Able to live normal lives in abnormal times

A sizeable proportion of the Bhutanese population – extremely distraught by collapsed businesses, debilitating loans, and loss of personal livelihood because of the Covid-19 crisis were profoundly relieved and comforted this week, their distress lifted by the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu.

In addition to the thousands of people weighed down by all types of loans and nearly 20,000 people holding “non performing” loans, more than 13,000 individual citizens were granted the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu. More applications will be processed in the coming days and weeks.

The tension suffered by the applicants is understandable, given that their lives and livelihood have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and their daily routines replaced by distress. At the same time, we must also keep in mind that the entire world has been affected by this crisis. In fact, none of us has been spared, one way or another.

What strikes us, therefore, is that Bhutan and the Bhutanese are better off than many others. This unique Relief Kidu granted by His Majesty The King comes as a blessing in times of desperate need. It comes even as our daily lives have been wrenched from normalcy.

It is critical that such a compassionate sanction is implemented with sincerity and fairness. Thus a need for the team of specialists and professionals processing the Kidu, supported by the rest of us, to do everything possible to ensure transparency, accessibility, and sustenance in the process.

We learn that the applications came in the thousands, through the given hotlines and walk-in facilities in Thimphu and all the dzongkhags. The circumstances of these applicants are varied and sometimes convoluted. So the dedicated team has a major task to fulfill.

It is also amazing that the age-old tradition of kidu is delivered with modern efficacy. Bhutan has automated formal agencies and institutions and the homegrown tech system used by the reviewers of the applicants has enabled them to screen tax papers, employment records, citizenship information, and other information with instant results.

Yes, we are all affected by this global crisis and many of us feel that we are also deserving. So it is comforting that many people are making considerate decisions, like opting not to apply in the interest of more deserving fellow citizens in more difficult situations.

It is at such a time that we realise the Covid-19 crisis is a test of the values and resilience of our society. Ultimately the duty that falls on all of us is that we are fair to all citizens. We will all suffer the implications if we go wrong but will all feel hopeful and reassured if this works because kidu is the ultimate social security safety net for all Bhutanese.

This is a precious soelra entrusted by His Majesty The King in his concern for his 750,000-member family. Never had we imagined that normalcy could be so precious. But, even as we appreciate this reprieve, we have the larger obligation to get back on our feet and be a part of the process of nation building so that we can continue to be proud of the Bhutanese system.

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