Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Rupee Crush and the Ngultrum Crunch

-->Day-before-yesterday, a reporter friend asked me; “What is your view on the Rupee crunch? When do you think it is likely to be solved, if ever?”

She was aghast at the simplicity of my answer. She couldn’t accept that the reason could be explained away in just two lines - in all of 5 seconds, in such simple and uncomplicated terms. She expected me to come up with an elaborate economic theory, a complex and intricate explanation on what went wrong where and when. She was sure I would give her a mind boggling, blow-by-blow account of how things went wrong - a detailed, step-by-step remedial measures that needs to be put in place, to get out of our present woes.

We have complicated our lives so much that simple things are no longer credible. That is why, perhaps, we feel a sense of sophistication when we prefer cocktails that contain dashes of salt and pepper, instead of drinking whiskey in the raw. Thus, I suppose, it is understandable that my newsperson friend looked at me incredulously and did not believe a word of the simple and straightforward explanation I gave her. In her mind she had already decided that I would offer her something titillating, something dramatic, something debilitating and scandalous, in order that she can faithfully perpetuate the confusion that she and her brood had been dishing out.

Each of our media houses are so preoccupied in outdoing each other in putting out preposterous and outlandish reasons why we are in our current predicament, all of a sudden and without warning, that they have completely failed to report on the positive effects this supposed Rupee crunch is having on the country. As a result, we have today a nation full of nervous and gawk-eyed people who have been mislead into believing that our problems began a little over two months back when the RMA Governor started regulating the use of Indian Rupees. No one seems to understand that our problems began with our crush for the Indian Rupee that started with our modernization sometime in the early 1960’s.

Another hazardous belief that is gaining popular credence among the media and the people alike is that all able and competent people must join politics. They do not seem to care that the mass exodus of experienced civil servants could cause even more dangerous leadership vacuum in the bureaucracy. A strong, dedicated and functioning civil service is even more critical for the efficient implementation of the government’s plans and programs.

Even as the next elections are drawing near and even as a number of aspiring political parties are dangerously coming close to being formed (if media is to be believed), I am getting more and more worried. The successful formation of even one additional party means that we have to go through a primary round of elections. For a miniscule country with a population size of less than 700,000 people, a primary round is too wasteful and unnecessary. Even for the current two parties, there aren’t enough credible candidates to go around - let alone leadership of any substance. Bhutan is in no condition to afford a wasteful primary round. Therefore, let us hope that a third party does not get formed and, even if it does, let us do away with the primary round and go straight for the real deal.

The combined stress of a Rupee crunch as well as an Ngultrum crunch could turn out to be the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back!

But I tell you! We are living in exciting times. My temples are pulsating with the reverberation caused by the rush of warm blood that is pounding them. I am so thoroughly excited by the intrigue surrounding the mystery of the Rupee crunch and the provable solution that may come from some totally unexpected quarter. The intellectual hounds among you should analysis the situation, seriously.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Too Much Unrestrained Freedom?

-->Recently, a large number of my friends and relatives around the country spotted me on BBS TV - bearing a microphone in hand and wildly gesticulating like a man possessed - making some speechless points!

A friend commented that I was so driven by emotion that I was dumbfounded for words. Another smart Alec opined that I was a masterful shadow-boxer. However, the best comment came from my dad who too had seen me, for a fleeting moment, wordlessly making some points on BBS TV. Apparently, he had called up my sister to ask if I was joining politics. A mute politician? Preposterous!

You might wonder why I am suddenly the center of so much attention among my friends and relatives and why such a huge ruckus is being kicked up about my mute appearance on the BBS TV. The reason is that I was invited by the Bhutan Center for Media and Democracy to be on the panel that was discussing: Freedom of Media. How is freedom of the media understood in Bhutan, how do we fare in terms of free speech? What about our regulatory environment?

I had made some very scathing remarks against the media as a whole, how they had so far failed to live up to their enormous responsibilities as the Fourth Estate. How most of our young reporters are forever stuck in that state of infanthood. How, even after so many years, they are not being able to mature into responsible, committed and passionate custodians of the nation’s conscience. How some of them have usurped their right to free speech by being irresponsible and damaging in their reporting.

I had also touched on the subject of the RTI Act being proposed as a knee-jerk reaction arising out of some hurt ego and whether we have evolved enough to fully understand the responsibilities that come with freedom and whether we are mature enough to understand and respect the enormity of the empowerment that the RTI Act can give us.

I had also reminded them that if they were not getting the information they seek from government agencies, it was because they antagonized the source of the information and that they lacked tact and skill in handling prospective sources of the information they seek.

I had categorically stated before my talk that being critical was not being negative. I am on record (the entire proceedings were being tape recorded and video filmed) where I had pleaded with the media to be more responsible and not to add bewilderment to the already confusing state of affairs as a result of our lack of experience in a brand new form of governance.

It is obvious from the way my words were censored and muted by BBS TV, that my opinions were not well received by the media. That is fine but that kind of behavior throws up a very serious question:

How can the media in Bhutan grow into a responsible public apparatus if they can silence and moderate opposing and uncomplimentary views about themselves? Who then regulates them? Is the current state of affairs among our media houses the result of too much unrestrained freedom?

Think about it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pardon Me, Your Slip Is Showing

-->Druk Air is Bhutan’s national flag carrier, and the only airline that, for decades, operated commercial flights in and out of the country. We now have a second airline (domestic only) that attempts to give it some semblance of competition. As a monopoly holder of the air travel business, the airline had no need to spend money on advertising and, it would appear, even what little they spent was spent on pathetically inaccurate Posters, like the one reproduced below.

Take a careful look at the poster. There is something terribly erroneous about the poster. Let us see how many of you can spot the flaw in the poster.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Full Moon Over Thimphu

-->According to reports, the moon is supposed to be closest to earth yesterday the 6th May, 2012 which was a full-moon day. I assumed that it would look bigger and brighter. It wasn’t really so - I shot the image below at 9.21 PM. Frankly I didn’t see much difference in its size or its brilliance. But I do see that it has seen lot more battering since I last photographed it.