I have been often cautioned to refrain from being “emotional” when writing about important issues. People say that one fails to be “objective” when one is emotional. But the case of Goongtongs is a very, very emotional issue. I cannot believe that unless one is extremely callous, one cannot help but be emotional. The suffering is just too great, and the apathy of the elected leaders and the bureaucrats even greater.
Something fundamental has to have gone wrong with the Bhutanese society if a section of us are reduced to employing dummies imported from China, to defend ourselves and our properties from the pillaging wild animals. But that is what is happening – some farmers in the East have now resorted to buying and using stuffed tigers to scare away marauding wildlife. Unfortunately, this ploy is not foolproof – it has a number of drawbacks.
One, they are not cheap so not every farmer can afford them. Two, they have limited success – and that too only with macaques and langurs. Three, they are ineffective during nights and they do not work against other predators such as porcupines, deer and wild boars. And four, over time, even the macaques and langurs realize that the stuffed tigers are dummies – so they carry them away and shred them to smithereens.
The proliferation of wildlife in the rural areas have been so prodigious that villagers say that the wild boars now invade villages and roam freely even during day – something that never happened in the past. Triggered by increase in their numbers, the macaques have become so audacious and bold that they now enter village homes and walk away with bundles of maize. Any resistance is dangerous since it results in attacks by the macaques.
It should have been obvious by now that our laws and Acts are skewed and lopsided. No law can be called useful or progressive if it takes away a human being’s and, for that matter, animal’s fundamental right to self-defense and preservation.
We should all understand that the Goontong tragedy has the potential to spiral out of control. We should not only work towards preventing further Goontongs in the villages, we should endeavor to reverse the trend – draw away migrants from the urban centers to restock the villages with Goontongpas.
Goontongs cause extreme behavioral change – it turns producers into consumers. This reversal of role has serious implications – both on the person as well as on the country as a whole.
Kuensel reported that in 2011, Bhutan imported food items from India worth 4 billion Rupees (US$77 million) – that too at a time when we were faced with severe Rupee shortage. Of that, 629.30 million Rupees (US$12 million) represented import of meat items. It is pathetic that we cannot even produce meat for our own consumption. The excuse: we are Buddhists and cannot kill! How long are we going to hide behind pseudo-religious obstinacy?
Something is terribly amiss if a supposedly agrarian society needs to import so much food from outside. Something has gone terribly wrong somewhere – if we are unable to produce enough to feed a measly 700,000 people. And yet, what can be expected when an entire town of Deothang cannot produce one kg of Kharang to sell me?
Contributed by Yeshey Dorji
Photographer & Blogger