Strengthening the grassroots

Our Kings have always been major forces and catalysts of economic, political and social change be it the unification of Bhutan, abolition of serfdom, modernization of Bhutan or the introduction of Democracy.   His Majesty the King in continuation of this great tradition has been using his Land Kidu powers to alleviate rural poverty, provide economic justice to our farmers and build a stronger foundation for Bhutan.

In many democracies across the world people have all the democratic rights but it is still an incomplete democracy as many people do not have adequate resources to make them stakeholders in that system. After all why should someone vote for or support a system that cannot ensure three square meals.

In that sense His Majesty’s Land Kidu which is in the process of being granted in all 20 Dzongkhags is the single biggest move after the 2008 elections in strengthening Bhutanese democracy.

In the three Dzongkhags of Lhuentse, Mongar and Wangdue and parts of Trashigang and Trashiyangtse itself the land kidu numbers are already staggering. In these places His Majesty the King has granted 48,264 acres of land to about 37,336 families. Even if a very conservative rural market value of Nu 10,000 per decimal is taken then just in these places His Majesty the King has injected Nu 48 bn worth of land capital into the hand of the neediest farmers and rural populace. This will be replicated across Bhutan.

In stark contrast His Majesty the King in a Kasho had restricted the land holding of Royal family members to the level of any ordinary citizens.

Globally governments and private companies are grabbing hundreds and thousands of acres mainly from poor farmers under the pretext of economic projects that end up making the rich richer. In Africa large chunks of prime agricultural land are no longer owned by African farmers but gobbled up by multi-national corporations with active collusion of local politicians and business houses. This also results in a large number of land scams. The result is social, economic and political instability in the country.

In stark contrast His Majesty the King is doing the opposite in Bhutan using his Land Kidu powers to give away arable and useable government land to the neediest sections of our society.

Taking the example set by His Majesty, political governments now and in the future should ensure that a the rich and powerful or their foreign partners should not unfairly corner Bhutan’s land resources for commercial projects. In fact if such projects in the future consume so much land that it even affects land Kidu for poor farmers then His Majesty the King will have the responsibility to ensure that Kidu land is not affected.

Related to the above is His Majesty’s concern in strengthening local government. This is because ultimately the quality of life of the vast majority of our rural population will depend on the quality of our local governments. In the last four years since 2008 the biggest supporter of democratic institutions like ECB, ACC, RAA, Judiciary, Media, etc is His Majesty who is genuinely concerned about strengthening democratic institutions so that every Bhutanese enjoys a complete and rich democracy. This is an important role played by His Majesty in his role as the Head of the State. In the future as politics becomes more polarized and politicians become more blatant these democratic institutions will come under more political pressure. At that moment they can turn to His Majesty for moral support and strength in fulfilling their democratic and constitutional duties.

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