Lhakpa Quendren

Sarpang—Being the most remote gewog and a lack of proper roads, Chhudzom, locally known as Doban, remains the most costly gewog for political candidates during the elections.

The election is more expensive for them because Sarpang’s candidates have to arrange Bolero and four-wheel-drive (4WD) services on Election Day to facilitate the voters living in Gelephu and across Sarpang dzongkhag. 

Past election instances reveal that each candidate will need to hire at least 15 to 25 vehicles to transport voters to the polling stations across Chhudzom. The voters, accompanied by their supporters, leave from Gelephu as early as 4am, as shared by the former candidate who contested in the past elections.

A party candidate who participated in the recent primaries also expressed concern about this practice. “It has been a longstanding practice, especially among experienced candidates and politicians.” 

Without transportation services, according to the party supporters, many voters who wished to participate in the voting process would be unable to reach the polling stations.

When asked about such incidents, a candidate acknowledges them but denies personal involvement, saying, “We come to know of such practices only after the elections because they were not done publicly.”

With the blacktopping of the 44-kilometer road from Jigmeling to the Chhudzom gewog center nearing completion, light vehicles are now accessible. This development is expected to reduce the need for voter ferrying services on poll day.

The common forum

The political commitments of the Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), during the common forums for Shompangkha in Sarpang, priorities infrastructure development, farm road constructions, and improvement, irrigation channels, advancements in agriculture and livestock, tourism, energy, and improvement in public service delivery. 

BTP’s candidate, Lachuman Ghalley, pledged to the voters of Chhuzom to improve all existing farm roads through the road department and make them accessible throughout all seasons. “All our commitments are achievable. They will not just be on paper; we will bring them to fruition.” 

With the upcoming Mindfulness City project in Gelephu, he said people have many opportunities to earn income. “Farmhouses and homestays will be established for tourists to generate additional income for livelihood.”

“We will support the marketing of produce, which is currently lacking,” he said, adding that the shares and dividends from mines and minerals in their localities will be provisioned for the communities.

Pledging to establish a multi-sports facility in each gewog, Lachuman Ghalley also assured the provision of 21st century teaching and learning facilities to all schools, regardless of their locations. “For instance, a central school focuses only on the identified school, but our plan will cover all schools to avoid creating inequities.”

PDP’s candidate, Tek Bahadur Rai, pledged to complete the existing incomplete farm roads and construct chiwog interconnectivity roads. His pledges for Chhuzum also include the construction of a secondary highway from Jigmeling to Chhoekhorling.

His pledges for Chhuzom include double-laning the Sarpang-Tsirang highway, construction of a highway from Sarpang to Samtse, a helipad, utility vehicles, additional human resources, a doctor and nurse for every gewog, one farm shop in each chiwog, and ensuring safe drinking water.

“We will establish a workshop in each chiwog to provide employment opportunities for the youth,” he added. “We will also do away with the current requirement for approval for the construction of houses on private land.”

“During the president’s visit, the people proposed a mini hydropower project on Kharkhola. We will proceed with constructing the hydropower project if the experts find it feasible after conducting their feasibility study,” said Tek Bahadur Rai.

Besides, he also pledged to provide loans for the procurement of agricultural machinery, low-interest-rate loans for initial house construction, and reduce prices for chicken and cattle feeds.

Given the pertinent issues related to wetland conversion to dry land, both candidates pledged to address the concerns, focusing particularly on the wetlands that still lack access to irrigation water.