Saturday, June 28, 2014

Kudos to National Council of Bhutan – The 11th Personal Perspective

The Council members have made a national statement through their united stand on pay revision. True not all 25 members shared the same level of firmness but in a show of solidarity, the National Council has decided to defer their pay revision until such a time the revenue sources materialized as envisioned by the Government. I hope it would not be a long wait. 

Now how are the other stakeholders of Bhutanese higher ups in the hierarchy going to react? Most probably feign ignorance and slyly pocket the fat pay checks. So be it. Lust for power and wealth are twin irresistible devils. 

The Council members were accused of taking a free publicity ride. In spite of their strong objections in televised Sessions, the National Council members would have automatically benefited if the National Assembly passed the pay revision. It was a win-win go to many critics. I personally do not want the NC members and their families to suffer financial loss but for sake of national interest, I thank the honourable members of National Council. It is the honourable way to empower the 25 member House to combat the other 47 member House which stands for no others but themselves. Respect and dignity are earned from the fire of sacrifices and deeds of selflessness. 

It was easy for the cowboy of a National Assembly Speaker to dig his spurs into the ribs of willing member horses to take a leap for the greener pastures. But the National Council members proved to be no beast of obedience even if it meant more fodder. For the first time in the history of modern Bhutan since the turn of the last century (114 years ago), power and wealth failed to win over any and all forces. 

I feel relieved that the Council members did not decree that they too would donate their new excess salary to charity. The Prime Minister should follow the honourable lead of the NC members instead of some vague charity donation gimmick which some observers have interpreted as dodging PIT. I do not agree with the PIT angle but there is no denying that donation to a charity is a political publicity game. Why not leave the money with the source be it the salary difference or sales proceeds of gifts? The Government has the largest charity donation box. 

I am still amazed that the cabinet of the second democratic government is all out to milk the nation for themselves and their fellows in the hierarchy set up. This continuous propaganda of more take home pay for civil servants will cause mouth ulcer to government propagandists. The only bankable source of funds is the raise in Chukha tariff which the previous government had initiated with India. Why can’t this second government come up with real substantive ways to create revenues? How much can really be saved through pool vehicles and expensive electric powered cars with low efficiency track record? Really peanuts. 

The government could make substantial savings in fuel import cost if it takes over the import of all fuels and then distribute through existing private outlets. If managed sensibly by honest officials, it will put a full stop to any flow back of gas, petrol or diesel to the sources of import. The import quantum will definitely reduce. The import of fuel has been identified as the main black hole of not just rupee resources but major portion of national revenue. All foreign registered vehicles fueling in Bhutan especially in border towns should be required to pay for fuel in the currency of the country the vehicles are registered. 

The nationalization of fuel imports along with the 5% tax would certainly reduce import and increase revenue income for the government. 

Bhutan’s consumption of alcohol especially beer and stable food rice is very high. It is disproportionate to the population even after taking into consideration foreign labourers of over 100, 000. There has to be some loopholes that can be plugged to conserve national resources. 

A major portion of 20% pay revision for civil servants would be generated from such easy to implement policies. And if the Bhutanese democratic leaders have the stomach to measure up to   Narender  Modi then go for renegotiation on hydro projects financing or power tariff. It really would improve the national financial resource and solve the rupee crisis.   It is possible to earn your substantial pay as well as fulfill the promised 20% pay hike for civil servants without milking the last drop of exchequer. 

I do not begrudge good pay for good input. But giving less to civil servants to have more for higher ups is NO! NO! No Good. 

Sangey of Haa Wangcha. Dated 28th June, 2014.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Stink of Selfish Greed – the 10th Personal Perspectives

The 2nd National Assembly dominated by People’s Democratic Party robbed the civil servants of the inflationary adjusted allowance of 2010. It is an act of disgraceful fraud - the stamp of national indignity.

It is shamelessly claimed that the pay hike of 67% - to – 131% for politicians and constitutional appointees are as per the approval of the 1st Parliament. If that is so, why did the Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay’s Cabinet instruct the 2nd Pay Commission to look into the pay revision of the Ministers etc. along with that of the civil servants? The National Assembly flexed its Legislative muscle to package greed and lies like milk and water - milk for themselves and water for the civil servants.

A seed of permanent discord and grievance has been sown. It is a very unfortunate consequence of democracy in selfish disarray.

I do not begrudge the pay scale for the upper hierarchy. But why? why? why rob the pauper to enrich the Prince? How could the political leaders rob the civil servants of the inflationary adjusted allowance to fund their own 67% - to – 131% pay hike? Was starving the children only way to fatten the mother?

The government should have asked the visiting Indian Prime Minister to restore the scale of balance into the Indo-Bhutan Hydro projects. Narendra Modi should have been requested to revert to the initial hydro project financing of 70% grant and 30% loan (after all, India would be consuming 70% of peak production of Bhutanese hydro projects) or for total grant funding for the escalated costs in the hydro projects or 50 paise raise in Tala and Basochu hydro project electricity export unit rate. Maybe India needs to consider all three simultaneously if Modi really meant that progressive Bhutan is good for India.

There is no need to kneel and beg. A substantive reasonable and nationally dignified approach was and still feasible. The goal of the hour is to have Modi demonstrate in practical economic terms B4B rather than just offering in beautiful Gujarati Hindi glowing tributes to the dragon Kings and the GNH Mountains. Bhutan has Kings and Mountains but there are also the needs and aspirations of the citizens of a sovereign nation.

I do not doubt the sincerity of the Bhutanese Prime Minister’s refusal to accept the extra over and above the pay of Cabinet Ministers. It is in keeping with his socialist tint though no more the trait in general practice. But how come the duly elected democratic Prime Minister is demonstrating a huge void in leadership capacity? He declares that he finds his own pay hike offensive yet he refrains from expressing views on the highs and lows of the two most contradictory benchmark of the pay hike. This confirms that he has difficulty in leading from the front and is unwillingly to follow from the rear. Why is he in such a straightjacket position?

There is a historical lesson to be learnt from the result of the personal austerity measures of Mahatma Gandhi. Such measures of Gandhi could not impact the ways of his core disciples - the leaders of independent India. Instead his acting poor man status idolized the sorry state of half-naked and underfed masses to which many still remain condemned. Likewise the Prime Minister’s seemingly personal sacrifice does not ease the pain and dismay of the nation at large and in particular that of the civil servants who feel betrayed and cheated. The civil servants do not number just 25,000 RCSC employees. They number 25,000 families and if one takes cognizance of the social fabric of extended family system then the number rises three fold. Please wake up! Dear democracy leaders!

I cannot end this sad chapter without drawing a silver lining. Hope is very important! Money Bill or otherwise, the Supreme Court had ruled the constitutional requirement of discussion in both Houses of Parliament and final royal assent. So Civil Servants, pray harder for a royal reprieve immediately or later in the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the 4th King. It was the 4th King who personally negotiated the Chukha hydro electricity export unit rate with India so that he could bring about the 1st major pay revision for the civil servants.

The King of Bhutan who adores his father King may commemorate the 60 years’ service to the nation by a Royal decree that re-instates the 2010 civil servant inflationary adjusted allowance.

I feel that the 2nd National Assembly needs to be corrected in its unlawful withdrawal of the inflationary adjusted 2010 allowance of the civil servants. Unlawful because robbing the masses to enrich few is a form of dictatorial oppression which is unlawful in a State under democratic principles. Here one party is receiving a huge hike and the other being deprived of what it had in order to create the resource to fulfill the greed of the 1st party. Also it was the political campaign promise of the PDP Party to give 20% pay hike and 20% house rent. It’s unlawful to give with the right hand and then take away with the left. Even legislative body like the National Assembly must adhere to a code of conduct that befits and meets the propriety of democracy.

His Majesty the King had declared to the Members of the 1st Parliament that the King and the People will support them all the way. However, if they error then corrective measures will be taken as part of the duty of the King and the People to the nation.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


I had discovered rather belatedly that there was an email from someone (Suraj K. Budathoki). And as is my habit I had responded accordingly to the context. Only when someone else (Swadeshi Bhutani) responded the next day with reference to my email, I had to do some rechecking out of curiosity. I am sharing the correspondences so that anyone interested have equal opportunity of access.

The email from Suraj K. Budathoki.

Good morning sir, [26/5/14]                                                                                                         

Come to know you from one of your friends and visited your blog- read it almost all your creations. I look forward to read your write-up related to southerner’s problem and citizenship acts/immigration laws that has tarnished the image of beautiful Bhutan in the world.

I am one of the victims of those serial citizenship acts and made to leave my beloved land even so I was put into F1 by census team of 1989 at 10yrs of innocent age.

Your creation- an eye opener to the world.

Thank you.  

My response to the email.

Dear Suraj K. Budathoki, [5/6/14]                                                                                                     

Sorry for the late response. It is not possible for a northern Bhutanese to really gauge the depth of difficulties that arose in Southern Bhutan. And especially for the young innocent of your age that time, it must be just too complex to comprehend or accept. I hope you have a better life now. The sad thing these days is that the census issue has been dehumanized into political tool but I sincerely hope that the people and the leadership will find a way to remove this unfortunate regionalism and race attitude of mistrust. A tiny Kingdom must work towards the goal of wholehearted unification. 

You may have realized that I write on inspirations aroused by current events that take place in Bhutan or elsewhere and that my main concern is for the welfare of the nation and all her people. If an occasion demands then surely I would be inspired to express my feelings. 

I don't know where you are residing but it was a huge relief for me when it became possible for many of those at JAFFA to go to the West to settle. At least they would have a permanent place to settle and begin a new life. It may not be their choice but under the circumstance somehow I felt more at peace. I always pray and hope that beautiful Bhutan will have a more united people and leadership. As years goes by and our young King gains more confidence and understanding, Bhutan would have brighter GNH future ahead. On your part please think well of Bhutan so that the people of the three regions will have the necessary Blessings of God and Well Wishers to achieve what we must all strive for a happy and secure home for all Bhutanese in the Kingdom of Bhutan. 

Warm regards and good luck,
Wangcha Sangey

The email next day from Swadeshi Bhutani referring to my above response.
Dear Mr. Sangey Wangcha, [6/6/14]                                                                                                
I am originally from Dagapela. I had to leave Bhutan in 1991, not because of my choice but because of circumstances. I always dream of my beloved country – Bhutan. I want to see peace and progress marching together in Bhutan, so that people in the country can live happily, no matter what ethnicity, religion, culture or tradition they follow or no matter what political ideology they belong to.
I read most of the articles published in your blog. I found them very articulate, inspiring and analytical. Your views and opinion are holistic towards addressing the current and retrospective issues existing in the country. Your optimism that the leadership and the people in the country work together to address them amicably sounds very positive. I am also optimistic that Bhutan – the land blessed by the teaching of Lord Buddha, known as the last Sangri-la on earth, will one day create the avenue for the resettled Bhutanese to recognize as the Non-Residential Bhutanese – who can join hand with the people inside the country and contribute in the task of nation building.
Bhutan is no more an absolute monarchical country. As per the demand of the time – the country has been transferred now into a parliamentary democracy under constitutional monarchy. I am pretty sure, the people and the palace will work hand in hand with mutual trust, respect and understanding to ensure the glorification of Bhutan’s name and fame across the globe.  
The Indian new Prime Minster Narendra Modi, whom you have admired in your blog article, chooses to visit Bhutan, as his first foreign trip, giving high priority in the foreign policy of the government of India. This is a big plus point for Bhutan. Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay too is doing pretty well though the decision of his government’s recent pay hike does not really fulfil PDP’s commitment for people friendly and social welfare government in the country. Pay hike is going to impact the market inflammation, which will directly affect the lives of those who are living below the poverty line. Nevertheless, the visit of Indian PM is anticipated to give a new boost in Bhutan’s economic development plus address the long standing currency crisis.
Before concluding my mail (first mail to you), I would like to draw your kind attention of the plight of innocent southern Bhutanese citizens, who have to opt for third country resettlement after their wishes to return to their homestead could not be materialized even after two decades. Now, very small numbers of the people are left in the camps in Nepal, majority of whom are in the process of resettlement. I think by 2015 end, there will be no refugees left in the camps in Nepal and no more refugee issue between the governments of Bhutan and Nepal.
Bygone is bygone, no matter what happened in the past. People come and go, but the countries remain forever. Hence, it is the prime responsibility of every individual citizen to work for the greater interest of once country. As a legal consultant, I hope you would play significant role in promoting the Bhutan’s interest not only within the country but also outside. The resettled Bhutanese could make tremendous contribution in the socio-economic development. They can no more remain as liability for Bhutan, they can be potential assets provided the leadership in Thimphu play the constructive role, take pragmatic decision and move forward.
The resettled Bhutanese can be the ambassadors by themselves in promoting the aims and objectives of the GNH in the practical and truest sense. If the people of your caliber could play your potential role by convincing the government for opening the door of recognizing the exiled Bhutanese as the non-residential Bhutanese, it will be a new milestone for the progress and prosperity of Bhutan. It is 21st century, and the world has become a global village now.
I look forward hearing from your kind end.
Tashi Delek,   
Dear Mr. Narad or whoever you are,
Your unexpected mail was a surprise especially because your mail was based on my reply to Suraj K. Budathoki’s email. By the way I wasn’t curious before but after your email I checked up who Budathoki is. Usually as a matter of principle I do not seek to find out who the emailer is but rather react accordingly to the subject in context. I was not sure whether the name Budathoki belonged to a man or a woman that was why I did not put either Mr. or Ms. The name had sounded familiar though I couldn’t place it. I didn’t know he was heading a human rights office but now I realize why the name was familiar. He used to be in the Kuensel News about troubles in Southern Bhutan. It was long time back and now in the back burner of memory. Since you two share emails maybe you work together.

Talking of the past rather than simply burying it actually I believe is a kind of healing process. Many years back I wrote about the Uprising in the South and mailed the letters to the leaders in Bhutan. I wanted a healing process to begin and I wanted also that both southern and northern Bhutanese to see the third perspective not just the perspective of the deeply aggrieved southerner and dismayed possibly shocked northerner.

I appreciate the fact that Mr. Budathoki wrote to me under his real name. But who are you really Narad? Is it Narayani, Narayani or are you prepared to share some personal information?

I am replying your email for several reasons:

  • You refer to Buddhism and you concede to the fact of people and palace working together. By these references you indicate acceptance the role of Buddhist religion and Buddhist King the two pillars of Bhutanese social, cultural and political spheres.
  • You said that “the visit of Indian PM is anticipated to give new boost in Bhutan’s economic development plus address the long standing currency crisis.” So maybe you have close source at New Delhi or Thimphu because I don’t know what Mr. Modi aims to do or say during his visit.

And yes as you have pointed out I have admired the ways that Mr. Modi conducted till now. I definitely feel he will be a better change for Bhutan than Gandhis ever were. Even then it is too early to gauge his intentions and substantive style. I am actually quite interested to see how Modi places Advani in the BJP or his government hierarchy after that very public Guru-pupil kind of affection display. That will confirm the meeting point of public style and actual ground substance in the arena of even external affairs. Was the invitation to SAARC leaders a sign of friends at par or was it simply a public purpose to prop up his swearing in ceremony?

Now to answer your question on the issue of non-resident status for Jaffa refugees settled in the West.  I am delving into this subject only because you seem to be a worthy engagement. In spite of being anonymous, you have presented your credentials quite unambiguously.

I am a legal consultant for the reason that some prefer to seek legal advices from me. However I have no connection or influence with the government. I don’t think what I say or write will have effect on the policy of Bhutan because I am just one of the many bloggers in Bhutan. But over the years I have found that I sometimes have this uncanny ways of feeling the wind of future direction. So let me share with you for all its worth. Hope I am not wasting both our times.

Non-residential Bhutanese status (NRB status) seems rather far away when viewed from present knoll. You state that by 2015 all Jaffa refugees will be resettled and there will be no issues between Nepal and Bhutan. Thank you for the information and the confidence that you express with. This NRB status is a new thought to me. However since you are saying it, maybe the concept has been already floated. How different is it from granting outright citizenship which you say was not agreeable in the last twenty years? And further re-settlers would have received the citizenship of the host country. Bhutan usually does not agree with dual citizenship though exceptions maybe in practice for few lucky westerners in Bhutan. I won’t say that NRB status is a farfetched hope but for the foreseeable future, the burning issue is not NRB status. Its citizenship for those who have chosen to stay in Bhutan and not those who were at Jaffa. Political parties in Bhutan may say many things during elections but somehow there is yet to be a comprehensive process to expedite a definite way forward.

As I had said in my reply to Mr. Budathoki’s email, a united effort within Bhutan is necessary to sort out such social pains and distrust. I take great heart in His Majesty’s handling of the acrimonious land issues that happened after the 1st cadastral survey. And in like manner, it is possible that His Majesty will bring about comprehensive ways to sort out the citizenship issues. We have to be prepared to give the Crown some more time and leeway.

The Kings of Bhutan are historically quite liberal with citizenship grants. I remember Bhutan offering Tibetan refugees citizenship and many of them spurned the offer. Regarding the Jaffa refugees, it could be quite a predicament to offer non-resident Bhutanese status because the exodus to Jaffa (planned or compelled) was preceded by a time when the yellow and orange flag was being dragged along the paths of protest March and down with the Kingdom was the offensive chorus.  Even then in every such conflict many innocent by default get victimized. It’s for those innocent victims that I feel for.

Please do not mind but I am putting all the exchanges on my blog. I think it’s the right thing. Its uncomfortable keeping exchanges of national nature between few individuals. In any case you came to know of me through my blog. Wishing you a good day.

Wangcha Sangey

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Pay Hike for whom? The 9th personal perspectives

With so much public grievances and disappointments pouring all over in the country, it is hard to avoid the issue. However, it was necessary to give prior space to the direct stake holders and the legislators. It may be now appropriate to express personal views. In spite of opposing views on matters of national sovereignty, I had a healthy respect for Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay for his publicly demonstrated socialist characteristics. But it looks like he kept away from the government pay hike proposal. Has he decided to be the Post man?

The mere 4% pay hike for lower category and over 67% and more for higher echelons demonstrates that the much hyped pay hike was geared towards rewarding local and national elected politicians and constitutional Bodies. And to declare that the allowance that the civil servants already had been given under DPT formed government in 2010 also constitutes part of the increment proposed by this PDP formed government is not just audacious but tantamount to personal injury.

Housing allowance for most midlevel civil servants should have been given long time back. The lower levels are entitled to subsidized housing and higher ups get free housing or 30% allowance pegged to their salary so the amount increases with yearly increments. Even so PDP has kept its campaign promise albeit in an oblique way.

When it comes to the real mules of the civil service force, the housing allowance is fixed to the lowest basic starting salary and a humiliating slap in the face kind of a salary increment has been proposed. Compare 4% to 67% and 8% to 131% and the sting drives in.

There is an undeniable drive of greed and an attitude of making the most whilst in power in the proposed pay structure. Even then the other side of the coin is the incomparably high salaries of DHI Executives and Chairman thanks to an extraordinary concealed from public pay structure adopted by itself at the time of its establishment 6 years ago. Compare present DHI Chairman Salary of Nu: 160,000 to the proposed PM salary of Nu: 180,000. Compare DHI Executives present salaries of Nu: 130,000 to 140,000 to that of Chief Justice, Ministers, and Head of constitutional Bodies. What is DHI? It is an agency like many others playing a limited supervisory role for the government’s commercial enterprises. Compare its responsibilities to that of the Cabinet, Judiciary, Constitutional Bodies or even RMA.

In a under developed nation like Bhutan, it is the monthly salary that determines your social and political status. And may be the top administrators and leaders felt they deserved if not better than at least at par with another government agency like DHI. Can that be considered greed or is it mere sense of yearning for equity.

It is unfortunate that national resources do not permit a well-deserved pay hike for all. So if parity is to be introduced at an appropriate level, the next contract for DHI Chairman and Executives should incorporate a nationally equitable salary.

Personally I feel that everyone including DHI deserves good salary but the financial pot is small and so it is fair that what goes around is appropriately proportioned.

The present government proposal is based on two logics:

  1. There are fewer top administrators and leaders so pay them adequately. 
  2. There are greater number of civil servants so reduce theirs to the minimum to reduce financial strain to the national Exchequer.
    This does not abode well in terms of rationality. The pay hike is to compensate for yearly inflations. And inflation affects all both high and low category. The pay hike, rationally, should be same percentage. The higher echelons do not lose out because they have a higher salary base. Moreover there are many perks that ordinary civil servants can only dream of. 

I do not know the actual person of the Prime Minister but I do not believe that his past views, statements and practices were all for consumption for the electorate public. Therefore I feel that he should be now in position to bring about a rational pay hike for all. I hope that he now gets the necessary support from different quarters if those had not been forthcoming earlier.

From hence forth all salaries that are directly or indirectly paid from the coffers of the nation should be brought under the purview of the National Pay Commission.  And the Pay Commission should simply study the inflationary trends and recommend the percentage increment across the board and leave it to the government to find the resources to implement the same. And the government should not play around to enrich only the political Bodies be it elected or constitutional.

What is true in national governance is if there is able Leadership, the interest of all including that of leaders are taken care of. When there is vacuum in real leadership then Achus and Phentoes protect their own turfs. And that’s what happened here.

A suggestion to reduce financial burden and increase employment opportunities – Maybe just stop detaining in active service those already entitled to pension and let go those that have completed their initial term of tenures. Surely Bhutan has adequate pool of human resources who are able and trust worthy to replace those that have contributed their share of service. For valid reasons, it is irrational to expect anyone to follow the footsteps of the 4th King but maybe it would be a reasonable expectation for senior people, upon completing their mandated tenure or active service period, give way to the younger generation. Give way to other’s children so that others will move to give away to your children.