Nima Wangdi and Sonam Yangtsho

As the Gyalsung Bill cruised through National Assembly and National Council with unanimous adoption, most Bhutanese are excited about it.

The Gyalsung training programme will commence in 2024. His Majesty The King announced the national service programme to the nation during the 112th National Day in 2019. Although the program was initially planned to start this year, the pandemic delayed it.

Fifteen-year-old Anisha Rai, a student in Thimphu, said that she is eager to join the programme. “I want to become an Army officer and I would love to undergo any type of military training,” she said. “The programme would also help youths become more athletic and skilled.”

Another student, Sangay Wangchen said the programme would be helpful and guide those who are unclear about what to do after high school. He said that he wished the training duration was longer so that he could learn more.

Younten Choden, 17, said that the programme would also be helpful to those who wish to discontinue studies after high school in particular. “They can be skilled enough to start their own business for a living.”

Sonam Tshering turned 18 this year. He is unsure if he would be able to take part in the programme. “I was scouts captain and always wanted to participate in such activities. Not getting the opportunity will make me sad.”

He said no other opportunity would mean more than becoming a Gyalsung Cadet. He said the training programme could encourage youths to appreciate any field of work.

A parent in Phuentsholing, Biswadeep Chhetri said that his two sons will get to join Gyalsung. “They will get to engage actively, physically, and mentally at a young age which will prepare them for hardships and life.”

“Becoming a Gyalsung will also make my sons understand more about the country and contribute to the nation-building,” he said.

A class six student, Tsheltrim Zangpo said he heard that youth should go for a one-year mandatory training after completing class 12 and there will be much physical training. He said that youth being allowed to avail different training opportunities even if they are not good in studies is even better.

“I am eager and I will be a Gyalsup. I am already imagining how many friends I would meet and how proud I would be as a Gyalsung Cadet,” he added.

A corporate employee, Sonam said that Gyalsung is the greatest opportunity to serve the country. “The programme will offer cyber, food, home, and community security training enabling the children to explore various fields of work and study.”

A parent also said that Gyalsung is a precious opportunity from the throne for all Bhutanese youths. “People should be happy about it. However, the age at which youth should join the training could have been more flexible instead of just 18. It could have been from 18 to 20 for example.”

According to the Bill, a Bhutanese attaining 18 years, should take part in the national service programme, Gyalsung. The programme includes three months of basic military training followed by skills specialisation programmes.

Those who have not gone to school or have dropped out should compulsorily participate in the programme upon attaining 18 years. However, the students will get an automatic deferment as they have to complete class 12 or equivalent qualification.

A person after turning 16 and a half years could volunteer for early registration for Gyalsung training with the consent of parents or legal guardians according to the Bill.

The Bill stated that the governing council, as a one-time measure, shall determine the eligibility criteria for the first batch of Gyalsung cadets.

A person deemed medically unfit by the medical board shall be exempted from Gyalsung training. Monks are also exempted from the training. The council may also exempt any other person from the training in accordance with the rules and regulations.

The governing council may defer the obligation for Gyalsung training of a person for such period as it may consider appropriate in accordance with the rules and regulations but the person has to enlist for the training after the deferment period.

Those who are still serving prison terms of a third and fourth-degree felony at the time they attain 18 will miss the opportunity.

Gyalsung headquarters would issue notices to eligible persons to register for the Gyalsung programme. The eligible person has to complete registration formalities within 90 days after the notice is served. Failure to register after getting notice will result in a penalty amounting to the daily national minimum wage rate of up to 90 days.

“A person who evades or deserts Gyalsung training commits an offence and shall be liable upon the conviction for the fourth-degree felony as per the penal code of Bhutan,” the Bill stated.