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The abandonment of ancestral land in the rural area is an issue of grave concern. This calls for an immediate consultation between the central and local governments to find ways to address the issue.

Since the Kingdom embarked on planned developmental activities from 1961, we have achieved phenomenal progress even though the present generation may not be aware from where we started our journey and how painstakingly built our nation.

Perhaps it is time we paused and reflected on the issues that merit attention of our policy and lawmakers in Thimphu to take hint of the repeated calls from the rural areas and take appropriate measures.

This paper has brought to the fore several issues like gungtongs (empty houses), shortages of labour, fallowing farm land, abandonment of villages, and recently, the falling numbers of yak herders. These issues, if not addressed now, could potentially change our settlement patterns and erode our rich culture and tradition, which are mostly rural based.

Reasons like Human-wildlife conflict, rural-urban migration, lack of irrigation water, security issues, etc. are attributed to people leaving their villages.

It is true that urbanisation is a phenomenon and, therefore, we need to invest and build infrastructure to accommodate the growing urban population. But the fact that 70 percent of our populations are farmers according to Bhutan Living Standard Survey (BLSS) 2012, the rural issues must receive attention.

Logically, there is a correlation between the two: the more investment and betterment of rural areas the less pressure on the urban areas; and more the advancement and betterment of urban areas, leaving rural far behind, more the migration from the rural areas in keeping with the current trend.

Therefore, as a GNH country, we need to look at all aspects of development. The fact that migrating to urban areas does not guarantee happiness, we need to create enabling environment for our people to flourish in their ancestral land and be much happier.

We hope that our 12th Five Year Plan would address these issues through appropriate plans and programmes.

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