Thursday, April 30, 2009

So, rules are rules

So, rules are rules
It is important that national language should be given the respect that it deserves. Yet there is need to give due consideration, when the weightage it is given is going to compromise the quality that is required.
The criteria that have been set for the candidates wishing to contest the local government seats needs a little bit of consideration. Of course, we have a rule that where there are more than 10 Bhutanese in a meeting, the meeting should be conducted in Dzongkha. There were occasions when the officials of the home ministry itself pointed out that point and after the first few words in Dzongkha they reverted back to English.
What that mean is for officials to interprete, who have put such rules in place. The rule, as such, has been put in place to ensure that the national language is promoted. That is a good thing.
We all have respect for our national language. It is one of the symbols of our national identity. Way back in the 1972 when Bhutan was joining the United Nations, language was one of the criterion to identify us as a nation. That was the time when Thimphu Public School was sending up its first batch of students for the Indian School Certificate examination (or Senior Cambridge as it was called then). It was historic.
More historic than that was Bhutan joining the UN. So we had to have a national language, we had to have a national animal and a national flower. There was no problem about the national flower and the national animal. There was a problem about the language.
We all spoke Dzongkha, but it wasn’t brought down to the writing level. We still used Chokey as the official form of communication in writing. It was the same script, and yet there was a difference. Breaking down Chokey to accommodate the common Dzongkha terms was a headache that late Lopen Nado and others had to shoulder. They did a great job of it.
Yet despite their hard work, Dzongkha in the written form never picked up. It is because we never shed the trappings of chokey when we wrote Dzongkha. The old group brought up in Chokey tradition never wanted to shed the old ways, the new group who wanted to promote Dzongkha as a written language were too confused.
That is why even after many text books having been written for classes from the PP to the tertiary level, along with publication of story books in Dzongkha as additional reading, it failed to pick up. One should do a research on how many students borrow Dzongkha story books from the school library. Or for that matter, what is the ratio of Dzongkha books in a school or college library vis-a-vis other subjects.
Therefore, it is natural that proficiency in Dzongkha language as a criterion for eligibility to contest election for the local government posts should stir a controversy. Come to think of it, how many of our MPs, both in the National Council and the National Assembly, are proficient in the national language in terms of their ability to speak, forget about reading and writing.
But rules are rules, there is nothing much one can do about it. As Bhutanese we are expected to speak, read and write it. And yet the emphasis on it should not compromise the right of candidates from contesting political posts or prevent people from electing the right person who will safeguard their common interest.
But then, of course, rules are rules.

Happy birthday, Tara Dorji Ritsma

You don’t know us at all. For you, we are just a blur of images, which don’t register in your less than one year-old brain. Today, you are one year old.
Happy birthday, Tara! Which Tara are you? Green Tara or the White Tara? For us, you are Our Tara.
You are too small to even recognise us, let alone understand the feelings that we have for you. You are still some one we don’t know properly. As the years roll by, we shall get to know each other. After all, we are connected by destiny.
For starters, you don’t even know your grand father or your grand mother; or for that matter your uncles and aunts. I don’t blame you. Like I said we are just a blur of images.
After all, you were born in the land of the dikes and we live in the Himalayas. And you came back home after a month of your birth. While we thought you were too fair, some of your mother’s friends felt you were too dark. No problem, sweetheart.
The world is browning. But what does that matter. You are you and the others are them. We all have to live our life. And you have to live yours. Where and how, are still questions that only future will tell you.
I only hope I will be around to take you to the ball game. You know the girls play football nowadays. Your aunt Sangay is part of the school cricket team. I don’t know how she learnt to play it. We never had even a bat or a ball at home. I guess when there is a heart, every thing works out fine.
You are also some one who worked out fine. You were the result of the convergence of hearts. I feel that is what is missing out in the world. We have more divergence, then convergence.
We could do a lot with a little bit of love. As we become globalised, but love still has not gone global. It seems so with all the fighting in the world, despite all the peace talks that take place.
You know the world has become too noisy. No one wants to listen to any one. In between the saner and wiser voices are getting drowned in the sound of gun fires and cries of the wounded. We are willing to fight, loot and kill to make our point. But no one is listening when the other side is trying to make a point.
Well, why should we bother if no one comes to trample all over my backyard? Right?
If something is wrong with the world, the problem will come to your doorstep one day or the other. So look out for that day and prepare for it. We will not be around then. Of course, you may not even need this advice.
Now you don’t even have to feel embarrassed. This is what I want to say. To take it or leave it; it is up to you. By the time you learn to read, may be this piece of writing won’t be around, unless and until your father and mother save it in a diskette. But by then there might be many stories to tell about you and the world.
You will be a beautiful girl. I am not saying it just out of filial love for you. After all you have the beauty of tulip fields in the Netherlands and the ruggedness of the Himalayas in your blood.
East or west, home is where you like it best. It is for you to choose. For the world is your home. Happy birthday again.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Consumers are kings

So finally the consumers are becoming kings. But how? The ministry of economic affairs has also put the consumer welfare at the centre of its development strategy?
It is not too late that Bhutan is coming forward with a draft consumer protection act to protect consumer’s life, health and safety. And of course the consumer’s purse. It is not only the quality of products being sold from the counter, but also how much they have to pay and how they are treated that needs to be given consideration.
Once the act is approved by the parliament and is in place, unfair trade practices and unscrupulous exploitation of the consumers will come to an end. Prices of commodities will be regulated and the quality of goods would be maintained.
A market survey is also being conducted to study how the consumers are faring with regard to quality, standard weights, and prices and labelling of goods. It is a step in the right direction.
For far too long Bhutanese consumers had been at the mercy of the wheeling and dealing of the retailers, manufacturers and the corporate entities involved in the supply of the goods. It is time that the lowly consumer on the street who helps them fatten their wallets or push up their corporate earnings should be given a little bit of consideration and respect.
There was a time whenever you went to a shop and requested the shopkeeper to show an item that was stored on the top of the shelf; you were more often than not asked this question: “Do you really want to buy it? If not, I don’t want to take the trouble of climbing up a chair and display the item for your pleasure?”
One might say that is bad PR, and most of all bad attitude towards you future customer. When demand dictates supply that does happen.
Perhaps, it is appropriate to recall an incident that took place some years ago. Onions were in short supply in Delhi. The news was relayed over the radio and the TV. The very next day the shopkeepers in Thimphu raised the price of onions to Nu. 60 a kg. It took an office order from the department of trade to prevent the price of onions from escalating.
The attitude, of course, is of trying to make hay while the sun shines. But how long will it last? If the sellers have to procure the goods at a higher rate at the source itself, then it is right that the buyer should pay more. In this case, they were jacking up the price on the old stock that was procured at the normal rate.
These are some of things one has to bear in mind. After all suppliers cannot exist without the buyers.
While the consumer act may still be in the process of being drafted and approved, some corporate entities are already making attempts to clean up their houses and adjust to the costumer needs. Banking had been one area, where people always have had problem with. The procedure was tedious to say the least. On the other hand, the customers also gave the banks a lot of headache by failing to pay the loan instalments in time, and in some cases disappearing into thin air after availing the loan.
The shift in the corporate culture and corporate governance is a good sign. That is the only way we can move ahead.

The earth is our mother.

We are born in it and when we die, we dissolve into it. We are made of it and into it we go.
Earth is considered as sacred. Without it we wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t be expounding our philosophy; we wouldn’t be showing our strength against each other. We wouldn’t be talking about who has more strength; or who should listen to whom and who should obey.
It wouldn’t be possible if earth were not here. We wouldn’t be here too. You wouldn’t come to me saying your religion is greater than mine, my philosophy and way of life is better than yours.
You wouldn’t think that you are a better person than the other one just because there is difference in colour, religion or the way of life. Just slash across these people. It is the red blood that flows.
Look at the lakes, rivers and streams that flow through the world, there is no difference. It is the water that keeps all of us going. If we have the same red blood running in our veins, it is the water that keeps us going. Sadly, we don’t realise it.
We have become territorial, like those dogs that bark in Thimphu streets. When they bark tourists from USA and Europe, who come to visit our ecologically and culturally pristine country, are deprived of their beauty sleep. Poor guys. Our guests are inconvenienced. Our dogs don’t have manners.
Industrialised nations feel that they have a right to produce. How much they produce greenhouse gas is none of the third world’s problem. We have no right to question them. That is the general idea that they throw across the world. Survival of the fittest?
Hobbes was right and relevant even at this time when one nation fights another in the name of democracy. I thought he was irrelevant and was only a part of the political science that they used to teach in the colleges a long way back.
What is sad is that at this point in human history, we are all going back – if we were going back into our pre-historic era, I would be happy. Then we would depend on what the earth has to offer. We can continue to live for the next day.
The big question is can we continue to live on?
Globalisation has brought us together. Every one is talking about globalisation. Every one talks from the immediate advantage or benefit that one hopes to reap. Globalisation to my mind reeks of the East India Company taking the raw materials and flooding the market. I might be wrong.
Earth day, April 22, 2009, talks of ‘The Green Generation.’ That is fine. The mountain above my village this year had no snows this year. The stream was small and we had a problem trying to share the water from the communal stream.
The world’s glaciers in the Alps and the Himalayas are receding. A Tibetan in Michael Palin’s book said that the Himalay is the water tank of Asia. If the glaciers are melting, how long will the water tank last.
Consider the Arctic and Antarctic shelves melting. And Maldives and other island nations being swamped by rising sea water. Are we going back to where life started?
These are questions that western countries, who ignored Montreal and Kyoto protocols, have to answer. Their economic bullying should not kill our earth. The carbon trading is not going to help. It is just an excuse for these powerful nations to go about their business.

The spirit of spring

And Spring arose on the garden fair,Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breastrose from the dreams of its wintry rest.~Percy Bysshe Shelley.
A sporadic showers and the colour has changed this week. It may still be windy, but it carries the moist earthy smell of regeneration. It is no more dusty and dry.
The spring of the year is a favourite season for many people, and it is certainly easy to understand why this is so. Spring is when the earth comes back to life after a long cold dry winter, and it is in the spring when the first flowers begin to bloom and the green world begins to return after its winter slumber.
The power of spring and its regenerative effects are evidenced by the fact that every major religion includes a major holiday in the spring season. It is easy to understand how in times past ancient cultures were overjoyed by the power of spring and the beauty of new life.
It is also the time when farmers begin the year with the preparation of land for cultivation. Losar may be the last celebration before they turn to the land and wait for the rains to soften the sod. Where irrigation is not available, farmers wait for the spring rain to start their sowing.
When rains don’t come, we turn to religion. People take out religious texts and go around the village chanting prayers. Invariably, it works. Accept it or not, faith works.
You may believe it or not, but some time last week, the Hindu community in Tala organised a marriage of the frogs to the accompaniment of traditional music and the chanting of vedic hymns to appease the water and rain deities. And there was a rainfall after the ceremony reportedly. Thimphu also witnessed a few showers that settled the dust and cooled the air.
For the gardener, the spring is one of the most pleasant times in the garden. The spring is the time when the bulbs that were carefully planted in the fall begin to grow and blossom, and the spring is when the first seedlings are carefully nestled in the garden. There is no doubt that the spring is one of the most beautiful, and most colourful, of all seasons for the gardener.
The farmer’s face lights up with happiness when he surveys his orchard in a riot of colours. It is also the time when he has to sleep out in the field guarding his potato crop against the wild boars.

How we behave as parents shapes our children’s behaviour

The school-based parenting education for adolescence (SPEA) is a new concept that has been recently started by the education ministry and the schools. April will be observed as the “positive parenting month” with the theme ‘connecting lives’. The concept is to strengthen the importance of parents in shaping their children to become responsible and respectable citizens of tomorrow.
The objectives of the SPEA programme are manifold, and the main one is to create awareness among parents about issues that concern the children at this vulnerable stage in their life. One of the major issues is the use and abuse of substance because of peer pressure. It all happens in an innocent way. But that is when the parents have to be careful.
Teachers say that the responsibility fall more on the parents than the teachers. Which is of course right because the children stay with us. We as parents have to nurture and groom them. Our responsibility goes beyond providing just food and clothes.
It is interesting to note some of the recommendations put forward by the students of Jigme Namgyel junior high school. Topping the list is their request that parents spend more quality time with them and that they listen to their problems and needs and inquire about how their day at school had been.
Of course, domestic violence and discord have always had an unsettling effect on the growing mind. The girls want guidance from their mothers on personal issues. There are problems that they cannot openly discuss with their fathers.
It may sound embarrassing: but the children also want their parents ‘to refrain from activities like gambling, late night parties and having extra marital affairs.’ We may not realise it but the children know that these activities are the source of domestic violence.
Now let’s not go into what constitutes domestic violence. It is not only physical but also psychological. The physical may result in injury, harm, disability and even death. But emotional psychological violence may result in long term damages that manifest only later in life.
The causes are obvious: extra marital fairs have been assessed as the main cause followed by alcohol, gambling and matters related to economic issues. How do children (in the age group of six and 11 years) react to what they observe at home?
They are said to be at great risk of ‘recreating the abusive behaviour they have seen and behaving abusively and violently with their siblings and peers.’ They are prone to disruptive behaviour and outbursts of anger and fighting.
The effect of domestic violence changes with the age group. Some adolescents may feel extreme guilt for being unable to prevent domestic violence. Some blame themselves for being the cause of such violence.
Whatever it is, they learn through their parents and their own experience and they may come to believe that abusive behaviour and violence is the primary method of conflict resolution. Studies have also shown that children exposed to domestic violence have a 74 percent higher likelihood of committing assault as adults.
Besides, the domestic violence affects child’s self-esteem, capacity to trust others, and how they approach all relationships in their life.

We want jobs, not work

We want jobs, not work
The labour survey 2006 said that the unemployment rate stood at 3.7 percent which is alarming considering our population. However, the ministry of labour and human resource (MoLHR) hopes to bring down the unemployment rate down to 1.5. percent by the end of 10 FYP.
That is a reduction by more than 50 percent, which holds good promise for the unemployed and the country in general. But are we going to achieve that figure?
MoLHR is banking on the hydro-power projects and construction industries to help bring down the figure. Punatsangchu and other projects would certainly need a large number of workers, both skilled and unskilled. These projects would be offering several thousands of job opportunities.
That is a good opportunity for all those VTI graduates, a majority of whom are still without jobs after undergoing the training. But if they are going to make a distinction between a ‘work ‘ and ‘job’, then the possibility is still very low.
The problem is that we do not realise that blue collar jobs command as much respect as those holding the white collar jobs.
In spite of the fact that we come from rural agrarian background, we feel that dirtying our hands is below our dignity. Is it because we want to shed our rural past? That would be catastrophic to say the least.
The government set up vocational training centres in different parts of the country, basically to ensure that the country would be able to meet the technical manpower at the middle and lower levels. Going by the recent reports that no one appeared for the announced vacancies means that the government had been only wasting its resources in training people, who don’t want to take the jobs that they are trained for.
We have been talking about mismatch between the jobs available and people who have been trained. This issue raised by the MoLHR secretary is a classic example of the problem haunting the employment sector in the country.
Perhaps, one may even blame the introduction of formal education system in the country. But that would unacceptable. Having acquired an education, to whatever level it might be, does not mean that you will end up behind a big desk. I you want that big desk; you will have to make one yourself by the dint of your hard work.
There will always be problems with regard to placement of relevant candidates into the right slot. It has happened in many professions. Such things shouldn’t happen in technical field. However, placements are also determined by supply and demand.
There was a time when all graduates were immediately absorbed in the civil service. It is no more possible. The civil service can only accept so much.
So job is what we want and we don’t want to work. Looking across the window at the construction site next to our office, we have seen a lone woman supervising the construction works, among other workers. She is not the owner because it is a government construction site.
We know she is a VTI graduate supervising the works.