RBP & Culture Dept warn of fake and illegal ‘religious’ collections

The Department of Culture (DoC) and Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) are alerting people about a rise in the number of religious beggars and people asking for donations with fake receipts. They also said that fake religious beggars are going door-to-door asking for money after reciting prayers.

An official from DoC said that the department has stopped the approval for fund donation since three years ago. Apart from three to four genuine cases, DoC now does not entertain such requests for approval.

The official said that there was a rampant trend among people to seek for funds for renovation of lhakhangs and statue, Thangka, and other religious activities. He said the department had even set up an institution called Chhoedey Lhentshog to process for such approvals.

“A person had to show some security of the money. For instance, if a person shows that they have 90 percent of money and are lacking 10 percent, then the person can ask for an approval from Chhoedey Lhentshog to get a donation,” the official said.

Three years back, DoC felt that the streamlining was not going well since some people, using their personal contact, were getting all unnecessary fund raising approvals. In addition, the official said that, the fund raising business was not a good idea because the funds were used to make new lhakhags and not for preserving old traditional lhakhangs.

Official said, “With this, we have decided to stop issuing approval on such issue. We have stopped building new lhakhang in the past two years and the donation business was also brought to an end. Some people do so with good intention but they do not value the old antique things.”

A few genuine cases that find approval are scrutinized and made to follow the commitment goals. RBP also checks to see if the donation receipts are legitimate or not. Colonel Dorji Wangchuk said a person is liable for penalty if caught carrying donation receipts without proper approval from the government.

He also said that if a person is found collecting donation for illegal or unsanctioned purpose then the activity amounts to committing a crime. “With the increasing number of beggars coming door-to-door asking for donation, it is community’s responsibility whether or not to entertain the beggar or to just let the beggar go without any donation,” he said. According to RBP, such practices may lead to crime, such as burglary.

“For people who are going door-to-door asking for a donation, they are not suppose to be doing that and they are not real. We urge the public to not fall for those and get into the trap,” the DoC official said, adding that even if the person has an approval from the government, he or she should not be going door-to-door asking for money. “Instead they can do through their contacts and that is how we want it. We even stopped giving approval for the donation of a kidney.”

There are no specific laws mentioned in the Penal Code of Bhutan on such religious issues. However, as per Religious Organization Act of Bhutan, 2007, under restrictions on collections, Section 65 states that, a collection in a public place must not be conducted, unless the promoters of the collection hold a public collections certificate from the Chhoedey Lhentshog and the collection is conducted in accordance with this Act.

In addition, Section 66 states that, a door-to-door collection shall not be conducted, unless the promoters of the collection hold a public collections certificate from the Chhoedey Lhentshog.

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