Dagana dzongkhag had been making headlines recently, unfortunately all for the wrong reasons.

From planning blunders that resulted in dry irrigation canals and cold storages worth millions going to waste to shortage of human resources like doctors and engineers and fuel for ambulance that resulted in the tragic death of a six-week-old baby, things are not going well in the dzongkhag.

What’s happening in Dagana, especially after the death of the baby, has frustrated many who are pouring out their anger on social media. There are differing views and opinions shared on the issues.

The problems may not be isolated to Dagana. Many other dzongkhags and even central agencies must be facing such problems, but it might not have caught the media attention.

It is evident that there are improper planning and implementation of developmental activities in the dzongkhag. Worse is the lack of monitoring and accountability.

When an irrigation canal alignment is not in line with the topography, it is not only the villagers who suffer. Their fields are dry but the government’s Nu10.1 million budget is wasted. The villagers, it’s is now learnt, were not even shown the drawing of the canal.

Technical failure turned the cold storage constructed with 2.6M into a white elephant, but some officials still risk their life to open the shed every day. Dagana is known for growing cash crops like mandarin and cardamom. The facility would have really helped farmers and their cooperatives. They also turned a vegetable shed into a bus terminal.

While local leaders and dzongkhag officials are worried that shortage of engineers would affect their annual performance compact they signed with the government, they are forgetting that it is hampering service delivery too. We cannot have hospitals without a doctor or doctors on long leave, particularly if it is in a poor dzongkhag.

It is a case of becoming wiser after an event, but an ambulance not having fuel is not an acceptable excuse. It is a vehicle used in emergency. Having proactive and responsible administrators in place would have solved the problem. The dzongkhag administration should listen to the grievances of people and spearhead investigation to find out what went wrong. It’s the responsibility of dzongkhag administrators to ensure transparency and accountability.

The Dagana issue also brings out a common issue with remote dzongkhags. It is now surfacing that some remote dzongkhags receive civil servants who are either recent recruits or transferred as a punishment.

The irony is that it is the least developed and remote dzongkhags that are in need of efficient and dedicated civil servants who look up to their posting as an opportunity. We have some good examples of how civil servants led by proactive administrators have changed the lives of people.

The whole purpose of decentralisation was initiated to create efficient an administrative machinery with technical capability at the local level. If those serving the people at the local level are complacent, decentralisation would never reap the expected benefit.

We need action-driven public servants, especially in the light of more powers being devolved to local governments.