Saturday, October 29, 2022

Greed Clouds Your Judgment – Contain It! II

Some readers called up to request me to continue with the sequel to my last blog post on the Weigh Bridge debacle. So here goes.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Bhutan pushed hard to export our, what we called those days “Exportable Surpluses” - surplus home grown products/produces such as Gum Rosin, Gypsum, Fruit Juices, Apples, Oranges, Potatoes, Dolomite, Woven Textiles etc. What is heartwarming is that those days we exported raw lumber, including semi-processed wood products such as wood Shuttle Blocks and wooden Milled Rods, to far flung markets such as Bangladesh, India, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, the Middle East, and Thailand, to name a few. Sadly today even timber is imported into the country from producers as far away as Malaysia (Nu.3.0 billion worth during 2019), while claiming that we are a country with forest coverage ranging between 71 - 81%.

Bhutan’s highest value exports then was the Brown Jacket Cardamom. Even those early days the cardamom brought in $$ by the millions. But it was also the cause for my greatest angst! The reason was that we had to deal with the Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) because under the government’s support price system in place those days, FCB was mandated to purchase all the cardamom from the growers, meaning that they held the largest stock of cardamom in the country.

Brown Jacket Cardamom - highest foreign exchange earner for the country. At one point in history, Bhutan was erroneously ranked as the largest grower of this spice that did not feature in our cuisine.

In early 1980 my organization - Export Division - cut a deal with a re-exporter in Singapore for the export of a large cardamom consignment to Pakistan, to be transshipped through the port of Singapore. That was perhaps the biggest single export order Bhutan handled during those days - the Letter of Credit was in excess of US$ one million. As the head honcho of the export section of the Export Division, I began the process of gathering the export item.

My first stop was the FCB since they held the largest stock of cardamom.

Quite strangely the then Managing Director Mr. Hadi Ali refused to sell me the cardamoms - point blank - his excuse was that the FCB did not have any stock of cardamom. I countered that I was not asking him to commit any specific quantity - but that FCB commit to whatever stock they held with them so that the country might fulfill our large export commitment. He absolutely refused to budge.

In desperation, I called up the then Police Chief in Thimphu and requested him to allow two of my staff to bore through the cargo movement records maintained by them at the Phuentsholing main gate. He passed on the order that my staff should be allowed unrestricted access to the police records - in particular all of the FCB’s IN/OUT movement of cardamom consignment for the past one year. At the end of the laborious exercise, I ascertained that the FCB should have a physical stock of over 13 MT of cardamom in their central store in Phuentsholing. Through my friendship with an official of the FCB – Mr. R B Rai, I gained access into their store and quietly carried out a physical count of the bags of cardamom piled inside the FCB store.

At the end of the clandestine exercise lasting close to two weeks, I concluded that the stock in the FCB store amounted to only 9++ MT of cardamom, revealing a physical shortage of 3++ MT of cardamom, valued at over ngultrums half a million - a huge sum those days. Equipped with these facts and figures, I confronted the MD of the FCB and told him that it is not true that FCB did not have the stock – they had over 9MT. I said I want them all. He accused me of espionage - I said I don’t care. That FCB is a government institution and so is the Export Division. If the FCB was the arms, we were the legs - so it is import that each institution belonging to the same body should render support to one another, particularly during times of crisis. I reasoned that not being able to fulfill the export order is tantamount to a crisis for the Export Division, and a great loss of face for the country. I threatened that if I did not get the stock, I would report him to the Royal Audit, informing them of the shortage that remained a closely guarded secret.

Ultimately, after few more arm-twisting tactics, I got the entire stock of cardamom from the FCB and managed to fulfill our export order.  But it was in the process of all these covert activities that I stumbled onto the Weigh Bridge fiasco.

Those days the police constables were not adequately educated. Thus I was not sure that what they recorded in the registers maintained at the Phuentsholing Check Gate represented the true numbers - I was worried that they may have made mistakes in their recordings. Now since I was taking on the MD of the FCB, I could not risk a mistake. The only way I could verify was to cross check the records that should have been maintained at the Weigh Bridge Station that was installed by the Ministry of Finance. I headed for the Weigh Bride Station.

That is when I discovered the disaster of the Weigh Bridge. But in a way it was good because if I could not verify the records from the Station, no one else could. Thus it would be hard for any one to contest the veracity of my figures 😛

Those days we did not abandon ship – we stood our ground and fought our battles - without fear or favour.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Greed Clouds Your Judgment - Contain It!

Eight years shy of half a century back, a rule was passed by the Ministry of Finance that is symptomatic of how the Bhutanese mind works or, more accurately, does not work.

I do not know if this rule still exists but it did in the late 1970s/early 1980s. The rule was that trucks plying on the hilly roads of Bhutan cannot carry load of more than net weight of 5 MT, irrespective of the truck’s carrying capacity. Net weight is the weight derived after deducting the tare weight from the gross weight.

But there was a problem: how to find out if a truck’s load was within the permitted limit? The answer: Weigh Bridge. Weigh Bridges are designed to weigh fully laden trucks by placing the truck atop the mechanical contraptions.
How a Weigh Bride looks. These are installed and used in places where there is huge movement of cargo.

Given that there were not much traffic those days, the Ministry of Finance ordered and installed one single unit of the Weigh Bridge - in Phuentsholing, which even then was the commercial hub of Bhutan. The installation came into use and things began to work smoothly, until one day, a smart fellow in the Ministry of Finance decide that here was an opportunity to generate some additional revenue.

Consequently a rule was passed that required all trucks heading out of Phuentsholing into India, also to be weighed, and pay the weighing fee.

This is when the fun began - the smart aleck at the Ministry of Finance (I know the person but will not name him) forgot that the Weigh Bridge ordered by the Ministry of Finance was intended to weigh trucks carrying net weights not exceeding 5 MT. The reason being that trucks heading to Thimphu and the western regions in the north was not allowed to carry loads in excess of 5 MT. By contrast, the tare weight of the huge trucks, then known as “Punjab Body” trucks destined for India, weighed in excess of 7 MT.

Thus, on the first day the rule came into effect, the first Punjab Body truck destined for Hapur in India, fully laden with raw lumber blocks from the stock yards of the Export Division of the Ministry of Trade, Industry & Forests, positioned itself on the Weigh Bridge - with a combined gross weight in excess of 25 MT! The result was that the Weigh Bridge was crushed to the shape of a pancake - forever maimed and turned into a pile of scrap metal!

Now here it gets even more hilarious. Because the Weigh Bridge was smashed out of shape - no trucks could be weighed - but the truckers needed the wieghment slip to comply with the rules and to show to the police at the check gates. No problem - the person manning the Weigh Bridge station diligently wrote out hand-written weighment slips, with imaginary weights on them, and pocketed the fees - and no one was the wiser.

Moral behind the episode: Greed clouds your judgment - contain it!

The account of how I happened to stumble onto this peculiar occurrence is another interesting story to be told another day.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Spiting The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

I grit my teeth and stomp my feet, in despair and disgust, and swear that I shall never again write another article on Bhutan’s tourism industry. But yet again, and in spite of myself, and despite my abhorrence for the subject, here I am once again wasting my time, writing about tourism, that which I know would be nothing more than a cry in the wilderness. But I cannot help it - I would be failing in my citizen’s duty if I allow myself to remain unengaged, even as the accountants are taking over my world, and that of the rest of the Bhutanese. I still have hope that I may be able to awaken the conscience of some who care.

This time it is the announcement that the visiting donors, or their Bhutanese hosts have to pay the SDF of US$200.00 per donor per day. This is the classic mentality of an accountant at work - the breed who are incapable of looking beyond their noses!

Is this how a society supposedly bursting at the seams with culture and tradition, treat our donors who come to our country to fund millions worth of projects that otherwise remain out of the reach of the government?

This is utterly insane, in addition to being illegal! Lawyer Sonam Tshering, in his article “Penny wise, pound foolish” clarifies: “Article 14 (1) of the Constitution states that “taxes, fees and other forms of levies shall not be imposed or altered except by law.

I agree that some may have abused the privilege in the past … but pray tell me, who hasn’t? It is in the Bhutanese culture of pride - to pay obeisance to those whom we call “Chiikha Choe Mii” - persons who can bend the rules and hoodwink the system, persons who can regularly bleed the country blind, and yet are able to walk tall and dispense morality to others. Please remember that there is no such thing as a foolproof system - it does not exist anywhere in the world. Even God has failed in His due diligence.

Please remember, the cause for the downfall of a meritorious system cannot be because of stray incidences of abuse. There will always be thugs in the world - what is important is how diligent are the custodians of the law.

What the government should try and do is plug the loopholes, and not put a blanket ban. Putting a blanket ban is the easy way out - it is devised by people who are unwilling to put in hard work - the lazy lot - they just put a ban in place and go to sleep!

Donors come, in most cases they are cajoled to come to Bhutan, to help us fund meaningful projects that the country needs. Do not forget that we need the donors, and not they us! Let us treat them with respect and not with spurn.

Let me give you the following example to prove how meaningful it is to have donors visit us, even at the cost of forsaking few thousand dollars of the precious SDF.

In 2017, the Rotary Club of Thimphu played host to an international Rotary Conference attended by 171 Rotarians and their spouses, from 9 countries. The event was held under the country's MICE rules. During the event, one Rotarian speaker from Malaysia - Rtn. K K Looi - spoke on a very interesting water filtration technology called SkyHydrant. I was thoroughly impressed by the technology. After the conference, in my capacity as the Club Secretary I pursued the matter with Rtn. K K Looi. He suggested that I write to Disaster Aid Australia (DAA) in Melbourne. I wrote to its then CEO - Mr. David Langworthy. Over time he agreed to support Bhutan with a total of 10 of these amazing filters.

The filters were very useful and suited to our type of geographical conditions, in addition to being simple to install and maintain. Thus, in one of our weekly meetings, I proposed to the Club Members that we invite the DAA’s CEO for a visit to Bhutan - so that he might inspect the installations of their donations, and see for himself how beneficial they were to the Bhutanese children.

The DAA CEO visited Bhutan - for a total of 5 nights, in 2018. That cost the RGoB a loss of SDF of US$ 65 x 4 = US$ 260.00. But at the end of the trip, the Minister for Education sought support for additional 60 filters. The CEO agreed without batting an eyelid - but to my consternation, the CEO doubled the asking number to 120! Thus began the saga of the project codenamed “BHUTAN2020”, launched in Toronto, Canada in 2018. Under this one million dollars project, Bhutan received 120 of these filters, installations of which were completed early this year. Even as I was exiting the Club, the DAA had agreed to renew the project for another three years.

Donors come to Bhutan to give - not to take. The above is not an isolated incidence - as at end of 2021, the Rotary Club of Thimphu has done over 150 million worth of projects - in diverse areas such as health, education, agriculture etc. - spanning the whole length and breadth of the country - all with donor money. All of the NGOs in Bhutan depend on donor money to fund meaningful projects for the people of Bhutan. To victimize all of these NGOs because some of them had misused the privilege is not right.

Donors need to come to Bhutan to plan and inspect projects - to satisfy themselves that their money is being well spent. Trust me, they are not the ones with the begging bowl.

In a situation where the global tourism market has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is my belief that Bhutan can do well to promote ourselves as a destination for MICE events. I truly believe in it and that is why I even proposed to the CEO of BTCL a few years back to consider setting up a world-class conference facility on their property in Olathang, Paro. When I got to hear and see the Royal Textile Academy’s architectural drawings of their planned world-class conference facility in Thimphu - I gave them a Thumbs Up and encouraged them to follow through their plan in real earnest. Sadly I was recently told that the government had not approved their proposal. That is so unfortunate and a tremendous loss to the nation and the people of Bhutan, in particular to the bleeding tourism sector.

The R C Thimphu’s International Rotary Conference saw participation from 9 countries and 171 Rotarians and their spouses, not counting the Bhutanese Members.

The SDF foregone by the Government was: US$ 65.00 x 171 x 4 nights = US$ 44,460.00.

The total direct $$ collection the country received was: US$ 388,400.00 – not counting the indirect spending by the visitors on shopping, tips and meals in restaurants, and other additional costs they had to pay for their stay beyond the conference period.

What Bhutan seems to lack is competent financial experts on the helm of things - we have dire need for them. What we have are accountants whose only focus is on the cost, and not the benefit. The government has to come to grips with the fact that what it collects directly is pittance, compared to the overall benefit that the country and the people of Bhutan derive from any enterprise of commerce.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

A Little Known History

Enough is enough - I am giving it a break for a while. No more cries in the wilderness, no more wails of futility. I am changing track. I cannot handle the present because it is a whirlpool. The future is steeped in uncertainty - I am not even sure that I will arrive there because I am not sure that I will survive the present. That leaves me with the past - a period in which I am a child, one in which I have lived, rejoiced, pooh-poohed the idea of leaving for Australia, played tootsie and survived long enough to arrive at the present - a present that is the continuation of the past and the reason for the future. No period in the journey of a nation is antithetical to another. The past, present and future are indivisible - each existing in relation to the other two. 

Lest the present and the future generations of Bhutanese forget the legacy of the past, I would like to present to you a piece of little-known history of Bhutan’s survival as a proud, independent nation. As I wrote in my blog titled “The People’s Pandemic”, this country did not survive by accident.

On 1st of August 1955, in a letter marked “TOP SECRET”, the External Affairs Ministry of the Government of India was made aware of a report that Bhutan intended to print its own postage stamps. In addition, Bhutan hoped to join the Universal Postal Union (UPU).

India was aware that this two-pronged approach was intended to assert Bhutan’s independence. While India was aware of the implications this strategy would have on the long-term relations between Bhutan and India, there was no legitimate grounds on which India could object. Thus India decided that it would help Bhutan in the Himalayan kingdom’s endeavors. Ultimately, Bhutan did print our postage stamps - in 1962. Consequently, it became a member of the UPU in 1969 - Bhutan’s second membership to an international body, the first being the Colombo Plan in 1962, to be followed by membership to the United Nations (UN) in 1971. Today Bhutan’s diplomatic and bilateral/multilateral relations number over a hundred.

From a gingerly taken step in 1949, we have come a long way in our journey of asserting our independence.

The ruse: Set of four fiscals that launched Bhutan's relentless drive towards asserting itself as an independent nation.

Historical records show that Bhutan embarked on making a different statement of independence also in 1949, when we are supposed to have issued our first printed adhesive stamps - called the Revenue Stamps. It is a mystery why a fiscal stamp was issued instead of a postage stamp. The mystery deepens even further upon discovering that the fiscals were authorized to be used as postage stamps on 17th September, 1955 under the authority of the Third King. What’s funny is that we did not even have a postal service in 1955 - we had postal runners! So why the need for postage stamps? Apparently, because Bhutanese officials put out the idea that the country could make lots of money selling its handsome stamps to international collectors. Yet even that explanation does not make sense, since Bhutan’s fiscals were not accepted as postage stamps good for use in international mailing.

From all this, it now becomes clear that the move to issue our own stamps was not intended as an initiative to launch a formal postal service or to make money selling the stamps to international collectors, but as a signal that we were beginning to assert ourselves as an independent nation, with an independent postal system. Unfortunately, it would take years to establish a true postal system.

The next phase of the journey was precisely just that: to create a postal system with postage stamps internationally recognized as belonging to a sovereign nation. To this end, Burt Kerr Todd, an American trailblazer, was enlisted to help Bhutan gain membership to the UPU. Bhutan soon learned that the membership had to be sponsored by a member state, not private individuals or institutions. Additionally, UPU rules required that the stamps carry the monetary value of an independent country, and that the postage stamps and a postal service already be in existence.

Bhutan systematically began fulfilling these provisions. Our first postage stamp was released in 1962. That same year, Bhutan’s first post office was set up in Phuentsholing. The next step was to seek admission as a member of the UPU. Here Indian help was sought. With the help of the giants of the era - Triloki N. Kaul (Tikki Kaul) of India’s MEA and diplomat Apa Pant, two of Bhutan’s staunchest friends - Bhutan finally gained UPU membership in 1969.

In the shaping of the independent nation state of Bhutan, many have contributed - foremost, His Majesty the Second Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo, Her Majesty the Royal Grand Mother Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Sir Basil John Gould, CMG, CIE, a British-India Political Officer, late Prime Minister Jigme Palden Dorji, American Burt Kerr Todd, India’s Tikki Kaul and Apa Pant, and Dr. K. Ramamurti, Bhutan’s first postal advisor.

Bhutan needs to honor all of these transformers. But in an age that seems indifferent to the past, careless about the present, and myopic about the future, I do not know how.

Sir Basil John Gould (he was the British Political Officer for Bhutan, Sikkim and Tibet based in Gangtok, Sikkim from 1935 to 1945) finds mention because it was supposedly him who first proposed the idea of stamps.

Burt Kerr Todd is credited with making the Bhutanese postage stamps famous and much sought after among the international stamp collectors.

........ With most information sourced from Leo Van der Velden and Aranya Dutta Choudhury.

Monday, October 17, 2022

The Incredible Snowman Race

I did not believe that this could be done - until it was announced. The trek takes anywhere from 25 to 28 days at a normal pace – to attempt to do it in five days and actually accomplish it, is nothing short of a superhuman fit. I wait to see who and, how many, will remain standing at the end of the race period - 17th October, 2022 which is today.

There is nothing not to admire about these racers - they are attempting to achieve something God never intended should be a normal human activity. Having myself plodded through all the regions that the racers will pass through during the race, I pay obeisance to these super athletes for their superhuman capacity and endurance.

To me it is of no consequence who wins the race - but that they have the level of fitness, tenacity, determination and the will power to successfully complete the race. I do not believe that the Snowman Race trail is the world’s toughest on its own merit - but for the fact that the distance is being conquered in the time frame of five days. That is the incredible thing!

A reputed international magazine contacted me - wanting to know if I would be interested to cover the race on their behalf. I said, YES!!! YES!!! YES!!. I told them that I already have all the passive footages they will need - from my treks into the alpine wilderness traversing the entire length of the race trail. The only thing is that I will need minimum of two helicopter rides – one to the top of Keche-La in Lunana areas, and another to the top of Jueley-La in Dhur areas, so that I am able to capture the racers on the go. The scene I would have been able to capture from the Jueley-La top as the racers snake up from Jueley Tsho to the top of the Pass, and then descend down to Animo Tsho would have been breathtaking. Racers racing upto the Kechey-La as they pass the lake on their right and then plunge down the Pass, would show some stunning scenes!

For whatever reason the magazine decided not to go through with the plan - my loss 😓

Lake below Kechey-La Pass

Tarigung with the twin Tari Tsho in the foreground

Lunaps engaged in a game of archery, with Gungchen Singye in the background

Day break at Animo Tsho below Jueley-La

Something puzzles me: the fact that close to 50% of the international racers - no question they have got to be among the world’s most competent extreme altitude racers - had to withdraw on grounds of HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema). Thank God there has been no fatalities so far. Didn’t the racers acquaint themselves with the altitudinal variations of the race trail? That is the first thing they should have found out. They obviously did not.

They could have caused the country serious loss of face.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

An Uncommon Girl in Kheng Khomshar

In a dimly lit room, deep inside rural Kheng, in a village called Khomshar, Chimi Wangmo sits cross-legged facing me. I can feel that there is a sense of unease about her - not quite sure that she would be upto the difficult questions I am likely to pop at her. When the questions began flowing, however, she relaxed and began to answer me with the clarity and deftness of an accomplished presenter - as if she had prepared for this day, all her life.

It is neither a paradox, nor the choice is difficult. Quite simply, it is a matter of lack of leadership.

Over the next 20 minutes or so, it was I the city slicker, and not the country bumpkin barely 28 years old and a drop-out at class XII, who was overcome with a sense of wonderment and admiration.

Me : “So Chimi, how old are you?”.
CW : “I am 28 years old”.
Me : “Upto what class did you study?”
CW : “Class XII”.
Me : “So, what are your thoughts on going to college and getting a degree?”
CW : “I do not wish to pursue any further studies”.
Me : “WHAT??  Why not?
CW : “I do not see any benefit in it”
Me : “Why not?”
CW : “I do not believe that a college degree offers any guarantee, decent or otherwise, of a job in Thimphu. The matter is made worst by the fact that I have to compete with people with wider social network and stronger personal connections.

I do not believe anyone would stop to consider a Khengpa girl from an obscure village called Khomshar, located in some wilderness in remote Kheng. I need to be realistic.

Me : “You present a rather bleak picture - not to say that I disagree with you entirely. If you do not see employment in Thimphu as a way out for you, have you considered an alternative to landing a job in Thimphu?”

CW : “Yes”.
Me : “What is that?”
CW : Farming and farm work”.
Me : “Really? That is rather an uncommon choice - few, if any, would consider it. I am intrigued - please elaborate on your thoughts”.
CW : It is simple really. Early in life I came to the conclusion that Thimphu does not offer any guarantee of a job. Although the job selection process is said to be merit based, the reality is that it is the well-heeled and the well-connected who will walk over persons of my humble background - my superior talents, my academic excellence or my willingness to work hard will find little value in a job market that is already over crowded. And I cannot, or will not, hope to change a system that has already set deep roots into the cultural fabric of Bhutanese society - as it has, elsewhere in the world.

This makes me sound like I am defeated by the system – I am not. In fact such a system compels me to be more resilient. Choosing farming and farm work over white or blue collar job as a preferred choice of livelihood has sound thinking behind it - it is backed by sound reasoning and mathematics.

Should I decide to get a college education and a degree to go with it, my parents would end up spending few hundred thousand Ngultrums, which would put them in dire financial straits. They do not need that.

After college if, with any luck I am able to land a job in Thimphu, I will most provably be paid a salary of Nu.15,000.00 to Nu.20,00.00 a month - a sum barely enough to sustain myself, let alone support my family. On the other hand, if I take up farming and farm work, I can earn many times more than that amount.

Thus, working on my ancestral farm not only assures me a superior income compared to a job, I also contribute to enhancing the collective family income. Additionally, I am also able to ease the lives of my aging parents who need me in their lives - now more than ever. I am also able to help my school going younger brother to get a proper education - if not he would have to be taken out of school, to help out the parents.

At a different level, I serve a national objective - that of helping the nation restock the rural villages with young, able hands - more than enough are being lost to the lure of $$ to Australia, USA, Canada etc. There is no doubt that the lure of the $$ is a powerful force that few can resist - but one has to decide how much is one’s need, and what portion of that need is comprised of one’s wants. The final question one has to ask truthfully, in my opinion, is:

Is livelihood more important than life?”

Indeed!: Is livelihood more important than life? Does livelihood hold any meaning if there is no life? Are we seeing the loss of Bhutanese tradition, in pursuit of borrowed cultures? Are the Bhutanese youth chasing a mirage while gold mines are sitting in their villages, waiting to be exploited?

Is the government’s focus on centers of floating population the wrong place to focus on? Are rural areas better points of focus? Is there a need to shift focus - to halt outmigration of youth; to assure food self-sufficiency, to prevent Goongtongs, to prevent demographic imbalance, etc.?

I think there is a powerful message in the thoughts of the simple village girl in remote Khomshar.

Monday, October 3, 2022

A Necessary Diversion

After months of futile attempts at sounding knowledgeable and informed about what ticks Bhutan's tourism, I allowed myself the rare opportunity of a diversion - I made a trip to Chhukha Dzongkhag - to scan the areas for birds for an upcoming book.

Historically Chhukha Dzongkhag ranks among the most relevant. It was the most important trade route to, and out of, the Indian plains in the South. Majority of the Western visitors and missions, other than Ashley Eden's mission in 1864, entered Bhutan through present day Chhukha Dzongkhag.

Written records confirm that a village - although in my view wrongly named - has the distinction of being the first village in unified Bhutan to receive potato seed for plantation.

Zhabdung Ngawang Namgyel also received his first silver and gold coins in Chhukha Dzongkhag, although of foreign coinage, in and around 1619AD which he melted down to build a silver reliquary in Chari Monastery, to house the ashes of his deceased father.

The following are some of the images I captured during my three days trip to the Dzongkhag, and areas in the periphery.


A unique geological formation at a place called Lama Lamani under Dagana Dzongkhag bordering Jemichu in Chhukha Dzongkhag

One of Bhutan's rarest birds and a lifer for me - The Beautiful Nuthatch (Sitta formosa)

Grey-chinned Minivet (Female) (Pericrocotus solaris) - also a lifer for me

Grey-chinned Minivet (Male) (Pericrocotus solaris) - my third lifer in a single day. With such abundance of sightings, Chhukha is all set to be elected the new birding capital of the world!