Promoting democracy

The panel discussion may have been too short. Politicians may have dominated the discussions. And the exchange of views and ideas may have been less than thorough. Still the interactive session, between students and MPs, that was organized by BBS to mark the International Day of Democracy was useful. At the very least, our students understood that it was okay to express their concerns, and question their representatives. Better still, politicians and young citizens could have, together, learnt that democracy is, ultimately, about accountability to the public.

It’s been 18 months since our first general elections. That’s 18 months since the Golden Throne gifted our people with full powers of government. 18 months since our people entrusted these powers to elected representatives. 18 months since the complete introduction of democracy in our country.

Eighteen months is a long time. It’s 30% of the five-year term of office. And that’s enough time to make democracy’s presence felt.

So to celebrate democracy, I ask you a straightforward question: How has democracy changed your life?

I first posed this question, to a senior civil servant, about a year ago. He answered that democracy had, indeed, bought about many changes. That we have political parties; that we have elected representatives in Parliament; and that we have a bicameral legislature. “True, true” I replied, “but what changes has democracy bought to you, as a person: a civil servant, a husband and a father?” He didn’t reply.

More recently, during the “Democracy in our Place” workshop in Paro, Her Royal Highness, Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck commanded that, for democracy to succeed in Bhutan, “…it must be relevant to the lives of the citizens, and most importantly it must be beneficial to them.”

And just last week, I asked the question again: How has democracy changed your life? I was meeting the political science students at the Royal Thimphu College.

So just how has democracy changed your life? I wonder how the students at the BBS panel discussion would have responded.


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  1. We would like to thank all the officials for such an intrusive program on such an improtant day. Let this be the start of such discussions where in the future such activities and discussions are brought up quite often in the public. It would be very fortunate if in the future BBS and our beloved politicians can make it for such open discussions and forumns through your busy shedules.

  2. How has it changed my life? … I am not sure.
    Personally, nothing has changed for me. I am still toiling for my daily bread. Should I get fired tomorrow, I do not know if I’ll return home. I’ve no retirement schemes. I’ve no unemployment schemes. I’ve no old age fund schemes. Insurance?.. No.
    Nothing really has changed for me.
    Some got Kabneys, some got patangs, some got titles…. Dashos, Lynpos, ah, so much has changed, but for a poor farmer in Trashigang, it’s just something that’s happening in Thimphu.
    If you want to know what has really changed, go ask our farmers, our parents. Nothing has changed, Lynpola, nothing has changed.

  3. i wonder too, if anything has changed.

    maybe for politicians, a very big change, starting from blue kabney, to paatang, to big amount of money to buy personal cars, huge salary raise. for some of them right out of the college, it was an opportunity for big gainful employment. they are elected. we elected them with our votes.

    however, for my farmer parents, they still do the same old things – raring cows and selling milk products, deep in the forests, infested with leaches, insects, battered by rain and sun.

    for me, a humble civil servant, i live on a paltry salary – paying more than half of my salary as house rent, sending one daughter to school, feeding a family of four at home. how much do you think i save at the end of the month for the education of my children and for use during my old age? well, i barely have enough to take me through the month. when i am young and able-bodied, here i am, a zhungi cha zhumi (a civil servant). what will i eat when i leave the civil service? what will i send my children for higher studies with?

    some of those who we elected have gone on to become ministers. they had, on their lips, during their campaign, welfare for civil servants too, citing their experience in the civil service. i hope they have not forgotten this.

    politicians wanted to pay themselves a huge pay and other perks doing literally NOTHING. and they think other employees can survive on meagre pay. i wish they realise that what they are doing isn’t JUST.

    democracy will change lives of farmers, civil servants, corporate employees and all others in Bhutan only when politicians fulfil what they promised during campaign, because people voted based on their genuine need for what they promised. otherwise, it’s going to be a sad case of a begger who begged for votes ultimately going to become a master.

    as of now, except for infesting our common public places with people with blue kabneys and patangs and giving an eye sore for the people, democracy has not changed my life in any ways.

  4. I did write about that in my blog sometime in august….an Indian Journalist had asked me about it…

    • Oh yes! I remember! I challenged you with the very same question when you and an Indian journalist (from Sikkim?) visited my home some time back. But that journalist was not making a documentary that your refer to in your blog. This is good. More and more of us must ask this question over and over again. Then and perhaps only then would the high promises of democracy stand any chance of being fulfilled.

  5. Wang Dungyel says

    Democracy has not changed my life either, I am better before the democracy. I am also wondering, countless laws have been made and passed in the assemblies. Every assembly session’s three or four laws are passed. Are we Bhutanese citizens unlawful? I could not understand. And in the panel discussion MP’s were defending their stay at Thimphu saying they have to make laws. Meaning many laws will again come up. Are constitution, Tshimsung Chenpo and Bhutan panel code not enough? Well the only changes I have seen is the Anti Corruption Commission’s work. More corrupted ministries and people were surfaced fearlessly. This became possible because our King‘s solid support and Dasho Neten’s and her team’s courage. Still there are many and they think they will escape but they will be caught one day. Don’t show any mercy to such corrupted people. Life is same for me, and we are pulling through. All prices have gone up but we have no option. Government only tell this month the inflection in this and that. But does not do any work to curb the inflection? We only want the present government to create employment opportunity in the country. Remember the deadly backlash in France in year 2006 is due to unemployment of the youth. Lastly implement the last 10th Five Year Plan successfully. This will ensure the preparation and implementation of 11th Five Year Plan by the democratic government.

  6. Dear OL, We would like you to probe into the recent trade fair and the organizers. According to sources it is believed that the orgizers are New wave company who acording to record is a company which was banned last year by Home Ministry. Who is the Bhutanese counterpart and how did they get it? Please enlighten the public on this and whether it was justified!!!!!

    • New Wave company is a indian event management company under the licence of Mr.Palden Tshering, our PM’s nephew.He just collects a commission ……thats what i hear

  7. i would like to thank BBS team.i really like the program…good luck.. in future the program should be for 1 1/2 hrs minimum. Now BBS should do the same kind of program very week…may be Saturday or Sunday evening(LIVE).anyone can register BBS and come to join live discussion.BSS should pick up the current topic like..Gewog development in Bhutan(referring CDG)..Youths unemployment..Disaster management..referring to Chhukha incident..10th five year plan…Global warming referring to Bhutan.Judicial system in Bhutan. Our OL commented that 30% of DPT govt. is over…you are right..but we people find the same thing…no change. If Govt want to make change …ask common people who voted the govt. Staying in Thimphu will not solve the problem.

  8. Democracy made me handsome (my wife says so). I had to buy a new gho to be in fashion-thanks to our models walking the ramps in NA.

  9. Dear OL,

    Did it bring any changes to you? Like others have said here, no changes for me. The messgage is same as before – if you are not well connected, stop dreaming. However, if you are – then Bhutan is up for grab.

  10. Dear OL,

    May I please suggest you to come up with better poll questions? Something that will enhance yours and participant’s knowledge about issues that matters. The current poll question is of no importance to me.


  11. I assume that the OL posted the poll question to find out if bhutan is a male dominated society and i feel that the question is relevant. correct me if i am not.

  12. and as for democracy having changed anyone’s lives for the better, i have my doubts

  13. Democracy has certainly made me more vocal because the government is asking & encouraging people to speak out about their problems so the government can make changes and help out. BUT GUESS WHAT- WE HAVE BECOME MORE VOCAL ASKING GOVERNMENT FOR MANY THINGS AND THEN WE ARE KEPT WAITING.


  14. During the voting period, i could feel the division not only in homes but also at workplace. It was not such a sensible thing to let people know your mind. I kept mine to myself.
    Well now, since all that’s through and over (for some time) i don’t know if much has changed for me personally… i continue doing what i do and trying to do in best intention. However, i do see lot of upcoming policies and regulation. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. I am more of a liberal person and i think that the market should take care of things but it feels like it’s not so in here. But having said that, at least things looks good so far.

  15. the politican student discussion and later politicabs panel daebate was boring, expected and un ambitious on the part of UNDP that orgnaized it and BBS that broadcastd it.
    UNDP played it too safe leaving school students to question our politicians, no wonder they dominated the discussions.
    Waht would have been a more genuine and honest attempt would have been to invite a more varied panel of ACC, RAA, Media, NGO’s, professioanls and civil servants or one of each.
    But of course this is bhutan and saftey and arifice is preferred over the truth.

  16. I remember when certain of my articles would not get published in the Kuensel. I used to sometimes wonder why. Now, it’s almost every single article you send to any of the local newspapers…that’s what’s changed for me in the past few years and I’m glad.

  17. For me personally,i think nothing much has been changed after advent of democracy…Now whether this is good or bad is something that i am asking and i didn’t get answer……In a way, people voted DPT for continuity and in general people should be happy that nothing drastic either in positive or negative is happening….we are somehow following same old ways….

    Yeah, one thing is certainly changing i.e. people are coming forward and speaking, they are understanding their fundamental rights. And of course media is playing active role!

  18. Since the democratically elected government came to power nothing has changed at all in terms of development. The only force of change, however, has come from our mother earth with unprecendented natural calamities. I hope the years ahead will be more promising.
    I also would like to believe that people voted for DPT coz’ they didn’t want change and therefore preferred to continue with the same old ways. But to me change is not necessarily about undoing the past and creating the whole new things all over. Change means finding ways and means to stengthen the already existing systems that should take this country to a next higher level. To do that, we need competent MPs too…

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