Leaving it to the few

In December, 2003 when the country faced a grave external threat from militants camped on Bhutanese soil the total number of militia numbered only around 700. This was a low number especially when a prominent western Dzongkhag had promised an inflated number of 500 militia recruits.

In short the security and sovereignty responsibility of around 700,000 people had to be borne by 700 mainly young volunteers.

The above example exposes a flaw in how ordinary citizens assume their responsibilities in the Bhutanese state where there is an overdependence on the state and a few have to carry the burden of the many.

We are lucky that Bhutan is a welfare state where everything from education to health has been provided for by the government since decades. However, the danger is that if we continue with our current system of over dependence on the state and the sacrifices of a few Bhutan could very well turn into a ‘nanny state’.

It is an open secret that even in the midst of this rupee crisis the people are looking to the government for a solution and the government in turn is looking to the Government of India for a solution.

With the advent of democracy in 2008 the people can no longer look to the government or the state to solve all their problems or even take all their decisions.

With democracy, though ordinary citizens have gained various rights and freedoms they must equally be aware of their responsibilities and duties. People, while respecting the legitimate wishes of the elected government must also learn to stand on their own feet and think for themselves.

One of the issues that afflicts our society is corruption and nepotism which is usually a popular issue to be discussed around dinner tables, social gatherings and anonymous online forums.

Unfortunately, it is only a handful few fighting it be they in the Anti Corruption Commission, Royal Audit Authority or the Press. Corruption and Nepotism in reality is everyone’s problem as it affects the nation as a whole.

Many of our citizenry complain of the various moves of the government like Pedestrian day, Tobacco Control Act etc. We also like to brand not only our politicians but also bureaucrats as being authoritarian and dictatorial.

However, the real problem lies not with these leaders but with the majority of the people they govern who are like a flock of sheep that needs constant guidance, nurturing and protection rather than independent minded citizens in a democratic state. It is only natural that the shepherd over a period of time will start making hard decisions for the sheep.

In Bhutan, a major intellectual and political force is the 20,000 strong civil service. One of the holy tenants for this civil service is to be apolitical and neutral and serve the greater national interest.

However, going by the first few years of our democracy the overall conduct at the senior levels of our bureaucracy has been a big disappointment. Far from remaining apolitical and neutral senior civil servants are falling over each other to please their political masters. For example, the MoIC circular where all 10 ministries have stopped advertising with ‘The Bhutanese’ could only have been made possible with the cooperation of senior civil servants who very well knew they were doing something unethical and illegal.

There are countless other examples where senior civil servants instead of doing the right things have decided to do whatever their political masters dictate. This is dangerous especially in the future if a radical and extremely corrupt government comes to power. If unchecked this political-bureaucratic nexus will lead Bhutanese democracy down the same path taken by many of our neighbors.

At the end of the day the media, ACC, RAA, ECB and other institutions are getting into controversies and taking flak from the powerful to ensure that the Bhutanese system is one that is fair, transparent and efficient irrespective of whichever governments or individuals come into power.

As said by the Prime Minister himself the first five years of our democracy is very crucial. It is now when we decide how to mold institutions, systems and practices that will affect not only us but many generations to come.




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  1. The gist of the editorial is again accusation. Never mind, I always expect that. 
    Well, right citizens including the media personnel must not always look up to the government, to be spoon-fed. So why make a huge outcry with government initiating a cost-cutting measures? Try to sustain yourself. How can you ask the civil servants to remain apolitical when media (which is a stronger tool) doesn’t remain apolitical and follows the order of certain interest groups? Example – running the opinion of PDP principal as a critical news.
    Yes we must stand on our own feet, yes we must question and make our leaders accountable, but are you asking us to revolt and accuse the government for all its functions just like the opposition party? 
    You have started to accuse not just the government but all constitutional bodies. You strongly assume that ACC, RAA, ECB and even Judiciary are dictated by the government. Your skepticism is too swaying and personal to be healthy. 

    Any way, you must never give up and I can see you do learn through lot of comments in here.  I only wish you to practice more professionalism than vindictiveness.  

  2. very well thought article indeed. We (including myself) have grown up in the lap of the caring government in the past that has always spoon fed us. This has led us to expect everything be brought in front of us without we labouring for it. This in long run will create complacent society that will be detrimental for any country. This is already evident in recent years RCSC exams, where almost every graduate of the country aspires to get into civil service and be a bureaucrat. Some have even turned down good paying jobs in India just for the dream of easier life in civil service where we can shrug accountability and hard work. To make the matter worse, our system actively encourages such practices by providing better perks without accountability in civil service.  This is simply not sustainable. There is no shorter way to success but through hard work. 

    For example, we talk about dignity of labour but at the end of the day, the amount a skilled technician gets is peanuts compared to the a skill-less paper passing executive higher up. Those who take up to these skilled jobs are convinced that they are far inferior to their executives. So, does it matter, even if we shout at the top of our lungs and hold a rally expressing solidarity about the dignity of labour? We have been exactly doing that. Government policies must translate to ground realities. In order to encourage innovation, those with skills must be compensated as per their contribution. A carpenter or a mechanic must be paid as per their skills not forgetting that not everyone of us who sit on the chairs and give orders are capable of making those furniture or repairing those vehicles. However, given a chance, many of them may be able to do the so called executive jobs that we have been doing. Thus, unless we shift our focus in this direction, our people can never be independent and will keep depending on the Government for almost everything in their life. I have valid reasons to believe sincerely in my heart that we have a high risk of turning into a nanny state.

    By saying this, I am not blaming the Government but suggesting them to take this constructively, identify this as an issue and make an effort to address it. I know this will take a long time but a journey of thousand miles begins with a single step. It is not too late to achieve self-reliance but we must strike the right chords. A stitch in time saves nine. 

  3. The Bhutanese have been following the orders of certain interest group ever since its inception now writes civil servants do not remain apolitical.(OL’s BLOG integrated to this blog) Please see your face first before you see at others’ faces.

  4. Secretaries as head of the bureaucracy must ensure that the bureaucracy is  protected against political influences within their ministries if we are to ensure that the civil service remain apolitical. I wonder how many are doing it since the talk of the town is that they (secretaries) refer every minute decision to the Ministers including appointing someone to a post within their ministry. As such, it is highly unlikely that civil servants can raise any voice when their supposedly saviour (Secretary) is in the hand of the devil. I guess given the situation we can only look unto our Gods (the Monarchs) to save the civil service …

  5. The Bhutanese is losing it, they must wake up to the real world, you write shit, you get shit, this is perfectly natural, I think. And this paper has certainly not helped in the democratic process, rather it has made digging up stories that happened 20 to 30 years ago their favourite past time.

  6. The way I see it is that “The Bhutanese” is only the media that is awake while all others are sleeping blissfully. The question that any thinking sane bhutanese must be asking is what is the motivation (OR THE KICK BACK) that other media organisations are getting by being silent or not reporting issues related to corruption. The present government’s policy is zero tolerance to corruption and as such the media houses must support the government in fulfilling its aspirations. It is only when all sections of the society work in unison and harmony that we can bring about equality and justice, which has been the winning slogan of the present DPT government. In short, journalist lie TL and “The Bhutanese” gives all bhutanese a sense of feeling that democracy prevails in our beloved land of the dragon. I just pray that this hope remains alive among the bhutanese people because when people lose no hope that is when anarchy prevails. I truly believe that we are the architects of our own destiny…it is us the bhutanese who will have to shape up the kind of Bhutan that we want our children to live in. Please, please, please … shall we play our part. 

  7. Am I reading a personal blog?

  8. Please do not insult the bravery and sacrifice of the 10,000 soldiers and memory of those who died and those who were actually in the battle (not just 700militia) for the agenda of the self-declared new intelligentsia.

    Also, with that kind of memory of the author, what is the intent of the statement “prominent western dzongkhag” if  not to forment regionalism?  It was the individual representatives from ALL dzongkhags who made false claims and promises

  9. It is disturbing to learn that the government is trying to economically suffocate The Bhutanese by stopping advertisement in The Bhutanese. I have reproduce below the report of Intergovernmental Council of the
    International Programme for the Development of
    Communication (IPDC). I believe Bhutan is member of IPDC and has obligation to play by its rules:

    “The placement of government advertising can also inhibit or encourage media pluralism and
    development. It is beyond the scope of this section to look in detail at regulation concerning
    advertising content. State-funded advertising may be a crucial source of revenue in countries
    with a poorly developed commercial advertising market. The principle of non-discrimination is
    key: the state should not use advertising as a tool to favour certain media outlets over others,
    for either political or commercial gain. Nor should public broadcasters gain an unfair advantage
    over their commercial rivals by offering advertising at below market rates”.

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