History was made when His Majesty the King awarded Patangs to twenty chairpersons of Dzongkhag Tshogdu on 17th Decembere 2019 coinciding with 109th National Day. Never in their dreams would they have thought that they would become first batch of thrizin to receive such a great honor. The patangs were awarded in recognition of important roles local government play in affairs of state. His Majesty reminded them that local government is the nearest and closest form of government and commanded them to serve Tsa-Wa-Sum with utmost devotion and loyalty. Indeed, it was unforgettable day for those thrizins. A thrizin of Dzongkhag Tshogdu is legally the head of district and chairperson of highest decision making and rules framing body of the district. A thrizin (in theory) has responsibilities of guiding, reviewing and ensuring implementation of plans and policies of the district. A thrizin (in theory) has authority to command district/ gewog civil servants and elected leaders to function in line with vision, mission and objectives of the district. The gift of patangs by His Majesty makes their roles more pronounced and inspire them to work harder for welfare of the district. The award of patang will go a long way in boosting their morale and uplifting their image and stature.
It has been many years since the decision making powers of the district was handed over to elected local leaders yet the authority to shake and move largely remain with local bureaucrats. The authority of tshogdu chairperson remains mostly in the books. His/her role is limited to sessions of Dzongkhag Tshogdu especially in the dzongkhag where some dzongdags don’t give thrizins their due to recognition. By virtue of being Chief Executive Officer who leads qualified and experienced officials, the real authority remains with dzongdag. Even during the session, the suggestions and views expressed by Dzongdag is almost always endorsed without a second thought. For some dzongkhags especially where district executive officers are overbearing, the local leaders are vulnerable to manipulation.
Despite local leaders being there for a long time, they had been always following instructions from district authority. Also our local leaders are yet to come out from cocoon of experiment and they are to their right place in the affairs of district. As of now, they are unsure of their footing in governance and few bureaucrats subtly exploit this situation to implement their preferred policies or carry out instruction of political masters from centre. One common tactic is influencing local leaders using laws, policies and the rules and regulation of this and that agency to dissuade local leaders from getting their ways. Such practices could be attributed to nascent stage of current practice of local government system.
This could change now. With award of Patang, their status, confidence, image and stature in local government is greatly enhanced. When His Majesty the King himself bestows immense trust in elected local government leaders, bureaucrats too must respect competence and importance of local government leaders. This great gesture on part of Druk Gyalpo will instill greater sense of ownership of local affairs by local leaders. It may also waken in them the sense of competition among gups for a post of chairperson ( as of now some feel chairmanship is felt to be additional burden by gups and most feel they are unable to concentrate of affairs of gewog). Further, more educated and competent people might opt to contest in local elective process because of the enhanced status given. In conclusion, hope that local leaders take their rightful place in affairs of local governance and also hope bureaucrats in local government learn to follow directives of them instead of looking at local government just as formalities.
I offer humble congratulation to all thrizins.