Two lhakhangs in Merak have been without electricity connection for about a month since it is caught in a discord between local leaders and few individuals.

According to a resident, Wangdi, the gewog administration stopped collecting Nu 50 per household annually as electricity bill since last year after some individuals questioned the details of the money collected.

He said that following the complaint, the gup and mangmi refused to collect the bill, which has affected the two lhakhangs. “The gewog office should have taken the complaint professionally instead of taking a rash decision to stop collecting the bill altogether.”

Wangdi said that the system to collect Nu 50 annually from each household was decided by the former gewog administration officials. “It was a system all residents had agreed to. If there were no issues with the bill then, we don’t understand why the problem had to occur now.”

Villagers claim that the gewog office connected electricity to the two lhakhangs for about a week last month when VIPs visited the area.

Merak mangmi, Phurpa, said power supply was cut after the gewog office failed to clear the electricity bill of more than three months.

He said that until October 2016, the gewog collected the electricity bill as usual. “However, there were few individuals who had complained about the purpose of the money collected and which is why the gewog decided to do away with the collection.”

The mangmi said that during a recent gewog tshogde, on the request of the public and the tshogpas, it was decided that the electricity bill of Nu 50 should be charged for the benefit of the public.

“It was decided that the tshogpas of the respective chiwogs would collect the bill at the earliest and clear the outstanding bills with the Bhutan Power Corporation,” he said.

He said that since the tshogpas are out of the station and a majority of residents are also with their cattle, they could not collect the bill yet.

The mangmi said that despite the collection of Nu 50 from every household, the outstanding bill amounts to about Nu 25,000. “We are not sure how we can adjust the amount and clear the bill,” he said. “We are looking at means to overcome the problem but people need to understand the situation instead of only complaining.”

According to the caretaker of one of the lhakhangs in Gengo chiwog, Phurpa Tshering, it was inconvenient to perform any rituals at the lhakhang.

He said that during a disaster management training held at Trashigang last year, it was informed that lhakhangs and monasteries should have adequate electricity supply in order to avoid robbery and theft cases.

“We were told that power would be restored immediately the next day during the gewog tshogde,” the caretaker said. “It’s been almost two weeks since then and we are still without electricity.”

Younten Tshedup | Trashigang