Saturday, November 25, 2017

Rotary Club of Thimphu is a Global Grant Donor

In the past five years since our Charter in 2012, the Rotary Club of Thimphu has received tens of millions of Ngultrums from the international community of Rotarians - to fund meaningful projects in the Club's core areas of focus: Agriculture, Education and Health. For once, the tables have been turned on us - we recently received a request from a Club in Australia - to be a Global Grant donor to a project they are endeavoring to do.

In a swift decision made yesterday, our Club Members decided that being poor was no justifiable reason not to give. Our Club will, for the first time, act as a donor and not a recipient. As requested by the Australian Club, we have agreed to donate the requested sum to help them do their humanitarian project.

It is a joy and a privilege to belong to a comity of people who are more heart and less mouth.
Dear Rtn. Bruce,

This is to acknowledge the receipt of your mail dated 14th November, 2017 soliciting our support in being a Global Grant partner in your drive towards raising funds to eradicate FASD among the First Nation people of the Kalgoorlie-Goldfields region of Western Australia.

In my capacity as the Club Secretary of the Rotary Club of Thimphu, I had the opportunity to put up your request to our Club Members for their consideration, during our weekly Club Meeting held yesterday.

While making a pitch for your cause, I presented the following to our Members.

1.  More than half a century ago, in 1962, it was the then Australian
     Prime Minister Sir Robert Gordon Menzies who invited Bhutan
     to attend the 14th Consultative Committee Meeting of the
     Colombo Plan – as an observer. This resulted in the Colombo
     Plan making the rare exception of admitting a none-qualified
     Bhutan as a Member. Thus, Australia has been pivotal in
     Bhutan’s joining a world body for the first time in its history.
     This was a prodigious moment for Bhutan – being admitted as a
     member of the Colombo Plan meant that Bhutan was now
     recognized as an independent sovereign country.

2. In the last one decade alone, more than 500 Bhutanese have
    received scholarships from the Australian Government. This year
    alone, over 60 scholarships are on offer to Bhutanese academics.

3. In recent times, Australia has emerged as the most preferred
    destination for the Bhutanese – both for education as well as for
    employment. Bhutanese prefer Australia over even USA. There
    are few thousand Bhutanese currently domiciled in Australia
    – very happily and comfortably.

4. In the last two months, Disaster Aid Australia (a project of the
    Rotary Club of Endeavor Hills) has donated 6 SkyHydrant water
    filter systems to 6 of our schools in rural Bhutan. Valued at tens
    of thousands of dollars, these innovative water filters dispense
   10,000 liters of filtered water every day, for the safety of
    our school children's health.

5. Bhutan is grateful to Australia – for its role as a longstanding
    development partner. In recognition of this fact, you may be
    happy to know that the Royal Government of Bhutan has
    declared the year 2018 as a special Bhutan-Australia Friendship
    Year. In celebration, the Royal Government of Bhutan is
    allowing all Australian nationals to visit Bhutan without having
    to pay the mandatory Minimum Daily Tariff. During the
    3 months of June, July and August 2018, all Australian Passport
    holders can visit Bhutan on payment of the sustainable
    development fee of US$ 65.00 only.

For us at the RC Thimphu, a request from Australia – perhaps first of its kind - is no trivial matter. I am happy to inform you that after a short discussion, all our Members were emphatic in their support for your cause and have agreed that they will contribute personally to raise the requested US$2,000.00 as our Club’s cash contribution to your humanitarian cause.

We are a poor Club but we all agreed that being poor is not good enough justification not to give. We thank you for offering us this opportunity to give.

Please let us know when is the dateline for us to remit the money. Please also let us know how or where we may make the payment.

Thanking you and wishing you success in your endeavors, I remain,

Yours in Rotary,

Yeshey Dorji
Club Secretary 2017 - 2018
Chair for Vocational/Youth Services

RID 3292

Monday, November 13, 2017

Looking the Gift Horse in the Mouth

One anonymous reader commented the following on Wangcha Sangay's Blog. He/she is spot on! I wanted to express a similar view on the matter ... but decided not to because frankly I am getting pretty tired of making noise all the time.

Something is not quite right about this. But I have not really had the time to read and understand the issue properly. Is the governemnt of India waiving off GST on petrol and diesel for the benefit of the people of Bhutan? Or is it that the government of India is implementing excise duty refund at source? These are two different issues and cannot be misconstrued to mean the same.


Suddenly making commodities artificially cheaper is not a long-term solution that strengthens our sovereignty. I fully agree with the author on this issue of national importance. When petrol and diesel are more expensive in the country that we import from, this cannot be good. This is common sense. In previous years, the excise amount was refunded to the government of Bhutan; now the attempt is to give it back to the people – there is merit in this because it was the people’s money to begin with. But, people did not complain in the past when the government took the excise refund because we assumed it was going for overall development of the country.

Passing on over Nu. 2 billion to the car owners is not democratic. To put it in perspective, that is over $30 million. What about the majority of people who do not own cars and are therefore not directly affected? One could say, “But the excise was collected from car owners, and not everyone.” By that argument, they are also using roads and infrastructure that was built by the state more than others; they pollute the air, which everyone has to breathe and the argument can go on. Of course, it is hoped that the drop in petrol and diesel price will lead to a drop in commodity prices, but we don’t know if that will happen. The government may further interfere in price control and prevent free-market mechanisms operating on the principles of supply and demand. Wouldn’t more Bhutanese be affected if cooking gas prices were dropped instead? More Bhutanese depend on that than on vehicle fuel. It is easy politically to get rid of tax, but very difficult to raise it. Tax hikes are politically damaging and getting rid of taxes can make a political party popular. When people are not complaining about the ‘dirty tax’ on a product that we solely import, is not good for our environment, and is used by only people who have cash income, removing it just like that is a disservice to the country if you look hard. Higher prices can control import. Places like Thimphu are getting congested with imported cars, and we need more efficient pubic transport. Over Nu. 2 billion+ that could have gone to the 12th FYP, the Health Trust Fund to fund vaccines for all Bhutanese, or to set up efficient public transport is now doled out to car owners. For a country to strengthen its sovereignty we need to broaden our revenue base, and sensible taxation is one way to do that. We cannot fold our hands and go begging for funds to run a welfare state. That is damaging to our sovereignty because we are beholden to those foreign entities again. Here we had one small opportunity to slowly ask for less from India, and we blew it.

While we respect our neighbours, we cannot fully trust their motives. Elections are just around the corner, and all political parties should have Bhutan’s sovereignty foremost in their minds. PLEASE stop dragging the sanctity of our Bodhisattva monarchs into politics. We need a constitutional order that prohibits political parties from using the sacredness of His Majesty and the Royal Family in their schemes. Every Bhutanese should espouse whole-hearted allegiance and loyalty to the Royal Family from deep within our hearts. For without that, we should be ashamed to even call ourselves Bhutanese.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Complicated World and Words of the DXers

This is the DXpedition report made by Steve Jones of USA who operated ham radio from Paro last month. He worked the Bhutanese airwaves under his visitor’s license with the Call Sign A52SJ. I reported his arrival and his story on this Blog on October 12, 2017.

In an age of super fast internet, the lowly wired wireless still attracts the world's most brilliant brains. I believe that the appeal has to do with the complexity of this primitive and yet most bankable mode of communications.

It is my hope that some day the DeSuung would introduce ham radio in their training curricula, so that a select group of the specialized DeSuups are skilled in ham radio communications. When every other form of communication fails, ham radio will be the only one that will stand up and communicate. It will work even from the top of Mt. Everest.


To all of you who helped me and/or tried to work me at A52SJ on 160 meters,

Thank you! Unfortunately I worked no US West Coast (or any US coast for that matter), but I had a blast.  Bhutan is a wonderful and fascinating place. And the people are very friendly and helpful!  Gross National Happiness is a fine line they are navigating, but so far they are maintaining their unique culture while borrowing what’s useful from Western technology. I was even able to see the area where Gus Browning operated AC2H in Wangduephodrang when I worked him there from Sacramento in 1965. There were no paved roads to the town back then.  Gus’s Hammarlund HX-50 now resides in the Bhutan National Museum in Trongsa.

My station was up and on the air about 6 hours after our Airbus 319 landed in Paro, thanks to Yeshey Dorji’s (A51AA) great team of helpers. It worked as planned and I was able to work everything I heard on 160 meters. The 1-wavelength Beverage was wonderful, dropping noise by about 10 dB when running the K3 in Diversity RX mode. Signals just popped out of the background. But “everything I heard” on 160M was all of only 9 QSOs! CW conditions were terrible. JT5DX answered my CQ the first day as soon as the sun went down, but then I heard nothing on CW for the next 2 weeks except a too-faint RL9Y and the 2nd harmonics of Chinese broadcast stations.

On FT8 I worked Asia and Europe, including PE1RNU near Amsterdam, but there seemed to be a black hole toward North America. I didn’t even hear/decode any JA’s. I did see my call decoded and reported on PSK Reporter all over the US East Coast and Midwest, but no one called me from there.  The Bhutanese would say the propagation gods were wrathful. I tend to agree.

With the Beverage I heard some signals on 80M (i.e. many JA’s) and lots of worldwide DX on 40M and above. But my Inverted L was cut for 160M and I couldn’t easily switch bands. I thought about lowering the L and cutting the wires into a dipole for 80M or 40M just to make some contacts. But it would have been very time consuming to restore the L to 160M if propagation improved, so I decided to stay on 160M and hope for an opening. If I were to do this again, I’d bring a remotely switchable tuning network to allow quick band-switching on the TX antenna. That might require a bigger suitcase! I was unable to exchange emails with you real-time as the Hotel Olathang’s WIFI was too far away from our cottage. I checked emails only when we were near the hotel lobby at breakfast or dinner, and that’s why my replies to you were typically rather untimely.

Again, thank you all for your great encouragement, and I hope to work you on 160M someday from N6SJ.

Vy 73,