The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Monday, December 31, 2012

Bhutanese refugees pool funds to open midtown grocery store

By Christopher Burbach


Lacking English, short on capital and missing such home-country staples as dried radishes, members of one of the newest refugee groups in the United States pooled their money to open a small grocery store in Omaha that caters to their needs.

More than 60 refugee families from the Asian kingdom of Bhutan invested money to start Druk Groceries, 822 N. 40th St. in midtown Omaha. They formed a limited cooperative association, an unusual type of business arrangement in Nebraska, but one that also is being considered by a handful of small towns who are losing their grocery stores.

At the Bhutanese grocery store, in a former office building one block from St. Cecilia Cathedral, managers aim primarily to serve the 900 to 1,000 people in the local Bhutanese refugee community with foodstuffs they're used to from back home. The shelves are stacked with bulk rice; hard, dried, canned and pickled chili peppers; dal (lentils and other legumes); curry powder and dried tamarind; free spinach and big boxes of Cheerios. The store also carries such traditional American staples as milk, eggs and baking soda, and hopes to attract a broader clientele from within the store's midtown Omaha neighborhood.

It's unclear to what degree that will happen. The store may seem as foreign to the majority population as Omaha must feel to people from Bhutan.

But neighbors who have noticed the store say they're glad it's in the area, where there had been a corner grocery store for decades until the last one closed 10 years ago.

For the refugees who started it, the new enterprise is about comfort and convenience right now, and, more important, long-term self-sufficiency and economic growth, according to Kumar Gurung, chairman of the association.

On a recent morning, Gurung slid folding chairs into a corner of the store — between a rack of English-language greeting cards and a homemade walk-in vegetable cooler chilled by an air conditioner — to talk about his people and their business.

They hail from Bhutan, a small constitutional monarchy high in the Himalayas between China and India. Bhutan promotes itself as being focused on personal fulfillment by measuring its “Gross National Happiness.” But the smiles do not extend to all.

In the late 1980s, with Bhutan's elite worried about a growing ethnic Nepali population, the Bhutanese government began harrassing, displacing and then forcibly expelling ethnic Nepalis.

“They claimed that we went to Bhutan from Nepal,” Gurung said.

Many of the evicted people, he said, came from families who had lived in Bhutan for generations.

Eventually, more than 100,000 people, about one-sixth of Bhutan's population, were forced to leave their homes. They landed in seven refugee camps in nearby Nepal.

For 15 to 20 years, they lived in bamboo huts with thatched roofs and see-through walls, Gurung said. They had education through 10th grade. A very few, such as Gurung, were allowed to seek higher education in India, where he obtained a law degree and was able to return to Nepal and teach in college. In Nepal, many Bhutanese have able to work as laborers on the sly, Gurung said. But the Nepalese government doesn't accept them.

Evicted by Bhutan, unwanted in Nepal, they are a stateless people.

“We had many hardships,” Gurung said.

Among those: a subsistence diet of boiled rice and salt, sometimes sugar, rarely meat or fresh fruits, and sometimes vegetables, though they were often rotten by the time they reached the camps.

The United States began resettling the refugees to America in 2006. The first arrived in Omaha in 2008. More have been coming each year. Hundreds more are expected in the next couple of years.

Though employment has been harder to come by for refugees in Omaha in recent years, the Bhutanese have been finding jobs in such places as Tyson and ConAgra meatpacking plants, First Data Resources and hotels.

Many live in midtown, Benson and Dundee. Bhutanese people, especially women, are noticeable in their brightly colored traditional clothing from their home country.

In 2009, they formed the Bhutanese Community Association to help the people adapt to American life and retain their identity and culture. It offers English, driving and other education.

Asked about their culture, Gurung said Bhutanese refugees have in common their native language, culture and food (with a strong affinity for chili peppers).

“The only thing we don't have in common is religion,” he said.

There are four basic groups: Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Kirat. The last is the religion of the indigenous Himilayan Kirati people.

“But we have a kind of religious tolerance,” Gurung said. “We love each other. We worship with each other. Whichever religious group is celebrating something, we all celebrate it.”

That community spirit also is behind the grocery store, Gurung said. Leaders launched the idea last year as they pondered ways for the growing Bhutanese population to not only survive in America, but to own businesses and generate their own employment, Gurung said.

Without English, people were having a hard time shopping at supermarkets or the other several ethnic groceries that have popped up in the city.

“We were in need of a business in our community,” Gurung said. “But nobody had money. We weren't qualified for loans. We had no credit.”

They consulted lawyers and others and decided to create a limited cooperative association, in which members are investors. They vote democratically on major business decisions, and share in any profits based on how much they buy at the store.

Families invested savings from their jobs, from a couple hundred dollars to a few thousand each.

Gurung navigated state and city regulations. They acquired a business adviser (and a fan) in businessman Nicholas Bonham-Carter when they found a home for the store, in a building he owns.

“The building was divided up into offices, and I was disinclined to renovate it into a grocery store,” Bonham-Carter said. “But they were very persuasive. I could see really how important this was and so I agreed, and we split the cost of removing the partitions.”

The group bought shelving and inventory from a store that was closing (thus the English-language greeting cards). Community members did much of the remodeling work.

The store opened about two months ago. It hit the ground walking. At one time, Druk was down to its last $200. But it's doing better now, after leaders stressed to members how important it is to shop there, and as the supply of most-desired products has become more reliable.

That they have come this far, and are working together, impresses Lacey Studnicka, who works with refugees for Lutheran Family Services, the major local resettler of the Bhutanese. But it doesn't surprise her.

“They're so entreprenuerial,” she said. “They really have a strong sense of community. They're very loyal to each other, very eager for ESL (English) classes, and really taking a very active role in becoming self-sufficient.”

75000th Bhutanese refugee leaves Nepal for resettlement

Thousands of Nepali speaking Bhutanese were forced to leave their homes in the late 1980s and 1990s following the state-backed atrocities against them

KATHMANDU: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said that they sent 75,000th Bhutanese refugee from Nepal to the United States on Wednesday for the third country settlement.

Six-year-old Yagandra Kami became the 75,000th refugee to be a part of major resettlement programme, which was launched in November 2007. He flew to Pennsylvania along his two sisters and parents today.

"Today we celebrate this turning point and look back the long way we have come from number one,” said Maurizio Busatti, Chief of Mission of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Nepal.

Six-year-old Yagandra Kami, in his blue jacket, waves goodbye as his boards the IOM bus to the Tribhuvan International Airport together with his parents and two sisters. Photo: UNHCR/E.Hamilton-Clark

“Our efforts will continue unabated to prepare the last refugee to settle into his/her new life. IOM is committed to nurturing the team spirit and the model partnership that has marked this program from the start and is at the basis of today’s result,” Busatti said.

Thousands of Nepali speaking Bhutanese were forced to leave their homes in the late 1980s and 1990s following the state-backed atrocities against them. Most of them took refuge in the eastern districts of Nepal.

Under one of the largest and successful resettlement programmes, more than 63,400 of the refugees have begun new lives in the United States, said UNCHR and IOM in a joint statement.

The other countries to accept refugees are Australia (3,837), Canada (5,296), Denmark (724), New Zealand (710), the Netherlands (326), Norway (546), and the United Kingdom (257).

“This is a tremendous achievement,” said Stephane Jaquemet, UNHCR Representative in Nepal. “It has only been possible due to the incredible generosity of the resettlement countries, the resilience of the refugees, the great support of the Government of Nepal, and the exemplary partnership with IOM.”

With over half the original population resettled, the seven refugee camps in eastern Nepal have been merged to two—one in Sanischare and the other in Beldangi, according to UNCHR and IOM.

Fire erupts at Bhutanese refugees camp; 120 houses gutted


JHAPA, Dec 4: A massive fire broke out at the Bhutanese refugees camp in Beldangi, Damak, of Jhapa district on Tuesday afternoon, destroying as many as 120 houses inside the camp.

The blaze started from the Sector C 4 of the camp at around 1:30 pm today, according to the Armed Police Force security basecamp. Two fire engines from the Damak municipality doused the fire. Details about the losses are yet to be estimated.

Why Bhutan Hates India? Thimphu leans towards China

map from CIA World Factbook (since June 24, 2010) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The reclusive Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan stuck between China and Bharat is paying the price of being too close to Delhi. Bhutanese militants are now fighting a war of independence. This war for liberationis often labeled as terror or blamed on ULFA or Bodo militants. For the last few years it has been feeling the heat of a bloody insurgency for independence.

Bhutanese freedom fighters are cooperating with other militant outfits active in the North-Eastern region of Bhutan, especially the ULFA and the Bodo militants are carrying their hit-and-run attacks on Indian security forces from the Bhutanese jungles. This is being used as an excuse by Bharat to invade and take over Bhutan like Delhi took over Sikkim.

Watching these events, and to save itself, and recognizing the rise of China, Bhutan is moving towards a more centrist and perhaps a more pro-China policy.

English: Prime Minister Thinley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

China has been keen at developing direct relations with Bhutan.

“It became evident from the very first that China was more interested in developing direct relations with Bhutan than resolving border issues,”… “During the second round (of talks over border issues) in 1985, China talked of expanding contact, saying it has diplomatic relations with all SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) states, but not with Bhutan.” Chinese policy paper entitled, “Security of Bhutan: Walking Between the Giants,” published in Journal of Bhutan Studies in 2004.

Anti-Indianism in Bhutan is either not written about prodigiously, or not written about at all. Anti-Indianism in Bhutan is dealt with very severely. Usually, those who want to demand sovereignty for Bhutan are labeled “Chinese agents” or simply associated with Assamese or other terrorists.

Vishal Arora is a New Delhi-based journalist. He researches and writes on politics, culture, religion, foreign affairs and human rights, primarily but not exclusively in South and Southeast Asia. His articles have appeared in the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, USA Today, World Politics Review, Foreign Policy in Focus, the Religion News Service, and many other outlets. He can be contacted and some of his articles can be read here. Follow him on Twitter: vishalarora_in

Vishal Arora and Vijay Simha have written a prodigious article about Bhutan’s new focus towards China. The title of the effulgent article is “Bhutan switches focus to China.”

Vishal Arora and Vijay Simha say that “For the first time in the history, Bhutan is asserting its right to have formal ties with China, its northern neighbor and India’s arch-rival. New Delhi might need to amend its policy on the tiny nation of about 700,000 people…

At the monthly “Meet the Press” conference in Thimphu, Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley called China “a reality,” when asked if he met Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at a UN conference in Brazil in June. “It is best that we do not ignore, but accept, the reality,” said Thinley, who is likely to win a second term in the 2013 general election.”

This rare interview between the Home Minister of Bhutan gives us some insight on what is going on between Bhutan and Delhi. The Home Minister of Bhutan met ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Barua. However the violence has not ended.

“NENA: The Government of India, for long, have been requesting the Bhutanese authority to allow New Delhi to launch an operation in the Bhutanese territory to flush out the militants. Why is the Bhutan Government not agreeing to this proposal?

Dago Tshering: As I have already told you we are not in favour of using force untill it becomes inevitable. Moreover, it is the Indian Government which will be in trouble if such a step is taken. Then it will be easy for the international community to term India’s effort as big-brotherly attitude. It wiil also be easy for them to say that as Bhutan is a small country, it has no other options but to surrender before the Indian wishes.Let me once again reiterate that Bhutan is committed to not allowing its soil to be used by anti-Indian forces. We will do everything possible to keep our promise.

NENA: What role can the North-Eastern region play in strengthening the bond of friendship?

Dago Tshering: The North-East region will have to play the most important role. The region is our gateway to India. Our prosperity is interlinked. Bhutan cannot prosper without the North-Eastern region and vice versa.For example, we have now put stress on exploiting our hydro power potential. Our hydro power potential is such that even after fulfilling our need, we can supply power to the region and beyond doubt that will immensely help the region which is looking for speedy economic development.

But all this can be achieved if there is peace in the region. We hope that very soon peace will prevail in the North-East region and we will be able to prosper together”.

English: King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan. Probably a studio image. Français : Le roi Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck du Bhutan. Probablement une photo prise en Studio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bhutan government folks are terrified of Delhi. They are scared to admit that they want friendly relations with Beijing and have to explain their actions to Delhi.
Aurora et al say “After the Rio+20 conference, Thinley denied Beijing’s claim that he had expressed his willingness to establish diplomatic relations with China.
The statement by Thinley’s office, which claimed he and Wen had only discussed bilateral issues and multilateral cooperation, was seen as meant to pacify New Delhi, which is believed to have tremendous influence over Bhutan’s foreign and defense policy and has been its largest trade and development partner for decades.
Barely five months later, Thimphu appears less apologetic and more assertive. At last week’s press conference, Thinley acknowledged having “a very special relationship with India,” but went on to affirm that “it does not mean that we make enemies of all others.”

Despite the terrorizing clamp down on Bhutanese leaders, Bhutanese leaders have been been meeting and building a relationship with China.

Rajeev Verma writing for Northeast Strategic group says:

“It is a tale of two contrasting neighbors for India. Nepal and Bhutan have been as similar and yet as dissimilar as chalk and cheese. The China factor has further muddied the waters when it comes to the Nepal- Bhutan-India triangle — or shall we say a rectangular triangle? This poses a stiff challenge for the Indian diplomacy.” South Asia’s Rectangular Triangle – Nepal, Bhutan and India.

Arora says that “Reports about Thinley’s first-ever meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Rio raised concerns in India thanks to the race for dominance between New Delhi and Beijing in South Asia and beyond, and China’s “string of pearls’ strategy to encircle India in the maritime domain.”

King’s Birthday, Bhutan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beijing wants diplomatic relations with Bhutan and wants access to a disputed patch of land bordering India in northwest Bhutan.

English: View of Clock Tower Square, Thimphu, Bhutan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The paper (Chinese policy paper entitled, “Security of Bhutan: Walking Between the Giants,” published in Journal of Bhutan Studies in 2004) also noted how China meant to target India. During an 11th round of Sino-Indian talks held in Beijing in 1996, “China proposed to exchange 495 square kilometers area with an area of 269 square kilometers in the north-west Bhutan,” which “would seriously undermine India’s security by shifting the Bhutan-China border to the south.” Chinese policy paper entitled, “Security of Bhutan: Walking Between the Giants,” published in Journal of Bhutan Studies in 2004.

However, Thinley is more concerned about Bhutan’s interests. He told reporters last week that analysts in India had little awareness about the vulnerability of a tiny nation. Thimphu apparently fears both neighbors, as evident in the emphasis it lays on preserving the visible aspects of the nation’s culture.

Streetlife in Thimphu, Bhutan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the 1970s, Bhutan’s fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck famously said the nation did not have “economic power or military muscle,” but its “unique culture” can “strengthen Bhutan’s sovereignty.”
Bhutan seeks to mark, and protect, its territory through its cultural distinctiveness. To look different from India and China, it adopted a mandatory Driglam Namzha, the official behavior and dress code, which requires citizens to wear the national dress – the gho for men and kira for women – in public places. Art and architecture are also required to conform to the country’s traditions.
“I think it’s time we have our own foreign policy experts,” Thinley told journalists.

National Library of Bhutan, Thimphu. Main buiding in a snowfall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
India, which inherited the suzerainty over Bhutan after the independence in 1947, has enjoyed almost exclusive influence on that nation.
Bhutan, which struggles to sustain itself financially due to its difficult terrain, got weary of over-dependence on New Delhi after its western neighbor, Sikkim, was “absorbed” by India through a referendum in 1975.
A 1949 treaty required Thimphu to be guided by the advice of New Delhi in regard to its external relations; the clause was removed in a 2007 treaty – only on paper. But now, Thimphu seems to think the time has come to actually pursue a foreign policy independent of India.

English: Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu, Bhutan. It is a Buddhist monastery and seat of the Druk Desi, the head of Bhutan’s civil government. Français : Le monastère fortifié de Tashichho Dzong, à Thimphu, au Bhoutan. Le Tashichho Dzong est le siège du Druk Desi, chef du gouvernement civil du Bhoutan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bhutan is aggressively seeking a role in international relations apparently to assert its sovereignty in all matters. Thimphu made an unsuccessful bid for a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council last month.
It managed to get 20 votes in the 193-member General Assembly. Thinley said during the press conference that Bhutan’s participation in the UNSC election was in itself an achievement.
In July 2011, Thimphu was able to get the UN General Assembly unanimously adopt a resolution placing “happiness” on the global agenda and empowering Bhutan to convene a high-level meeting on happiness as part of the 66th session of the Assembly in New York. This perhaps further reassured Bhutan that it deserves to be independent of foreign influence.

Rajeev Sharma writing for ”South Asia’s Rectangular Triangle – Nepal, Bhutan and India.”

“On February 8, 2007, the India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty was substantially revised and Article 2 in the 1949 treaty, which the Bhutanese were uncomfortable with, was amended. The Article 2 of the 1949 treaty read as “The Government of India undertakes to exercise no interference in the internal administration of Bhutan. On its part the Government of Bhutan agrees to be guided by the advice of the Government of India in regard to its external relations.” In the revised treaty this now reads as, “In keeping with the abiding ties of close friendship and cooperation between Bhutan and India, the Government of the Kingdom of Bhutan and the Government of the Republic of India shall cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests. Neither government shall allow the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security and interest of the other.” The revised treaty also strengthens Bhutan’s status as a sovereign nation and includes in it the preamble “Reaffirming their respect for each other’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity”, an element that was absent in the earlier version. The updated India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty lays the foundation for their future development in the 21st century and provides, among other things, for perpetual peace and friendship, free trade and commerce, and equal justice to each other’s citizens.”

Nationale Biblotheek in Thimphu, Bhutan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The actions of the Bhutan government displays the fact that Bhutan has recognized that its survival lies in deep connections with Beijing to keep Delhi’s paws away from Thimpu.

Aurora et al says “In August, about two months after Thinley’s meeting with Jiabao, India’s concerns didn’t deter Thimphu from hosting China’s Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying, who made another public pitch for establishing diplomatic relations with Bhutan in a speech in Thimphu ( “About six weeks ago Premier Wen Jiabao and Prime Minister Jigme Thinley met for a historic, first-time meeting between the two countries at the head of government level in Rio de Janeiro on the sidelines of the Rio+20 summit. The two leaders reached new and important common understanding on the development of China-Bhutan relations,” Ying reiterated. But Thimphu did not issue a public statement on Ying’s visit.”

English: Tango Monastery near Thimphu, Bhutan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
These goings on have not gone unnoticed in Bharat. We quote Aurora et al again “New Delhi is expected to react. India’s ambassador to Bhutan, Pavan K Varma, resigned in late October .
Varma, who enjoyed good relations with the government of Bhutan as well as its people, had sought extension as an envoy in Bhutan, but New Delhi refused to oblige apparently for his failure to foresee and preempt the growing proximity between Thimphu and Beijing.”

Aurora et al say “According to media reports, India’s incumbent ambassador to Syria, VP Haran, is expected to replace Varma in Bhutan. Haran was deputy chief of the Indian mission in Nepal during the crucial last days of King Gyanendra in that country in the early 2000s. And India is believed to have practiced carrot and stick diplomacy in Nepal.

English: Office of the Dzongkha Development Commission in Kawangjangtsa, Thimphu Bhutan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the coming months and years, both Bhutan and India will need to take important decisions about the future. The status quo will simply not work anymore.

Aurora et al has some good advice for Bhutan, China and India.

“Bhutan, which is seeking to lead the world in environment conservation, could perhaps look at how resource and strategic interests-hungry China deals with other nations in Asia, such as Burma and Sri Lanka. And India should re-evaluate its nature of diplomacy in nations like Nepal, where New Delhi is increasingly losing influence despite alleged interference in that nation’s domestic affairs.”

In our analysis — the cat is out of the bag. Bhutan the young virgin village girl –after being taken advantage of for half century, is not so naive anymore. She will not allow to be raped anymore and will use whatever means at its disposal to stay away from the big bad wolf in the neighborhood. Bharat has been trying to keep up a battle between Nepal and Bhutan. With the Maoists taking control of Nepal, the relations with Bhutan will improve. An Nepali-Bhutanese axis allied with the ULFA and the Bodos would be deadly for Bhrat. Bhutanese relations with China are inevitable and the strength of that relationship will be leveraged by Bhutan to become more independent. Delhi can hardly control its own Northeast–let alone all of Bhutan. Even the Maldives has given it a black-eye recently. It would be wise for Delhi to back off, before all of Bhutan erupts. If Bhutan erupts, Delhi will lose all of Assam and the 7 sisters (if it hasn’t done that already!)

Archery competition in Bhutan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Refugees Realize American Dream, Open Store in KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Four years ago, two men and their families came to this country as refugees with only one bag of clothes and no idea what the future held in store. On Wednesday, the men celebrated opening their own business in Kansas City, Kan. It’s called RG Asian Store on 18th Street, just north of I-70.

Ram Rai and his partner Hari Ghimire wanted to offer items from their homeland, the Asian country of Bhutan. They say the Napoli people in Bhutan were discriminated against and persecuted in the 90s. The United Nations says more than 100-thousand Bhutanese refugees were forced to flee their country and they have lived as refugees in Nepal for years.

“The people flee from the country because we didn’t get any human rights,” Rai said.

Between 2008 and 2010, 30-thousand Bhutanese have come to the U.S. as refugees. Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas helped some of them settle here in Kansas City. Abdul Osman runs the refugee program and says he’s helped hundreds of refugees make a better life for themselves here.

“When they come to the us they have only one bag and don’t know about the future,” he said, “but they come here to start their new life to become American citizens.”

Rai said while it was hard to leave his homeland, he knew he could never go back, so he’s happy to make this his home now.

“We’re here in Kansas City, Kansas, so let me have my Nepali store so I can provide Nepali items to my community people,” he said.

Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas says they will settle some 175 refugees from Bhutan and Burma next year alone. And in two years they will start taking in refugees from the Congo area of Africa.

His Majesty’s address to the Nation on the 105th National Day celebrations in Thimphu

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On the occasion of the 105th National Day, it gives me much happiness to address our People of the 20 dzongkhags.

This National Day is of special significance. The powers offered by our People to the King in 1907, after hundred years of nation building, were returned in 2008 to our People by the Druk Gyalpo. It was in that year that we held the first elections under democracy and adopted the Constitution. Today, we are nearing the end of the term of the first Parliament we elected in 2008, and the culmination of the tenth and largest 5-year plan. So much work lies ahead and such immense responsibilities rest on our shoulders as we approach 2013.

Yet, with capable and dedicated citizens, who have great love for our country, with the guidance of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, and with the ever-stronger bonds between People and King, I have great confidence that we shall achieve our goals.

Our People of Bhutan are unique. We have a sense of family, community and brotherhood that inspires us to come together in times of need. I have seen this following natural disasters and, most recently, in the way in which all Bhutanese came forward to offer whatever little we could afford to rebuild the historic treasure, Wangduephodrang Dzong.

In other nations, difficult moments in their history are met with strife, violence and conflict, as people sacrifice national interest in order to achieve individual ambitions. In Bhutan, such acts and events have never occurred. Our way of life, our heritage, loyalty and values remain strong in the hearts of our People and our People stand ready, even in times of great personal hardship, to place Nation above Self. I am so proud of our People and offer my deep gratitude for the love you have shown for your nation.

It is during times of prosperity and success that we must remind ourselves of the work that lies ahead. We have made a good start in our transition to democracy, but much remains to be done. Our nation has seen great socio-economic growth, but it is more important that we have growth with equity. We must raise, with all our effort, the less fortunate so that they may, at the earliest, begin to partake in the opportunities brought by modernisation and progress. The government has provided education to our youth. But for the nation to prosper for all time, a sound education must be succeeded by access to the right jobs and responsibilities, so that our youth may bloom as individuals and, at the same time, serve their nation well. The recent Rupee shortage is a serious problem. I feel it is a reminder that, as a nation, we must exercise our traditional sense of caution, and work even harder, as we address the challenges of the time. For, no matter what challenges lie ahead, it is only the Bhutanese citizen, who can protect and safeguard Bhutan.

Today, the most important duty for us is the 2013 elections to Parliament. I would like to say that we – all of us – are new to this democratic transition. We have all equally acquired four and a half years of experience in democracy. Experience comes with participation, so I urge you all to come forward as candidates, members of parties and voters for 2013.

Remember, achieving democracy is not the goal. The real fruits of our efforts should be that democracy brings greater unity, harmony and prosperity to our nation. Democracy must be able to fulfill the aspirations of our People.

Many hundreds of years ago, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal unified the nation, established the dual system and laid the foundations on which a unique Bhutan was born. This new nation was then further strengthened over the course of history by fifty-four Desis and generations of Bhutanese. The last hundred years, the Wangchuck dynasty further strengthened the foundations laid by the Zhabdrung, and handed over a special nation to our People in 2008. All of this was possible because our People have lived as one small family, true to the ideals of the Zhabdrung and the foundations of a unique and special Bhutanese identity.

As we approach the elections of 2013, we must therefore keep in mind these foundations of our nation and prevent all ethnic, religious or political divisions in our small nation. We must participate in democracy with the spirit of harmony and fraternity. In 2008, our democratic transition and the wholehearted participation by the people, including the 80% voter turnout, were lauded by the world. I urge you all to exercise your right to vote – it comes but once in 5 years – for it is an act of great benefit to the nation.

With the Blessings of the Triple Gem and our Guardian Deities and the good fortune of our People, I am confident we will conduct the second elections under democracy successfully in 2013.

For me, I hold sacred the endeavours begun by my father, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. I have committed myself to bringing to fruition all the noble endeavours begun in his 34 years of service and sacrifice. I also hold sacred my duty to ensure the success of democracy, and I shall work to lay the strongest foundations for a vibrant democracy within my reign.

Above all, I believe that the Golden Throne is not a Throne of wealth, power and prestige. The Golden Throne of Bhutan is a unique Throne of Destiny to serve our People and Nation.

As King since 2006 I have always served with complete dedication and integrity. Sometimes I may have erred. Yet, you, my people, have given me even more love and support and placed your complete faith and trust in me. To our People of the 20 dzongkhags, I offer my heartfelt gratitude, and I pledge that I shall give everything to be of service to you and Bhutan.

In this land, blessed by Guru Padmasambhava, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and our Fourth Druk Gyalpo, I pray that there shall be everlasting peace, prosperity and happiness.

Tales of the Khukri: Short stories that bring alive the world of the Gurkhas

BooK: The Gurkha's Daughter

Author: Prajwal Parajuly

Publisher: Penguin

Pages: 272

Price: Rs 499

When a book comes along that shows a side of Nepal’s bravest in everyday settings, it demystifies the very premise of what is stoic, indomitable and durable. The eight short stories, most of them set in Nepal, have characters that live through their inadequacies with hope and an unfazed determination to make life work. Be it Kaali, the maid with a dark complexion and a cleft lip who dreams of being an actress and is told “there is a time and place for everything”, or Amit, the immigrant in Manhattan who lives in the threat of returning to his home in Nepal, or orphaned Rajiv who has to host his mother’s family in his dilapidated four-bedded room.

Prajwal Parajuly, said to be the youngest writer to sign a two-book deal with Quercus (they are represented in India by Penguin) resuscitates the short story form through visual description and language control. His theatre background lends itself to the title story. Wearing mustachios, two friends imitate their respective fathers, and through their eyes we see the plight of soldiers in the British Army.

Through the sweep of loyalty, tribe bonding, superstitions and religion the reader sees the forgotten world of a Gurkha. The book also deals with the Nepali diaspora at large, scattered in India, Bhutan and abroad.

The story that remains with the reader is ‘No Land Is Her Land’. Debunking the romance of Bhutan, the world’s happiest nation, this story lifts the curtain on a refugee camp in Nepal where disenfranchised Nepali-speaking Bhutanese have been expelled from their country.

Written with a cadence of its own, the freshness of perspective which allows characters to transcend their plight, gives the book a lightness of being, though its message lingers — of a world where even the bravest have battles to fight, sometimes in their own homes, sometimes in their heads.

Blacklisting, not visa violations, led to my deportation: U.S. geophysicist


PTIIn January 2012, Dr. Roger Bilham addressed a press conference by Greenpeace on the potential seismic risk to the proposed 9900 MWe nuclear power plant complex at Jaitapur, Maharashtra. File Photo

Dr. Roger Bilham, a US geophysicist who has warned against underestimating seismic hazards at the Jaitapur nuclear plant site, now says he was deported from India earlier this year not because of visa violations, as claimed by Home Ministry officials at the time, but because he figures in a list of foreigners not allowed to visit India. Dr. Bilham was deported back to the U.S. from the New Delhi airport soon after landing on May 19 around midnight when he was on transit to Bhutan.

At that time, Dr. Bilham was apparently told by the customs authorities that his name was on a certain list of persons denied entry into India and was given no other reason. “The State Department,” Dr. Bilham has claimed, “has twice been informed that I am on a list of foreigners not allowed to visit India. The list includes terrorists and journalists and one other scientist. This one other scientist wrote about voting machine insecurity in India.” The State Department has, however, not been told why his name is on the list.

Dr. Bilham is well-known for his extensive work on Himalayan seismicity, much of it carried out with a reputed Indian geophysicist, Dr. Vinod Gaur, the former director of the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), Hyderabad. In January of this year, he addressed a press conference by Greenpeace on the potential seismic risk to the proposed 9900 MWe nuclear power plant complex at Jaitapur, Maharashtra.

Challenging the version given by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) at the time of his deportation, Dr. Bilham has revealed new information through email exchanges after the story of his deportation, which was hitherto not widely known (see, however, The Hindu, August 12 and Sunday Guardian, May 27), hit the international headlines through a December 6 report in the journal Science.

The Science story, quoting the MHA, said that Dr. Bilham was denied entry because, while travelling on tourist visa, his “activity” was “not commensurate with the type of visa granted”. Dr. Bilham, who has a multiple-entry ten-year tourist visa and has made several visits to India since the 1960s, has, however, stated that the barring of his entry had nothing to do with any visa problem. “My visa has not been revoked. It has not been cancelled. No mention of a visa problem has ever been made,” Dr. Bilham stated in his email. “My flight to Bhutan was the next day. I planned to stay overnight in Delhi.”

Dr. Bilham last visited India to attend the ‘Indo-US Workshop on ‘Intraplate Seismicity’ held during January 16-18 at the Institute for Seismological Research (ISR), an institute under the department of science and technology (DST) in Gandhinagar, on an invitation extended to him. Even though he was on a tourist visa, he had been given explicit authorisation to not only attend the meeting but also to travel in the Kutch region by Dr. B. K. Rastogi, director, ISR. He returned on January 18.

The report in Science followed the issue having been raised at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) during December 3-7 in San Francisco. Dr. Max Wyss, director of the World Agency of Planetary Monitoring and Earthquake Risk Reduction, Geneva, in his presentation had likened his deportation to the arrests of seismoligists in Italy, who have been painted as criminals following the L’Aquila earthquake for having not provided the correct advice on the impending earthquake.

According to Dr. Wyss, Dr. Bilham was deported for having co-authored with Dr. Gaur an article critical of the seismic hazard analysis for the Jaitapur nuclear power plant (Current Science, November 25, 2011), and having rendered the opinion that the nuclear plant should be designed to withstand higher accelerations than planned, as well as for his view that the seismic hazard in Kashmir is underestimated. A signature protest campaign in support of Dr. Bilham has already been launched following Dr. Wyss’s presentation.

The MHA officials, however, are not willing to say for what kind of visa violation Dr. Bilham was put on a flight back to the USA shortly on arrival. Repeated efforts were of no avail. It stands to reason that he could not have committed any during his May visit because he was still in the airport. And his last visit was on an official invitation. Both the DST and the Ministry of Earth Sciences are not aware of this incident.

But in an allegation that is hard to verify, Dr. Bilham has further claimed that a senior highly influential Indian seismologist has conspired to have his name included in the MHA list. This he has even officially communicated to the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) while declining the institute’s request to be the external examiner for adjudicating a Ph. D. student’s thesis.

In his October 17 letter, Dr. Bilham wrote to the IISc Registrar: “I regret to inform you that the Government of India has decided that I am no longer allowed to visit India. This is not a visa issue but a blacklisting issue. The governmental decision was presumably based on recommendations made by one or more influential seismologists in India. The decision is based on a recent article on Indian seismicity similar to that discussed in the thesis that you mention…I am concerned that my presence on the thesis committee…will be detrimental to the future of this talented young scientist.”

His name, Dr. Bilham said in his email, continued to be on the prohibited list until last week when he wanted to make a trip to India to visit the Delhi Archives.

Keywords: Roger Bilham, visa violation, Jaitapur, blacklist, US geophysicist

India lists 14 banned Pakistan channels

The Indian media regulator has listed 24 TV channels which it says are “not conducive” to the country’s security. Fourteen of the channels originate or are supported by Pakistan. Other non-Pakistani channels includes Saudi Arabia’s national channel.

The Pakistani channels are PTV, PTV Home, PTV World, Geo TV, Dawn, Express, Waqat, Q TV, Madni TV, Noor TV, Hadi TV, Aaj, Filmax and STV.

The non-Pakistan channels identified are from Nepal (one is described as being “Nepal”, and the other as Kantipur), and channels from Bangladesh (NTV Bangladesh), Maldives (TV Maldives), Bhutan (Bhutan Broadcasting Service), and there is a UK-based channel, Ahmedia Channel. The British-based channel is properly licensed and monitored b y the UK media regulator. Other channels identified from Arab countries are Peace TV from Dubai, and Saudi TV. ARY TV and XYZ TV are also mentioned.

India is looking to amend its cable carriage rules to deal with these channels and to make their transmission an offence.

Politicians gauge prosperity in Germany

Steady growth used to be the measure of prosperity, but entirely different things are important for people's contentment and satisfaction. Now, German parliamentarians are out to gauge true wealth.

In 2011, the German economy generated some 2.57 trillion euros ($3,32 trillion) in GDP, once again topping previous years - according to calculations by the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, based on figures compiled by German companies, chambers of commerce and trade associations.

German parliamentarians, however, began wondering what the bare numbers said about the true satisfaction and prosperity of German citizens. Two years ago, they decided that question had to be studied more closely. Polling institutes discovered through surveys that many in the general public felt that "those at the top had no idea" what they were concerned about and what hardships they had.

With the effects of the 2008 financial crisis still rippling across the world, and the gap between rich and poor continuing to grow, it's clear that something isn't right with the system.

Is growth at any cost a guarantee for future prosperity? Since last year, 34 German parliamentarians - women and men of every party and commissioned by parliament - have been addressing the issue.

Daniela Kolbe of the Social Democrats (SPD) and Matthias Zimmer of the Christian Democrats (CDU) lead the work group. Kolbe told Deutsche Welle that all politicians in the group, regardless of their political affiliation, agreed that growth alone did not reflect a society's true prosperity and contentment. A new index is now in the works for measuring that prosperity.

Happiness as a nation's gross domestic product?

Growth alone does not reflect prosperity, says Daniela Kolbe

The Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan believes that prosperity should be measured by the happiness of its citizens. With a focus on its Gross National Happiness Index (GNH), the right to happiness is at the core of the nation's public policy. Germany may not follow suit completely, said Kolbe, but the hope is the country could learn something from nations, such as Ecuador, Bolivia and Great Britain. The British government, for instance, plumbs the mood of its population by way of a "happiness survey," attempting to reveal what makes people "rich and content."

The German parliamentary work group is also reviewing opinion polls among its own population. According to data analyzed by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Germans list the following as ingredients for prosperity and contentment: health and health care, social contacts and participation in society, free and life-long education, and quality work and employment. In addition, people's lifestyles should be environmentally-friendly and sustainable enough to ensure that future generations will have a chance at prosperity.

"With regard to the environment, one sees that there's a price for some of the things one regards as signs of prosperity." But it is not Germans who are paying that price right now, Kolbe noted, but people in other parts of the globe, or people who have not yet been born.

German contentment

Tightening belts as the goal?

When prosperity ends up not being defined by whether one owns the biggest and most expensive car, takes three vacations a year, or continually gets a raise, then politicians may be able to shape life in the future differently.

Members of the Commission on Growth, Prosperity and Quality of Life, as the work group is officially called in the German parliament, have already defined their first concrete goals: the economic system, particularly wage labor, should focus more on the needs of the people in future. That means, on the one hand, that people's work should be better appreciated and protected, while at the same time, it should not play such a central role in people's lives as it has up to now.

"We will not be able to abolish the hamster wheel, but it has to be possible that there are phases in which people work less, times in which people do further training or take care of their kids or aging parents," said Kolbe.

Financial excesses at citizens' expense should be avoided, the commission said. "We agree that more stringent regulations are necessary in financial markets," said Kolbe. Banks, for instance, should have greater capital resource requirements. But the commission, so far, has not been able to agree on just how important growth should be in the economy.

Part of that discussion also includes unconditional basic incomes and a more just distribution of income that would perhaps see a stricter tax system or greater interaction between unions and management.

Maintaining "prosperity"

The work group, at any rate, has discovered that an allegedly rich industrialized nation, like Germany, is actually home to only a scarce amount of contentment and prosperity. "Inconvenient questions pop up in the process," said Kolbe. When people talk about austerity, then the immediate question is how one advances economic growth and increases employment when there's a call for restricting consumption.

"Perhaps the whole system will have to be turned upside down," Kolbe reflected. For now, she'll wait for the results of the prosperity and contentment index, which are supposed to be announced in May, 2013, and discussed in parliament.

Himalayas get climate funds

Himalayas get climate funds

04 Dec 2012 | 13:24 GMT | Posted by Subhra Priyadarshini | Category:Climate Change, Environment

Some respite for the people of the Hindu Kush-Himalayas (HKH) grappling with the effects of climate change.

A new grant of 11 million euros announced today will go into livelihood development and mitigation of climate change impacts for people in the region. The European Union (EU) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) signed an agreement on this today.


The programme will start in 2013 and envisages using natural resources in a more sustainable, efficient way to protect the environment. According to a release by the organisations, the programme will try to do this by enhancing the knowledge base on Himalayan ecosystems and ecosystem services, raising awareness on the effects of environmental degradation, climate change and adaptation; strengthening collaborative action research in the region. It will also build capacity in higher education and train institutions and civil society across the region to scale up best practice for improved resilience to climate change.

The HKH region spans over 8 countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Nepal with interconnected mountain ranges and plateaus, extending for more than 3,500 km. Glaciers alone cover an area of 60,000 square km. The region is called the world’s ‘roof’ and ‘water tower’.

According to ICIMOD, changing climate patterns have negatively impacted the lives of people in this region. Glaciers are receding, permafrost retreats, snow melt induces changed river flows, and ecosystems are altering.

There is an increased frequency and duration of extreme climatic events, causing more frequent and severe natural disasters. These factors aggravate erosion, land degradation, decline in soil fertility and crop yields. The capacity of mountain people to deal with these growing stresses is limited, and the incidence of poverty is growing.

The funds should see some reversals in the lives of the HKH people, who are in the direct line of fire of the climate change phenomenon.

Singaporeans glummer than Afghans, Iraqis, poll shows

SINGAPORE — Afghans and Iraqis have been traumatised by years of war but the people of super-rich Singapore are even more miserable, coming dead last in a Gallup ranking of "positive emotions" around the world.

The survey of 148 nations and territories sought to tease out adults' mental state through five questions such as "Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?" and "Were you treated with respect all day yesterday?".

The city-state of Singapore, which ranks in the top five of the world's richest countries in terms of GDP per capita, was bottom of the pile with only 46 percent of respondents answering "yes" to all five questions.

The survey suggested that Singaporeans felt less rested and enjoy life less than Armenians, who came second last, and Iraqis, who were third from bottom. Afghans were placed 136th out of the 148 countries polled.

Singapore has developed over five decades of no-nonsense government by the People's Action Party from a sleepy backwater into a thriving exporting and financial hub, and in recent years has tried to promote arts and culture.

But political discontent has intensified as costs of living rise across the board, especially in property. The opposition, which has never held power since the former British colony won independence in 1965, is resurgent.

"When you run a country like a business instead of a country, what do you expect?" one commentator called BeoW posted below an article about the Gallup survey in Yahoo! News Singapore.

"This is a national shame for SG (Singapore)," greenbubble posted on

Gallup, which in another poll last month said that Singapore was the world's most emotionless society, said its latest survey "may surprise analysts and leaders who solely focus on traditional economic indicators".

"Higher income does not necessarily mean higher well-being," it said.

The top three countries in the survey were Panama, Paraguay and El Salvador respectively, and Latin America contributed eight of the top 10, making its residents "the most positive people in the world", according to Gallup.

The survey polled at least 1,000 adults in each of the countries. Among other nations, Britain came 30th in the poll, the United States was 35th, and China 36th.

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan -- which has rejected gross domestic product in favour of "Gross National Happiness" to measure its people's spiritual as well as material well-being -- was not in the poll.

Peace revives regional trade hopes for remote border village

Bilateral co-operation and improved security conditions bring hope of revival to a once-thriving village on the Indo-Bangladesh border where insurgencies once brought economic life to a halt.

By Sahana Ghosh for Khabar South Asia in Dawki, India

December 14, 2012

Nestled among the Jaintia hills in northeastern India, the picturesque village of Dawki, Meghalaya was once a thriving trade centre along the Indo-Bangladesh border.

In this 2001 file photo, Indian Border Security Force troops guard the Indo-Bangladesh border near Dawki, in the northeastern state of Meghalaya. Over 30 years of insurgencies in the area brought local trade to a halt, but now it is beginning to recover. [Utpal Baruah/AFP]


Division among Garo militants after leader's arrest

Indian officials mobilise anti-discrimination efforts at universities

Northeast India floods kill 79, displace two million

Rohingyas: A people without a state

"Villagers on either side traded food and clothing as well as fruits, vegetables and spices in itinerant village haats (bazaars)," local resident Ganjam Mara, 75, told Khabar South Asia. But security problems in the region for nearly 30 years– insurgencies waged by the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and Garo National Front (GNF), and the response from Indian authorities– choked off trade beneficial to local people.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma reminisced about border markets at Dawki, where in his childhood he bought jackfruit, spices and mangoes from Bangladesh.

"The shutting down of the Dawki markets has affected the livelihood of the farming communities on both sides of the border," Sangma told Khabar.

Now that the insurgencies are on the wane due to stepped-up security measures and declining support for the separatists, efforts are underway to revive it.

"There are now no problems of insurgency in the area," Mara told Khabar. "Earlier, there used to be some infiltration, but checkposts are quite strict now."

Accessing new markets

The waning of the insurgencies is not the only reason Dawki -- located 83km from the state capital of Shillong-- has new hopes for the future. Increased co-operation between India and Bangladesh also improved trade prospects for the border area.

Under a bilateral extradition treaty in the works, both sides agree not to harbour insurgents who conduct attacks and then escape across the border. Deals on water sharing and improved border delineation are also pending.

Geography dictates Meghalaya looks to Bangladesh for trade, since the land route from the remote northeastern state to the rest of India cuts through rough terrain. Area business leaders clamour for the restoration of trade routes with Bangladesh.

"Exports to Bangladesh, if infrastructure is improved, could be beneficial for the local economy," said Meghalaya International Exporters Chamber of Commerce Secretary Dolly Khonglah.

"Bangladesh has allowed India and Bhutan to use the Chittagong port, which is about 7 hours' drive from Dawki," Sangma added. "This will boost trade not only with Bangladesh but also with other countries. Our state does not have port connectivity otherwise." Meanwhile, the state government is taking concrete measures to revive the border haats, opening one as a test case at Kalaichar in the west Garo Hills last year.

Urgent infrastructure needs

Still, authorities say any meaningful turnaround of Dawki is not possible without improving the roads and bridges that connect it to the rest of Meghalaya. One narrow suspension bridge built in 1932 near the checkpost at Dawki is in dire need of complete overhaul. National Highway 40 from Shillong is patchy and almost impassable.

"The government blames truckers carrying loads beyond the mandatory 9 tonnes for damaging the roads in the sensitive geographical area," said Khonglah, the chamber leader.

Restoring the route would add to the coffers of both nations. Its inaccessibility means customs regulations are loosely implemented in Dawki— leading to illegal trading.

"There is no weighbridge at the checkpost, which induces the illegal coal and limestone exports, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in foreign exchange for the country," said Helpme Mohrmen, an environmental activist in Shillong.

My dream is to go home to a free Tibet’

Tenzin Choton loves snow and chilly weather. Yet every winter, the 36-year-old Tibetan travels from her home in the foothills of Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, to relatively muggy Mumbai.

Here, she spends nearly 14 hours a day on a pavement in Parel, selling sweaters and woollen


“Our community has been plying this trade for decades. It’s good business because even if people don’t wear sweaters much in Mumbai, they need them for vacations elsewhere in the country or abroad,” says Choton, who has been visiting Mumbai every winter for seven years, always setting up shop on the same pavement in Parel.

Born in Thimphu, Bhutan, Choton’s family moved to Dharamshala’s Tibetan quarters when she was eight. She studied at the local Tibetan school till Class 7 before financial difficulties forced her to drop out. At 24, she had an arranged marriage and is now a mother of three.

“The rhythm of our lives is simple — we grow rice and other foodgrains from June to August, then travel to Ludhiana and Amritsar to buy our stock of sweaters and head to Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and other cities to sell them,” says Choton, who speaks flawless Hindi. “From February to May, when the fields are fallow, there is nothing to do but ration our savings and spend time with family.”

Earnings from the winter business, however, are erratic. With a price tag of Rs. 350 for an adult-sized sweater, Choton sometimes makes Rs. 8,000 a day, but on a bad day may sell only 10 sweaters, earning about Rs. 3,000.

Profits at the end of the season usually range from Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 50,000, not very much for a family to live off for half a year.

Plus, there are the expenses incurred while in the city. When in Mumbai, Choton shares a 250-sq-ft chawl room in Parel with her husband and four other Tibetans, and pays about Rs. 7,500 for food and rent per head for three months.

Choton begins her day at 6 am, with a bath followed by some household chores. Next, she helps cook breakfast and lunch and pack six tiffins.

“On most days, we make Tibetan dishes such as momos or different types of chowmein,” says Choton.

At 7.30 am, the group heads to their pavement so that they can lay out their wares by 8.

The sweater-selling trade in Mumbai was once dominated by Tibetans and Nepalis, but now Choton’s neighbours include several local vendors too.

“Mornings and afternoons are lazy times,” says Choton. “Most people don’t have the time to stop and shop till the evening.” These hours, therefore, are filled with tea breaks.

Evenings and nights are very hectic, Choton adds. “Some annual customers recognise and remember us, but when it’s crowded, there are some customers who take off without paying for their sweaters.”

Choton and her friends pack up by 10 pm, after which they trudge home with the remaining wares. Dinner is usually eaten at home, sometimes at a local eatery.

“The most difficult part of this job is being away from my children,” says Choton. Like most refugees, Choton also feels strongly about Tibet, the homeland she has heard of in stories but never seen.

“I want Tibet to be free,” she says. “My dream is to be able to go home to a free Tibet one day.”

(This weekly feature explores the lives of those unseen Mumbaiites essential to your day)

Robert Blake arrives today

Diplomatic Correspondent

US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert O Blake will arrive here today on a four-day official visit to discuss bilateral and regional issues on labour, development, governance and trade.

He will meet Bangladeshi officials, civil society leaders, and private sector representatives, said a media note of the US state department.

Blake will attend the four-day South Asia Women's Entrepreneurship Symposium. The US Department of State will host the event in support of the New Silk Road vision for enhancing regional economic integration and advancing economic growth, peace, and stability, by empowering women through entrepreneurship and trade.

The symposium will address the challenges and opportunities faced by women-owned small and medium enterprises and create cross-border linkages between women entrepreneurs and leaders throughout South Asia.

Melanne S Verveer, US ambassador at large for Global Women's Issues, will also visit Bangladesh to speak at the symposium.

Blake will record an episode of the television programme “A Conversation with Bangladesh.”

He is scheduled to leave Dhaka for Bhutan on December 11.

NZ Red Cross to Lead the Delivery of Refugee Services

Thursday, 6 December 2012, 4:36 pm
Press Release: NZ Red Cross


6 December 2012

New Zealand Red Cross to Lead the Delivery of Refugee Services

On 10 December 2012, New Zealand’s world renowned refugee resettlement programme will enter a new chapter, as Refugee Services Aotearoa New Zealand become part of New Zealand Red Cross to further improve resettlement for refugees and their families throughout the country.

New Zealand Red Cross will become the lead agency responsible for the resettlement of quota refugees, with the expertise of the two reputable organisations combining to improve the support provided to newly arrived refugees and deliver greater efficiency.

New Zealand Red Cross President Jenny McMahon says working with and for refugees, asylum seekers and their families is one of the long-standing activities of the Red Cross Movement throughout the world.

“This is a very natural partnership,” says Ms McMahon. “Our national presence, global connections and experience will add opportunities to further strengthen an already world class programme, and bringing the operations of Refugee Services into New Zealand Red Cross will naturally deliver efficiency savings.”

“New Zealand Red Cross applauds the legacy that Refugee Services has achieved in the provision of settlement services, and we are committed to building on that legacy.”

Refugee Services Chief Executive Heather Hayden says the key focus of Refugee Services’ work has been on ensuring former refugees receive a supportive start to life through settling in and being connected to local communities.

“Joining with Red Cross will help us do that more effectively. Together we will provide a stronger foundation for former refugees who want the chance to settle into their new community, find work and contribute to New Zealand.”

Ms Hayden says Refugee Services approached Red Cross because they saw the value in being part of a larger, internationally recognised organisation.

“We are fully confident that as part of Red Cross we can carry on doing the great work we have done for nearly forty years through the work of local communities, volunteers and staff, many of whom came to New Zealand as refugees themselves.”

“All those who have been part of Refugee Services in the past can be confident that the contribution they made in giving people a fresh start in New Zealand will continue through Red Cross.”

Stephen Dunstan, General Manager of Immigration New Zealand, says that it is important that refugees are well supported in their initial settlement in New Zealand and that the agency has been very appreciative of the partnership it has had over many years with Refugee Services.

Mr Dunstan says, “I am confident that Red Cross will continue Refugee Services’ strong community-based approach, connecting new refugees with supportive Kiwis in local communities.”

He noted that Red Cross will also take opportunities to strengthen service delivery by leveraging their strong national and international base.

New Zealand is one of only small number of countries who accept an annual quota of refugees for resettlement. Each year 750 refugees come to New Zealand through the United Nations quota system. They are people who have an immediate and desperate need for protection, unable to go back to their home country or stay in the country to which they have fled.

Currently the majority of refugees coming to New Zealand are from Bhutan, Burma, Colombia, Iraq and Sri Lanka. There are also smaller numbers from Afghanistan, the African continent and the Middle East. Settlement support for their first year in New Zealand is provided through volunteers, caseworkers, social workers and employment advisors.


Bhutan ranked 33rd in TI corruption report

The latest report of Transparency International (TI) has ranked India 94th in the corrupt practices ranking among the 176 nations. The survey results seems to be an embarrassment to the UPA Government as 74 per cent of the Indians respondents observed that corruption in India reached the peak during the 2007-2010 period.

The survey results released by the NGO said that 54 per cent of the Indian respondents admitted they at least once paid bribe to get things done. Forty four per cent of the Indians respondents felt the UPA Government was “ineffective” in fighting against corruption. At the same time, 31 per cent said the Government is “neither effective nor ineffective”, while 25 per cent observed that the

government was “effective” in tackling corruption.

According to the survey results, people in India believed the political parties were the most corrupt. The score 5 is treated as the “extremely corrupt”, and the international NGOs survey gave the maximum scores of 4.2 to political parties in India. The political parties are followed by police organisations with 4.1 score, and Parliament and Legislatures with score of 4.

In Indian public perception on corruption, the survey gives 3.5 scores to public officials and civil servants and 3.1 score each was given to judiciary and NGOs and business and private sector.

Indian media is also placed as corrupt in the survey results. Score 3 is given to media in India on public

perception of corruption effected zones.

India’s education sector got 3.4 scores, while religious bodies and military got 2.9 scores and 2.8 scores respectively.

The annual survey of 2012 of the international corruption watch dog rated Denmark, Finland and New Zealand as the most corruption free countries in the world and placed Somalia, North Korea and Afghanistan as the worst ones.

While the most corruption free countries like Denmark, Finland and New Zealand earned 90 scores in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ratings, India earned 34 scores. Like India, Mongolia, Greece, Columbia, Senegal, and Moldova also got 34 scores in the survey of Transparency International. The most corrupt countries have 8 scores.

India’s neighbours Pakistan are placed in 139th rank with 27 scores and China is placed 80th with 39 scores. Sri Lanka is having 79th rank with 40 scores and Bangladesh is placed 144th with 26 scores. Nepal got 130th rank with 27 scores. For neighbours envy, Bhutan is having 33rd rank with big score of 63.

Developed countries like UK and US are placed 17th and 19th with 74 and 73 scores. Germany and France have 13th and 22nd rank with 79 and 71 scores respectively.

Refugee Beads: Jewelry provides income, community & hope

By Clare S. Richie

Refugee Beads caught my attention at Candler Park’s Fall Fest. A decade ago, I worked with refugees who fled their country because of racial, religious or political persecution and came to Atlanta to rebuild their lives. The transition to life in the U.S., while full of promise, is extremely difficult both financially and emotionally. So, I was curious about the connection between refugees and this beautiful affordable jewelry.

As I paid for my necklace, Director Ruthie North was happy to explain that she trained local refugee women to make jewelry to earn much needed income and for fellowship. She markets Refugee Beads jewelry across America in stores, craft fairs, and online. Ruthie invited me to their weekly work session in Chamblee where the artisans gather to create jewelry, share a meal, and support one another.

There I met Purna, who fled violence in Bhutan for safety in Nepal two decades ago. For 16 years she and her family lived in a refugee camp. During this time she met and married her husband and gave birth to two children. There is no future in a refugee camp, but thankfully in 2008 the U.S invited her family to resettle in Georgia.

Luck struck again in 2009 when Purna started working with Refugee Beads. That’s when Ruthie decided to combine her jewelry-making/retail experience with her passion for helping refugee women. Since then, the work has helped Purna adjust to her new life – both financially and emotionally. She has opportunities and goals now – such as moving her family into a house.

Purna and six artisans were busy creating product for the holiday season and the January AmericasMart show. Refugee Beads hopes to secure more wholesale partners, like WorldCraft, who use the show to build their inventory for the year. These partnerships provide guaranteed income to the artisans.

Despite language and cultural barriers – the women worked in harmony stringing bracelets and swapping stories. There is dignity in creating these beautiful designs that other women value enough to buy. These women mostly work from home, as toddlers nap or as a second job but the weekly gatherings relieve the feelings of isolation. One artisan came, despite working chicken processing plant night shift, for this fellowship.

As demand for Refugee Beads grows it can become a primary not supplementary income and more refugee women can be trained.

So this holiday season, consider ordering jewelry from Refugee Beads on-line, hosting a jewelry party, visiting or becoming a community partner who sells custom pieces not found on the website. The jewelry you buy will be a beautiful reminder of the women and families you have empowered.

Where to Buy Refugee Beads


Community Grounds Coffee Shop:

The Franklin Shops:

Atlantis Eclectic Boutique:

Illegal arms available across State: Governor


GUWAHATI, Dec 5 – Governor JB Patnaik today said that illegal arms are available not only in Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) but across the State, which is why he had vouched for a detailed inquiry into it.

Patnaik was speaking to media on the sidelines of a book release function held at the Guwahati Press Club.

The Governor had said in New Delhi recently that illegal arms are easily available in BTAD. The statements were made in reference to violence in the BTAD.

It needs to be mentioned that in Guwahati itself, Police had recovered a number of arms consignments meant for militant activities in this year.

Patnaik also said that he would soon visit the Indo-Bangla border to take stock of the situation.

Asked to react, a senior Assam Police official said that recently the Superintendents of Police (SP) of different districts have been asked to initiate ardent steps to seize illegal arms.

“The activities of surrendered militants are also being monitored across the State,” he said, adding that a number of gunrunners had also been apprehended in the recent past based on intelligence inputs and concerted operation.

On BTAD, he informed that the security forces are working in tandem in BTAD and recently Army had managed to recover a cache of ammunition from near the Indo-Bhutan border and the operation is on.

Liberation movements in India

Muhammad Daheem

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - India is a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-religious state. It is facing serious separatist and liberation movements in different regions. The major controversial areas include Assam, Punjab and Kashmir. People of several regions including Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland are passing through identity crisis phase. The basicfactors behind the separatist and liberation movements are ethnicity, ideology and religious identity. The most high profile liberation movement is run by the people of occupied Kashmir. India introduced AFSPA in 1958 to suppress separatist and independence movement in Manipur. Later on, it was enforced in other insurgency-ridden north-eastern states. It was extended to most parts of Indian controlled Kashmir soon after the armed- struggle began in Kashmir in 1989. The fraudulent law gives Indian forces immunity against prosecution “unless the Indian government gives prior sanction for such prosecution.” Human rights organizations claim that it is an open license to shoot and kill civilians.

North-east region is situated between Indic Asia and Mongoloid Asia. The tribal people, in this region, belong to Sino-Tibetian family. Several communities, here, are struggling for independent states. Thousands of people have lost their lives for the cause of freedom because of war like situation in this region. The Indian army has been accused of massacre of people fighting for theliberation of their soil. The common people as well as leaders of the north-east India claim that their territory was not part of India. It was included in India without the approval of the local people. Ethnically, linguistically and culturally North-East India is different from the mainstream India. The people, in general, face identity crisis and the local people show their abhorrence for Indian administration. Territorial disputes among states are common and tensions between natives and immigrants are multi-fold. Illiteracy, poverty and lack of economic opportunities are some of the major causes of separatist movements. Several underground organizations are working for independence.

According to Assam police several Muslim fundamentalist groups are active in Assam including the MULTA, MULFA, UMLFA and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami. The Islamic radical groups want a chain of Islamic courts to follow the tenets of Shariat in Assam. The United Liberation Front of Assam is a separatist group seeking to establish a sovereign Assam through armed struggle. Ethnic riots erupted in Assam between 1979 and 1985. The Government of India had banned the organization in 1990, declared it a terrorist organization and started military operation against it. The government failed to overpower the militants. In the past two decades some 10,000 people died in the clashes between the rebels and the government. The United Liberation Front of Assam and several other groups in north-east India are demanding liberation from the Indian Union. The two nation theory has its roots in Assam. It means that Hindus and Muslims are two different nations. A number of people, particularly Islamic militants, want to join the East Bengal. Islamic Manch says that it will work for the “willful merger of areas of Assam with the East Bengal.

The people of Bodoland are also struggling for independence. Bodoland is an area located in the north bank of river Brahmaputra in the foothills of Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh. Nandita Haksar, a leading human rights lawyer, says “the north-east is very distinct from the rest of India essentially because of race.” It is claimed that the north-east was never a part of the Indian empire, though a limited number of people used to come here as teachers, traders and soldiers from India. The major religions of this area are Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. Animists and some sects also exist here. In Tripura Bengalis are in majority. The people, in these areas, in general, believe in local nationalism that leads to the separatist movements and a challenge to the authority of Indian government. The population of Nagas is more than one million. The independence movement started in the Naga Hills in 1950. They are fighting against Indian imperialism and demanding a separate homeland. A number of other ethnic groups have politically joined hands with them. It is pertinent to mention here that ethnicity plays major role in the separatist movements in north-east India. The growth of local nationalism is strong enough to tackle with Indian influence. Some militant organizations are fighting for the cause of liberation for the Garos.

The Naxalitie movement is one of the major separatist movements in India. The militants are real danger to Indian sovereignty. India has failed to overpower the strength of the militants. In 2008, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the Naxalite movement as the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by India. More than hundred separatist movements are working in different regions of India. India’s Maoist insurgency is fighting for communist rule and greater rights for tribal people. It started its adventures in West Bengal in the late 1960s. It has its stronghold in 40% area of the sub-continent “stretching from the north-east to central India.” Maoists are perhaps aware of the potential for a tactical understanding with the ethnic separatist groups in the battle against the Indian forces. The NNC and the NSCN consider Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai as the “greatest leaders of the century”. India accuses China of backing Maoist guerrilla fighters.

Khalistan, the Land of the Pure, is a proposed Sikh homeland in Punjabi speaking area of Indian held Punjab. The movement started in the early 1980s and reached its climax in 1984. Indian army attacked Golden temple & killed Thousands of Sikhs including Bhindranwale in BLUE-STAR Operation. Though Indira Gandhi crushed Khalistan movement, the idea of Khalistan is still popular in rural Punjab. Indira was assassinated by her own Sikh guards in retaliation. Khalistan Commando Force, Babbar Khalsa International, Khalistan Zindabad Force, International Sikh Youth Federaton and Khalistan Liberation Force are major organizations. The movement operates from different countries including Canada, the United Kingdom and several other countries. Indian government issued a white paper on Kashmir issue in 1948. In his statement the then Prime Minister of India said “ I have stated our Government’s policy and made it clear that we have no desire to impose our will on Kashmir but to leave final decision to the people of Kashmir.”According to Security Council’s resolution 47 on 21-04-48 “the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the Kashmiris expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.” In other words the fate of Kashmir would be decided in a free and fair plebiscite in this region.

Several groups in Kashmir are fighting against Indian atrocities. The freedom movement in Kashmir escalated in 1989. Since then thousands of people have sacrificed their lives for the causeof freedom.

It is heart-rending to mention the poor condition of communities in India. It is an uphill task for them to find employment or secure place for living in this country. It is a country that claims to be a progressive but still lives in the dark ages. Majority of the minorities are still struggling hard to achieve true freedom. The country is still in the grip of upper class Hindu minority. A number of militant groups have been working for the establishment of independent states since 1947. The separatist and liberation movements can gain momentum at any time to a possible division of the country into several parts.

One in a Million

One in a Million

The Kingdom of Rarities
By Eric Dinerstein
Island Press, 2013, 336 pages
One of the most remote and biologically rich regions of the world is found on the island of New Guinea in the South Pacific. The island’s sparsely populated mountainous terrain – there are areas that have likely never seen human intrusion – has made it a top destination for intrepid field biologists seeking rare and lost species. One area in particular, the Foja Mountains in the heart of Papua Province, has become the holy grail of scientific study. As Eric Dinerstein puts it in his bookKingdom of Rarities: “I had come to doubt whether places such as the Fojas still existed, geographic outliers with no history of interlopers – gold miners, oil drillers, religious zealots, or armed guerillas – either seeking their fortune or looking for an escape from modern society.”
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In 1979, Jared Diamond, the author of Guns, Germs and Steel, was the first western biologist to reach the Fojas, 740,000 acres of old growth tropical forest. Diamond returned with descriptions of the golden fronted bowerbird, a species that had not been seen for more than 70 years. But it wasn’t until 2005 that a group of scientists led by Bruce Beehler, an authority on the birds of New Guinea, had an opportunity to conduct a more comprehensive survey of the region. Their discoveries were astonishing: more than 20 new species of frogs, a new bird species – the orange faced honey-eater, as well as hundreds of plants and insects. Beehler described the Fojas as being as “close to the Garden of Eden as you’re going to find on earth.”
For Dinerstein, who was not a member of the expedition, the new finds are certainly compelling. He admits to being as enthralled as any avid bird-watcher at the prospect of checking another global rarity off of his list. But his real interest lies elsewhere. As chief scientist with the World Wildlife Fund, Dinerstein has spent the last three decades tracking rare species around the world. What he really wants to know is: What makes these particular species rare, and why does it matter? Have they always been so? Or has human encroachment made them rare? Ultimately, he asks, what can rarity tell us about how to protect species in an age of mass extinction?
It is somewhat surprising to learn, as Dinerstein writes, “that even in perhaps the most remote spot in the tropics, the rules of rarity still apply.” There are a handful of common species with limited distributions and many that have narrow ranges and low population densities. According to Kevin Gaston, whose 1994 book Rarity is something of a classic, just a small percentage of the world’s species (rats, robins, roaches) make up 90 to 95 percent of all individuals in the animal kingdom. If that is the case, then the majority of species on Earth, roughly 75 percent, are rare.
This may pose tricky questions in terms of which species and habitats to focus on for conservation. The problem will become more acute as increasingly large amounts of land, much of it in the tropics, are converted to agricultural production. “Wholesale conversion of land not only threatens to make no small number of common species rare through human activity,” writes Dinerstein. “It also threatens the very existence of what is now rare.”
If Dinerstein’s book offers a kaleidoscopic and highly entertaining picture of some of the world’s most remote and diverse ecological hotspots, it falls short in its prescription for protecting them. This is somewhat surprising given that Dinerstein has worked with the World Wildlife Fund for 24 years. Presumably he knows a thing or two about the challenges facing conservationists in the twenty-first century. In the final chapter, which provides an interesting tour of Bhutan and its ambitious efforts to preserve its native forests as well as rare flora and fauna, Dinerstein comes under the sway of a Buddhist worldview that amounts to showing greater compassion for “the millions of other species with which we share the planet.”
“What solution does a devoutly Buddhist culture offer for the conservation crisis?” he asks. “The answer: The global conservation crisis is ultimately a spiritual crisis in disguise.… Perhaps that is the country’s most essential export to the rest of us who are trying to come to grips with the conservation of rarities.”
I don’t doubt that there is a good deal of truth to this. But I’m not sure there’s enough time to address the “spiritual crisis” before the clock runs out on thousands, if not millions, of rare and endangered species. How we confront that reality, or fail to, will define the course of conservation in the years to come.