close attention to the views and ways of National.Council. The working style of the Upper House have produced many nation enhancing decisions and preserved genuine common interests of stakeholders.   

National Council was set up as a Check and Balance Legislative Body and thats what the present MPs at NC are effectively doing. Thank you Honourable Dashos. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

School Exams and the accompanying stress.

" Grandpa, tomorrow is the last exam day for achu SR, Gyamtsho and Lhamo " my grand daughter who had finished her annual Exams two days back happily reminds me. School exams is such a stress. And therefore, I guess she would be only fully and completely stress free when all the siblings,too, have finished their exams.  

Exams weigh heavily upon the mind and life of both school families and home families. Students, teachers, parents and all who are in some ways affliated share the concerns for annual exams.

I am grateful that the academic year went smoothly for the kids. I know they do alright in studies. All I pray is for their good health.

Every morning of school day the grandchildren visit the Chhoshoum as their parents have done in their school days and now before going to office. I guess during exam time they pray to do well in exams.

I am simply contended to see them in good health that enables them to go for the exams. Studies to a large extent is within one's abilities but good health is only for Triple Gem to grant. Thank you Kenchhosoum.

Monday, November 20, 2017

PSL (private sector lending) policy promoted by RMA. Reference Kuensel 20th November, 2017

This new lending scheme introduced by RMA for farmers and small sectors at reduced interest rate of 8% and 8.5% from Banks will not require collateral or guarantor. Banks will in turn be  compensated through tax holiday incentive.
Banks would not have to pay tax on income from interest earned from the loans given under the PSL scheme. So for all practical purpose,  the Banks do not suffer income loss from lowering the lending rate as the same is offset from tax holiday.

A better deal would have been Banks charge the normal 10% interest rate for PSL loans as is being done by BDBL. And upon faithful repayment of the loan with interest, the government refund 1.5 % to 2% as applicable to the loanees. That way unscrupulous loanees do not receive subsidy and others would benefit.  This method  also would ensure that loanees invested the PSL money for the purpose it was taken. And not misused for other activities as RMA has pointed out.

There is, however, a legal hitch to the whole scheme. RMA may have authority to play around with interest rates but when it comes to tax holiday, that is a domain of Finance Ministry. And any financial incentives or tax holiday now falls under Money Bill that has to go through the Parliamentary process.

So now how come RMA is announcing Tax Holiday for Banks without approval from the Parliament? 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The pros and cons of royalty waiver for tourists visiting Eastern Dzongkhags.

The exchanges of views between the  Opposition and the Government in the National Assembly on this royalty waiver Money Bill is respectfully healthy debate and of worthy substance. One hopes that the Financial Committee of the National Assembly would come up with a overall beneficial tourism promotion oriernted Money Bill.

I also hope Zhemgang Dzongkhag gets clubbed with the Eastern Dzongkhag as that Dzongkhag also needs close attention of the nation in all development spheres. From the heartland of Central Bhutan this Dzongkhag rolls down right to the Southern border with India. It is endowed with the widest valleys and perhaps has potential to be Bhutan's agriculture bowl.  It was at one time densely infested with Indian militant camps and insurgents. Bhutan has to bring Zhemgang to the central fold of development.

There is validity in the arguement that it could be lack of amenities and hostile travel route rather than restrictions of  tourist pockets that have hindered tourist visits to the East. However, there is no harm in providing an extra impetus by way of royalty waiver for a limitted number of years.

The government has proposed 3 years of royalty waiver. With my professional background and field experiences in the marketting of tour packages, 3 Years is rather tight and make not be as effective as one would hope. The real impact of royalty free policy would follow from the second year and at least another 2 additional years would be necessary to condition mind set of both foreign travel agents and potential tourists to think of Eastern Bhutan as attractive destination.

I am quite impressed with the proposal of the Opposition leader in regards to ensuring royalty free benefits only for the authentic Eastern Bhutan visitors. There is chance of manipulation. Afterall,  profit is the central objective of all commercial enterprises. And any loophole would adversely affect the success of promoting Eastern Bhutan as a tourist destination after the end of royalty free period.

There is one weakness in Bhutan's foreign
exchange earning system from tourism. The overall rate is fixed by the government including the royalty. However, in order to be competitive, Bhutanese tour operators are engaged in under cutting the tour prices. That means tourists are visiting Bhutan even at lesser rate than the officially set. The loss is primarily borne by the respective Bhutanese tour operators. However, the nation suffers by way of flow back of hard currency that actually should be staying in Bhutan. If some mechanism can be developed and enforced to prevent under table tour pricing, that would in the long run benefit the nation and the operators themselves.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Royalty Free Tourist visit to Eastern Bhutan ( Kuensel front page news today the 14th November)

The government is proposing to waive off
the US $ 65 per tourist per day royalty for visit to Eastern Bhutan. This should really help to push tourism share of Eastern Bhutan.

We may question the government motive at this near term end. However, one must take into account the East West highway condition during intense road widening activities in the past years and Yangphula airport that was closed. So any such earlier waiver of royalty would have had very minimal or no  impact at all for the Eastern Dzongkhags due to travel difficulties..

Hereafter, is the right time to waive off the royalty and promote tours to the region.  The airport in the East is open and Druk Air provided with subsidy to make flights financially viable and the East West highway widening is nearing completion. So it is economically and facility wise the right decision at the right time. And politically, too, for all who are part of the Parliament including all MPs of NC, NA and also at varying level  both Government and Opposion can share the credit.

My one prayer to the government is please include Shemgang Dzongkhag in your submission to the Parliament. I hope the Parliament will favourably not just pass the Fiscal Incentive Money Bill  to promote foreign tourists tours to Eastern Bhutan but also club Shemgang Dzongkhag within the fiscal incentive entitlement.

This Fiscal Incentive Money Bill to promote foreign tourists visit to Eastern Bhutan and Shemgang should have a time period built into it. The most appropriate would be 5 years from the date of receiving the Royal assent. After that such tourist promotional incentive should be allocated to different regions like high altitude regions in the north and far flung
Samtse Dzongkhag and Samdrup Jongkhar ( if it is not included in Eastern Dzongkhag promotional incentive ). 

May tourism flourish along the designed  concept that nourish the economy and preserve the cultural and natural environments of Druk Yul.         

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Petrolium Politics again.

The huge reduction in petrol and diesel price announced by Bhutan Government must be making every driver jubilant. It could also have a rippling relief effect down the line in transportation fares and ultimately to lowering cost of goods at retail level. There is a huge positive boost to overall Bhutanese economy if proper effective monitoring can be implemented.

I have one dark worry about this excise relief provided by India on petrol and diesel imported by Bhutan on the pretext of which Bhutan government has reduced the retail price of petrol and deisel. Surely so many Bhutanese hearts are won by this.

This Indian excise decision comes so close to the heel of the recenlty concluded Bhutanese  Royal Family visit to India. I just hate the possibility of India candy treating our King. Druk Yul cannot afford the return expectations ( candy price ) of the Government of India. And I am quite suspicious of the move of our own government in delivering this appearance of Indian gift to the Bhutanese drivers. I call it " appearance of gift " because there is no real value since Bhutan is eligible to the refund of the excise levied. The difference is timing. 

The excise amount that India levies on petrol and diesel imported by Bhutan is in any case refundable to Bhutan under existing Agreement. So this excise waiver now at source at the time of import is not too different in monetary value from refunding the same at a later date. Therefore Bhutan as a nation neither looses nor gains by this decision of India. 

However, the people of Bhutan are made to feel grateful to India for nothing by this action of Bhutanese Government in passing the excise amount benefit to the consumers now.  The Government could have passed the excise benefit to the consumer long time back if it wanted as it was always getting full refund from India. 

The Bhutanese government could have kept the excise duty in place and instead waived off the 5% sales tax on petrol and diesel that it had levied since coming to power. That way the reduction in price would be less but uncalled for gratitude to India nil. 

I really wish that Bhutan Governnent had not brought the dignity of the 4th King into this politics of the Governments of India and Bhutan. The Kingships of Bhutan are not commodities. It is high time that all involved parties India, Bhutanese Government and our Kings respected the very essence of the Institution of Bhutanese  Monarchy that was  installed by the people of Bhutan on 17th December, 1907. If the 4th King rejoices at this political play on his birthday then Druk Yul is in a more severe second Doklam stage. Along with future diplomatic relationship with China and necessary conclusion of  Northern Border Talks, we would be writting off total sovereignty too.  

A better and uniform BirthDay gift if the government wanted to disburse to the people to celebrate the auspicious occasion would have been waiving off the 5% sales tax on mobile voucher. Though under democracy I would never go for associating the Kings with taxation whether waiver or hiking.

And definitely I am against cash gift to the nation by India when our King visits Delhi. A proper goodwill and true friendship gesture would be according sovereign respect and dignity to Bhutan. And that India never intends. So Bhutan needs a combined dedicated national will power of democracy and Monarchy to assert our own sovereign respect and dignity.

      

   

Friday, November 10, 2017

Seeking strength to be an honest simple being during this spiritual day the Descending Day of Lord Buddha.

I am a Buddhist in faith and in spirit a free soul. By call of national duty I have to place the sovereign interests of Bhutan above all else and by fortune of birth I am bonded son of of Haa Valley. And by choice of love I must be a responsible head of S.K.Y Family.

I have bid farewell to my beloved Mother and Father along with several fondly  loved ones few too young to let go  on their journey to the next happier world. The journey has many scars. However, I am blessed and healed with the love and affections of my super Parents and my family. And above all by the infinite Graces of Lord Buddha, Guru Rimpoche and the Triple Gem. I cherish the large immediate and extended families that surround me and rejoice that all near and dear ones are at able stages of looking after themselves and in caring for each other. To each I extend my affections and blessings. In their well being lies my sense of happiness.   

I do not control my birth nor my death. But I do wish to have control of who I am whilst I live. It is something I always believed and I endeavoured to achieve. Since several years ago, I have abandoned serving in any organisation be these of government, corporate, private or public. I do not desire to be part of political or religious or cultural association nor civil societies. However, I am not aloof from their activities as these influence the qualities of life and living in the environment I exist.  

Simply said I am free from all trappings of organised mandates and identities. Just want be only  Wangcha Sangey a citizen of Druk Yul who puts faith in Kuencho Sum and continue the journey on the path of truth, say the truth and write the truth. All in good faith nothing to do with absence of fear but certainly free of prejudice or malice. 

I love Druk Yul. My Country is beautiful and the environnent of life and living almost heavenly here in Druk Yul when compared to many  nations I have travelled through and societies I came across in personal contacts and through other mediums. May Druk Yul be always protected and guided well in her sovereign path by the Deities the Most Precious Pelden Lhamo and Yeshey Gonpo.

Wishing all a happy Lhabaab Dhuechhen Day. May Druk Yul recieve more heavenly Beings in the likeness of Lord Buddha to bless the land and the people.