Sunday, May 29, 2016

Words of Hilarity and Awakening!

The following is how the Notice Board by the gate of Sangchoekhor Monastery in Paro, is worded:

The words may have gone a little wayward – but strangely, the spellings were spot on!

I was nonplussed – how can it happen that a person with such atrocious language skill be capable of spelling every word of the long winding notification without a single mistake? Puzzling!

But even more puzzling was the fact that such an inarticulate Notice Board continues to stand by the gate – without redemption.

I know that thousands would have passed under the archway of the Temple’s gate - to prostrate and to murmur prayers for success, long life, great wealth, good health and immediate rebirth into the world, after death. Millions of Ngultrums worth of Dalda would have been turned to smoke and soot - to demonstrate their religious fervor. Millions more would have been placed before the Lhakhang’s alter, by way of Gep. Copious amounts of Suja and Desi would have been served the many monks residing in the Lhakhang – as an act of religious complicity.

And yet, it is obvious that not a single chivalrous Buddhist has yet passed through the gate – one with the rudimentary qualities of a true Buddhist – to offer to remedy a Notice Board badly in need of rewording.

Rotary Foundation offers 10 (TEN) Scholarships for degree in water and sanitation

Dear Readers, 

I am happy to reproduce the following announcement by The Rotary Foundation, USA. The scholarship is offered for a Master's degree in Urban Water and Sanitation, Water Management, or Water Science and Engineering.

The Rotary Club of Thimphu would be happy to act as your sponsor club for this sponsorship. Please log on to the link indicated and read up to see if you qualify. If you do, please write to us at any of the following e-mail address:

        Rtn. Yeshey Dorji             :
        Ms. Tshering Choden       :

Please note the application dateline.

Readers who have Facebook or Tweeter account, please spread the word among your circle of friends.


Yeshey Dorji
Co-Chair : 9th RI District 3292 Annual Conference 2016-2017
Chair       : Vocational/Youth Services
RI District 3292

The Rotary Foundation and UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education are working together to tackle the world’s water and sanitation crisis and are offering up to 10 scholarships for graduate study at UNESCO-IHE's Delft campus in the Netherlands. The partnership aims to increase the number of trained professionals who can devise, plan, and implement water and sanitation solutions in developing areas. The scholarships also are designed to promote long-term productive relationships between Rotarians and skilled water and sanitation professionals in their communities.

Scholars will receive a Master of Science degree in urban water and sanitation, water management, or water science and engineering. Graduates work with their Rotary club sponsors on a related project to benefit their local community. The application deadline is 15 June. For more information, review the application toolkit and scholarship terms and conditions.

If you have questions, please contact

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Do Not Lose Sight Of The Woods While Being Distracted By The Tree

More than a month back, I sought an appointment with a Member of the Cabinet, in the hope that I could speak to him about some concerns I had. He promised to get back to me – but never did. I did not call him again because firstly, I know that he is a very busy man and can do without me pestering him time and again and, secondly, it is improper that I keep calling a Member of the Cabinet, at will.

I had, or have, 3 plus 1 specific concerns that I wanted to discuss with him. Of the 3, I will today discuss one of them. But first, I want to start with the plus 1 concern – not really a concern but a point of view.

I wanted to begin by offering him my point of view that if he truly desires to make a difference during his tenure as a Minister – he needed to dream small but achieve big. I wanted to tell him that this country has seen no dearth of dreamer of lofty dreams – but few have achieved anything meaningful. I wanted to caution him against that one fundamental human failing – that of overlooking the small important things that bring big changes, in our pursuit of big dreams that have, slowly but surely, put us on the road to destruction and ruin. I wanted to tell him not to lose sight of the woods while being distracted by the tree. Perhaps he should be satisfied seeing his reflection on the crystal waters of the free-flowing rivers, rather than the blurry outline on the murky waters of the hydro-power dams.

I wanted to tell him that perhaps there is a need for a change in the way we think and do things. Perhaps we need to look backwards to take us forward rather than look forward to be pushed rearward.

Perhaps the time is here for us to amend our outdated laws and rules that are out of tune with the changing times, rather than frame new ones that are most often done with poor understanding and in a state of confusion as to their purpose and intent.

I wanted to remind the Minister of a strange case where the author of the book’s foreword wrote that the rules and regulations contained in the book needed to be read and understood by every Bhutanese, while the agency that promulgated the rules and regulations marked on its cover: “STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL”.

And now, coming to 1 of the 3 concerns I wanted to discuss with the Minister, had I got that appointment I sought. I wanted to apprise him of the case pertaining to the rule concerning the transfer of vehicle ownership and the payment required to be paid for the purpose.

I wanted to clarify to him, if he did not already know, the difference between “TAX” and “FEE”. I wanted to point out to him that conceptually, “TAX” is collected as a measure of realizing revenue, while “FEE” becomes payable for a certain service rendered or performed. The act of amending the record of the ownership of an old vehicle from one to another – the act of printing a different ownership certificate is a service and thus should be subjected to a FEE and not a TAX. Therefore to levy 5% TAX on the transfer of ownership of vehicles is incorrect.

Frankly, I am concerned not so much with the legality of the issue – as much as I am with the huge loss of income the government is suffering. Because of the requirement of payment of 5% TAX, no one is willing to transfer the ownership of vehicles – even when the property has changed hands. But the truth is that our country needs to collect – even the smallest of TAX or FEE.

This is one quixotic case for the record books: a case of the government wanting to collect vast amounts of TAX but losing huge amounts of income through none-realization of FEE. There are thousands who have chosen not to transfer the ownership because it is unreasonable to pay TAX on something that should not be taxable.

I am one among them.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Shingkhar-Gorgan Road Will Shorten Distance to Takila

In September of 2015, Bhutan submitted our Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), to the UN Climate Change Secretariat in Bonn, Germany. The document contained very serious commitments by Bhutan – to combat climate change – through environmental conservation and protection.

On the sidelines of the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris on December 10, 2015, Agriculture Minister Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji singed a joint declaration with the EU wherein Bhutan reiterated its COP 15 pledge to remain permanently carbon neutral. In appreciation of this extraordinary will and commitment to “keep the planet safe for life to continue”, EU tripled its assistance to Bhutan - from € 14 million (2007 - 2013) to € 42 million (2014 - 2020).

On 19th February, 2016, our Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay captivated the audience at the TED Talks in Vancouver, Canada where he declared:

“Of the 200-odd countries in the world today, it looks like we are the only one that's carbon neutral. Actually, that's not quite accurate. Bhutan is not carbon neutral. Bhutan is carbon negative”.

He went on to say:

We must keep our parks awesome. So every year, we set aside resources to prevent poaching, hunting, mining and pollution in our parks, and resources to help communities who live in those parks manage their forests, adapt to climate change, and lead better lives while continuing to live in harmony with Mother Nature”.

Generating over a million page views (1,311,270 as of 11:02:52AM; May 24, 2016) on the TED page, it has sparked keen interest among the world audience on Bhutan’s most recent environmental protection and conservation initiative – BHUTAN FOR LIFE.

One of the billionaire audiences who sat in the third row during the TED Talks in Vancouver was so impressed that he said he came to Bhutan to see for himself what the realities were on the ground. Whole lot of donors to Bhutan’s environmental NGOs and the BHUTAN FOR LIFE initiative have recently visited Bhutan and trekked the Shingkhar-Gorgan Road areas – to see what this controversial road was all about.

During a number of meetings I assured them that the road wasn't going to happen. I informed them that Shingkhar-Gorgan road would pass through the TNP – something that is forbidden by law. If constructed, the road would dissect the worlds only proven high altitude tiger migration corridor. If we go ahead and do this road, our promises to the world community would be just that – empty promises made without intending to keep them.

Some have put out the misinformation that the road would help avoid Thrumshing-La Pass that at times hinder flow of traffic, particularly during the winter months. The truth is that Singama-La Pass – over which the Shingkhar-Gorgan road has to pass, is even higher than Thrumshing-La. Thus someone has to be seriously stupid to say that the road would serve as a better alternative to Thrumshing-La. Namling is now stable and no longer a cause for worry for travelers.

Those who are quick to point out that Shingkhar-Gorgan road will help cut down travel time between east and west, a better point would have been made – if one were to point out that, by contrast, the country’s poorest Dzongkhag – Zhemgang don't have roads – let alone roads that need shortening. If the government has money available, let us look at the possibility of improving road connectivity in the remote Zhemgang villages.
The beautiful Singma-La Pass. One can see that the pass is way above the tree lines - meaning it is over 4,000 Mtrs.

 Thrumshing-La Pass at under 3,800 Mtrs. As opposed to the barren top of Singma-La, you can see trees atop the Thrumshing-La Pass. This means that this pass is much lower than Singama-La.

View of the beautiful Shingkhar Village from atop the Singma-La.

There is something insane going on about this road. I am told that some one has written in the Facebook that the Shingkhar-Gorgan road will open up the opportunity for people to visit the World’s largest statue of Guru Rinpoche in Takila.

You would break a law, imperil a rare tiger habitat, cause irreparable damage to a pristine ecosystem and bring ruin to the environment – just so you can get to visit the World’s largest statue of Guru Rinpoche in Takila?

At this scale of insanity, next thing would be that the same people would want the Tawang-Doksum-Guwahati road – on grounds that they can get to go to visit the Kamakhya in the shortest of time!

Friday, May 20, 2016

R.I.P Ada Rachu

From out of the ashes rose the Ada Rachu rule and to ashes it has rightfully been assigned. Even before one could finish saying “this too shall pass”, the Ada Rachu rule has been given its just burial, in the process, leaving a bunch of sycophants scurrying off to bury their heads in the sand.

It is a sign of disrespect for someone to suggest that the distinction of the Bhutanese Royalty is hinged on a piece of striped cloth. Their station, regal bearing, their uncommon intelligence - are distinctive enough. And, most of us recognize our Royalty anyway - without the need for Ada Rachu to distinguish them.

I hope this will encourage  people to contemplate deeper - the implications of what they are putting out.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

In Celebration of Teachers’ Day - Remembering My Teacher

I was kept too busy to post an article on Teachers’ Day. I wanted to post my following mail – written on 21st March, 2016 to my old teacher - after having been totally disconnected with him for over 46 years. I started to look out for him ten years back – finally I traced him through a Church in England.


Dear Sir,

Thank you for your mail and please accept my apology for the delayed reply.

I did not really think that the person on that Church’s web site would turn out to be you - but I asked any way, since I was in search of you for the past 10 years or more. In truth, there is no specific reason why I was looking for you - except that over the years, as I grew older and wiser, I have come to develop a huge respect and regard for you - as an immensely dedicated teacher who, I came to realize, had given so much to that small school in Gawpey, and its students. I was fortunate to be your student and somehow I believe that without you coming into my life at a time and space that you did, even if for a very brief while, I would not be the person that I have grown to be.

In particular, without your punishing ways and unrelenting attention, I would have never made it through my studies - considering that I had discontinued studies for three years – to sell tea and peanuts to Nepali workers crushing stones by the roadside - before joining Gawpey! Consider that after having missed schooling for three years, I had to relearn grammar, including adding sums all over! You single handedly resuscitated me and put me on the road to education and learning. With your uncompromising and strict disciplinarian ways, I went on to excel in my class, year after year! You pushed me so hard and remained so steadfast to my need for special attention that I not only passed my exams in my first year in Gawpey (Class III), but I passed it with flying colors – with a class position of 4th in my final exams.

Once in a while I think of the times when I was studying in Gawpey - as your student. I reminiscence of the times when you singled me out for special punishment - duster on the head or cane on my butt - the habitual mischief-maker that I was. One time you kept whole of my class standing in the sun – all day long - because someone had hidden the school bag and all the books of Gado Tshering – now Gup Gado. If you recall, you were a bit surprised that not one student dropped to the ground - in exhaustion or as a result of heat stroke.

I still find it hard to believe that you had the time and the tenacity to set all the question papers for the whole school - from Class II upwards --- and mark them all too. The dreaded weekly inspection of our exercise books would cause me to contemplate absconding from school … since I was subjected to vigorous amounts of whacking on the butt – because I could never keep my books clean.

Thank you for asking about me and about my life’s journeys. The following is not the whole story – but the most significant of it.

I have not been the typical success story that every one would want to write back home about. But by my own reckoning, I have done pretty well in life - better than most - not perhaps the run-of-the-mill variety of financial or entrepreneurial success, but the kind that fills one with intellectual and psychological satisfaction.

I started life in the Bank of Bhutan – at a salary of Nu.123.00 per month (US$1.83 at today’s conversion rate) – net Nu.121.00, after deduction of health contribution of Nu.2.00.

Because of my late mother’s failing health, I sought an obtained employment in the Export Division of the Ministry of Trade, Industries and Forests. I was posted in Calcutta, India since my mother required treatment in a particular hospital there. During my tenure there, I headed the export section of the Division and played pivotal role in the Trade & Transit Agreement with Bangladesh. I was part of the team that determined land and riverine routes through which to conduct export/import trade from and to that country. The variety of products we exported those days – to countries such as Switzerland, Germany, US, Singapore, Dubai, Sweden, and Pakistan etc. is unmatched even today.

I was cheeky enough to try and export gum rosin to South Africa at a time when the whole world was baying for the blood of the apartheid regime in that country. The entire world had set a complete and total embargo on the country.

Talking of apartheid, one new human conduct came to be described by an American journalist – as a result of some incident in Bhutan surrounding the selection of our archery team to the Olympics (the journalist was in Thimphu at that time). The totally infuriated journalist coined the term “apartheid in reverse”.

I trained in diverse disciplines such as insurance, standardization, pre-shipment export cargo inspection, export-import documentation, shipping and forwarding, stevedoring, and chartering etc.

I must be among the very few in Bhutan who has traveled around the glob on one single ticket and continuously for 48 days.

After resigning from the government, I pioneered the computer trade, desktop publishing, office automation business, ham radio etc. I am the first in the private sector to host a web page when Internet was introduced in Bhutan, in 1999.

Currently I am the only photographer in Bhutan who earns a living making photos. There are a number of books to my credit. Two more are due for publication.

After a long and joyous journey, there is one thing that never changed – you tried but you couldn’t either. You may recall that you used to send me to the Pachhu way down in the valley - with a large metal bucket, to carry it back fully laden with boulders from the river bank – in an attempt to make me improve my spelling. Everything else in life has taken a 360-degree turn – but my spelling skills still remain the same – atrocious!

Please convey my best wishes to madam Joyce – I remember that she was working at the Gidakom Hospital – when you were dating her.

Please accept my lifelong respects and hope that one day you will come back to Bhutan and I am able to see you once again.

I still vividly remember that last walk you made me walk with you – in the garden just before you moved to Ugyen Academy. If that walk was not necessitated, may be my life would have been completely different. But whether it would have been as fulfilling or as rewarding as it has been so far – I will never know.


Thursday, May 5, 2016


I was the 1,001st Bhutanese man to sign in to support HeForShe UN Women Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality. You can sign too at the following:

Our primeval census law that denies citizenship to children born to Bhutanese women who cannot name the father of the child, or fathered by none-Bhutanese, is an affront to the Bhutanese women. This law drives our women to such desperation as naming their own fathers as the progenitor of their fatherless children. Thousands of children born to legitimate Bhutanese women are denied their birth right to citizenship and education, because their mothers are unable to name their fathers or that they have been fathered by a none-Bhutanese.

There is nothing dignified or honorable about this law. Every lawmaker - men or women - should hang their heads in shame that such a disgraceful and gender prejudiced law should be allowed to continue to humiliate our women.

Kuensel writes that eighteen Parliamentarians, including the Speaker of the House, signed up in support of the Movement. Now let us watch and see if they will go beyond merely being a statistics, or do something to restore dignity and equality to the long-suffering Bhutanese women.

Free Seeds To Grow Fodder For Wildlife

According to what The Journalist newspaper reported in their 1st May issue, the gewog official of Tashicholing is supposed to have said that the government do not offer any monetary compensation to the farmers for damage caused by wild life but that they do distribute free seeds.

In effect, what the gewog official is saying is – that the government distributes free seeds to grow fodder for the wildlife. Small wonder then that the government is clueless about the nomenclature “human-wildlife conflict”. This is truly appalling!

Rural-urban migration is causing villages to be emptied of young people - old and the infirm now mostly populate the village homes

Villagers are forced to use stuffed tigers from China to keep vigil over their crop during day, while they try and catch some sleep and respite from night-long vigil in an attempt to ward off wildlife

Fertile farmlands are left fallow and whole villages are overgrown with bushes

It is time we forget huge hydroelectric projects and massive road widening works. They are destined to cause us problems that we are in no position to handle. Instead, let us focus on manageable issues that are fundamental to our survival as a nation state.

Lets get serious about the long term effects of Goontongs!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Finally Delivered

Dear Evelyn,

I am happy to let you know that we have finally been able to deliver and distribute the 68 blankets and T-shirts you contributed to the disabled children at the Draktso School for the Disabled in Kanglung, Trashigang. I am sorry that it took so long but your gift was so bulky that it was not possible to send them through friends traveling to the east. On the other hand, we did not want to risk sending them by public transport for fear that they may be damaged in transit. Finally our Community Services Director sent his pick-up truck to transport the gifts.

The gifts were finally distributed to the children last weekend. As you can see from the photos - the children were elated by the gifts.

Draktsho Children bearing gifts of T-Shirts and Blankets

It is our hope that the smiles you see on their faces will more than compensate for your act of charity. The Rotary Club of Thimphu thanks you for your generosity.

By the way the balance 30 odd T-shirts are still with me and will be given out, as and when we come to know of children who may stand in need of them.

You may be happy to know that the Rotary Club of Thimphu will soon embark on a fund-raising initiative to create an “Education & Life Skills Fund”. This fund will be used to support children with academic excellence to pursue further studies and for grown up people to acquire life skills. In due course, we will call upon you to draw on your skills at fund-raising and to seek help to spread the word among your vast network of friends. I hope you will be forthcoming.

Bye and take care