Development and people in a democracy

Developments in the grassroots going wrong could become a serious problem, now more than ever because of budget increase that the government has approved to expedite decentralisation process. Some wily ones could use it as a tool to enhance personal gains. Political affiliations could make the matter worse. In the end, it is the people who will lose.

Trashigang Dzongkhag Tshogdu’s (DT) decision to blacktop the gewog centre (GC) road from Chaling is the beginning of the problem, let’s say. There are allegations and cross-allegations. Many are of the view that the road to the gewog centre from Khardung is most viable. 

Led by two tshogpas, a five-member team so has arrived in the capital to approach the prime minister and their elected representative. They took five days to come to Thimphu because of bad road conditions. There was a block at Yotongla. From Nganglam they came then and met with another block. All in all, they have been in the capital four days already.

What’s the real problem?

It all started with road connectivity to the gewog centre. There could be vested interest between and among the parties involved, of course. But pragmatically, the road to the gewog centre from Khardung makes the most economic sense. It is shorter first. Second, it can connect all the surrounding villages.

So how did the road from Chaling get approved, first in Gewog Tshogde and latterly in Dzongkhag Tshogdu? People of Trashigang are of the view that one or two local leaders bulldozed the decision for their personal gains. It is now upon them, the local leaders, to prove otherwise. It must be done.

Resource is at the heart of the issue. People think that given the limited resources, development of road from Khardung would be by much cheaper because it will not entail building roadside drains, cutting, and landscaping. Not only that, it would shorten the distance to the gewog centre from all the surrounding villages. That’s the argument. The answers the people getting are political, however, have not been so far helpful.

The people should get, if they haven’t from the local governments, a fair hearing from the prime minister and their elected representative in Thimphu and ensure that such things do not happen beyond Khardung and Chaling. If it means strengthening institutional arrangements to curb possible manipulations in the future, so be it.  

If this does not happen—which is not to say that the decision has to be in favour of the people or complainants—the people could lose faith in their local governments. And that will be destructive to Bhutan’s democracy.

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