Thromde: The government is open to discuss issues on taxation, use of land or any other matters concerning the Paro dzongkhag thromde except for the delimitation of the dzongkhag thromde boundary, which the Parliament endorsed in June.
“With the dzongkhag thromde delimitations, it has been passed in accordance with the Constitution and now it is law,” lyonchoen said. “The Constitution doesn’t allow change in boundaries for 10 years once it is passed.”
Lyonchoen shared the government’s view on the petition submitted by the people of Paro rejecting the Parliament at the meet-the-press yesterday.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that if the concerns of the people were to do other matters besides the delimitation, the government would be happy to discuss and put up the issues in the next Parliament session.
“If an amendment of another existing law is required, the people in this case in Paro are functioning within their rights to question certain laws even though they are bound by it,” lyonchoen said. “The Parliament will consider it but I am sure it will break the provisions of the Constitution and all the other relevant laws.”
The Constitution states that the territory of Bhutan shall comprise 20 dzongkhags with each dzongkhag consisting of gewogs and thromdes. “Alteration of areas and boundaries of any dzongkhag or gewog shall be done only with the consent of not less than three-fourth of the total number of members of Parliament,” the Constitution states.
The Election Act also states that the delimitation commission shall after giving due regard to the relevant provisions of the Constitution and this Act, allocate and readjust the seats to the National Assembly, the number of tshogpas in each gewog tshogde, the number of members in each thromde tshogde and the division of dzongkhags, gewogs, and dzongkhag thromdes into territorial constituencies after every 10 years.
Lyonchoen also said that people couldn’t reject the laws passed by the Parliament. “The law has to be applied. People can request for the law to be studied and perhaps reviewed or even amended,” he said.
Citing the Tobacco Control Act, lyonchoen said that people may not agree with it but once it becomes the law of the land, they are bound to accept it. “If you transgress, you will be punished,” he said.
About 75 people from the Wangchang gewog in Paro have appealed to the Speaker and the government requesting the Parliament to review the map. Similarly, about 50 households from Hoongrel gewog has also submitted a petition to the prime minister, works and human settlement ministry (MoWHS) and the dzongkhag administration for a review.
In Wangchang gewog, of the 1,820 registered voters, 147 remain under the gewog while the rest come under the thromde. In Hoongrel, there are 486 registered voters of which 300 falls under the thromde. Also, about 400 – 500 acres of wetland under Wangchang and about 15 acres of wetland in Hoongrel gewog are now within the thromde boundary.
Local leaders’ stand
Hoongrel gup Sangay said that following a petition from the people of Wangchang, Lungnyi and Hoongrel gewogs, the Paro dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) on April 4 resolved that the three gewogs remain as it is. “The map that the DT proposed excluded all the wetland,” he said.
Accordingly, the MoWHS was informed that the three gewogs didn’t want to be a part of the thromde. “The minister wrote back saying that she respects the decision of people and that the three gewogs won’t receive any benefits of thromdes,” he said.
However, local leaders said that after deliberations in the Parliament, it was proposed that Bondey be merged with Tshongdue town (existing town) as part of the dzongkhag thromde. As per the DT map, Tshongdue town was proposed as the dzongkhag thromde and Bondey as the yenlag thromde.
Local leaders said the DT approved the ministry’s proposal to merge the two given the proximity of the tshongdue and Bondey.
However, they said it didn’t turn out as discussed in the DT and the decision was thus objected.
Wangchang gup Thinley Dorji said that the DT approved the ministry’s proposal, as most people living in Tshongdue don’t have their census registered there. “As local leaders, we are the bridge between people and the government, which is why we have to raise the issues that people voice,” he said.
What people want?
Views are divided. While some want to be a part of the thromde, they want the aspects of taxation, land use and rural benefits to continue as well as not lose the status of gewogs. However, there are also those who feel that they should be left as it is, as proper consultation has not been done.
Following such issues, the deputy Speaker led a team to Paro on July 24 to meet the representatives of the affected people and local leaders and clarify their concerns.
However, the people were not convinced despite the four-hour long meeting, as they wanted the assurances in writing.
During the meeting, the people were clarified on the continuation of gewogs, taxes and protection of wetland, among others. It was hoped that the clarification would convince the people to go along with the Parliament’s decision.
However, that didn’t happen.
A farmer from Wangchang gewog said that once they come under the thromde, the only benefit they have is the increase in the value of land. “But once its under the throm, our income opportunities are limited and we’ve to bear the urban tax which is not fair,” he said.
Citing examples of the existing thromdes such as Thimphu, villagers said it took long for the government to speed up development works while people were on the losing end.
“The government should first tackle the issues of the existing towns rather than developing new ones,” another farmer said. “What more can a thromde give us as we are better off compared to other dzongkhags.”
On the continuation of gewogs, villagers also said that it didn’t make sense, as only about 10 percent of the people would be left in the villages and the role of local leaders rendered impractical.
The Parliament’s decision
During the boundary declaration at a joint sitting of the Parliament, the DT map and the one proposed by the ministry were deliberated. Paro’s representatives argued that the DT map should be respected as it came from the people.
However, as it required three-fourth of the votes, 49 members voted for the DT map while 60 members voted for the map that the ministry proposed. The decision, as highlighted by the Parliament was taking into consideration the area for future expansion.
Paro’s National Council representative Kaka Tshering said that whatever may be the decision, it should be fast, so that developmental activities are not delayed. “The ball is now in the court of the Parliament,” he said. “I want a thromde for Paro that would cater to the aspirations of the people.”
Lamgong-Wangchang representative Khandu Wangchuk said the people of Paro in their wisdom have requested the government and the Parliament to keep them out of the thromde.
“Their main concern is that the likelihood of the beautiful patch of wetland in the heart of Paro will disappear and turn into concrete jungles,” he said. “While the powers are vested fully with the Parliament, I hope that the plea of the people of Paro would be considered.”