MB Subba

The government will not implement the gewog re-organisation plan in the third local government elections.

The Department of Local Governance (DLG), accordingly, had worked out a draft plan that had reduced the number of gewogs significantly.

The DLG made presentations to the Cabinet. It was learnt that the Cabinet was not satisfied with the proposal and it wanted more consultations with the stakeholders, including the gewogs.

Director of DLG, Kado Zangpo, said that during consultations with LGs, a need to take into account social and cultural factors was pointed out. “Therefore, currently we are working on incorporating these factors into the report and applying the changes accordingly.”

The present government once said it had taken up the gewog re-organisation exercise as a major reform, but its inability to endorse the plan for the third local government election means that it will not be implemented in its tenure.

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, who is also the government’s spokesperson, said that there was not enough time for the gewog rationalisation plan to be finalised before the upcoming gewog elections.

“If we implement the gewog rationalisation plan now, then the third local election has to be postponed,” he said, adding that elections would take place in the 205 gewogs.

Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji, however, said that the gewog re-organisation plan would continue. He said that the LG Act must be reviewed while finalising the gewog merger plan.

According to the Election Act, the delimitation commission would allocate and readjust local government constituencies after every 10 years if need be. 

The second delimitation is due in 2021.

However, the delimitation commission, which is chaired by the chief election commissioner, on February 16, notified that the upcoming elections both for the thromde tshogde and gewog tshogde shall be conducted as per the delimitation orders issued on October 16, 2010 and on February 27, 2011, respectively.

The ECB’s notification stated that the status quo on the delimitation of local government demkhongs was maintained for the third election as per the Supreme Court’s order issued December 4, 2020.

According to Article 1(4) of the Constitution, alteration of areas and boundaries of any dzongkhag or gewog shall be done only with the consent of not less than three-fourths of the total number of members of Parliament.

Sources said that there were plans to table the gewog rationalisation plan in the summer session of 2020.

Lauri Gup Tempa Gyeltshen said that small gewogs should be merged for better management of human resources and other issues.

Drakteng Gup Kinzang Dorji said that he would be happy if the number of gewogs remained the same. “There is no need for gewogs to be merged, as the present boundary demarcation is convenient.”

Some gups who are planning for re-election said that they were happy with the status quo. “Election plans will be affected if gewogs are re-organised,” said a gup.

The objectives of the plan is to increase administrative efficiency and streamline local governance in line with the spirit of the Constitution and the LG Act.

It could also save millions of Ngultrums.

The DLG did not reveal by how many the gewogs would be reduced as per its proposal, but officials said it could be reduced almost by half.

A gewog merger report, prepared by the DLG in 2015, showed that the government would save Nu 200 million (M) annually by merging 57 gewogs. But the salaries of local government functionaries on an average have increased by more than 62.5 percent since.

In view of the increased salaries, the average cost of running a gewog currently comes to about Nu 5.6M annually.

The number of gewogs was increased to 205 in 2005 from 199 in 2002 through bifurcations. But given the improved connectivity in roads and telecommunications across the 20 dzongkhag, officials feel that the idea of bifurcation of gewogs is obsolete.