Glimpses of the major contributions of Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck
From the beginning His Majesty has shown a deep understanding of the social, cultural and economic needs of the country. The King redefined the entire economic development policies, plans and programmes and directed them towards the needs of the rural population. In the sphere of domestic policies, His Majesty the King stressed the realization of the following substantial objectives:
* Achieving economic self-reliance and well being of the people.
* Creation of essential infrastructure in all spheres of development.
* Developing human resources.
* Striking a balance between modernization, development, values and cultural heritage.
* Creation of an effective social integration programme and of a single harmonious society.
* Achieving development plans and goals with the active participation of the people.
The five guiding principles of Bhutan’s development to meet the above objectives are the following:
* Economic self-reliance
* Environmental preservation
* Balanced development
* Decentralization and devolution
* Cultural preservation
1.Bhutan joins NAM
Bhutan joined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1973. The NAM evolved into a forum to ensure the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries against imperialism, colonialism, apartheid, racism and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference, and power blocs. At the sixth NAM summit in Havana, Cuba, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck declared that Bhutan’s non-alignment policy is based on “our determination not to align ourselves with one bloc and to hate the other, or to play power politics with both”. At the NAM summit in 1976 His Majesty said that the ever increasing expenditure on weapons of mass destruction is a vicious cycle, leading mankind ever closer to disaster.
2. Gross National Happiness
His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck famously declared, in an interview with the Indian media in 1979, that Gross National Happiness (GNH) is more important than Gross National Product” (GDP). In 1986 the Financial Times of London ran an article titled “Gross National Happiness”, making the concept known to the western world for the first time. GNH has today become the guiding philosophy of Bhutan’s socio-economic development. The concept of GNH is based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. GNH comprises four pillars: economic self-reliance, environmental preservation, cultural promotion, and good governance which are interwoven, complementary, and consistent. They embody national and local values, aesthetics, and spiritual traditions. Today, the GNH philosophy is much emulated around the world.
3. DYT formed
Decentralization has been the driving force of major reforms during the reign of the Fourth King. In 1981, the Dzongkhag Yargye Tshogchung (DYT) or the District Development Committee was established, shifting the policy making decisions from the centre to the 20 districts of Bhutan. The Dzongda, sector heads and Gups represent the people at the DYT which is guided by a Chathrim. The formation of DYT gave greater role and participation to the people in drawing up and implementing development plans. It also ensured the successful implementation of plans enhancing rural livelihood, prosperity and bringing about uniformity in socio-economic development. With the participation of the people in formulating the plans the people identify themselves with the plan and take greater responsibilities.
4. Royal Civil Service Commission
Till 1982, Bhutan did not have a Public Commission to recruit civil servants to take up the various jobs in the country. The King realized that the recruitment of civil servants was becoming more complicated and therefore appointed the Royal Civil Service Commission. It recruits personnel for various civil service posts and is headed by a Secretary, appointed by the King. The Commission also conducts the Civil Service Examinations for Graduates and accordingly places graduates found qualified for various posts. The practice of selecting Engineers through Examinations is also included.
5. Bhutan Becomes Founding Member of SAARC
Bhutan became a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in 1985. SAARC was formed as a non-political forum to create cooperation among its members comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It provides a platform for the people of South Asia to strive towards socio-economic progress in a spirit of friendship, trust and understanding. Underscoring the rationale for regional cooperation in South Asia, His Majesty said at the first SAARC summit in 1985: “We have to bear in mind that inspite of all our heterogeneity, we are geographically one homogeneous unit, that our peoples have lived together in peace and friendship for countless centuries, and that they share many values rooted in our common past.”
6. Chhukha Hydropower Project Commissioned
The construction of Bhutan’s first mega power project, the 336 MW Chhukha hydro-electric project on Wangchu river began in the 70s. The Nu. 2,460 million turnkey power plant was funded by the Government of India which provided a 60 percent grants and 40 percent loan at 5 percent per annum repayable in 15 years in equated annual installments. The first repayment was to be made 3 years after each withdrawal of the loan. The project was successfully commissioned in 1986 but the project was handed over to Bhutanese management only in June 1991. The beneficiaries of the hydro plant outside Bhutan are West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkim and Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) of India. A large portion of the power generated is exported to India. Till Tala hydropower project was commissioned Chhukha was the biggest contributor to Bhutan’s exchequer. The National Revenue Report of 2005-2006 reveals that Chukha Hydropower contributed Nu. 2,092.682 million which is 30.01% to the total revenue of Bhutan. The receipt during the year showed an increase of 8.75% or Nu. 168.395 million from the previous year’s collection.
7. GYT – Decentralization Gathers Momentum
The establishment of the DYT provided the framework for the establishment of Gewog Yargye Tshogchung (GYT) in 1991. His Majesty envisaged the gewog as the centers where all future plans would emanate. The gewogs would themselves be responsible for the implementation and realization of development activities. The GYT is guided by the chathrim that spells out the responsibility of the members, criteria for eligibility, meeting procedures, administrative and financial powers. Headed by the Gup and assisted by Mangap, Tshogpas, and Chipons, the office bearers are elected by the villagers through a secret ballot. The Gup has been accorded with financial powers to realize the decentralization objectives. They are empowered to collect and retain taxes which include house tax, land tax, cattle and grazing tax. The government pays salary to the village representatives.
8. Devolution of Power
The greatest leap in the process of devolution of power took place in June 1998 when His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck dissolved the existing cabinet and delegated executive powers to an elected Council of Ministers. The Royal Kasho issued to the 76th session of the National Assembly stated: “Our country must have a system of government, which enjoys the mandate of the people, provides clean and efficient government and has an in-built mechanism of checks and balances to safeguard our national interests and security.” Accordingly a six-member Cabinet was voted to power by the Assembly for a term of five years. The government would be headed by the Prime Minister, a post that is rotated among the ministers after a term of one year. The exemplary devolution of power with the initiative from the Throne is unprecedented.
9. Drafting of Constitution begins
His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck commanded the drafting of Bhutan’s first ever constitution on 30 November 2001. Under the Chairmanship of Lyonpo Sonam Tobgay, the Chief Justice, the Constitution Drafting Committee referred to the constitutions of more than 50 countries and submitted the first draft to the Druk Gyalpo on 9 December 2002. The king declared before the Lhengye Zhungtshog on 21 March 2005 that “The adoption of the Constitution will provide the legal framework for a democratic, political system that is best suited for Bhutan and will establish a system of governance that will safeguard the security and sovereignty of the nation and ensure the wellbeing of the Bhutanese people for all times to come.” In March 2005, the draft constitution was released to the public, following which consultations with the people in all the 20 districts took place.
10. Militants flushed out of Bhutanese soil
Bhutan had become a hideout to the militant outfits from across the border like the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO). The presence of the insurgents posed a serious threat to the national security and endangered the lives of the people. Repeated requests and dialogues held to make the militants leave the Bhutanese soil peacefully failed. As a last resort, in December 2003, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck personally led the Bhutanese forces in an operation aimed at forcefully evicting them from their hideouts in the jungles of southern Bhutan. The operation was a great success; the militants were flushed out in an incredibly short span of three days.
11. Tala Project commissioned
Power from the Rs 4,124-crore Tala project started flowing into India with the commissioning of the six units of the 1,020-MW project. The project on the Wangchu river, downstream of the operational Chukha hydroelectric project, was funded by the Indian Government with 60 per cent of the cost as grant and 40 per cent as loan at 9% interest. The total energy output is pegged at 4,865 million units in an average year. The project includes a 92-metre-high concrete dam, a 22.2-km-long head race tunnel, and an underground power house with six generating units of 170 MW each, and three 440 kV single-circuit transmission lines to the India-Bhutan border. A bilateral agreement for the execution of the project was signed in mid-1996, and construction kicked-off in October 1996.