The Bhutan Education City
Is Education City a closed chapter, I ask myself? So much has been said and varying views expressed. It is not fruitful any longer to reflect on the past, the stands of DPT and PDP formed Governments, the role of DHI and Land Commission nor the validity and responsibility of the high powered Education City Board and the Education City Act.
What is important and relevant is what happens here after. What does Bhutanese authority intend to do so that all the efforts, time and money invested up till now in the project is harnessed for the benefit of the nation as a whole?
There is a rumor that the 1000 acre area of Bhutan Education City may be converted to Bhutan Film City. I would have discounted such an idea but rumors in Bhutan have disturbingly proved true in the past. Moreover Dasho Ugen Tsechup Dorji has been closely associated with Bhutan Film Association and he is quite influential. So the rumor cannot be just brushed off as simple political sarcasm. The last big news I heard of Bhutan Film City was about identifying a large tract of land in Paro (way above Ta-Dzong) for Bhutan Film City and commitment of required fund from some sources for developing the area. So there will be a much desired Bhutan Film City somewhere in Western Bhutan without misusing the Education City investment.
Now regarding the utilization of Education City in the most appropriate way i.e for the education purpose of the nation could be achieved by transferring the project under the Royal University of Bhutan. The Nation needs many more colleges to absorb the class XII pass outs. RUB could have two or even three colleges at the 1000 acre Bhutan Education City site. The goals of Bhutan Education City could be met in terms of: a) expanding national capacity for tertiary education b) harnessing Bhutanese students presently compelled to study in colleges in India and c) saving very scarce rupee resources. Moreover it is good investment for developing and shaping the direction of the young Bhutanese generation. As for improving the quality of education, I feel it should be a national goal covering all the colleges and schools not just a particular institution installed in an artificially created elite location.
The main disagreement regarding the present Bhutan Education City project is not the education goals and objectives of the project. It is the issue of leasing land to foreign entities initially for 30 years and then renewable twice over. This means 90 years which is comparable to the 99 years lease of Hong Kong and Macau. More than 100 years ago, China was a vast but weak nation. The 99 years lease of Chinese sovereign land of Hong Kong and Macau by Britain and Portugal was forced upon China.
Such long term lease has huge multi-dimension implications on national sovereignty in terms of security, immigration, social and religious issues, political and economic influence etc. So it is natural for a true sovereign Leader or a sovereign agency to exercise anxiety in regards to surrendering of land in the heart of the Kingdom to foreign entities for a period of 90 years. In fact all Bhutanese should share such an anxiety.
Bhutan need not surrender another 1000 acres of heart land of Bhutanese Capital City to foreign entity for 90 years. I think Bhutan already has enough of long term foreign residency settlements occupying huge land areas scattered all over the Kingdom. We can do without leasing out an additional 1000 acres under foreign domination.
By the way, the name of the Education City area ‘Wang-Sisina’ really had me misdirected. I could not get the fix on the spot until I saw the fresh cutting of the motor road on the hill sides of the Dangkala Range that drops to the confluence of Paro and Thimphu Rivers. The hill sides used to be totally barren but over the decades, conservation and afforestation efforts of the Bhutan Forest Department had nursed an admirable crop of young blue pine trees that gradually covered the vast area. The education project will harm the natural vegetation but if it helps in nourishing young Bhutanese minds, I could live with this kind of barter exchange.
Khushwant Singh of India.
I came to know of him as Editor of Illustrated Weekly of India. He is known to be a man of independent thoughts and wits. I always thought he had a colorful flair even for Sikh standard. With his departure from this world that was home to him for 99 years, I felt a sense of deep loss as I watched the NDTV coverage of his death. For a man who never shied away from speaking his mind or controversial subjects, he passed away peacefully in his sleep on the day of World Happiness. What a beautiful way to say good bye to 99 years of worldly chaos and colors. Illustrated Weekly was part of my little world that included News week and Times Magazines, Readers Digest and later on India Today. I really enjoyed reading and learning from these journals. Things are different now. There is a flood of social media and 24 hours TV channels. Today one has access to so much information, knowledge and news that require so little investment in terms of time and money. And yet we seemed to be rather un-informed these days on important issues.
On each occasion of passing away of such high caliber figure, one mourns not just for the person but for the character, the conscience and kind of life that the person had represented. May the soul of respected Khushwant Singh-ji rest in peace!
Bhutan Happiness Day
The 20th March, 2014, International Happiness Day adopted by the General Assembly of United Nations and which in fact is a tribute to the happiness doctrine of King Jigme SIngye Wangchuck, passed fleetingly away, almost unnoticed by the general public of the Kingdom of Bhutan.
UN officials, Foreign Diplomats and Cabinet Ministers of Bhutan did light butter lamps at the National Memorial Chorten built in memory of King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. May be for Bhutan Happiness is meant to be a memory of the past as is the memory of His Majesty the Third King and Father of modern Bhutan. I personally would have preferred the Happiness Day Butter Lamp Tribute to have taken place at Tashichho Dzong Kye-rena before the altar of Lord Buddha - the guiding light for the nation towards harmony and happiness. In the decades to come I hope that this International Day of Happiness would remind Bhutanese all over the world about the great King who put the wellbeing of his people above all other achievements and light a butter lamp as a symbol of peace and harmony.
The Ukraine Crisis
This is my third perspective on Ukraine troubles. Crimea has voted to be part of Russia and the Russian Duma was quick to favorably respond. President Putin has signed the documents making Crimea part of Russia. The Russian Gateway to Black Sea and thereby to Mediterranean and other warm waters has been secured. As a citizen of a small Kingdom between two giant nations, I have my self-interest national reasons to be wary of Crimea being part of Russia even though 97% of voters in Crimea demonstrated such a desire through the ballot box. At the same time it was predictable because Russia would never tolerate a hostile Ukraine controlling her access to the waters in the South.
The West led by USA, UK and France must be stunned and dismayed at the outcome of their coup conducted through the Ukraine Parliament that resulted in the unconstitutional ouster of the elected President of Ukraine. For all the information gadgets, intelligence apparatus and hundreds of highly paid political pundits/advisors, the West did not foresee that their goal to create pro-west Ukraine would result in them handing over Crimea to Russia on a democratic platter. 97% of Crimea voters voted to join Russia rather than be subjugated to pro-west Ukraine government.
This Ukraine fiasco of the West must be a miscalculation that is equivalent to West influenced India under Nehru attempting to expand North-Eastern Frontier boundary in 1962 banking upon China to remain submissive. China was not submissive in 1962 and Russia showed no fear in securing her Mediterranean gateway this time.
Western media has attempted to stoke up Cold War era fears by alluding that Russia would not stop just at Crimea but would attempt to expand further. However, I do not think that the general people of both Eastern and Western Europe believe in such possibilities. Russia simply wants to secure independent access to the world waters. She would not want more land along with more social, political and economic problems of her neighbors.
At the UN, the western powers attempted to censure the Crimean referendum but Russia vetoed the move and China refused to participate. And now even India the old Ally of Russia but under new rapprochement process with USA, has refused to back the symbolic sanctions against Russia. So the West hyped propaganda about isolation of Russia is rather far-fetched.
Economically about 35 billion dollars of foreign investment moved away from Russia and 240 billion dollars of Russian money moved away from the West and America to safer Nations. So even economically the West suffered more for their Ukraine coup if statistics given by the media are facts. I think the Ukraine crisis will peter off and very soon things would be as usual except the change in Crimea status.