During the last Session of the Parliament, there was a lot of discussions about Dzongkhag Thromde and Yenlag Thromde. It never occurred to me that the boundaries of those different categories of Thromde ( proposed townships ) had already been secretly drawn up and quietly demarcated by the Government. And that the Government was seeking from the Parliament not just approval in principle for establishment of such Townships but also approval for the arbitrarily demarcated boundaries.
Recently on 8th of JULY, 2015, a high level multi agency technical team comprising of representatives of Parliament, Election Commission & the Government visited Haa Dzongkhag. This super team stunned the farmers of Watsa Village under Katsho Geog with the shocking announcement that the Parliament had already approved the inclusion of their farm land under expanded Haa Thromde. It was like a lightening out of blue. Even Katsho Gup, the Chairman of the Local Government was taken aback by the official dictate. There had been not even a hint of such an ominous decision. Both the Local Government and the affected villagers had been kept in total darkness.
Such decision is an edict of a Dictator. Not a decision of a democratic system channelled through and consulted about with the people and established layers of consultative agencies.
I have no comment on the relevance or irrelevance of expanded or creation of new Thromdeys but the process was not democratic and the Parliament should not have admitted such strong arm proposals even for discussion in what was once an august hall for national deliberation. Has it been turned to a horse trading stable ? The Opposition Party is hollow, the National Council capricious and ruling MPs on Party gala march. Who really is for transparent democratic national governance ?
About an acre and half of my village farm land falls under the expanded Thromde. Personally, I have no qualms about being part of Thromde. It would be a simple issue of distributing the ancestral land falling under Thromde among well brought up and capable 15 younger generation members. And moreover, the community village lands are also being gradually encroached upon by Indian Military in Haa under the facade of land acquirements for Royal Bhutan Army. Such trend of encroachment will be stopped for good once the land is under Thromde authority. Therefore, I see some national merit but condemn the unilateral decision.
My fellow village people are appalled by such turn of event and I am with my soul mates by reasons of birth. Kith and kin plus for democracy. Actually farming is a tedious task and wild animals, a perennial destructive force for crops. The villagers have homes but they have to spent all nights in the fields guarding the crops. It has been a losing battle not just in my village but all over Bhutan. In some cases the cost of cultivation effort is more than the cash value of produces. But where can villagers go and what else can they do for livelihood? Even educated youths are unable to find sustainable employment. As far as possible the nation must value the village life for the social harmony, the interrelated and interdependent community life, the disciplined unity and the level of livelihood security that farmers etch out on their farm lands.
The affected people would not have felt so deceived and let down if the Government had not been so secretive and cruel. The principle of democracy has been trampled upon. The grievances need to be listed because silence is humiliating.
This PDP formed Government is behaving more like a Political Party on a rampage than a national Government. It is proving to be bereft of democratic values and sense of respect for sovereign people dignity. It uses any and all means to force its decision upon the people. Not just somethings but almost everything this Government does begs legal clarity or are outright dictatorial in nature. Are Government decisions intentional, inadvertent, treachery or simply foolishnesses out of inexperience?
The Kingdom has been deluded with avalanches of political blunders that cascaded upon the nation scene since PDP came to power. The Cabinet began its first day of governance by acknowledging Indian Ambassador leadership in national affairs. As a result India House influence looms large in the Country. This India omnipotence image was further reinforced with the Government sacking 3 most senior and highly regarded Government Secretaries: Cabinet Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Economic Secretary on the ground that their collective action offended India. The Governments even neutralised the initially fiery defence of the Secretaries by Civil Service Commission by dangling the carrot of the possibility of second term for the Commissioners. This was followed by the Government pulling the plug under the 11th 5 year development Plan by cancelling the flagship Southern Highway Projects on grounds of India Bhutan security. And sometimes back, it has been exposed that the economic policies promoted by the Government was aligned to the electric car marketing strategies of foreign multi national corporations.
Somebody please tell PDP that election rhetorics, campaign hates and dictatorial ways must stop. The country needs a national Government not a Political Party vengeance rampage. It is not healthy to create doubts about people's allegiance to the Tsawa Soum. Some voted for PDP and some voted for DPT, mostly based on their family ties and personal likes and dislikes for the candidates. The revered institution of the Monarchy was never on the ballot. And many did not even vote in the General Election. It is harmful to sovereign governance to politically nurture a national mentality of India first no matter what the cost is to Bhutan. It shakes national confidence in the political leadership and the institution of the monarchy which is supposed to stand up to officious outside interferences and domination.
Now the sudden onslaught of 40 numbers of Thromde and Yenlag Thromde all at one go will destroy the local harmony and sustainability derived from centuries old farms and ingrained rural culture and customs. It is no longer a case of choice migration from rural to urban. It is a case of urban life and its disenchanted modern cultures steamrolling over major part of rural life and livelihood.
The democratic grievance here is that people are told that the administration of the nation is based on democracy and yet in matters of crucial livelihood existence, the grass root people are deprived of even a consultation process regarding their land and their life style. The affected villagers and the local Government were completely shunned out of the decision making process by this government.
A democratic government does not preempt the voice of the people. In democracy a Government does not instill fear and saw seeds of instability and uncertainties among communities.
In the development context, the Government has been unable to even improve the condition of existing rural community roads. So it cannot be expected to develop the gross number of approved townships. This headlong rush to create so many urban centres and hold immediate elections is to disrupt traditional vote banks and also increase taxation base.
The. nation just does not have the necessary financial and technical human resources to plan and build infrastructures of so many townships at one go. Even existing urban centres are facing acute shortage of both fund and technical human resources. The elected officials have specialised in robbing the society at large to enrich themselves. The 5℅ tax on fuel and mobile vouchers to fund their enhanced salaries and perks is just one demonstration of their self benefiting skills.
If democracy is a genuine national aspiration, then this relentless pursuit of narrow Political Party interest must be restrained. The soul of true democracy is the voice of the people. And the voice of the people are being gradually murdered. The present Government has turned its back to the people and destroyed larger national interests for narrow political party immediate gains.
What kind of political leadership would tell the farmers during the day that their land is vital for their livelihood and then during the dark night usurp the very farm lands for urban centres?
With the onslaught of such a rush to expand existing Townships and create new ones, most farmers will lose their land holdings to the social and political elites who have the means to develop the lands and pay the high urban taxes. The poor will become poorer and the rich will become richer. On the other hand if development of Thromde is transparent and gradually paced out over 20 years, most farmers would have time to prepare for urban demands and get to keep their land.
The decision of the Parliament is final subject to: (1) that due democratic process was followed in formulating the draft Bill and then presenting it to the House and (2) that it receives the consent of the King. I do not know whether the Parliament decision especially the arbitrary boundary demarcations received the consent of the Throne. However, it is very clear that due democratic process was not at all followed. And, therefore , it is now incumbent upon the Parliament to reverse its decision in the next session and take to tasks those that failed in their responsibility to adhere to the principle of democratic governance.
And in case any one is of the opinion that due process and voice of the stakeholders are not binding upon the Parliament then you are likely to be residing in the Indian State of Sikkim. For in that Country without consulting the people, the Government proposed and the elected representatives voted to become part of India in 1974. And that was the end of a Kingdom. And this can happen to Bhutan if the voice of the common people are silenced in major national decisions.
This time in Bhutan the Government proposed and the elected representatives approved the secretly drawn Thromde boundaries leaving the people completely in the dark in Haa and Paro and maybe elsewhere in the Country,too. This is not the spirit of democracy guaranteed by the Constitution and the methodology of democracy functioning laid down by the Druk Gyalpo to protect and preserve the participation of people at grassroot level in the national decision making process. The gift of democracy must belong to all Bhutanese.