Every year, on February 21, Bhutanese come together to celebrate the Birth Anniversary of His Majesty The King and renew their allegiance to the Wangchuck Dynasty. There will be, unfortunately, no public gatherings this year to celebrate the occasion.
However, the Covid-19 restrictions will not hold us back, as people and country, to renew this sacred covenant. And we will do this with much joy and happiness, realising that the star of our common destiny continues to shine ever brighter. And that star is our King.
2020 was a tumultuous year. Our life was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. People around the world lost lives and livelihoods. In Bhutan too, people suffered unforeseen problems. Many in the private sector lost their jobs. Students missed an entire academic year.
In the midst of this all, one person stood tall: giving hope and strength, compassion and wisdom, and unfathomable blessing for lives that could go on as normal. And that was no other but our King.
Bhutan recorded 866 cases, a large number by our population size. The ground was fertile to see a Covid-19 disaster had it not been for the compassionate leadership of His Majesty The King. A year into the pandemic, statistics say it all—eight active cases and one death. The recovery rate of 98 percent is globally impressive.
The Covid-19 pandemic overwhelmed us. The ripple effect of the pandemic brought almost everything to a standstill. From tourism to hotels to businesses, everything we name it, the pandemic had an impact. Lives and livelihoods were disrupted; everybody needed a helping hand.
But His Majesty’s idea of Bhutan as a nation state was different. The systemic response, overseen by His Majesty himself, was different. From creating task forces to handle administrative and bureaucratic processes to distribute rations, medicines, and repatriate Bhutanese living aboard, it was His Majesty’s foresight that remained supreme guided the course. Thousands of desuups were engaged to secure the borders.
It’s only fitting that we celebrate the birth anniversary of our great leader with pride and pomp—remembering that His Majesty is the most compassionate King, the guardian of peace, the symbol of unity, the fountainhead of justice. Like a recipient of the Royal kidu said: “There is no way one can repay His Majesty even in a hundred lifetimes.”
But there are ways we can continue to respond to His Majesty’s call. On the eve of the second nationwide lockdown, His Majesty The King, from the Pungthang Dewachenpoi Phodrang, issued two kashos reminding the people of our priorities.
The two kashos, on reforms desired in the civil service and the education sector, spell out where we could go right. The wisdom is clear and the priorities are spelled out. The best gift to His Majesty on his birth anniversary is to fulfil what is spelled out in the kashos.
The two Royal Kashos are directed not to a specific ministry or an agency, but to the people of Bhutan, meaning all of us must strive to fulfil His Majesty’s aspirations. The call is on reforms from revisiting our curriculum to making education relevant to integrating technology to critical thinking.
Education and civil service are interlinked. The quality of public servants depends on the quality of education. And the policies our civil servants adopt will determine the quality of our life.
The least we can do, as a people bound by love for our King and country, is to reflect and introspect on our own ideas of common good. Possibly that means living up to His Majesty’s aspirations.
Encasing the kashos in golden frames and hanging them on office walls will not be enough.