For once, let us stop being the typical Bhutanese - the perennial Azha Passa.
The DPT government is not responsible for our current economic woes. It has been fomenting for the past many decades. So, we cannot fix blame on the DPT government for the Rupee crunch, which is principally caused, not by the sudden depletion of our Rupee reserves, but by the huge and widening trade imbalance between India and ourselves. But the real truth that is now emerging is that we not only have a severe Rupee crunch, but even worst, we also are faced with a severe Ngultrums crunch.
That said, the prudent management of the country’s finances during their tenure is the responsibility of the government. At a time when we need to tighten our belts and rein in wasteful and avoidable spending, it is important for the government to look at hard numbers and have the courage and determination to override misplaced emotions, for the sake of the country and for their own credibility as a responsible government.
There simply is no reason why the Dzong must be rebuilt on the same location where it stood. I have already said in my earlier posts that the Dzong could not be saved for one simple reason: due to inaccessibility of the location.
Because of the difficulty of the location, knowledgeable people opine that the Dzong is going to cost us close to Nu.2.00 billions and not Nu.1.00 billion as was being projected in the papers. I spoke to some architects and engineers and they tell me that if the same Dzong were to be built at a less difficult location, the cost can be cut down by about 40%. That translates to a savings of Nu.800.00 million. In addition, I am told that the Dzong can be built in half the time.
I spoke to one senior official who is from Wangdue and he agrees that the new Dzong should be built on the location extending from the Telecom compound going back all the way to the old town that has been relocated to Bajothang. In his opinion, there is enough space to fit the Dzong comfortably and still have open space to provide for firefighting paraphernalia. He felt that the ruins were looking very impressive.
One conservationist I spoke to was vehement, as I am, that pulling down the ruins of the old Dzong to rebuild a new one in its place would be nothing short of an insult to our cultural sensitivity. In the words of the person, “it is going to cause a complete disconnect between our forefathers and ourselves”. According to this person, leaving the ruins of the Dzong as it is would be to show respect to them. If at all, the person felt that we should rebuild the Dzong using the same foundations and the stonewalls that still stand, which the person felt will still be strong enough to support the structure of the new Dzong.
Another engineer I spoke to says that the removal of the debris will cost us few hundred million and will take upwards of a year to clean the place up.
One senior citizen I spoke to said that the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong’s location was predestined by “Ngam-koe” but he said that the fact that it has been burnt down completely and the fact that nothing could save it meant that the Dzong’s “Ngam-koe” was over. Ngamkoe zosop wongni imdrey. According to him, everything is predestined - humans cannot alter it or interfere with it.
One expatriate I spoke to reiterated that Bhutan must not accept other nations to rebuild the Dzong for us because, in his opinion, a Dzong is an edifice of Bhutanese culture and heritage. He felt that no one but the Bhutanese must build the Dzong, however difficult or however costly. Bhutan must not accept aid money to rebuild the Dzong.
One person I spoke to had this very interesting thing to say about culture. He said that culture is something that must constantly evolve to suite the changing times. So must religion. To support his point, he said; “look inside the Patangs worn by our current breed of Lyonpos, Dashos, MPs, Drangpons etc. You will find that inside that elaborately carved and decorated scabbard, you will find that most, if not all, do not have the shinning steel blade that they are supposed to contain. The reason is that the Patang is now merely a formality and not a necessity that it used to be during the ancient times. It no longer serves the purpose it use to but it still has to be worn because it is part of the dress code of persons holding certain positions. In these modern times when efficiency and freedom of mobility is important, a weighty Patang by your side is more of a hindrance thus, people have shed the steel blade to make it more comfortable to wear the Patang”.
The last point I want to make is that spending so much on a Dzong for Wangdue Phodrang Dzongkhag is being irresponsible to people in other Dzongkhags. The only way the government can spend so much on the reconstruction of the Dzong is by curtailing spending on critical services and developmental activities in other Dzongkhags.
The government cannot short-change people from other Dzongkhags because it lacks the courage to look at things objectively and do what is necessary. Neither can it shrug off responsibility by saying that pressure was brought to bear on them. Particularly during these times of financial crises that the country is going through, the government must exercise their power and responsibility entrusted them by the majority of the people of Bhutan - to do things for the best interest of the country and not be misguided by some misplaced sense of righteousness, or the need to look good in the eyes of the people.
The reconstruction of the Dzong is going to add to our woes. Let us be sensible about this.