People at the Shengana village under Punakha dzongkhag are dissatisfied about the many unfulfilled promises of the past government.
The meeting hall at the gewog center was packed to the brim yesterday. Out of the 110 household representatives who turned up at the common forum, a majority of the electorate weren’t very pleased about the first five years of democracy in their villages.
“BBS doesn’t allow us to voice out nor comment at the forum, else many of us would have raised a host of issues,” a 70- year-old farmer from Datogonpa village said.
Many farmers that The Bhutanese talked to said, the main problem in their village is the farm road, a public transport service and a motorable bridge over the Phochhu river. The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) government in 2008 had pledged to achieve all of it, but not a single issue has been resolved.
The 2013 DPT candidate for Lingmukha-Toewang constituency, Dr Sonam Wangyel Wang at the forum pledged to fulfill the pending promises if elected. He told The Bhutanese that the government may not have been able to deliver it over the last five years due to other pressing issues. “There were many other places which needed more attention,” he said.
The bridge over Phochhu river, he said if constructed shall benefit not just one but four gewogs under his constituency. Currently, villagers use the Khuruthang bridge, which means making a whole round of about five to six kilometers before reaching the dzongkhag headquarters or the hospital. “A new bridge will save time especially for serious patients. My own mother passed away on the way to Punakha hospital,” he said.
The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) candidate for Lingmukha-Toewang constituency, Dr Tandi Dorji said, “People should now be extra careful while choosing the right candidate.” He said many promises made by parties five years ago remain unfulfilled. “They talked of better roads, air fields, schools, bus services, and bridges. Today, forget about renovating the farm road, did the people in power make any difference to your daily lives, he asked. “However, the government claimed to have achieved economic growth,” he said.
He said, the first DNT priority for the gewog would be to black-top the farm road, about 20kms that connects the entire village to the nearest market in Khuruthang town.
The road currently connects more than 180 households to the market, but people can hardly reap any benefits as the road condition is bad in summer. “Taxies and private vehicles charge high fares just to travel to the nearest market while we have very little to sell,” a farmer said.
Dr Tandi Dorji, however, said the party needs to carry out public consultations to promise a bridge over the Phochhu river. “We just can’t make huge promises. If a bridge hasn’t been built in the past, there must be a reason, and at the same time we need to keep in mind the financial aspects of such a project. We need to consult the public, Zhung Dratsang, and many other sectors before making a decision or committing to anything,” he said.
Citing the example of the past government that availed huge external loans for economic development, Dr Tandi Dorji said making a lot of promises entail huge budget to fulfill them, which could put the country under a huge debt. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for Lingmukha-Teowang constituency, Chimi Dorji said his party places high importance and priority on decentralization of administration, and decision-making power to the local government. When asked about the bridges and public transport services, he said the party will need to discuss it with the public and relevant agencies before promising anything.
Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) candidate for Lingmukha-Teowang constituency, Pema Lhamo said her first priority, if elected, would be to address women and youth related issues in the gewog. All four candidates urged voters to exercise their rights for the best candidate. Dr. Tandi said corruption should not be tolerated at all. “When there is corruption at the cabinet level, it is alarming. So, people need to be very careful,” he said.
Almost all the farmers from the northern part of Datogonpa in the gewog said, “DPT’s performance over the last five years is as good as nil.” Farmers said they were neither provided adequate assistance during natural disasters nor did the elected members pay any heed in delivering what was promised.