The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Monday, July 3, 2006


Gross National Happiness

by Govinda Rizal

Gross national happiness, GNH, is a direct interpretation of the Buddhist philosophy which emphasizes that the mind is the source of happiness and obscurity. It is a good phrase to hear and a fantastic motion to debate as long as one is not obliged to follow it. Philosophically or spiritually contentment of mind is happiness. If laughing and smiling before a camera is a sign of happiness, government of Bhutan can make and had made people do that before camera even after snatching the their land and properties, after coercing them to fill up a voluntary migration form- a single letter of which they do not know, to leave the country and by giving money.
There are strong reasons and need for a country ruled by medieval systems of kings, with tributarily and distributarily extended royal families on the power and majority of the illiterate, malnourished subjects living in rural, rugged mountains, to invent such formula to keep the people happy with abstract development.
It is just a wonder when some TV channels in UK, the oldest democratic country,and a few other developed countries, pinpoint to people of Bhutan as the world’s happiest people. If the educated viewers of UK can digest the crazy idea then there is no difference between the learned Britons and the pony riders of Bhutan, who are obliged to nod to every statements served to them.
If any one wants to experience the Bhutanese peoples’ way of happiness, it is simple. Cut off all the electricity and cook food with wood collected from wood miles away. Drink the water that flows in the near by gutter.
Live in the house, with roofs that seldom keeps out the rain, with cattles and swines in the adjacent.
Do not send your children to school, if they insist, send them beyond border where they have to walk 5- 10 kilometers morning and evening. Do not use motors in distances less than 20 kilometers. If at all you are asked if you are happy, reply with a laugh that you are. Above all never complain.
Keep in mind the doctrines sold to you for free: the misery that you are facing now is due to your wrong deed in the past life, the wealth that has accumulated in others (officers) is due to their noble deeds in their past life. If you want to become one like them (not in this life but in the next) stop craving for the materialistic things and become happy. This is the principal of Gross national happiness propounded by the King Jigme Singye Wangchuck and Minister Lyenpo Jigme Yozer Thinley of Bhutan.
Are people of Bhutan happy?It depends on which people you meet, see their life or hear their words.
If you happen to meet the villagers (mostly in the east) who do not have enough to eat all through the year, the malnourished children who have never been to school or dropped before graduating from primary school owing to poverty in their family, the children, who are barred from going to school because their parents or some relatives criticized the government once, some decades back, the people in the refugee camps in Nepal, who were kicked out of their home in mid rainy season, who constitute one fifth of the population, no where you will find a ray of thread to trace happiness.
On the other hand if you happen to meet the Oxford or Harvard educated elites who are closely or even distantly related with the throne, who speak in English, with perfect native accent, on the formula of Gross national happiness instead of material product then it will be difficult not to believe.
Uncovering the Façade behind happiness
The first easiest way to find the truth is to visit the place in person. To visit Bhutan you need to get a tourist visa at high cost $220 per day through travel agent authorized by the king. They will accompany and guide you all through the tour and you will be taken to limited places where everything is fine and well made to prove the happiness. Nowhere you will be shown the worse sides and nowhere you will be left to yourself. So how can you come to a conclusion when you can visit limited places? The unexpected happiness are reserved for the diplomats, if you are one, you will encounter with people who will unfold a red carpet and serve you butter tea and toast a grand bouquet in your name. These and more you will find only in Thimphu, Paro and Punakha and think that is the entire nation.
King Wangchuck maintains that economic growth does not necessarily lead to contentment, and instead focuses on the four pillars of GNH: economic self-reliance, a pristine environment, the preservation and promotion of Bhutan’s culture, and good governance in the form of a democracy. Economic Self-reliance:
The government had been begging the international donors for the last 40 years in the name of two million citizens. The number, today stand out to be 0.6 million. Where has all the money gone?The revenue from hydroelectricity from within country goes to the state fund. But where goes the money that comes from the export of it?- direct to the royal pocket.
A Pristine Environment:
What are the measures adopted to check it? They claim 60 percent of the land is under forest. In fact is the rough measure of the unutilizable portion.
The Preservation and Promotion of Bhutan’s Culture:
Enforcing the Ngalong (Royal) culture as the culture of Bhutan and dominate and coerce to stop other cultural and ethnic identities. Other cultural, religious and ethnic minorities could never be identified as Bhutanese culture. Why don’t you let them restart teaching their mother language in South Bhutan. When will the Sharchops, Kheng and Kurteps will have their own scriptures to write? The government wants those ethnic people to forget their mother tongue.
Good Governance in the form of a Democracy: The people who raised voice for the democracy were kicked out of countries. Why are National parties like Druk National Congress, DNC, Bhutan State Congress, BSC, Bhutan peoples Party, BPP, Bhutan National Democratic Party BNDP, Bhutan Gurkha National Democratic front, BGNLF ... etc are banned. Does the democracy come only with the parties formed by the people chosen by the King? What use is a Constitution that does not recognize cultural, ethnic, religious diversity that exist in the country so prominently?

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