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A tsunami of some sort

The recent tsunami in Japan that claimed more than 12,000 lives and many reported to be still missing, was a true testimony of how nature can bring in total destruction and create human mayhem. Thousands are rendered homeless. March 11, 2011 will remain forever etched in our hearts and minds. As we watch the devastating scenes helplessly, it is a strong reminder to us how impermanent our lives can get.
On behalf of my fellow Bhutanese citizens and on mine own, I would like to take this opportunity to convey my condolences to the friendly people of Japan. We hope and pray that the families and loved ones of the tsunami victims find needed courage and strength to move on. We send our prayers and good wishes to the brave people of the “land of the rising sun”. The monstrous earthquake and the consequent tsunami showed us how even a highly well prepared and equipped country still becomes vulnerable to natural destruction and consequent chaos.

But sometimes watching the flashing scenes of havoc brought about by such natural forces, I am made to wonder whether we would ever be prepared if the destruction of such magnitude affects us on this tiny nation. We are very lucky that we have not yet faced a serious natural calamity the likes of a tsunami. And we may not have the imminent threat. We may not be prone to tsunamis, but there are serious and some pressing issues, which confront us today.

Today more and more youths are thrown in the job market looking for jobs that are nearly non-existent. And I am sure the trend would only continue with the increasing number of schools and increased number of students passing the secondary school education and colleges home and abroad. This in turn would bring about increased number of jobless youth. As you read this, how many youths are looking for jobs? What does our unemployment rate tell us about the real unemployment scenario in Bhutan? As the number of job seekers increases, how do we make less and less people hunt for jobs in the market? These are questions of the day.

Numbers and figures do not make sense. At least in this case! In the first place, I feel uncomfortable with surveys and the data thus obtained. In a recent showdown, a corporation received more than nine hundred applications for sixteen temporary slots advertised. So, if only 16 are selected, it means more than 880 candidates would still have to look for jobs, which means only about 1.78% of those candidates would be  recruited. This was only high school graduates we are talking about. And let’s assume some have not heard the vacancies being advertised. Some may not have been able to apply at all. We would definitely have more people applying. We are not talking about unemployed university graduates. Are we prepared for this? Can the government be in a position to create jobs for everyone? Certainly, we don’t find solutions in closing down drayangs. Unemployment rate would only increase, let’s all agree – that’s a pure logic. There is no point in painting a rosy picture. 

Every year we lose hundreds and thousands of acres of forest to the forces of fire. Our sacred Constitution guarantees 60% forest coverage at all times, but if we continue to lose them to fires, year by year, would we be in a position to keep our promise to the future generations? Even as I write this piece, somewhere a strong fire is razing mountain bare. Are we learning new lessons from every new forest fire? Or do we simply forget the hazards once a fire is put out? Do we need to be extra careful?

Is there a need to educate our rural folk? After all it is our farmers and their sons and daughters who live in close proximity to the major portion of Bhutan’s pristine forest. Maybe it is time that we carry out some campaigns in the locality and bring about awareness amongst our rural folks. If the rumors of farmers, who intentionally set forest afire for the growth of lemon grasses, have any truth, these people should be taught a lesson. Authorities should investigate the matter and bring people to justice. While it makes sense to make an efficient use of available natural resources, fire burning the precious resources is a sheer waste.     

And I think for a small country like ours, these issues are as disastrous and destructive as the hungry tsunamis. Perhaps it is time that we do not hide or reduce unemployment rate to a minimal figure, but rather create conditions whereby unemployed youths find jobs. Perhaps it is time that we acknowledge the private sector’s role in the job creation and encourage many more to follow. Maybe it is time that we take some strong measures to curb forest fire and reduce destructions. Maybe it is time that we start planting more tress and educate our farmers. Let’s discourage any act that alienates our farmers from forest.


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