Tshering Palden and Nima Wangdi 

With less than four months for their employment contracts to end, gaydrungs (gewog clerks) wait anxiously for an update from the government.

However, Department of Local Government director Kado Zangpo said that the Cabinet has asked the department to prepare a proposal and submit it. “We’ll be submitting it once the local government elections are over,” he said yesterday.

In January 2019, the National Assembly decided to retain the post of gaydrung and to regularise as civil servants if circumstances were favourable.

The Cabinet extended the tenure by three years to April 2, 2022. Following the Cabinet order, the home minister issued an office order on April 29, 2019 informing dzongkhags that the end of the tenure for all new gaydrung recruits should fall within April 1, 2022.

Since the resignation of the elected officials, gewog offices are currently run by the gewog administrative officers (GAO) and the gaydrungs.

Other officials at the gewog, like gewog administrative officers, accountants, and mangmi said that they are engaged in other official work and are not easily available to provide basic yet essential public services such as filling up forms to avail loans, census details, land record, and others.

“Most of the time we remain out of station attending meetings, preparing plans, budgeting, executing development activities, monitoring and supervising. Gaydrungs keep the gewog administration operational on daily basis and help in our absence,” a GAO said.

The responsibilities of gaydrung as per the Local Government Rules and Regulations 2012 are collecting tax and insurance premium, processing land transactions, filing and maintaining records of official documents, and performing other official functions as directed by the gup, mangmi, and GAO.

The gaydrung should possess a minimum of class XII pass certificate. The contract term of gaydrung is renewed every two years.

Gups Kuensel talked to said, that gaydrungs also help draft letters, attend to people when the gup, mangmi and GAO are out of the station, help fill application forms and also draft agreements.

Another gup said that those elected as local leaders are expected to do all official work as they have passed the functional literacy test (FLT). But this is not the case with all the local leaders. “Some have only Dzongkha literacy and lack English knowledge. Others like tshogpas can’t even make a proper name list,” he said.

He is doubtful if the FLT standards are adequate. “Just having passed FLT has   not helped get people with adequate literacy to these posts,” he added.

Wangphu’s former gup Sangay Tenzin said that the local leaders at the gewog may be literate and able to carry out all the tasks as expected. But gaydrungs are needed as they have their own roles and responsibilities like tax collections.

Another Gup in Samdrupjongkhar said gaydrungs are required as they are like tools for the gup. “They perform a variety of tasks in the gewogs,” he said.

Study findings

In 2019, the DLG conducted a study on the relevance of gaydrung in gewog administration which recommended retaining and regularising the post of gaydrung.

The study report stated that gaydrungs play a key role in the gewog administration and provide the means to implement 21st century innovations for enhanced service delivery such as one-door-service (ODS) or one-stop-service (OSS  ).

According to the report, around 93 percent of the population confirmed that gaydrung is critical for public service delivery and 89 percent of them were actually very satisfied with the services that they have availed. The 22nd dzongdags conference and 9th gups conference also acknowledged the critical role of gaydrung in the functioning of gewog administration.

The study also revealed that there are minimal areas for work duplication which can be easily streamlined. So it recommended that the terms of reference for each Local government functioning be streamlined and adequately sensitised after every local government election.

The DLG’s study recommended that gaydrung post be fixed at class 12 with proficiency in Dzongkha (able to draft agreement and applications) with adequate years of training in office management.

What gaydrungs say

Sonam from Tashiyangtse, who has been working as gaydrung for Katsho Gewog in Haa, said she hopes that the gaydrung contract term gets extended.

“Many of our friends have resigned to contest in the LG election. They are expected to explain the need of the gaydrungs in the gewogs better if they got elected as gups and mangmis,” she said.

Her contract ends about five months from now and she would be unemployed if her contract is not extended. The class XII graduate,  who has been gaydrung for 11 years, said some gaydrungs also have loans and other obligations that they might not be able to fulfil if they lose the job.

Phurba Yangzom, the gaydrung of Dangchu gewog in Wangdue, said that if the government is considering retaining the post, it should introduce benefits like Leave Travel Concession, salary increment, leave encashment, and retirement benefits. “What we get for now is the house rent allowance, which is Nu 3,500 a month.”

Another gaydrung said, going by the LG system set up, gup is the overall head of the gewog with a set of responsibilities and gewog administrative officers look after planning gewog plan activities while mangmi is responsible for dispute settlement.

“Given the tasks that the gaydrungs are performing, it is important that the gaydrung contract be extended,” he said, as of now, he doesn’t know what kind of decision is going to come through.

He also said the people are in support of the need for gaydrungs. “But the problem is the authorities think otherwise,” he said

While the qualification requirement is limited to class 12, dzongkhags have recruited university graduates as gaydrungs.


The way forward

Some gups said that while the post is needed for the time being with rapid digitisation and many services moving online, the gaydrungs have to upgrade their skills and qualifications.

“We already have an increasing number of university graduates contesting for the LG posts, so in near future with multitasking and optimising human resources, such posts may not be necessary,” a former gup said.