Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Bhutan's Beautiful Wild Birds

It has been a while since I posted images of birds. Here are some - for those readers who are bird lovers.

Asian Pied Starling

Chestnut-tailed Starling 

Crested Kingfisher

Crested Serpent Eagle

Green Sandpiper

Indian Roller

Jungle Mynah


Peahen with Chick

Red-wattled Lapwing

Spotted Dove

Tawny Fish Owl

White-breasted Waterhen


Saturday, June 20, 2020

Does COVID-19 Affect the Brain?

Generally it is accepted that the COVID-19 virus affects a vital human organ called the lungs. But in Bhutan it seems to affect a different organ of the body - atleast among the Members of the National Council – the brain. They seem to have lost it completely. Or why else would they proposition an outrageous idea like handing over the mining operations to the SMCL? I am happy that the Members of the NA stood their ground.

State owned and operated enterprises have never done well. They cannot - it is not in their culture to operate enterprises of commerce and trade. The only thing the government and the bureaucracy should be entrusted with is governance – even that they do so poorly.

Mining activities can be ably undertaken by the private sector, and they have been doing so for the past many years. The mining companies have been generating millions in tax revenue. If the state takes over the operations, forget tax revenues – the sate may have to bear losses through inefficiency and corruption and lack of competence and business acumen.

Talking of civil service, it reminded me of a strange conversation I had with my late boss Dasho Rinzin Dorji – in the early 80’s when I too was a member of the brood who are neither civil nor servants. But this narration should certainly warm the hearts of the present lot of civil service – because this would go to demonstrate that this monopoly has been with their lot since decades.

Even those days we were so frustrated with the civil service that one morning my boss Dasho Rinzin Dorji and I sat down do brood over how we might contribute to improving efficiency in the government. While a number of options were discussed, we narrowed down to one real possibility:

Hand over the governance of the country to Mr. G. C. Bhura at 15% commission.

G. C. Bhura was then the Managing Director of Tashi group of companies – since deceased. He was perceived to be a very efficient and successful executive. However, on careful reconsideration, we decided that this would be tantamount to fronting – that too for a none-national. Even those early days fronting was seen as a scourge that needed to be rooted out. Ofcourse we never could – even to this day.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Outbreak of Canine Distemper: Yet Another Service Project By The Rotary Club of Thimphu

Twenty-five days after funding of US$ 59,000.00 was approved by the TRF, our Club’s Community Service Project to supply hospital incinerators to help battle the COVID-19 is still firmly entrenched in the ceaseless whirlpool of systems and procedures. But that does not deter us – we move on.

Dear Club Members,

Arising out of the need for physical distancing necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Club Members have not been able to meet and discuss community service project proposals. As you may recall our Club’s Weekly Meeting remains suspended as of March 6, 2020 in compliance to the government's directives to restrict gatherings. Nonetheless, as you may have noticed, our community service work has not been hampered – it goes on unabated.

Recently an URGENT call for HELP was sounded out to the Club by the Royal Society for Protection and Care of Animals (RSPCA), headed by our own Club Member Rtn. Tashi Payden Tshering, arising out of the large scale infection of a virus known as Canine Distemper – among the canine population of Bhutan. Although worrisome, the Canine Distemper is a preventable disease and curable if caught at the early stages – through the administration of a vaccine that is already available in the market. The fact that the outbreak has happened during the pandemic period of the COVID-19, we fear that it may be linked to the shortage of food to the canines – caused by the closure of over a hundred hotels brought about by the ban on entry of tourists into the country.

The Club President and I reviewed the request and came to the decision that this is an emergency condition that deserves our Club’s consideration. Our Club’s intervention would help in further spread of the virus among the canine population of the country. We do not need another virus to spread – to further aggravate the COVID-19 contagion that looms large over us. The fear is that if the spread is not arrested in time, it could spread among the wildlife, which would not be good. Thus I would like to convey to all the Members that the Club President and I agreed to support the supply of vaccines to the RSPCA.

On a related note, you may be aware that the government has instituted a Waste Management & Stray Dogs Population Control Flagship Program, under the NEC. We believe that our support to the RSPCA would complement this important initiative of the Royal Government.

Thanking you, I remain, in anticipation of your support,

Yeshey Dorji
Club Secretary

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Thank God!

Thank God! I notice that yesterday there were two persons who logged in to my Blog - from United Arab Emirates. As I had reported earlier, for more than a month, not a single person logged in from that part of the world - causing me great anxiety and fearful that things may not be right for the Bhutanese community in that part of the world.

I was the person chosen by the government to conduct a reconnoiter of Kuwait before our Embassy was established there – I spent close to 3 weeks in that part of the world. Thus I know the quality of people in that part of the world. And it is this knowledge that causes me to be fearful.

By the way, for your information, the first Ambassador of Bhutan to Kuwait was Maj. Pem Tshering - a harmless soldier from Haa - as my late boss use to call him, with a smirk. To this day I am puzzled why a person not in the Foreign Service was chosen to head our Embassy there.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Buyback: The Miss-Coined & Misunderstood Concept

The miss-coined concept that has been popularized as “buyback” is once again doing the rounds in the corridors of power - that of the Ministry of Agriculture. This is the state of our bureaucracy - they do not even know what they are talking about.

They either do not understand English or, failing that, they are clueless about the logic behind what they are contemplating to do -which is even more dangerous.

From what I know:

Typically, buyback happens in the corporate world. Companies engage in buyback for a number of reasons - principal among them are to reduce the number of their Shares being available in the market – an attempt to keep the prices high. Companies also buyback their own Shares from the market - so that plentiful of them are not available to potential corporate raiders from gaining a controlling right through major Share holding. Companies also buyback their own Shares so that they may gift them to employees as bonus.

Buyback, in other words, happens when something has been pre-sold to a buyer and you now want to buy them back - for your own reasons. It is not a support scheme. If the Ministry of Agriculture does not understand a simple concept such as this, how do they expect to implement the scheme in any meaningful ways?

The term to employ - for the purpose for which they use the term, should be either of the following two:

a.  Support Price
b.  Subsidy

SUPPORT PRICE: In my thinking, Support Price is more appropriate. Support Price is understood as a scheme where the government agrees to purchase surplus production of essential goods from the farmers - at a minimum fixed price – to either prop up the market price or to offer a market for the farmers during their times of stress. Which is what the Bhutanese farmers’ situation is expected to be soon.

SUBSIDY: Subsidy is a fixed sum of money given by the state to farmers and other select important industries or services, as an encouragement or to keep the prices low in the market. It is not a price offer - but a supplementary gesture. In this case the state does not buy the goods or services.

Support price scheme is good and necessary. Unfortunately, it is prone to massive manipulations by the crooks and the immoral opportunists. The country has had a taste of it - in the early 80’s - the effect of which has been felt decades later - the issue still remains unresolved - after close to four decades.

While the mighty Ministry of Agriculture and its officers reorient their thinking on their "buyback" thing, I will do some re-contemplation on whether I should tell the story of the support price that went horribly wrong - nearly four decades back - when the state was hood-winked of hundreds of millions - for private and individual gains.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Coins Of The Man Of Destiny

Having delved deep into Bhutan’s close to two and half centuries of coining journey, I began to grasp the true measure of men of destiny - why they are so uncommon among the common.

From 1790 to until the advent of monarchy in 1907, a multitude of Druk Desis, Penlops and Dzongpens hammered hundreds of thousands of coins in base metal, copper, bronze and silver - some even gold washed. But what is common among all those coins is that their design was borrowed from Cooch Behar’s Narayani coins, including, shamefully, some Bengali/Assamese alphabets.

That all seems to have changed - upon Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck’s visit to Calcutta in 1906 when he is supposed to have ordered machined coin dies with the India Government Mint, Calcutta. The quality of coin strikings improved dramatically thereafter. But even more important, from 1907 onwards, our coins were shorn of Narayani coin designs and alphabets. As the following example will illustrate, with the beginning of the monarchy, the motifs on our coins were entirely Bhutanese.

We as a sovereign nation state seems to have come of age.

Unfortunately, I also notice that there are mistakes in the positioning of the motifs on the coins. Obviously the Indians at the Calcutta Mint did not know how to correctly position the motifs. As you can see, the motif “Gyeltshen” on the following coin to the left is wrongly positioned. It should have been positioned like the one to the right:

The wholly Bhutanese motifs depicted on the coins encased within a Swastika are as follows:

The interpretation of the motifs are as follows:

The following coin also shows two of the motifs being positioned wrongly:

They should have been positioned as follows:

The errors ofcoure do not end here - as I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts on the subject, the mistakes occurred even in our milled coins of silver and nickel of 1928, 1929 and 1954.

For a while I was undecided whether the above coins belonged to someone else - other than Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. But when I looked at the design of one of his other, even more significant coins, I am now in no doubt that the above coins are his.