Thursday, July 13, 2017

The dream of stamping passport Fulfilled but seeing VISA is not

Civil servants come in many shades and forms. So does their nature of profession and budget of agencies. If you are a program officer in the ministry of health, your passport might be stamped at least twice a year and you will see VISA for at least two countries in a year. If you are a teacher in the Ministry of Education, chances are you may get your passport stamped once in a lifetime. The privileges of getting passport stamped depends on nature of your job, budget of your agency and your own competencies in whatever forms (its joke if people say training is not reward).
Since I joined corporate service and latter civil service, I had a dream. I had a dream of getting my passport stamped by immigration officials of many countries. I had a dream of changing of passport documents many times as a result of never ending stamps. But my dream, couldn’t be materialized. All I could do was pressed like button in the Facebook. If I see my pictures of my friends in the Facebook doing circumambulation of Boudhanath temple in Nepal, I pressed like button. If I see pictures of my close friends posing in front of Statue of Liberty, I press like button and comment ‘wow’. If my colleague post pictures of themselves from Grand Palace, Bangkok, I add emojis. 
This time, I got opportunity to visit India. Although passport is not required, I made it a point to get official passport issued. The reasons are simple;
1. I want to see looks of official passport 
2. I want to see how official passport work 
Today I carry this passport to places where it is not required. I carry it into loo and read my name again and again instead of reading newspaper or doing loo-thinking. I carry it to shopping mall which my batch mates find hilarious. I carry it while riding in rickshaws and proudly show it to rickshaw pullers. If Ministry of Foreign Affairs has system issuing VISA to India like they issue passport, I would have process it for the sake of it. Unfortunately they don’t. Because of this, I am not able to see how VISA looks like except for my bank VISA card.
Hope I don’t die before seeing VISA lol.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My Experience of Attending 4th HR Conference of Bhutan

Meanwhile my contribution

Every day is a journey through rough and smooth, plain and mountain and, difficult and memorable road of my life. Every day is an experience of regret and rejoice, of hard and easy and, pains and pleasure in phase of my life. Every day is learning and learning is a step towards progression and regression, construction and de-construction, and success and failure of my natural age. In journey of my life, my career is a small constituent of my entire process as a living being. Since changing my decision to become a civil servant from a corporate servant, I have an honour of meeting people of various attitudes and educations, profiles and positions and, values and backgrounds. Attending 4thHR Conference at Gelephu was one such opportunity. I have an honour of hearing from five members of Royal Civil Service Commission. I have an opportunity to interact and learnt from all HR professionals of Bhutan ranging from position like myself to high position of Chiefs. HR as profession was earlier carried out by administrative personnel. The focus during that time was administration and unplanned personnel management. It was just more than a decade ago, HR as profession was started in Bhutan. The first batch of civil servants who started their career has reached position of senior HR officer now. As of now, those in Chief and Deputy Chief Level changed into HR profession from various other professions.
The 4th HR conference was held at Gelephu from 10th April to 12th April 2017. Travelling in bus made it more memorable as we were able to interact with each other outside parameter/agenda set by organizers. This was my second opportunity to attend as HR official and first opportunity as HR professional of autonomous agency. My earlier opportunity was as HR professional of local government. This time, I was able to participate, if not, passively participate for whole three days. During 3rd HR Conference held in Gasa from 12-14 April 2016, I was acting as a host. Unlike Gelephu, the lack of adequate opportunities and facilities made it difficult for participants to enjoy and relax. Besides, the rain and frequent power outage at the place crawling with leeches tested the patience of participants.
But this time, it was different. While weather was getting hot and humid, the air conditioned Regional Revenue and Custom Hall was all it needed to calm nerve and cool the bodies of all participants. Organizers and the host had made excellent preparation compared to what I could do at Gasa. The conference discussed various HR issues starting from reforms to challenges, rules and regulations to policies shift, apolitical status to vulnerabilities of politicisation, and so on. At least 60 % of the time was spent on discussion of upcoming Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations which would be consulted with civil servants from districts and central agencies before further discussion with HR professionals.
Apart from conference, I also learnt that Gelephu was known as Hati Sahar or Land of Elephant. This could be because the place used to be habitat of elephants before modernisation took place. Even today, elephants raided villages and farms during summer.  It was probably in late 20th  century, it was renamed as Gelephu (Hill or Place of Abundant Virtues) by someone named Dasho Nabji. We were informed that he renamed quite a few names including Phuntsholing from Jaigon and Samdrup Jongkhar from Gudama/Daranga.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sorry State of Bhutanese Media

I have read about sorry state Bhutanese private media frequently. Media houses sprouted like grasses in the spring at one point. Then they wilted for want of monetary support or returns. On other hand, some of us, who are regular readers, lament quality and quantity of news content. We blame on incompetent and inexperienced reporters who joined private media as last resort to get themselves employed. We don’t care about financial situation of media houses. Once in its good time, when media houses were in height of its greatness, we really thought that private media could not only give alternate news but also give stiff competition to state owned media. But cruel rupee crisis nib the bud of bustling media. On other hand, media houses blame deteriorating state on lack of government support and profitability. The media houses were not able to pay employees on time or their salaries were slashed. Some media houses closed down. The lack of profitability has discouraged senior and experienced journalists from working. They either joined state media or do different jobs that give them means to sustain. Today, I see some of good private journalists doing average journalism in state owned media.  I also see some of them working in other jobs ranging from consultancy to giving tuitions to students.
Today, I can also see names of my friends under news articles in some of private-owned newspapers. In one media, I see one of my graduate friends elevated to post of editor due to which I feel like Harvard educated citizen (though many friends told me my English is laughable). One time, I grasped that paper intending to show off to my family of having editor friend. Now I will not read that paper ever.
In 2013, I had an opportunity to observe one private newspaper for my assignment as a trainee in Royal Institute of Management. I learnt that particular media house doesn’t have vision, mission or values. It was opened to get share of government advertisement pie. That time, as democracy was  just started, government had been throwing money for advertisements indiscriminately on media houses. Almost all private media never invested in media business development. Instead, proprietors enjoyed their family holidays in Bangkok or Singapore. They didn’t even bother to keep certain percentage of profit as rolling budget. They thought money will come from government in forms of advertisement like rivers since Bhutan was young democratic country. They felt that sustaining media houses in young democracy was responsibility of government. When government abruptly stopped indiscriminate advertisements, the exodus of competent journalists was heart-wrenching. The media houses that once boast of having 30 employees had to work with two to three employees. They were caught off-guard without having either strategy or competency to come out with strategy to steer off from doom. Their lack of business strategy or corporate strategy came as shock and they were too ill-prepared to respond to it. Some of them couldn’t pay salary for next two months. Employees were either suggested to leave or left the media houses on their own volition. On other hand, owners also couldn’t close media houses immediately as they felt responsible to provide for those who didn’t leave or ignore suggestion to leave. They try to sustain through selling some odd books.
But it didn’t help media houses at all. Some media houses closed down while some only print whenever they get enough advertisements. News for whole publication is by one or two journalists. Today, state of private media just became sort of Chicken and Egg story. Media houses want advertisements first so that they can improve the print, coverage and content. On other hand, advertisers (almost all advertisers are government and corporate agencies) want to advertise in those papers which reach to large and right audience. The issue became whether there should be more coverage to attract advertisement or whether government agencies to advertise so that private media can grow. Both can’t afford to concede as both work under economic principle of limited resources.
But there is something government and media houses can work out. There could be many ways but only one thing comes into my mind. Private media wants help from government agencies but it is not advisable on part of government agencies to distribute ads equally among media houses. Firstly, for many agencies, there are just not enough works that needs media’s help in getting message across. Secondly, they don’t have enough budget to do charity. They want maximum impact for minimum cost. For example, an agency has tender work for huge construction, they will either go to BBS or Kuensel for greater impact and credibility. If agency has vacancies for uneducated people, they will go to BBS. But government can support media directly through scheme like that state funding of election. The Parliament should pass a law to help state support media. The coverage of media should be qualification to receive fund. The amount should directly depend on coverage.  Higher the number of paper sold, higher should be the support. Let’s say a paper cost Nu. 10 per print is sold 1000. The government may give 20% of total cost as support.  Nu. 20%*10*1000=Nu. 20000. Rest of the amount should be left for media houses themselves to either fund through advertisement or sale of papers. This will not solve problem but will definitely mitigate problem and also work as incentive. The idea behind making into law is to prevent politicisation by ruling party.

The Treaty of Ashley Eden and Bhutan

On 25th March 1864 A.D, Mr. Ashley Eden was made to sign agreement with Government of Bhutan drafted by Trongsa Penlop and his supporters. In 1863, Ashley Eden forced his ways into Bhutan when Bhutan was going through serious internal strife. Although Bhutanese never wanted to receive the mission, arrogant and stubborn forced his ways into Punakha despite repeatedly told to go back. Even Paro Penlop couldn’t stopped him at Paro. He was accompanied by Cheeboo Lama of Sikkim as the interpreter. During that time, situation in Bhutan was thus;
1.       Bhutan was undergoing internal strife due to which Jigme Namgyal of Trongsa emerged as the strongest leader
2.       Deb Raja was powerless and just a pawn in the hand of Trongsa Penlop
3.       Dharma Raja (Zhabdrung incarnate)was too young as well as too submissive
4.       Due to internal power struggle, the politics of power was such that sense of patriotism was at lowest point. Everybody was against Trongsa Penlop and wished he lose all power
5.       As none of Bhutanese knew English, Chiboo Lama might have played roles based on his vested interest including interpretation going by Bhutanese accusation during civil war.
The following was the agreement signed by Ashley Eden. Probably, he was probably the first person in history to sign and remarked `under compulsion` to save his own skin from GovernorGeneral of British India.
“That from today there shall always be friendship between the English and the Bhutanese. Formerly, the Dharma Raja and the Queen were of one mind, and the same friendships exists to the present day. Foolish men on the frontier having caused a disturbance, certain men belonging to the British Power, living on frontier have taken Bulisusan between Cooch Behar and the Kam Raja, and Ambaree, near the border of Sikkim, and then between Banska and Gowalparah, Rangamutte, Bokalibaree, Motteeamaree, Pappareebari, Arioetta and then the seven Eastern Duars. Then certain bad men on the Bhutanese side stole men, cattle, and other property, and committed thefts and robberies, and the British men plundered property and burnt down houses in Bhutan. By reason of this bad omen remaining, the ryots suffered great trouble; and on this account the Governor General, with a good intention, sent an envoy, Mr. Eden with letters and presents, and sent with him Chiboo Lama, the minister of Sikkim, and on their coming to the Desi and Dharma Rajas, making petition, a settlement of a permanent nature has been made by both parties. The Dharma Raja will send one agent to the east and one to the west; when they shall arrive on the frontier of the company’s territory, they shall, after an interview with the British agents, receive back the tracts above mentioned belonging to Bhutan, and after these shall be given back, and on full proof being given against persons charged with cattle stealing, &c., the British will surrender such offenders to the Bhutanese and the Bhutanese will like manner surrender offenders to the British. After that each shall take charge of his own territory, look after his own ryots, and remain on friendly terms, and commit no aggression, and the subjects of either State going into the neighbouring State shall be treated as brothers.
If, notwithstanding, any bad men on the either side shall commit any aggression, the rulers of the place in which the offender lives shall seize and punish him. And as Cheeboo Lama is the interpreter between the British and the Bhutan, the Sikkimese therefore henceforth assist the Bhutanese. We have written above that the settlement is permanent; but who knows, perhaps this settlement, is made with one word in the mouth and two in the heart. If, therefore, this settlement is false, the Dharma Raja’s deities will, after deciding who is true or false, take his life, and take out his liver and scatter it o the winds like ashes. The Bhutan’s army will take possession of Sikkim, and if the Raja of Cooch Behar shall attempt to take any land belonging to Bhutan, the Bhutan Government, Sikkim Government and the Company will invade Cooch Behar. If the British attempt to take land from Bhutan, the Bhutan, Sikkim and Cooch Behar will invade the Company’s territory; and if the Behar Raja shall invade Sikkim, the Bhutan, Sikkim and the Company shall invade Behar.  Whichever of the four States, Bhutan, British Company, Behar or Sikkim commit aggression, the other three shall punish it and if, whist this agreement remains, any other enemy shall arise to any of the States, the others shall assist him. This agreement is made between the British and the Bhutanese. And there is the seal of the Dharma Raja and Desi.
Seal here attached                                              Ashely Eden
Signed                                                                   (Under Compulsion)”

 Although Bhutan was in no stable situation to negotiate treaty due to internal strife, Ashley Eden was drunk with ego as he had, in recent years, negotiated and sign important treaty with Sikkim. On other hand, Bhutan was not really aware of actual might and military capability of British though Bhutanese tasted defeat during warfare in Cooch Behar at the time of Desi Zhidhar. Trongsa Penlop who emerged as formidable leader from among Penlops/Dzongpons was more concerned about getting back lost eastern duars which was great source of revenue for him. Probably, Paksha Raja, a runaway Indian mutineer who was acting as Jigme Namgyal’s advisor wanted to balm his own ego and didn’t disclose true might of British. Thus, Bhutanese leader especially Trongsa Penlop and Wangdue Dzongpon not only insulted him but drafted their own treaty whereby duars were to return to Bhutan. Apart from issues of borders and cross borders criminal activities, Eden was not authorised to negotiate about return of duars or any changes in boundary. If Ashley Eden signed the treaty, he was sure to face severe action by Governor General and if he didn’t sign treaty, Bhutanese might have imprisoned him. Thus, he took advantage of Bhutanese leaders’ lack of English knowledge and he wrote `under compulsion’ below his signature. Once reaching India, Indian painted worst image possible of Bhutan and Bhutanese in his report. He demonised character of Trongsa Penlop although Jigme Namgyal redeemed part of his character due to treatment of British prisoners and concern for his own captured soldiers. As mentioned in agreement, Eden spoke with ‘one word in mouth and two in heart’ by discrediting the agreement he signed. Not only that, he recommended permanent annexation of all Duars and war against Bhutanese. Thus, Duar Wars were fought where many Bhutanese were died and around hundred were massacred by  overzealous native Indian soldiers. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Pema Gatshel

Bhutan was known as Lho-Mon Khazhi (Southern Mon of Four Approaches) to the Tibetans who resided to the north of Bhutan. The ‘mon’ probably meant darkness. The Lhomon means Dark South or Sothern Land of Darkness. And Khazhi means ‘four approaches’. Four approaches/passes are Pasakha to the south, Dalingkha to the west, Tagtserkha to the north and Dungsamkha to the east.
Dungsam comprised of present district of Samdrup Jongkhar and Pemagatshel. Now Dungsam is predominantly associate with the Pemagatshel after merger of Dungsam Nganglam and Decehenling to Pema Gatshel district. As of now  Dewathang.(it is place where Duar war was fought between British and Trongsa Penlop, father of the First King of Bhutan. The place was known as Dewangiri) and few other small places in Sumdrup Jongkhar is known as Dungsam
Some said that Dungsam means ‘three conch shaped hills’ named after three hills in Pema Gatshel. Some said that there was a lake called Dungtsho Karma Thang (Conch Lake on Plain of Stars) on the hill above Khar community. Later, lake dried up and people started settling there. Those people were known as Dungtshopa. Dungsampa could be corrupted word of Dungtshopa. Dungsam also was known as Dungsam Dhosum. It was probably one of the eight spokes of wheel of East (Sharchog khorlo Tsibgay). The term Dungsam could also mean three villages/communities. It is possible that dhosum was added later for easy understanding by official for purpose of tax collection. Although I am unable to find any concrete text at this point, Dungsam could also meant three dung (bone). Dung or bone refers to important secular family of which ruled central Bhutan which later spread. Dungsam was said to have four Choje namely Chungkhar, Bangtsho, Dungkhar and Shalikhar. Three of these were said to be equivalent to Dung family while Dungkhar was combination of Gya clan (from Yab Tenpai Nyima) and Dung.
Dungsam played vital roles in Bhutan socio-political history. According to a legend, Dungsam family was originated from celestial Guse Langling who was sent by Lord Indra to help people of Merak and Sakteng. When bride to a family of Dungsam (earlier name not known) halted for night at Mukulung Tsho (under Tashigang), she got impregnated by Langley in the form of snake slithering over her body. When he reached Dungsamkhar, she gave birth to a son called Barkye. Barkye or Ralpa Tobchen (as known later) was considered an originator of Dung families in Bhutan.
In 16th century, Mipham Tenpai Nyima (1567-1619 A.D) of Gya Clan also founded Dungkhar Gonpa in Khar, Pemagatshel. Mipham Tenpai Nyima was father of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. He fathered a son from a local lady. The son believed to be Tenzin Drugdra become second Desi under dual system of governance founded by his half-brother Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
Dungsam Yongla Gonpa also played important role as strategic point during battle of Dewangiri war in 1864/5. According to a legend, with aid of deity, Jigme Namgyal was able to assassinate British army officer from a long distance. Yongla Gonpa was founded by Khedrup Jigme Kundrol who was siddha as well as probably Bhutan’s first diplomat.
Dungsam Pema Gatshel is also blessed by many Buddhist Luminaries like Yab Tenpai Nyima, Jigme Kundrol, Lama Sonam Zangpo, Do Drupchen Rinpoche, Dung Thinley Norbu, Dudjom Rimpoche as well as 70th Je Khenpos.
In 1970 A.D, invited by Lama Sonam Zangpo and Dungse Thinley Norbu Rimpoche (son of Dudjom and son-in-law of Lama Sonam Zangpo), His Holiness consecrated the renovated Yongla Gonpa. And Dudjom Rimpoche also presided over 10 days Yongla Phurpai Drubchen. After the Drubchen, Rimpoche was invited to lower place popularly known as Khidhung (Village of Cuckoo) or Khoidung presently where Pema Gatshel Middle Secondary School is located. At this place, Rimpoche gave complete empowerment of treasure teachings of Pema Lingpa for 12 days. During this time, people of Pemagatshel requested the Rimpoche to give a new name to the place since the name khidung is inauspicious as well as embarrassing. People said that the Rimpoche looked around studying the shapes of hills which collectively resembles the shape of a lotus flower. Thus it was named Pema Gatshel or Happy Forest of Lotus.
But people are overlooking the fact why Rimpoche might have named this place as Pema Gatshel. This place was named during initiation of Pema Lingpa’s treasure teaching. Thus, it could also mean happy forest of Pema Lingpa or simply Pema. Thus, this place seemed to have named based on two auspiciousness-place where complete teaching of Pema Lingpa was  given and place which resembles shapes of lotus.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Bhutan’s First Contact with British

This New Year, I have made some resolutions. I promised to myself that I will no longer drink beer, eat noodles and sleep to the point of getting depression. While I don’t like to hang out with friends gossiping about politician’s protruding teeth or lady’s extra-sized bosom, I need some ways to spend my time meaningfully if there is so called meaning in mundane works. So I promised to read some books and regain my past habits. Reading has been my favourite past time before I gave into drinking and other cardinal vices. So I began by collecting books from friends and book stores. Book collection is harder than I thought. Unlike in the school, I could neither borrow nor stealthily pick up from library when librarians are busy gossiping. Some friends who used to be book lovers have either gave into their family life or money-making while others either concentrate on professional life or professional pleasing. So I found out now buying is only the way. After deductions of that and this, I only get a few thousands from which I have to pay housing, food and clothing. Only 1-2 thousand which earlier used to be beer-money is left. Of course, I can’t give up my drinking totally so that leaves me only one thousand for buying books that also assuming that some far relatives of friends and relatives don’t get suddenly sick or die in the hospital. And God be praised, I just don’t understand how did books by Bhutanese authors get so expensive. I wonder if they are charging for quality of papers used instead of its content. After much thought, I decided to buy few books on monthly basis. My problems didn’t end with procurement of few books, reading was much harder than I remember.
One thing that struck me while reading those books was that Bhutan was not as isolated as many of us think it was. In history books in school, we were told that only in 1960s, Bhutan came out of isolation. Our relation with Tibet preceded the visit of Guru Rinpoche. Our relationship with Indian kingdom could be same but earliest record I found was during time of Zhabdrung, he was invited to one of Indian kingdom through one rich man of Chukha.   Our officially relation with Nepal was happened as early reign of 3rd Druk Desi (though it could be earlier as I read only few books) through sending of Bhutanese lama to Nepal king or earlier going by nature of gifts sent to Zhabdrung by friendly countries. But it seemed that first major contact with East India Company or British was in 1772 A.D. In 1772, Desi Zhidhar or Sonam Lhendup of Bhutan defeated King of Cooch Behar (Bengal) and brought the king and his brother as captives. Bhutan considered Cooch Behar as her protectorate though Bhutan seemed to have lost documents that legitimized her claims. The defeated kingdom sought help from East India Company (hereafter Company) which was looking to broaden its expansionistic colonial policy. Besides, the Company was uncomfortable with gangs of Sanyasis robbing its protected areas along the frontier as well as occasional raids by Bhutanese frontier officials. Governor General of India Warren Hastings agreed to support Cooch Behar’s campaign against Bhutan under following terms;
1.       Cooch Behar to pay all military expenses against Bhutan
2.       Cooch Behar to pay half of her annual revenue to the company annually
3.       If she tries to go away from influence of the company, company was to take away all her revenues
Thus treaty was signed between two on 5th April 1773. On other hand, Bhutan was going through internal intrigues which was not so uncommon since the time of 3rd Desi Minjur Tempa. Tshenyi Lopon Kunga Rinchen of Zhung Dratshang was once friend of 16th Desi Zhidar. It was agreed between two that if Zhidhar become Desi first, he would install Kunga Rincen as Je Khenpo, and if latter become Je Khenpo first, he would appoint Zhidar as Druk Desi. Desi Zhidar was not able to enthrone his friend as Je Khenpo. Besides, they backed different incarnate Lamas to the throne of Palden Drukpa. Therefore, Tshenyi Lopon who now desired to become Druk Desi tricked Desi Zhidar into leading military campaign against the Company.
British sent troops under Captain Jones to support Cooch Behar while troop of Cooch Behar was led by Commander Nazir Deo. Their combined forces defeated combined force of Bhutan and some resisting forces of Cooch Behar. Meanwhile in Bhutan, Kunga Rinchen managed to get enthroned as 17th Desi. The edicts were issued saying that Zhidar was not to be allowed to enter country. Zhidar escaped to Tibet and got himself protected by Panchen Lama, regent of Tibet.
Due to defeat, Bhutan sought mediation of Panchen Lama. It likely was Desi Zhidar himself who sought Panchen Lama’s help. Panchen Lama sent letter to Governor General Hastings claiming that Bhutan was autonomous part of Tibet. He requested the Company to stop military assault. Governor General who wanted trade route to Tibet via Bhutan relented. The ten-point treaty called Anglo-Bhutan Treaty was signed April 1774. The gist of treaty were as follow;
1.       Each country to return land annexed during war mutually and boundary before war was to be respected
2.       Bhutanese to return king and his brother to the Company
3.       Any subjects who are under jurisdiction of company commit crime in Bhutan’s territory, they were to return to the Company for trial
4.       The rebels of Company were not allowed to hide in Bhutan
5.       Bhutan to permit the Company cut duty free timber from Bhutan’s forest
The Company ever desirous to open trade route sent George Boggle Mission to Tibet via Bhutan on May 1774. On July 1774, Desi Kunga Rinchen received Boggle in Tashi Choeddzong. While many considered mission as failure, he succeeded however in signing commercial treaty with Bhutan supplementing Anglo-Bhutanese treaty. Common people can remember him as man who introduced potatoes to Bhutan. After that many missions were sent; mission of Captain Alexander Hamilton (who accompanied Boggle) was sent twice followed by Samuel Turner mission. Bhutan and company seemed to have enjoyed relative peace till disastrous mission of Ashely Eden in 1864 which coincided with rise of Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal. Jigme Namgyel and Wangdi Dzongpon probably under advice of Raja Paksha (fugitive of Indian Mutiny and advisor to Trongsa Penlop) insulted arrogant Ashely Eden and latter was made to sign treaty which was not acceptable to the interest of the Company. Taking advantages of lack of English knowledge on Bhutanese side, he signed treaty (wrote under compulsion below signatures) to save his own skin. Once he got back to India, he recommended military action. Thus Duar Wars were fought and all Duars were lost. The treaty of Sinchula was signed in 1865 and Bhutan was compensated mere 0.1 million Indian rupees for loss of Duars. The treaty Sinchula bound Bhutan to be guided by India on her foreign relations. The unfortunate clause continued till February 2007 which was amended during signing Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty. 
However, it was good lesson learnt. Bhutan understood the might of British. Bhutan further cozied upto India as Chinese influence in Tibet increased. By 1904, Bhutan was firmly in good book of British India. Sir Ugyen Wangchuck with aide of his advisor Gongzim Ugyen Dorji played masterstroke in mediating between Young Husband Mission and Tibet. This role alone probably saved Bhutan from China and later paved ways for independent Bhutan (without having to go under either independent India or Chinese Tibet).
Of course, we can’t deny the role of 3rd King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck for sustaining Bhutan’s independence by joining United Nations.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Historic 16th National Film Award of Bhutan

Bhutanese Film fraternity has travelled so far and achieved so much. The cinema in Bhutan was started as hobby by some Bhutanese who loved movies.  Now it has become full-fledged industry. For many it is source of their bread and butter while for lucky few, it is extra income and business. Contribution to Bhutan socio-economic development can be followings;
1.      Provision of employment for at least 200 people
2.      Preservation, promotion and experimentation of our  tangible and intangible culture
3.      Promotion of National Language
4.      Setting fashion trend
5.      Exposing Brand Bhutan to international audience
In journey about two decades, Bhutan movie industry has managed to phase out foreign movies from public screening while bigger countries like Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh etc are unable to withstand onslaught of Bollywood movies. On top of that, Bhutanese Film Industry is able to carve niche market in some parts of India and even in Tibet, Bhutanese movies seem to be high demand.

Bhutan National Film Award is celebration of not only our film Industry’s success, it is celebration of our culture and way of life in ever changing world. The 16th National Film Award was celebrated on 21st February 2017 coinciding with Birth Anniversary of His Majesty The King of Bhutan. This film award this year was historic in sense that Prime Minister of Bhutan Lyonhen Tshering Tobgay graced the occasion and added three new awards with record prize of Nu. One million each-the Prime Minister’s Award Winner, 1st Runners-Up and 2nd Runners-Up.
This year, a total of 21 films competed for the awards in 31 categories.  Of total movies, 12 movies won at least one award. The movie ‘Tshorwa’ took the maximum awards at six followed by Pot of Gold, Bum Badha Chenmai Rigzin and Serga Mathang at five awards each. However, Tshorwa didn’t win many of major awards like Best Film, Director, Actor/Actress or Screenplay.
The best film went to Serga Mathang or Golden Girl Cousin--about practices of preferring first cousin (but not all first cousins qualify as golden cousin) for marriage in eastern Bhutan and how modern people view this practice). The golden cousin is son or daughter of your father’s sister’s children or your mother’s brother’s children. Your father’s brother’s children or your mother’s sister’s children don’t qualify as golden cousin.  The best actor award was given to Gyem Dorji, veteran local actor and former Member of Parliament. Tandin Biddha won her second best actress award for her unique role in Bum Badha Chenmai Rigzin. Best Director and Best Screen Play went to Kezang P Jigme for Serga Mathang. Tshorwa’s Sonam Dorji became highest individual award winners of the year (three awards) followed by veteran actors Gyem Dorji and Nidup Dorji, and Kezang P Jigme at two awards each.
However, the highlight of the National Film Award was institution of three new awards under name of Prime Minister’s Awards (as mentioned earlier). The prize money is highest in the history of Bhutan’s cinema. The prize money could be 1/3 of total budget of any Bhutanese movie. Serga Mathang won Prime Minister Award (by virtue of which it is also announced as Best Film) followed by Hum Chewai Zamling as 1st Runner-Up and Thrung Thrung Karmo as 2nd runner-up.
The Prime Minister award doesn’t seem to have any separate criteria than criteria for best film category. However, the reasons for instituting such award are said to be following;
1.      The name Prime Minister’s award seems to attract greater public reaction in international market
2.      To indirectly support  financially some of the best Bhutanese movies
3.      Motivate Bhutanese film makers to work hard.
But it is not known whether Prime Minister’s Awards will be given annually or not. Even if it does it is not sure three movies will get awards annually. Even Prize money doesn’t seem to be fixed amount.
The biggest award was received however by Film Industry as whole as the Prime Minister announce construction of movie halls in all twenty districts.

The details of awards and its winners are as follow;
Actor Male
Gyem Dorji (Pot of Gold)
Actor Female
Tandin Bidha (BBCR)
Supporting Actor Male
Supporting Actor Female
New Comer Male
Tashi Penjor Dorji (POT OF GOLD)
New Comer Female
Deki Lhamo (POT OF GOLD)
Child Artist
Kuenzang Lhamo (LEKZIN)
Actor (Negative)
Nidup Dorji (BBCR)
Actor (Comic)
Gyem Dorji (POT OF GOLD)
Kesang P Jigme & Sangay (SERGA MATHANG)
Karma Jerry (CHELLO DORJI)
Art Director
Nidup Dorji (BBCR)
Make up Artist
Sangay Dema (BBCR)
Sonam Dorji (TSHORWA)
Tashi Dorji (TSHORWA)
Sonam Dorji (TSHORWA)
Droji Lethro (TSHOI GYALPO)
Visual Effect
Music Composer
Tashi Wangdi(Khakom Chu- BBCR)
Background Score
5MB Studio (TSHORWA)
Sound Desing
Sonam Dorji (TSHORWA)
Singer Male
Ugyen Dorji (Gaya Mi-KUENDHEN LHATSHO)
Singer Female
Tashi Dema (Gawi Hingtram- TSHORWA)
Youth & Education
Sherab Dorji(Sheyka Drali- POT OF GOLD)
Best Director
Kesang P Jigme (Serga Mathang)
Best Film
Serga Mathang
Prime Minister’s Award
Serga Mathang
1st Runners Up-Prime Minister’s Award
Hum Chewai Zamling
2nd Runners Up-Prime Minister’s Award
Thrung Thrung Karmo

Source: Bhutan Film Association Website