Jul 28, 2015

Money Matters and Success Factors


Preliminary Exam is the gateway to the most sought after career in the Civil Service in the country. And that's why many graduates are trying all that they can do to crack this examination. That way they come a step closer to realizing that dream. 

Sadly, some graduates, however good they are, cannot pass this first hurdle. And consequently they cannot write the main exam. But I think we cannot judge an individual by just giving him/her to write one examination. And of course knowing this is the only option left, graduates seek solaces in preparatory classes.

Because of the sheer number of graduates looking forward to crack Preliminary Exam, there are many individuals and private companies willing to help the graduates prepare for the exam. Of course this help comes with a pricetag. And going by the information doing the rounds on the streets of Thimphu, the tuition is expensive. I only hope these classes are useful.  

These individuals and private companies conducting preparatory classes should think beyond business - at least this time. It is not that graduates go to these classes because they have so much.  

Many graduates cannot afford to pay even this fee. Some are not even aware of such classes. Sadly, money plays a role in people's success. This should not be! I think money should never stop someone from doing well in his/her life. 

The current government promised to scrape off Preliminary Examination. However, the government realized that they cannot change the law that easily. 

And since Preliminary Examination is here to stay, we need to think of preparatory classes for those young men and women, who cannot afford these expensive classes. It will take some dedicated volunteers to change the lives of many young men and women out there.

Jul 27, 2015

The Other side of the Argument

I have had the pleasure of meeting this person of high repute and since then I have been closely following him with great admiration and respect. And one day I run into another person. We happened to casually chitchat when he suddenly mentioned this.

I was told that because I wrote something against a cause that the famous personality is known to champion, the man decided to unfriend me on Facebook. I did not know that he did that. But I was really sure that he may not have done this. And it was only in the evening when I checked my Facebook profile I realized I lost one virtual friend. The famous person has really blocked me.

That made me think a lot. I had great respect towards this man. In fact when a student wrote something controversial about him a few months ago, I requested the student not to post it anywhere because I knew that would dent his reputation. And on my request the student decided not to post it. That was that.

But I was really shocked that he would unfriend me just because I had a second opinion. This showed me that some of us can never accept anything beyond our thinking. Forget anything against us or our families or even our work. This is not to lament losing a celebrity Facebook friend, but rather out of sheer shock that I pen down these lines. What a pity!  

Of course I have nowhere said that what he was saying was totally wrong. All I said was that there must be some middle path – one that is not extreme and takes care of both the sides of the argument!

Can we for once acknowledge that there must be some valid points on the other side of the argument? 

Note: Photos by Mr. Dorji Wangchuk, the Field Coordinator of READ Bhutan. Thank you! 

Jul 15, 2015

The Birthday Generation


I was told about a particular teacher, who happened to observe a group of girls celebrating the birthday of a particular Indian movie actor in a school. (I forget whether it was Salman Khan or Sharukh Khan’s, but certainly it was one of them). The teacher went to them and conveyed them his appreciation for a celebrity’s birthday. 

And then he casually asked the girls, “Do you know when your parents were born?” which silenced them all. Most of them, I am sure, did not know their parents’ date of birth. 

Last evening, I attended one of my nieces’ birthday. It was a decent gathering of family members and friends and relatives. 

Now people of my generations or a generation before that would know that celebrating birthdays is fairly a new culture in Bhutan. But it is gaining popular by the day. And some day in future our younger generations would assume this was always a part of us.  

Most of us in Bhutan (especially those born in the villages) don’t know exact dates of our birth. Back then our parents had little or no knowledge to record the event. Later our health officials ended up interpreting wrongly, the lunar calendar dates to Gregorian calendar. In lunar calendar, days or sometimes even the months skip or repeat; thereby making it difficult to get the exact day. 

For instance, my mother claims that I was born on a Sunday on the 10th day of the 12th month, but when our health officials drafted my birth certificate, they recorded it as February 10 of that particular year. Later on, when I looked up, that day happened to be a Monday. And my cousins, who were 7-8 months older than me became several months my junior. 

I know my story may not be unique for majority of Bhutanese are by default born on January 1. Of course, it is a memorable way to begin the New Year! 

Today, we can possibly record even the exact second or minute our children are born. 

We did not even remember our birthdays, but today's children do not forget it. That's why our children would grow up celebrating their birthdays. And parents would end up spending more and more on them.  

Today, some birthdays have become so lavish that they could even feed a village for a week or two. Some parents arrange their children's birthdays in expensive hotels. 

But again, we live in a pompous generation. We may not have enough to spend on our parents' sickness or conduct rimdros or have no money to support our siblings’ education, but birthdays are big exceptions. 

I think it is okay as long as we do it genuinely, with open hearts and not being so vain about it. Welcome to Birthday Generation! 

Jun 25, 2015

Community of Bhutanese Bloggers Conceived

And finally it happened. I must say that it was by far the most attended Bloggers Meet. In the past we had bloggers agree to attend and cancel at the very last minute. But on June 24, 2015 – almost 100% of bloggers, who confirmed came. I would like to thank everyone for keeping his/her words, especially those who had to come all the way from Wangdue or Paro. Thank you!



35 Bhutanese bloggers met in Thimphu. We were honored to have the presence of senior bloggers like Aue Yeshi Dorji and Dasho Sangay Khandu. The meeting assumed more significance because of their presence. Equally, we were happy to have many young bloggers in whom we see so much enthusiasm and potential.



On top of many things that transpired during the Meet, one of the most significant outcomes was the unanimous decision reached to form a formal group of bloggers, a platform aimed at encouraging and inspiring more bloggers around the country. The members decided that we will call it Community of Bhutanese Bloggers (CBB) and will have a working committee to coordinate regular meetups and other activities. For now we formed a committee to draft Constitution and agreed we will collect membership fees to sustain the group.



If things go right, we have many plans lined up. Once we adopt the Constitution (the deadline is July 11, 2015) we will formally appoint or elect people in the core committee consisting of a Secretary General, Treasurer, etc. In the longer run, we are also thinking of instituting Bloggers Award functions wherein we award dedicated bloggers and inspire others. As part of the regular activities, we would also like to host regular talks and panel discussions.



Once again, I would like to thank all bloggers, who came out in big numbers and contributed towards the conception of CBB. I hope it grows into a useful platform that nurtures and encourages the spirit of blogging in Bhutan.



Jun 24, 2015

More counselors to provide meanings to more lives

When we were young boys back in the village our parents would worry that we might fall off trees. This was because climbing trees was one of our favorite activities. To add colors to my mother’s fear, one day I slipped off a tree and fell unconscious. Halfway home I could remember a kind villager carrying me on his back. That scared my mother.

And times are changing. We live in an age confronted by numerous issues that are part and parcel of modernization or globalization. We have children daring to take their own lives. Suicide is parents’ biggest nightmare. Young people need guidance more than ever. That’s why we need to train and have as many trained professionals in our schools.

It is good to know that the Education Ministry is trying to train many teacher counselors. While some teachers bear the dual responsibility of teaching and counselling, some teachers are full time counselors. And especially for bigger schools we need dedicated teachers. Today, student life can really get frustrating.

As a high school student I was about to break down. I saw my future crumpling down before me. I was sinking lower and lower on the self-esteem scale. And at this point I went to my class teacher. I needed something more than her ready advice. That was when I was led to a school counselor, a teacher who was trained for this job. I felt comfortable before him and vented all my problems. As a trained professional my counselor listened to me with rapt attention as if his life depended on it. That had made all the difference. I would like to thank my counselor - wherever he is today - I still think of him and reflect on his advice.

And that’s why I see the need for even more counselors today, who can guide our young misguided youth. I also see the need to promote freelance counselors.

Jun 22, 2015

A Reading Society

Beginning of a new era? 
His Majesty the King of Bhutan has officially declared 2015 as the National Reading Year in the country. It is exciting and an appropriate year to mark Reading Year dedicated to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo's 60th Birth Anniversary. And the event has inspired many schools in the country to approach reading from various angles and with numerous innovative activities.

School is a place where we breed reading habit in our children. Some say home is where it begins, but I think school is where it all starts. And therefore, I see teachers playing critical role in cultivating this crucial habit in our children. Importance of reading can never be understated.

Until recently, in Bhutan reading is equated with difficult chores. Some even brand it punishment having to read a book. As a result, not many of us in Bhutan grow up loving to read. At schools students read books under so much pressure instead of seeing it as enjoyable activity. And most teachers do not read themselves. The National Reading Year is expected to change all that forever as students and teachers are inspired to read. If reading becomes a fashion now, we would become a reading society one day when everyone spends time reading books.

Coming from a farming background, I was rather good at reading the signs in the clouds in the sky or the falling tree-leaves or singing cuckoos. I did not develop the habit so easily. It came with so much effort. And even today I still struggle to finish some books that I have started to read. I assume most Bhutanese fall in the same trap. That's not generalization by the way.

Reading Year is timely and comes at a time when social media is sucking our time and energy. People would rather spend time chatting with their friends on Facebook than reading a book. Thus, the National Reading Year would pay us a big dividend.

And good thing is, it is only the beginning of many good things and building blocks to a reading society. I see all schools in the country continuing their wonderful efforts in promoting reading in their schools. They have done great things to encourage their children to read and we hope that they continue with the same level of effort and enthusiasm year after year. We also need support for such activities to flow in from all directions like it is happening now.

Reading is a habit. But more than anything it is an essential skill. And the kind of books an individual reads certainly defines him/her. It is heartening to know that today more and more Bhutanese are becoming avid readers. It is clear from many fora and the sort of discussions that ensue in those groups. 

Jun 19, 2015

The Prize and Price of a Town

The idea of having a town in the first place is to have steady development and progress in that locality. It is also understood that having a municipal authority is to ensure that we have adequate and required facilities and infrastructures in place for those who live and work there. But on the other hand, there is a heavy price that we pay to host a town. 
View of Babesa - Paddy fields playing host to concrete buildings 
If there is a thromde, the residents can expect better services in terms of clean drinking water supply, well maintained roads, improved medical centers staffed with adequate doctors and better telecommunications facilities to name a few. And then there is something called town planning. Planned towns are better run.
A Thromde Road: If this can happen in Thimphu, what about other towns?
Our experiences in the past have us believe that we lose so much to towns. We lose our fertile land. We lose our paddy fields. We lose our thick forest. Losing our fertile land to the developmental work is one thing and then there our goal of food self-sufficiency. Given that our fertile fields are turning into buildings and highways, our need to import food items will only grow. 
Leaking Water pipes: And we claim shortage of water supply?
In this part of the town - this is the capital city by the way - residents face water shortage on a continual basis. Some residents have to carry water from faraway places. And interestingly in some places water is left to flow in the drains. It seems water is sufficient for all in the capital only if we manage it properly. Some residents only get water during certain time of the day and it is inconvenient. Waste management is a serious issue. Public toilets are far and few and poorly managed, if at all.  
This is public toilet that belongs a temple in the heart of the town
Road is another issue here - there are only potholes and pool of water collected everywhere. And when we have many such District and satellite towns more and more farmers would leave their villages in the hope of more comfortable lives. 

Jun 18, 2015

New generation of Bhutanese Entrepreneurs

And until we stop importing so much goods and services from India, we won’t be able to solve Indian Rupee shortage that we face today. Given the small population that we have compared to one of the most populated countries on the planet, it is both a blessing and a curse; blessing because we do not need to import as much, but if our population is big, we would end up importing much more than what we currently do. However, it is curse in that being a small country, we are unable to produce as much as we should to counter huge demand both at home and India.
Do we need to import these stuff?

If we are able to produce at good speed and quality, we have a ready and a big market in India. But this is not so. One thing that impedes this is lack of our capacity to inspire more people to build more industries. And because there are not many production houses, what we produce here is far more expensive than those produced in India. That's why our business houses do not have advantage and the inspiration of producing goods here. In the process, they end up importing more and more of goods that are made in India and cater to Bhutanese markets. That's how the need for Indian rupee heightens.
We can't help without crude oil
So, we need to promote entrepreneurship at all levels. People who dare to start new businesses must be rewarded with government support in building physical infrastructure and tax exemption. The products that they come up with must be given preference in the market. The government of the day, as they are doing already, must continue to support such initiatives and create enough awareness on the need to go local. The government also must explain to our people that it is important to buy our own products. And I am sure at some point we will achieve self-sufficiency - one product at a time.
We need to promote people who dare like this
Other factor that drains our Indian rupee reserve is our heavy dependence on Indian workforce in the construction industry. Bhutan failed to attract its people in what it calls blue-collared jobs. I think we are unsuccessful until now because we are making such jobs menial and low. That is all to do with marketing and branding of such ideas. In the first place, we must not have called it blue-collared jobs. That makes all the difference. 

Youth Innovation 
If their children land up in the so-called blue-collared jobs, parents feel that their children's education until now has been wasted. And these parents have always dreamed that their children would one day go on to become some important officers in the government offices. 
Now in the museum?
One thing that we all should be proud is the new generation of Bhutanese who have entered construction industry. These youth have braved the odd and have gone onto become the builders of our future. They do not fear reputation. At some day in future, we would be able to employ our own people in major projects including hydro-power projects, which until now have used only Indian labor. And we also have young educated Bhutanese opting to become entrepreneurs. 

Likewise in the museum 
Good times are ahead for this country! 

May 26, 2015

The Bank in Your Pocket

     May 15, 2015 marked another milestone in the Bhutanese banking sector. The country's oldest and the biggest bank, Bank of Bhutan launched its Mobile and Agency banking. The Finance Minister, Lyonpo Namgay Dorji presided as the Chief Guest. The launch was attended by the other dignitaries, government officials, media personnel and the partners.   
Picture: Bank of Bhutan (The Chief Guest using app)
     While Bank of Bhutan already had basic Mobile banking, which provided sms alerts (on amount more than 5,000 BTN) on deposits and withdrawals, or do a balance inquiry or view last transactions, the current facility with many modern and additional features. This one comes with a cool app - M-BoB. With the coming of 3G network and better connectivity, more and more people bought smartphone. But that is not all - other customers, who still use basic phones can also avail the services using Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) - *262#. And where there is no Internet connection, USSD comes in handy even for the smartphone users. 

     According to Bank of Bhutan officials, "the Mobile banking technology shall not only make it easy for the customers to bank anytime and anywhere,"  but it will also promote "cashless transactions" geared towards a cashless society. It will also go a long way in conserving the environment. I hope once all people go Mobile with their banking needs, having to take care of a lot of used recharge vouchers that are scattered everywhere would be a thing of the past. It is said that at least 10% of a country's GDP goes into the cost of printing currency notes and cashless transaction will help reduce the cost of printing notes. 
     Customers now can pay all their bills online (especially if you hate standing in lines), including shopping, hotels, tickets among others. And now we can bank from the comfort of our homes, offices or while on stroll out in the country side. This avoids a lot of hassles where time is equated with money.  

     That is not all - customers also can deposit and withdraw cash, and pay bills with the agents (appointed by the bank in various locations) where there are no bank branches or ATMs. This is expected to promote financial inclusion of the rural farmers, who now remain unbaked.  
Picture: Bank of Bhutan
     And with this cool facility you can send money on mobile numbers and the other person can withdraw using the ATMs or agent.  BoB Charo service is aimed at people, who do not have accounts with Bank of Bhutan, but can use the Mobile and Agency banking services.  

     But the best is yet to come. In the coming weeks and months, the bank plans to introduce language options: English or Dzongkha. Currently, it uses English. It also plans to have a card-less cash withdrawal from ATMs by generating temporary pins on your mobile phones. And most interesting of all, customers will enjoy Near Field Communication (NFC) payment facilities, which will be useful to our taxi drivers. This is exciting time for Bank of Bhutan customers. 


     From the trials and transactions I have done so far, I am quite happy and satisfied. And once I explore this facility fully, I would be able to make better and more critical comments in the coming days and weeks. But for now, I am all praises for the team behind the Mobile banking. I would like to congratulate Bank of Bhutan for going beyond their mandates in bringing out the best for their customers.

Apr 30, 2015

Thimphu Municipal Water Outsourcing

In 2015, Thimphu Thromde decided to outsource city's waste collection to Greener Way, a private firm based in Thimphu. And I must admit that it was one of the best decisions that a Bhutanese authority has ever made. Waste management is serious issue everywhere and Bhutan is no exception. Until Greener Way took over the charge of waste collection in Thimphu, garbage trucks would come by only once a week. Greener Way has doubled the frequency of collection. And now residents segregate dry and organic wastes.  Greener Way also allows office-goers convenient and agreed time for the collection of waste. Mr. Karma Yonten and his team at Greener Way deserve all our praises. 

Now we come to another issue - water. This winter, residents along Babesa-Thimphu Expressway had faced acute shortage of water. In fact there was no water in the tanks and residents had to carry water from far off places. And we expected the situation to improve. But it continued for weeks. We were not provided the reasons as to why we weren't getting. House owners had difficult time talking to and calming their tenants. 

And that was when I realized how urgently we need to look for other alternatives of solving this issue. Once again - in my opinion outsourcing to is right thing to do. In times of problems, people have no one and nowhere to complain, especially when the concerned people are those responsible for it. But we can always demand better services from private firms. Those who are unable to deliver the desired services can be fired; can we do that with the authority? 

Moreover, I think Municipality has much bigger things to do. 

Once water is outsourced, people can expect  and demand an undisturbed clean water supply. At the same time, residents will be willing to pay for water. This way, people will also use it responsibly and more judiciously. 

Another thing that we must do is clean up our water tanks. I think it is long overdue. I can't imagine how much dust, sand, and mud must have gathered in those water reservoirs and tanks. How many times do we clean them? 

Thimphu Thromde should once again lead other municipalities in the country in this. 



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...