An online portal to track development was also launched during the ongoing Local Government conference

Conference: On the first day of the ninth Local Government Chairpersons’ Conference (LGCC), 205 gups from across the country received their gewog utility vehicles in Phuentsholing yesterday.

During the opening ceremony of the conference, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that taking into consideration the importance of local government, wangtse chirphel, and the people, it is important to have one utility vehicle in each gewog.

Pointing out that 688 pool vehicles were procured in 10th Five Year Plan (FYP) and 336 pool vehicles in the 11th Plan, Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay said that Local Government (LG) offices were never provided pool vehicles vehicles. “So these vehicles are allocated to LG,” Lyonchoen said.

The Prime Minister also brought to the attention of local leaders public criticism of the move. “Even before the key is in your hand there are people who are criticising,” Lyonchoen said. “Your responsibility is to make sure there is no criticism and complaints.”

Each gewog will be provided with Nu 60,000 a year for expenses such as fuel,registration and renewal of vehicle documents, insurance, and maintenance. A fuel book with a fuel voucher of Nu 10,000 was distributed to the gups yesterday.

Drivers will be made available for these utility vehicles by February end, Department of Local Governance director general Lungten Dorji said. “Recruitment is through the Royal Civil Service Commission and it has already been approved,” he said, adding that recruitments will be carried by respective dzongkhag administrations.

Pool vehicle guidelines will have to be followed. While the gups will have the authority on usage, gewog administration officers will function as the motor transport officers for the vehicles, it was pointed out.

The Government of India has approved a funding of about Nu 142.62 million to procure the 205 Boleros and other related expenses.

Norgaygang (Bara) Gup Rinchen Dorji said that the utility vehicle would be very useful during emergency situations. “We need to have drivers who will be easily available,” the gup said, adding that he was happy with the government’s decision to provide each gewog with a utility vehicle.

People in the gewog can also hire the utility vehicle if required. The hiring charge would be based on the mileage system and will be cheaper than hiring private vehicles.

Meanwhile, the conference is themed: “Towards greater decentralisation and participatory governance”. Elaborating on this at the conference, Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay said that it is important for the government to work with the Local Government hand-in-hand and ensure development occurs from the grassroots.

“It is very important to work together and the results benefit people,” Lyonchoen said.

The ninth LGCC will conclude on January 18.

Finance minister Namgay Dorji, home minister Dawa Gyaltshen, and National Assembly Speaker Jigme Zangpo also attended the conference yesterday.


LG Portal

An LG online portal was also launched during the conference yesterday. This portal is established to provide better access to information from the gewogs.

LG offices will have to feed and update information about their respective developmental activities related to the gewog. Training will also be provided on using the portal.

After one year, the best three gewogs in using and updating the portal will be recognised and awarded.


PM’s visit to Phuentsholing gewog

In between the conference, Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay also met with the people of Phuentsholing gewog at Pachhu. Lyonchoen had cancelled a meeting with the gewog  last year due to rain.

Since the blacktopping of the gewog road is not yet finalised due to disagreement among people on where the road point should be located, Lyonchoen asked the people to discuss the matter with the gup, dzongkhag, and the roads department to find a solution.

“We will go as per your decision,” he said, adding that they should decide soon so that they can benefit from it.

People are divided on where the road point should be located. While some villagers want the road via Pacchutar to be blacktopped, some said they wanted the blacktopping done from the existing road from Darjagaon.

However, the Darjaygaon road has been considered geologically unsuitable, as the soil is weak and the area experiencing several landslides in summer.

Chongaykha primary school with 293 students, meanwhile, has just eight teachers. The teacher-student ratio is 1:36.

Speaking to the people of the gewog, Lyonchoen announced that the problem will be looked into and solved.

Lyonchoen also spoke about the importance of knowing the national language, Dzongkha. “It is even more important today,” he said, explaining how it affects the country’s security and sovereignty.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing