The unending tussle

A man helplessly watches his rummaged field (photo: wfpbhutan.org)

Like every year, the reaping time for farmers isn’t far away, save that they have much less to reap this year. All blames to wild animals depredation; which is becoming rampant each year.

Huge areas of maize field are being lost to wild boars in places like Pemagatshel, thus leaving almost nothing for the poor farmers to thrive on after having had toiled in the farms from dawn till dusk.

The activities of wild boars are increasing every year, while farmland continues to shrink. And even the numerous mechanisms farmers have devised to protect their year-long arduous work or to keep the animals at bay have failed miserably.

This is the same scenario elsewhere too. Farmers are living on the mercy of the wild animals.

In Sipsu gewog in Samtse, most farmers have abandoned paddy cultivation this year. This is because of the wild elephants increasingly rummaging their paddy fields.

Farmers risking their lives and guarding against the mighty predator to save a little of what they have sowed have almost become a routine. They spend sleepless nights throughout the season, shouting and chasing away the wild elephants.

However, the farmers this year have instead opted to work at the coffee plantation project to make a living. They know that it is better to save something than to work so hard and lose everything to the wild elephants.

Similarly in Trongsa, farmers are yet to receive compensation for the cattle they lost to wild animals last year. Similar cases of farmers having had lost cows and poultry birds and awaiting compensation are plenty as well.

Indubitably, human-wildlife conflict has become a contentious issue for quite some years now. The government has pledged to find a solution to this problem, but farmers say this is best rhetoric until now. There is no genuine desire or sheer eagerness to put an end to this predicament.

However, we should be aware that we are up for some serious problem if the situation continues as it is. The repercussions are inevitable. We already have signs before us.

Poor farmers are frustrated, waiting. Some are even on the verge of abandoning farming in totality; leave their ancestral land and home in the village and flock to urban towns.

If this happens, what good would it be then? We are already grappling with rural-urban migration and we are yet to find a solution to this problem.

Moreover, what use would it be even if we exert rural prosperity as the thrust of the five year plan if our rural folks are not there back in the village? We need to understand that what our farmers need now is food and food security; more than anything else. That’s what it matters.

 

 

 

 

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A happy wedding anniversary to the Royal Couple

It has been exactly a year as we marked the first anniversary of the historic Royal Wedding. The anniversary is a momentous one for His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen. The same palpable happiness and enthusiasm reverberate in the minds of every people in the country as well.

Indubitably, the Royal Wedding was another critical watershed in the history of Bhutan. And it will always remain etched in the minds of every Bhutanese. No length of words is adequate to describe this union of the two greatest souls.

We still reminisce and have fond memories of the moment last year when the whole nation was abuzz with activities to celebrate the Royal Wedding. There was a wave of excitement and happiness. People were flabbergasted as the sacred matrimonial took place in Punakha last year.

The same enthusiasm and zeal are apparent even today as we mark the first anniversary of the Royal Wedding. Felicitation messages, heartfelt wishes and genuine prayers are there everywhere for us to see, from the newspapers to social media sites such as facebook and twitter. It’s no less a people’s reunion once again after they had witnessed and took part in the country’s historic moment a year back. People are back together once again.

And there are obvious reasons too. The day is more significant in many ways for a Bhutanese. A year back, His Majesty the King had fulfilled the wish of the nation when His Majesty married Her Majesty the Queen. This was no less than fulfillment of the wish of the nation and its people. The sacred matrimonial was the beginning of the continuity in the form of hope in the institution of monarchy under which the nation have had achieved numerous strides and enjoyed profound peace, security, happiness and wellbeing. And we still do look up to and revere the monarchy as the country aspires to achieve its dreams and aspiration.

No matter how arduous a time or how grueling a struggle, we will sail through. We have this assurance that we can always look up to our monarchy for more guidance. The King and the Queen along have charted a new journey altogether. It’s a new journey for Bhutan and its people too. It has been a year now. But we pray and wish that years of peace, love and happiness continue perpetually, for now and for all times to come.

As we mark the first anniversary of the Royal Wedding, all the little we can do is wish and pray for profound happiness, sound health, everlasting peace, and eternal love of our King and the Queen. May they always continue to be the epitome of compassion, kindness

A couple made in heaven

and love!

Another debacle?

It was another milestone in the aviation sector last week as Druk air successfully launched its much-anticipated inaugural flight service to Gelephu, thereby also opening up the third domestic airport in the country.

Local residents there have been endowed with hope that the domestic airstrip would bring mammoth changes in the area. Development works will sprout up, tourists will flock in droves in the town, and inevitably bring economic boom. But how far would this be true?

The same hope, declaration, and dreams were shown back then when domestic air services were launched in December last year to Bumthang and Trashigang, except it didn’t turn out the way it was meant to.

Domestic flight services to these two places have been temporally called off now. Six months after these airstrips were launched; both airports are being repaired once again today.

The government earlier assured that both runways will be resurfaced and domestic air services re-launched by September end, coinciding with the time of the upcoming tourist season, but it is already behind schedule by a month now. Works are still going on.

There is no denying the benefits domestic air services would bring to the locality and the people in that area, but we simply cannot also brush aside the economic feasibility aspect.

Are domestic air services really feasible in the country going by the events unfurling now?  How did domestic air services to Bumthang and Trashigang fare before it was temporarily suspended? How many people actually availed this facility?

We simple need not rake the brains for answers. The numbers are comprehensible. The tour or stay of more than half of the tourists visiting Bhutan is in the western regions of the country, while the locals have no option than to mull over a lifetime before paying the exorbitant fares.

Now, another domestic airport opens up with even greater promises than the other two under repair. But the question is how would it benefit the economy in Gelephu.

This border town has a score of its own problems too. The porous border, security problems in southern Bhutan in the 90s, and security issues along the Assam border have stagnate the growth of the town for more than a decade.

The lack of infrastructure and tourists’ amenities such as standard hotels and resorts are another setback. The town doesn’t have much to magnetize tourists. The number says it all. How many tourists even actually visit or have a night halt in Gelephu? Or for that matter, how comfortable or enthusiastic are tour agencies in making changes in the tour packages that they offer?

It is, therefore, becoming imperative to revisit our experiment with domestic air services in the country. Airstrips in Bumthang and Trashigang were literally no less than a debacle. Would Gelephu head towards the same way?

PM in an inaugural flight to Gelephu

Aborting an abortion

Phuentsholing’s story has to start from what goes on inside and outside its borders. It is in so many ways different from the rest of the country. Offering different strokes to different folks, the town has managed to build quite a reputation for itself. A reputation, that can often times leave one stirred and shaken.

To take a glimpse, the illicit supplies of pharmaceutical drugs into the country make its entry from there. So do pills that take care of unwanted pregnancies. And, if it is a little too late for the pill to work its effect, there are quacks that have set up seedy clinics offering discreet abortions to girls caught in a fix. The only problem is that what is supposed to be discreet turns into a messy affair with consequences that are dire not only for the unborn child but for the mother as well.

In the past three years, the city corporation has had to hire people to dispose of eight fetuses thrown near dustbins and secluded areas within the city premises. And those are just the cases that make it to the spotlight. So, first, let’s get past the obvious. This is a dangerous trend. This very issue was brought to light by this paper some years back when it ran a story on its cover page along with a photograph of the abandoned fetus. But, rather than doing something about it by the authorities concerned, like say introducing sex education in schools whereby educating children about the pitfalls of sex and pregnancies or about the adverse outcome of an abortion performed by someone other than a qualified medical practitioner, the media regulatory authority chose to slap a fine because it felt the paper had crossed the line. Indeed, the photograph on display was gruesome, but that is not the point.

The point is, that, if authorities can in fact take action so quickly based on the information they have in front of them, why has this issue been neglected and the mess left for a cash-strapped city corporation to clean up, year after year? How much more adverse can it be than the loss of lives because of a lack of proper education and advocacy?

Abortion is illegal in Bhutan. But, that doesn’t mean that the subject too has to be taboo. For fear of being ostracized by friends, by family, by society, young girls in need of help, with no one to turn to, decide to take matters into their own hands. The result is there for us all to see. It is this complexity, because Bhutanese society still feels today that sex and everything related to it is a personal matter and should remain that way, which has and will continue to compound the problem further.

The town where it all starts