Free press helps in rural development

Over the years for Bhutan, developmental activities have taken a leap from urban areas more towards rural areas. According to a majority of people from all walks of life, media has had a huge impact in rural development in almost all parts of Bhutan.

For people in the rural areas, expressing their grievances through media is the most helpful step to get their views and situation to all the important people concerned.

Almost two years back, Lokchina Gewog had some serious problem with the inaccessible Gewog Center road. The Gup, Mr. Indra Lal Ghalley said that they tried to consult the Dzongkhag Office but it took an unusually long time. “After some efforts the media came to know about it and did a story on about the road problem, after which officials started to come in and examine the situation which gave us the road we have now.”He also said that, the media plays a very important role irrespective of the place be it rural or urban areas.

Sangay Tenzin, Gup of Drepong Gewog said that the media has a very important part to play in their efforts to curb the human wildlife conflict that the eastern Dzongkhags face. “I believe that, it is very helpful especially to areas like eastern Bhutan, where there are not many people who stay in villages as most of the educated people are out in the urban areas.” He said that people have now started to understand the importance of media and realize that they have a bigger role to play.

“We used to have a lot of problems with forest fires, animals invading the fields and shortage of water. Earlier we used to accept it as fate or hope that it would improve the next year.” Rinzin Lhamo, a resident of Rongthong said. She says that although, she doesn’t read news much but when her relatives or neighbours tell her that there was a news piece about the struggle in their villages, she feels assuaged.

Tarayana Foundation also focuses on rural empowerment through introduction of community radios with the assistance from the Ministry of Information and Communication. Recently, Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck inaugurated the Edi Community Radio in Sarpang, the first ever community radio in the country. Roseleen Gurung, senior program officer in Tarayana Foundation said that they will try to further enhance the lives of the vulnerable rural people by introducing them to the media and establishing facilities like the community radio.

Member of the National Council,and people’s representative of Samtse Dzongkhag Sangay Khandu said that the Bhutanese media is still on its way to become as effective compared to media in other countries but it is doing great. “Even if it is heard or read it is making the general citizen aware of the things that are happening across the country,” he said.

He said that the recent issues of water shortage, human wildlife conflict, rural-urban migration and road conditions mostly in the eastern and southern parts of Bhutan, would be between the people concerned and the authorities involved but with the help of media, the vast majority of the country are aware of it. Not only that, the government are reminded of the problem which otherwise would have gotten under the pile of other issues. “Authorities start rushing towards the concerned areas,” he affirmed.

While there are communities that have been highlighted more often in media, there are others that have never interacted with media. Gup Pema Dorji of Zobel Gewog said that there has not been much interaction with the media except for some events that happens once in a while but he hopes that their gewog would also get opportunities to share their community experiences to the national public through the media.

This article was made possible due to support from the Department of Information and Media

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