Bhutanese society is becoming painfully aware of many unwanted developments of recent years which are not only making life more unpleasant for the people but tarnishing the image of the country.

Crime, it seems, is not only here to stay, but is growing in dimension and volume evident from the arrests of record consignments of controlled substances. Although criminal acts today are limited mainly to petty theft of property and belongings, there are already signs that people may soon hurt each other for material gain.

Bhutan’s pristine environment, so pure that it was taken for granted in the past, is now being polluted. The rivers see all kinds of waste matter thrown into, including discarded oil from workshops and garages, the mountainsides are being littered with non-degradable waste like plastics and cans, and the air itself is getting heavier with new ingredients like diesel fumes.

The pressure on the kingdom’s forestry and other resources is being increasingly exploited both as a necessity and for profit. Yet, even as such negative developments hit where it hurts most, it is tempting to be resigned to the fact that this is all inevitable and part and parcel of the development process.

As we know from one of the basic teachings of Buddhism, greed and desire are the root of evil. Development, progress, and exposure have brought us many material comforts, but they have also awakened us to such human frailties.

Those caught in alleged prostitution in Thimphu and recently in Gelephu are not new developments. The police are launching a study to understand the causes and modus operandi. But it is a no-brainer.  While it was taboo in the old days to go to prison or be engaged in such a trade, economic pressures overcame them. These individuals aspire for modern gadgets and luxuries and easy money in the profession could easily push one into the trade.

But so does the non-criminal population. The pollution and destruction of nature is also a direct result of progress. Watch a truck pick up momentum after crossing a speed bump on the expressway, or follow a second-hand car, and one cannot help but wonder where all the smoke goes.

The irony, of course, is that such developments stem from the very act of modernisation which was aimed at improving the quality of our lives. But this is also reality. The trend has been seen since man began seeking ways to improve his life.

Having lost our innocence, therefore, the only choice now may be to accept this and to be better prepared. Bhutanese institutions and people must be aware of such negative growth in its system and fight it wherever possible. We must acknowledge prostitution and drug peddling are serious problems and reach out to support those vulnerable.

Law and order, justice, social care, and such institutions would have to play a key role in resisting the deterioration of the social disease which has taken root, but it cannot be done without the full cooperation of the people.