Friday, April 29, 2022
Wednesday, April 27, 2022
Monday, April 25, 2022
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
He sent the first team on a trip to a distant island to explore possibilities of marketing their shoes to the island dwellers.
The team came back and reported:
The CEO then called the second team and sent them to the same island. The team came back all excited:
“Sir, that island is a gold mine!!!! None of the inhabitants own a pair of shoes – we have a huge opportunity there – we can sell by the tens of thousands! We must move in now before others get wind of the opportunity that exists there!”
The above will demonstrate that different people perceive things differently. On the face of it, both the teams are not wrong. But the company has to decide not based on who is not wrong – but on who is right.
The tourism industry has stagnated over the years – with decline picking up pace in recent times. The cost of government’s indecision is impacting the broad spectrum of the Bhutanese society. Tourism is all encompassing – it benefits practically every one in the country – tour operators, hotels, vehicle owners, guides, waiters, cooks, dishwashers, pony drivers, vegetable vendors, thangka painters, handicrafts shop owners – even the phallus carvers. Inactivity in tourism impacts all these people, in the hundreds of thousands.
I have already written 47 articles on tourism (48 including this one) – because I care – and I will continue to do so. Because I am paranoid about the eventuality of the first group of the above marketing team being declared wise and the educated. Bhutan has no dearth of potentials but they remain mostly untapped. By contrast, tourism has shown signs of being the capable provider but now it is in danger of being waylaid by the clueless, the greedy and people without foresight.
When there was a danger of demographic imbalance in Singapore, the late Lee Kwan Yew declared that he would import Chinese from Mainland China - if he has to - to maintain, what he called, demographic balance.
If Bhutan goes wrong, we have no such luck – we will sink irretrievably. Thus citizens have to be unfailing and tireless in cautioning the government to do the right thing – but at the end, it is their call.
Friday, April 15, 2022
“Yeshey, remember the world will not wait for Bhutan.”
My friend was right then, and few decades later she is still right – the world is passing us by and we are blissfully rooted in lethargy and indecision. Yes, I am talking about reopening of tourism.
Time is here to be decisive – to act, to move ahead, and not have an orgasm over it all – thinking, talking and discussing endlessly.
And, by the way, who are doing the talking and the thinking and the discussing? Apparently not the industry stakeholders who know best – Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO), Hotel & Restaurant Association of Bhutan (HRAB) and Guide Association of Bhutan (GAB). Upon these three sector associations collectively submitting a written request to the TCB Secretariat to convene a Council Meeting so that the matter relating to reopening of tourism may be discussed, they were told that the matter is being discussed at the government level. The Council Meeting remains suspended as of 11th March, 2021. In the last more than a year, the apex tourism authority has not once held their Council Meeting!
How can the government discuss the matter, in isolation of the industry players? How are the bureaucrats and the civil service better qualified to discuss the matter – better than the stalwarts in the business of tourism? What is the rationale behind keeping the industry players in the dark? Why is the decision being left to the clueless and the uninitiated?
We need to reopen the country’s most vital industry - AND WE NEED TO TAKE THE DECISION WHEN TO DO SO – NOW! Even if we take the decision now, the ancillary services will need atleast three months to be ready to accept and receive the tourists. So, effectively, if we decide now, the actors in the industry will only be ready to receive the tourists sometime in August/September.
Tour operators will need time to spread the word, potential guests will need to plan and allocate time for travel, tourist class hotels need time to carry out repairs and renovations and refurbishing, cooks need to be recalled, guides need to be reinstated, overseas agents need to be informed and given time to start promoting the country.
Just swishing the magic wand will not translate into instant arrivals – more than two years of inactivity has caused rust to form – we need time to oil the spindles and tighten the screws that may have come undone.
ONE IMPORTANT REQUEST: For once please start being more creative. My experience so far has been that whenever discussions happen on vitalizing tourism, the discussions unfailingly hinge on one single issue: doing away with the Minimum Daily Tariff – the one component of the tourism policy that has proven to be the MOST CREATIVE.
If we do away with the Minimum Daily Tariff, within a year the country will be overrun with impactful tourists and we will experience the burgeoning of fronting operations (it is rumored that some hotels are already run by non-national partners) and the inflow of foreign exchange will see dramatic drop, including drastic fall in tax collection, through concealment of income.
Please shelve your self-interests and look at the larger interest of the nation and the long term good of the people of Bhutan. I know that there will always be greedy people trying to spoil the broth – but I also know that well-meaning people still outnumber the greedy spoilers.
Usually I can do a blog article within half an hour – but this article has taken me over three hours to do – every time I touch on the subject of tourism – I am overwhelmed with emotion and my mind goes for a spin. I become paranoid about a wrong decision being made concerning our tourism that ranks as the country’s biggest employer and a net gain industry. A wrong decision on tourism will have all round and serious repercussions on employment, livelihood, environment and cultural and social vitality.
Thursday, April 14, 2022
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
When the Kuensel report on the compulsory retirement of the two forestry officials appeared and I blogged on the issue yesterday, a senior member of the Bhutanese society sent me a message saying that it is now time for us to create an NGO to fight against abuse by some apparatus of the state. That makes sense – particularly in light of the glaring incidences of miscarriage of justice.
In a response to yesterday’s Kuensel report, the Ministry of Agriculture is strident and takes on a posture of defiance, and states as follows:
The two forestry officials were compulsorily retired with benefits for insubordination – for violating order for deployment and for violating the Civil Service Values and Conduct as articulated under Chapter 3 of the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations 2018.
While attempting to invoke Chapter 3 of the BCSR (2018), the Ministry of Agriculture is obviously trying to justify their action based on the following provision of the BSCR (2018):
BCSR (2018) Article 3.3.16
A civil servant shall refrain from making any statement of fact or opinion in the media (broadcast, print and online) or in any document which may have adverse effects against the policies or actions of the Royal Government.
It is my understanding that the Ministry’s supposition is untenable. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan is clear that any law or rule that is inconsistent with the Constitution shall be null and void. It provides as follows:
Article 1.10 of the Constitution of Bhutan
All laws in force in the territory of Bhutan at the time of adopting this Constitution shall continue until altered, repealed or amended by Parliament. However, the provisions of any law, whether made before or after the coming into force of this Constitution, which are inconsistent with this Constitution, shall be null and void.
Thus, the application of the BCSR (2018) Article 3.3.16 is unlawful since it is in conflict with the Constitutional provisions.
There is no ambiguity about the rights of a citizen empowered under the Constitution – whether civil service, politician, armed forces or a stone crusher by the roadside. The Constitutional provisions read as follows:
A Bhutanese citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech, opinion and expression.
Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Sunday, April 10, 2022
~ The Postal Card was Bhutan's – but it was mailed from another country – from the Kingdom of Sikkim;
~ Curiously, the Postal Card was affixed with stamps of two independent nations – Bhutan and India;
~ While the Postal Card was mailed from Sikkim, Indian postage stamp was used - presumably because
Sikkim never issued its own postage stamps;
~ During the time when the Postal Card was written out sometime most likely between 1957 - 1962,
Bhutan did not have a postal service – Bhutan’s postal service was established only in October of 1962;
~ The Postal Card ought to have the distinction of being among the rarest case where a fiscal stamp was used,
and accepted, on an international mail cover;
~ The Postal Card also must be the only Postal Card on which a stamp was affixed – although the mail
would have been delivered on foot by a postal runner over the Nathu-La Pass in Sikkim;
~ Best of all, the Postal Card was mailed by a reigning Queen of an independent Monarchy
– the Kingdom of Bhutan.
Other perplexities are the following:
The Postal Card has a date – but no year.
Her Majesty the Queen writes, “This is our new house in Thimphu” – indicating that the photo on the back of the Postal Card was that of Dechencholing Palace.
The construction of Dechencholing Palace was completed in 1953. This means that the Postal Card would have to have been posted after 1953/1954. This would be correct since the IVth King of Bhutan His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck was born in Dechencholing Palace on November 11, 1955 – proving that the Royal Couple was resident in Dechencholing Palace in 1955.
However, the fiscal that was affixed on the Postal Card was issued only in 1954 – thus the Postal Card would have to have been mailed after 1954. But that is unlikely since the use of the fiscal as postage - for internal mail - was authorized by the Third King only as of September 17, 1955.
Thus, the Postal Card would have to have been mailed sometime between September 17, 1955 and October 10, 1962. After October 1962, Her Majesty would have used regular postage stamps.
What is even more mysterious is that the Postal Card is quiet apparently a machine printed Card – the pre-printed dotted lines and the bold line at the bottom of the right face of the Card is proof of it. Normally a country’s postal authority issues Postal Cards – but our modern postal service was established only in October 10, 1962. Thus, the existence of a printed Postal Card reinforces the fact that there did exist a form of organized mail service within the country – even before the advent of modern postal service.
Saturday, April 9, 2022
One reader of my blog writes as follows:
"Note that according to the map on the stamp depicting His Majesty Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck, the country north of Bhutan is Tibet, which was already taken over by China at the time of the release of this 1st stamp set in 1962. So there were also speculations that that was one more reason to withdraw this particular stamp from especially domestic usage".
This was with respect to my blog post titled “Bhutan's Earliest Postage Stamp Gives Joy To A Sikkimese". Please read the full article at:
The reader implies that one of Bhutan’s earliest postage stamps – a set of seven, issued in 1962 had some serious problems – resulting in it having to be withdrawn from circulation. The stamp was the one depicting His Majesty Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck, Bhutan’s first hereditary monarch. The stamp had two problems: wrong date of birth/death of the monarch and a serious diplomatic faux pas!
The first problem with the stamp was that it depicted the image of Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck with his date of birth/death wrongly rendered. The other problem was that the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China was named as Tibet, not realizing that Tibet was effectively a part of China as of 7th October, 1950.
The nation states of Sikkim and East Pakistan are named correctly - Bangladesh came into being only in 1971 and Sikkim was annexed by India only in 1975.
Friday, April 8, 2022
An article appearing in the March, 2022 issue of the Postal Himal 189 titled “The Premature Announcement of the Bhutan Liquid Crystal Scout Stamp Issue of 1973” authored by Leo van der Velden, some very interesting accounts pertaining to our postal history have been reported.
In a letter dated July 22, 1969 addressed to late Lyonpo (Minister) Dawa Tshering who then served as the Minister for Development, Burt Kerr Todd, a part shareholder of the company appointed as worldwide Agent for marketing of our postage stamps until 1974 based in Nassau, Bahamas, wrote as follows - quoted verbatim:
Dear Mr. Tshering,
We have discovered a remarkable process, just invented by a very small company here in the United States, which we think is one of the most revolutionary discoveries of our time. Made into a stamp issue, it would be another first in the world for Bhutan.
In response, by a letter dated December 22/23, 1969, Lyonpo Dawa Tshering conveys the approval of the Royal Government of Bhutan for the production of the proposed stamp, using the “revolutionary” process, as Burt K. Todd described it.
Sadly, the self-adhesive imperforate stamps never saw the light of day because, subsequently, on January 3, 1974 the Royal Government of Bhutan, via a telegram, forbade Burt K. Todd's company from producing the proposed stamps. Ofcourse by then the stamps were already produced and its release date of December 28, 1973 was prematurely announced to the world collectors by Burt K. Todd’s company – Bhutan Stamp Agency, Ltd., on December 6, 1973,
The stamps in question were a series depicting the following four emblems of the Scouts movement.
In his letter to Lyonpo Dawa Tshering, the “revolutionary” production process of the stamps, involving liquid crystals, were described by Burt K. Todd in his following exact words:
The process is called Liquid Cristals. This exciting phenomenon are crystals bonded between microthin plastic, which change color (all spectrums of the rainbow) in response to minute changes in temperature. A slight increase in temperature and they scatter brilliant reds, yelloes, greens, blues and violets in that order. On cooling, they reverse themselves to complete a cycle that can be repeated over and over. The crystals can detect a change in temperature in one-fifth of a second.
The stamp series were to be called the “Liquid Crystal Scout Stamp Issue of 1973”. They never saw the light of day. However, some quantity of these stamps was delivered to the P&T Department in Phuentsholing where they were reportedly destroyed – but apparently not before 200 sets of these stamps were stolen by someone in the P&T Department. These stamps which were never released found their way into the international collectors market. A collector even has a cover with the Liquid Crystal Scout Stamp affixed on it with official cancellation stamp of Phuentsholing Post Office, dated 10.11.1972. This has to be an inside job of a person working within the P&T Department.
It appears that there was an in-house thief lodged inside the confines of the P&T Department in Phuentsholing who regularly lifted unissued stamps and sold them to collectors around the world.
It is provable that this same person was also responsible for the lifting and release of the "1974 Reading and Writing Series" of stamps – many years before the official release of the stamps on 2nd May, 1993, after having remained locked up in the Bhutan Customs warehouse in Phuentsholing for close to twenty years. Please read the full detail of the case at:
From all accounts our postal history appears to have been shaped by numerous colorful events – unfortunately most of them rather unsavory ones.
Wednesday, April 6, 2022
Monday, April 4, 2022
The greatest angst for a person who is a victim of habit – is when he/she runs out of that one thing that he/she craves for, the most. Those of us who are casualties of the force of our own habits know what it means to be deprived. The extended lockdown totaling over a month would have caused boundless miseries to many people – one among them being me.
Halfway through the lockdown, I ran out of my favorite whiskey. The locality in which I live unfortunately do not sell my brand of whiskey. And I was not allowed to drive or move out of my Zone.
Fortunately for me, two of my friends had collectively gifted me a total of 4 bottles of the much coveted TER Single Malt Whiskey, aged 18 years. For over two years, the bottles had remained untouched – they served to act as window dressings on my shelves. But now it would appear that their St. Martin’s Day had arrived - it seems like a good moment to relish them – for the first time in my life.
WOW!!! I did not expect it to be this good – it was silky smooth – with a dizzying aroma that set my nostrils aflame. As it made its way down my throat, there was not a hint of burn or harshness – even when sipped neat/straight – as single malts are supposed to be sipped. Its silkiness surpassed the very best of Cognacs of the world. It has got to be the absolute best among the AWP Gelephu’s offerings.
In addition to the product being of the highest standard, the packaging is superlative. I love the bottle – its shape, its considerable weight and solidity, its classy embossed stopper, the letterings and the round holding case in which the product is packaged. I loved it so much that I spent nearly an hour photographing the bottle and its casing presented above. I am not sure what is the degree of value addition – but this is one product/produce that I am proud is associated with my beloved country – Bhutan.
Thank God the lockdown got lifted – otherwise there was a real danger that I could have gotten hooked on it – that would be tragic – because it is one drink that I cannot afford.