Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Yesterday I heard the most heart-warming news in a long, long time. I was told that the DANTAK - earlier appointed as the contractors to do the infamous Shingkhar-Gorgan Road, have declined to accept to do the road, ostensibly - because they now believe that they are better off washing their hands off such a controversial and environmentally disastrous project.

They are smart - they would not want all their good work being judged based on one terribly unlawful work that does not bring any meaningful benefit to the people or the country.

One of the numerous catchy road signs DANTAK put up across the length and breadth of the country - to make driving over the roads they built, hilarious and eventful

DANTAK was established in Bhutan in May of 1961, at Samdrup Jongkhar. Fifty five years later, they are still going strong in Bhutan. They have built thousands of kilometers of road, hundreds of bridges and establishments that have served to put the country on the road to progress and development. Their performance hasn't been all that sterling - not by a long shot! But in the absence of someone better or even remotely competent to do what they did - at a time when they did - they certainly were relevant and they did the best they could.

And now, the fact that they have declined to take on that ruinous Shingkhar-Gorgan road, I say to them - THUMBS UP!

PS: The first Chief Engineer of DANTAK was Col. T V Jaganathan – he was appointed to the post on 29th May, 1961. He is credited with the start of the present day Royal Thimphu Golf Course, with permission from the Third King.

My father served as an interpreter to the Chief Engineer - during his stay in Gaylephu/Zhemgang areas. The old man didn't know English and the only Hindi words he knew were: “Hung” and “Na” - Yes and No. I cannot imagine what he would have been translating. My father used to be paid Rs.10.00 per month as remuneration, out of which Rs.1.00 would be deducted every month - for eating in the common langar - common kitchen/mess/canteen.


  1. Aue,
    While I was a kid, my dad told me he used to get paid Rs: 600 a month and it was enough to feed and clothe a family of 5. After spending there would still be some left to save. Such was the power and value those days. Fuel like kerosene for stoves costed around 6 Rs.

    Imagine my plight in my time now. This stories might not even be believed by people these days.

    1. Dear Lobsang,
      By then your dad must have been a Dasho already - I started at a lowly Nu.123.00 (US$ 1.84 at today's exchagne rate) per month. Out of that Nu.2.00 would be deducted as "Health Contribution" - leaving me with Nu.121.00. I used to eat as a paying guest at a place called Gomphus Hotel (not a hotel but a top notch restaurant of the day). I use to pay Nu.100.00 per month - for that money I could eat whatever I wanted - fish, pork, beef, cheese, eggs, momo, thukpa, chawchaw, rice, roti etc.

    2. Those were the times and wish I had been born in those times. Going by how things work and nuisances of this so called modern times I certainly want to belong to those times. Human values too must have been the top priority back then in light of the money-ed instincts and aspirations of these days.

  2. I have relish your story and my time is all about money here and money there...I also could remember local egg costing nu.1.00 and there wasn't many to buy. Now i am running 27. Similar is the story ...Lobzang sir and Yeshey sir.

  3. Soon chamkhar hydro power project will be in ur favour 🙏🙏🙏

    1. Hi Sangay,

      I hope so --- the hydro-power projects are sinking this country into serious debt burden. Even if we want to do new projects - let us do it after the ones in the pipeline are done.

      Punatsangchhu 1 has been stalled for the last 3 years - imagine the cost that is pilling up as a result of delay in execution. Recently, a shear zone has been detected at the dam site of PHPA 2. The combined project cost has already crossed Nu.200.00 billion. By the time the projects are done - if they will ever be done - the cost will cross Nu.400.00 billion. At this cost, we need to know who will buy our power.

      There are rumours that Kholongchhu project in the east is already facing some serious disagreements among the partners. Mangdechhu is not doing well either. It has been reported that Dagachhu power is facing trouble selling at Rs. 1.90.

      70% of the project cost is funded through loan at 10% interest. Thus, given 300 - 400% cost overruns and "geological surprises", we have to be seriously stupid to continue to pursue the misbegotten hydro-power dreams.

  4. Thank you la for the concern you had for our future generations. When we can't handle a single project we plan series of projects and having difficulties in monitoring. Start one project finish that one and than go for another one than will not face any problems. Going through all the news on project i feel where our county is leading.. Anyways Bhutan is Lucky to have person like you la kadrin Chey once more

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks ---- I only hope that what I heard is true.

  6. Lobsang. My first job got me Nu. 310 per month as my salary.

  7. Respected sir,

    For so, so long, i have been always disheartening to see the workers along the road construction sites. I don't know whether it is right to share my feelings here. Still then, since this page is talking something of a DANTAK, i am taking the chance.

    Well, this is purely my own thoughts. You know, these people, these workers at the construction sites are...i don't know how to say. Maybe i should say like they seems to have born little less fortunate. i particularly pity their kids. They are like their parents are the manual workers and they should continue this trend.

    so far, i didn't know these kids being sent to the schools. Sometimes, from the surface, when i see them, i wish like i could be a billionaire so that i can enroll them to studies or provide some better living.

    In the future, if i could earn some enough amount, i wish of being a social activist and share some assets with them . For now, i am helpless myself.

    Anyway, whatever i am writing is through a lay-man lens. I don't know the indepth stories about them. Maybe, they could be more happier inside. I haven't dealt closely with anyone of them.

    I am just hoping if these people are closely studied, not necessarily by Bhutan but by their parent country.

    Apology, if i am wrong to share this here.

  8. This road sign reminded of the numerous road signs that I have seen in pictures of Ladakh road trips! Humorous, hilarious yet passes the needed message along!