MoHCA: A revision in the daily subsistence allowance (DSA) for dzongkhag mask and folk dancers should come through soon with a proposal in support of it completed and ready to be submitted to the Cabinet.

Home minister Dawa Gyaltshen informed the Assembly that the proposal would be presented to the Cabinet anytime soon for endorsement. Lyonpo also expressed his hope that said the Cabinet would support it as it would help address the issue of retaining or getting mask and folk dancers in the dzongkhags.

Pangbang representative Dorji Wangdi raised the need to increase the DSA yesterday during the question hour session. Dorji Wangdi asked the home ministry’s stand to address the issue, which he said is widespread across the country.

“While increasing the DSA alone will not be able to solve the issue, what are the other alternatives that the ministry is looking at?” he said, adding that there was also the issue of shortage of monks to perform rituals in the villages.

Both traditional folk and mask dancers are paid Nu 150 a day.  The dance troupe leaders, like the dhodham (captain), champoen and chamju (lead mask dancers), tsepem (lead singer) are paid Nu 200 a day. They are also paid an annual wage between Nu 7,650 and Nu 10,200 for preparing and performing for 37 days in a year.

As the issue is pertinent across the country, it was raised in almost all the dzongkhag tshogdus.

The home minister said that the issue has always been a concern for him personally even before taking over the responsibility of the home ministry. “Even during my visit to my constituency, it has been highlighted several times when interacting with the mask and folk dancers,” lyonpo said.

Lyonpo said that the ministry held several meetings with the respective gups and other local government members and the finance ministry.

Besides the DSA for mask and folk dancers, the home minister informed the house that the rules and regulations for the Local Government (LG) Entitlement Act that was adopted in May this year is almost ready.

The rules and regulations, lyonpo said would be submitted to Cabinet after it is finalized in consultation with the relevant agencies. The LG department has been working on the rules and regulations since August this year.

Seeking clarification from the home minister, Kengkhar-Weringla representative Rinzin Jamtsho expressed concerns that the LG leaders may not be paid their retirement benefits upon completion of their terms. “As the rules and regulations are yet to be adopted and most LG leaders complete their term by the beginning of 2016,” he said.

However, the home minister said that the LG leaders would be paid the benefits in line with the LG Entitlement Act.

Another issue that members raised was on the short clip of tourists swimming in the Mebartsho, Bumthang, which has been widely circulating on the social media.

“While there are strict laws against choetens and lhakhang vandalism, there is nothing against such act,” Wamrong representative Karma Tenzin said.  He said the government should take up the issue with Tourism Council of Bhutan and come up with policy interventions.

Lyonpo Dawa Gyaltshen said that he is not sure if the incident was true and that he checked with the LG officials.  The officials, he said, were not sure either.

If it was true, lyonpo said that it was a concern for a religious country and also if it occurred particularly at Mebartsho, a sacred lake.

However, lyonpo said that it was the responsibility of all the people to protect the environment, sacred lakes and monuments, a  right enshrined in the Constitution.

By Kinga Dema