Recently, a prominent doctor paid up to Nu 6 million to the RCSC, to leave the Health Ministry to join politics. There is another medical doctor who has announced his intention to leave the medical service for politics as well, probably during the general rounds. This trend goes back to the 2008 Elections, where medical doctors resigned from their profession to join politics.
Of around 30 civil servants joining politics in 2013, many have been senior bureaucrats and well trained and experienced professionals, who have left behind their secure jobs to venture into politics.
There is no doubt that their primary aim is to answer the call of democracy, and to serve the nation in the capacity of political leaders.
However, there are also other aspects into this migration of such highly skilled technical personnel and specialists from the professional field to politics.
One point is the failure of the respective agencies to retain them by providing good incentives or more importantly, a good working environment.
In addition, one cannot help but acknowledge the fact that the above, is the result of our highly stratified society, where an individual’s worth and merit is measured less in professional terms, but in more in terms of the color of our Kabneys and Patangs.
For example, a Supreme Court Judge who wears the same green colored Kabney as their counterparts in district courts was literally chased out of a tent by protocol officers during a public function, to make way for senior bureaucrats.
Every nation has to recognize the extraordinary people among them, and honor them in their own unique way and customs. In that sense, the Red Kabneys and the genuine title of Dasho bestowed upon outstanding individuals by His Majesty the King, is of high honor and distinction, which the people respect. The issue here is with the elected leaders turning themselves into overnight Dashos.
Bhutanese public’s love-hate relationship with their MPs started in 2008, when the MPs, instead of acting in the spirit of democracy as the people’s representative, hankered after Patangs and other entitlements.
It had reached to such a stage that the opening phase of our young Parliament was spent in discussing the perks and privileges of the MPs. The discussion prolonged from MPs Patangs to even the need for the MP vehicles to be adorned with special logos.
The MPs also insisted on being called, and calling each other Dashos.
The executive government during the time was no better, reviving and insisting on a set of strict protocol, which placed the ministers beyond the realm of what elected ministers in other countries are placed at. The additional perks like Prados, Wagon-Rs, housekeeper and cook allowances, etc., went on their list of privilege as well. The government even modified the law for MP vehicle movement, so that it was not subject to the normal security checks, which is endured by every Bhutanese citizen travelling between Phuntsholing and Thimphu, and along other major road network.
All of the above moves have created an ironic situation, where the democratically elected leaders distanced themselves away from ordinary citizens, through barriers and layers of protocol, perks and titles.
This may also explain as to why a private sector representative of around 30,000 businesses in Bhutan said that those in the private sector are second class citizens in Bhutan.
However, it is not only the private sector that feels such an impact. The obsession with Patangs and perks by our elected leaders has virtually made the rest of the Bhutanese citizens into second class citizens as well.
The outrage felt by ordinary Bhutanese citizens rests in the fact that the elected leaders, in addition to exercising such vast powers and receiving the additional perks provided by the tax payer’s money, also selectively place themselves into a superior category.
The time has come to question, if a small and underdeveloped nation like Bhutan, can sustain this level of hierarchy and social divisions. It is already clear that our obsession with Kabneys and Patangs is having a negative impact on the professional sector, which is being considered as less ‘Dasho- like’ or less important.
Also, as an important religious head once pointed out, the impact of a hierarchical society leads to a Bhutanese society where youngsters are unwilling to even take up well paying blue collar jobs because it is considered demeaning.
A related aspect of this is also the ‘feeling’ that only politicians and bureaucrats are serving the nation, implying that the rest of the 6,70,000 or so citizens are not doing so. This is a fundamentally flawed logic, as the first impact of the rest of the population not serving the nation, would be no salaries for the political and bureaucratic classes. There are, the everyday ordinary Bhutanese citizens who contribute to nation building without making any demands.
However, there is hope, and also an example to follow. In recent years, none other than His Majesty the King has awarded titles and recognized not only people in the government, but those in the professional sectors like, hydropower, power distribution, arts, media, business, and others.
Elected MPs and the government should take a cue from this, and realize that it is not only they who are serving the nation and deserving of all perks and recognition.
“In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”
Laurence J. Peter