Civil service setbacks

Call it one’s disinterest or the stringent rules and regulations, but not many seem to be swayed in setting foot in politics, especially civil servants.

The civil servants are dubbed as the cream of the nation, albeit for a good reason too. We have many capable heads of government agencies – the bureaucrats such as the secretaries, directors and et al. And while they are chosen amongst hundreds as the most deserving people, the least they want to do is get into politics.

The reasons are obvious too, and it’s all the stringent rules which they are chained with. It is never free and it wasn’t. It is foremost the hardest decision of having to relinquish a well secure job, a timely pay, trainings, workshops, other perks and incentives. But even if someone wants to, it would tantamount to slamming your door to all these benefits.

All said and done, we just can’t ignore that there are loopholes in the civil service rules and regulations. Why would a civil servant resign, deliberately knowing that he/she will never be able to join back? Such conditions are already stipulated in the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations 2010. How do we overcome this?civil service

Then there is the three-year cooling period a person affiliated with a political party must serve to vie for any civil service openings. This applies to the candidates too, meaning that a former civil servant after losing the elections cannot just go back and serve in the civil service.

And while how it would be taken up is a different issue, a political party outside the Parliament suggested last week that civil servants should be allowed to take leave to contest in apolitical offices like the National Council and Local Government elections. Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party president, Sonam Tobgay, says if they (civil servants) do not win the elections, they should be allowed to go back and serve as civil servants.

Stringent rules should be relaxed if it would only contribute in the creation of a more compact, small and efficient civil service. It’s only then that the bureaucracy can grow and the civil servants can grow too. It should have the best and the most capable candidates, and if need be allow those to join the civil service fraternity through open selections rather than reshuffling people within the same fraternity.

We are a young democracy. And a strong bureaucracy is an important component of it. Civil servants must be encouraged to play a good role in democracy. There must be congenial environment for them to join politics, and if need be allow them to join the civil service. Both ways, it will do good – for deepening democracy and bureaucracy as well.

Women & politics

It’s just not easy for women to get into politics. At least this is what many of the surveys and studies have been indicating so.

This predicament is further espoused by the report on the situation of low representation of women in elective offices that Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) released last week. It was timely and befitting too as we continue with our efforts to augment women’s representation in politics.

There is no denying the significance of women’s participation in a democracy. It’s pivotal. An increased women’s representation in Parliament or local governments for that matter will ensure that women’s voices are heard equally when it comes to making decisions that mostly affect their world. This importance is best summed up by Hillary Clinton, who said, “There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard”.women

Women’s representation is presently dispiriting in the Parliament as well as the local governments. Even the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report shows that women in Bhutan in elected positions are unfortunately rare – having been reduced from eight to four of the 67 elected Members of Parliament in the 2013 elections.

So where are we going wrong?

Firstly, gender stereotype has been identified as one reason for restricting women’s participation in the electoral processes. According to the ECB’s report, majority of the respondents feel that women are best suited to be teachers and a very few see women being suited for elective and top positions in governance.

Today, women are not yet adequately represented despite positions in the higher levels of government and decision-making being open to both genders and placement of women in the higher strata of government being encouraged. This, going by the report, is found that fewer women compared to men express interest in participating in elections as candidates.

Then there is the notion that politics is a male dominated field and that men make better politician than women. Even most women continue to have the same belief as well. A significant percent of respondents believe as well that men are better leaders compared to women. This notion, therefore, should subtly change if women are to make a difference.

However, what is heartening going by the ECB’s report is the agreed perception among the majority of respondents, who feel that there should be more women’s representation in the elective offices. This, however, won’t come easy or happen in a day.

More than facilitating women’s entry into politics and changing the present practices or systems, what is found wanting for now is attitudinal and behavioral changes against women that stems from the inherited psyche of society. It’s only after that where we can, perhaps, then envision Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg’s world – a world where there will be no female leaders in the future, but just only leaders.

The darker side

It’s regrettable as well as very upsetting, but none the less true. Suicide is gradually creeping into our society.

Just about a month back, we saw two students in Bumthang commit suicide where the disturbing photograph depicting the deceased with graphic details was even going viral on social media like Facebook and WeChat.

The above case, however, is not the single one that many of us chanced upon. There are many more people taking their own lives for one reason or the other that we don’t hear of. About 96 suicide cases, including attempted ones, were reported to the police last year. This means that eight people committed suicide every month in a country like ours with around 750,000 people. There is definitely a reason for great concern. But what is quite thought provoking is the reason for people resorting to this mean. Are lives’ circumstances precipitating suicide in our society?

Going by the cases, it’s not only adults but also children who have the tendency to take one’s life. The rich could be prone to it and so is the ordinary person. But what we are oblivious about is that small voice that triggers such a consequence.

It’s a very disturbing trend. We proclaim ourselves as the land of Gross National Happiness (GNH). Almost every policy is centered on this concept. However, we should also not forget the fact that a chunk of our near and dear ones conclude dying as the best way out.  These are obviously not the people who seem to be happy. Are we failing in our pursuit of GNH then?

The soaring suicide cases are also a vindication of our collapsing social system. There was more altruism in the past. People sacrificed for each other. Today we don’t even know who our next neighbor is. People are becoming individualistic. In the midst of all that, poverty is high. The least trigger may send people to the extremes.Reluctant

According to scientific reports, the reasons for suicide are numerous. But it’s mostly extreme depression that sometimes drives suicidal tendencies. And as a country, we don’t have adequate experts to tackle cases of severe depression and mental disorder that may lead to suicide. Pathetically, we have negligible numbers of psychiatrist or psychologist working in the country.

Further, we even don’t know exactly how common suicide is in the country. There are no available data. Getting the correct statistics and a real study on this matter is pivotal if we are serious about tackling this issue. The time has also come, besides the training of psychiatrists to take care of severe depression and creating awareness, to place emphasis on this issue because the problem of suicide is becoming real.