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.