Farmers in Paro and Punakha-Wangdue valley rely on rice. It is not only their staple food, but also a source of cash income. Local rice is in huge demand and the price it fetches is good.
The incessant rain in the last few days unfortunately coincided with the harvest time.
Production or quality this year will be severely affected.
Many lost a good portion of their crop to the rain. As farmers and officials assess the damage, the expectation was farmers requesting compensation. Quite often, we see and hear desperate farmers asking for compensation or hints at kidus.
Not this time.
The Prime Minister who immediately visited the affected areas assured farmers of His Majesty The King’s kidu. What came as a surprise was farmers humbly declining it. From Paro to Wangdue to Punakha, farmers or their representatives are declining to receive the kidu. It is not because they are well-off farmers. Some are sharecroppers who have to share the harvest with the landowners.
The damage is severe. In Paro alone, about 793 acres of paddy fields were damaged. Damage reports from the Punakha-Wangdue valley will come soon. We can expect that it was bad.
However, the “Me sey Namchung” or “Mi nabs” as they are referred to, have understood the priority when the country is still reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. They knew it had cost the government and they knew His Majesty The King had emptied the Royal coffer to help his people. Therefore, they declined to receive the kidu.
The farmer have sent a powerful message. Many would have thought that farmers would be the last to decline a kidu or compensation, especially when, besides the pandemic, the vagaries of nature impacted their source of livelihood. But they had other ideas. The concern is summed up when a Paro farmer said that it will be a burden on His Majesty The King.
The farmer, we can safely surmise, are referring to the various Royal initiatives during the pandemic to help ease the burden of the pandemic to the people. To put into context, as of March this year, interest payment support amounted to Nu 11.06 billion(B) out of which Nu 9.18B was granted as the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu and Nu 1.88B was borne by financial institutions.
Many countries have come up with fiscal and monetary policies at the cost of the state, but it is different in our country. The burden is on His Majesty’s Kidu Fund and the Sungchob Fund, both earmarked for an important national cause – Gyalsung or Bhutan’s National Service, a project for the youth that is very close to His Majesty’s heart.
Compensating crop loss to natural disasters wouldn’t cost much, but for farmers it would be a huge relief. Yet farmers knew the burden.
What our farmers decided is exemplary. At a time when many are investing the benefits of kidus into luxury cars or into saving accounts, the farmers chose to “sustain without any issue”. The humble gesture says a lot if not teaching us a valuable lesson.