The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Campaigns down south incomplete without discussing census

samtseVoters after the PDP meeting in Dorokha
The other issue people expressed their discontentment was over Amochhu project to which some lost their land and were not compensated adequately
Although election commission has asked political parties to refrain from discussing the census issue, no campaigning in south is complete without a mention of it.
Although political party presidents might not talk about it, voters raise questions on both census and citizenship issue.
The census issue was raised soon after People’s Democratic Party president Tshering Tobgay reached Dorokha on June 23 after walking for four days from Haa.
“Tapai haru saapai ramrai tsa? Tapai heru khethi ko kaam chhoray ra yahan aunu bhako ma, ekkdam dhanyabadh cha la…”
This is how Tshering Tobgay greets voters before he begins his campaign speech in Samtse by asking voters if they were well and thanking them for attending the meeting in Lhotsamkha.
Admitting his Lhotsamkha was not good, Tshering Tobgay then switches to Dzongkha, which is translated to the people by other party candidates of the dzongkhag.
For about 200 people in Dorokha some of whom had walked since 7am with their bundled ghos slung across their shoulders to meet the president on June 23, the main issue they wanted addressed under the new government was the census and land ownership issue.
One voter, IB Rai from Bisgoan in Dorokha ‘A’ said because people in the South did not have the required “papers,” they face obstacles everyday irrespective of how hard they studied or worked.
“Is it because the government was weak that this issue was never resolved although it’s been on our minds for a long time now,” IB Rai said. “While those who left the country are long gone, those who stayed behind still don’t have thram of the land they occupy.”
Tshering Tobgay, whose understanding of Lhotsamkha was better than his speaking it, told the people, that the government did not have the authority to resolve the census issue, but that it was the state’s prerogative.
“The government can’t grant citizenship but it can facilitate the process, which, however, has not been done,” the president said. “If PDP forms the government, we’ll take the people’s problem to the state and facilitate in getting you citizenship.”
Travelling the bumpy Dorokha road, in the rain, fog and humidity, the party president and the candidates in the meeting at Panbari community school, were told that some children still walked for two and a half hours everyday to school.
“The former government promised to bring schools within one hour walking distance yet you said your children have to walk for more than two hours a day,” candidate Tek Bdr Subba said.
The people expressed to the president their discontentment over the Amochhu project that has resulted in them losing land to the project and not getting well compensated.
Tshering Tobgay said if PDP formed the government, they would sit together with the people and discuss on the compensation schemes to ensure people were not affected by the project.
To the people of Samtse – Chengmari – Pugli constituency, who had been waiting to listen to the president for about three hours, Tshering Tobgay said PDP’s pledge to provide helicopter was mocked by the other party, even though the same pledge was made by DPT in 2008 but which was not fulfilled.
“If you need change, you need to change the ruling government and you can give us a chance to serve you,” he said.
The census issue was again raised at the Norbugang (Chengmari) meeting, which started after Tshering Tobgay offered his prayers at the Shiva Mandir and was raised again at the meeting in Tashichholing  (Sipsoo), and again at the meeting in Gomtu and Phuentsholing yesterday, where more than half of those who attended the talk either did not have voting rights or had a family member who did not have voting rights.
“If there are four households in a village with the census problem, the problem would have spread to the whole village in a decade’s time,” a villager said. “That’s because people marry within the village ‘spoiling”’ the whole village’s census.”
By Sonam Pelden, Samtse

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