The former mangmi and gup of Dangchu are accused of marking them dead and claiming their insurance 

Record: Thirty-year-old Kumbu Dem, from Rigdha-Wog village in Wangdue was shaken earlier this year, when she learnt that the dzongkhag census record had listed her and her mother dead since 2010.

A mother of two, Khumbu Dem lives in a rented temporary structure in Nobdhing on the Wangdue-Trongsa highway selling tea and porridge to commuters waiting in the road widening blocks.

Initially, whenever she went to the gewog office to register her son’s census, she was told that her census was dropped or missing. Since such cases occurred often, she thought it could be solved after she visits the dzongkhag census office.

However, when Kumbu and a cousin went to check with the dzongkhag census office earlier this year, the census officer told them that they have been marked dead since 2010. “I was shaken,” she said. “I am alive and my mother, Sangay Dem passed away few months ago, this year.”

Besides marking them dead, she learnt that their life insurance benefits were also already claimed. “We were told that the former mangmi and former gup of Dangchu had marked us dead and taken our insurance money,” claimed Kumbu.

She said she asked the former mangmi who denied the allegation and instead told her that she could take the issue anywhere she wanted. “We could not meet the former gup, but my cousin called his son who said that we aren’t allowed to check our own census,” Kumbu said.

Kumbu owns about 50 decimal dry and 30 decimal wetland in her village, but doesn’t have house.  “When my mother passed away, I didn’t have money as she was sick for about seven years,” she said Kumbu. “Without insurance money, I borrowed from friends.”

She said she started repaying the debt by selling tea, snacks and porridge,” she said. “With children to look after, I can’t afford to go to the dzongkhag again, but my cousin has been helping me.”

Wangdue’s census officer Tshering Dorji confirmed that the census record showed Kumbu Dem and her mother Sangay Dem as dead. Following her brother’s request, he said they have written to Dangchu gewog to find out the facts and submit a report.

Dangchu gup Sonam Dorji said the gewog has compiled a report and submitted to Wangdue dzongrab. The gewog’s report found that both the mother and daughter were marked dead since 2010, and records with Wangdue dzongkhag accounts showed that their life insurance premiums were also withdrawn “Records with the accounts department also showed that the daughter’s life insurance was taken in the former mangmi’s name while no name has been listed against the mothers’ claim,” he said.

When Kumbu’s cousin took the insurance voucher and verified with the bank, the money was found to have been withdrawn in the name of former Dangchu gup. The life-insurance premium per individual is Nu 15,000. To avail life insurance, a death certificate from either gewog or hospital is required. The dzongkhag census officer can mark a person as dead only when the gewog confirms the death with a certificate.

Dangchu gup Sonam Dorji and Rigdha-wog’s tshogpa Rinzin said that although Khumbu visited their offices several times, they could not help her until she was registered in the census. “While inquiring with revenue office, they told us that the records were burnt in the Wandue dzong fire,” the gup said.

Wangdue dzongrab, Nima Gyeltshen said they are yet to settle the case. “We have written to census department and got further directives and after which we have written to Dagachu gewog,” he said. “We will forward the gewog’s report to the census department soon.”

Meanwhile, the former Dangchu gup Phub Tshewang agreed that the incident happened during his time as a gup but said he did not know that the two were listed dead until Kubmu’s cousin told his son.

“I checked with the dzongkhag census immediately,” he said. “While Kubmu’s cousin found that the money was withdrawn in my name, the voucher does not have the name of the deceased.”

He said the date on the voucher matches with the date when he claimed the insurance for an 80-year old woman who had died then.

By Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue