Gups of Soe, Naro, and Lingshi were disappointed when the officials from Local Development Division (LDD) of Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) said that there was no flagship programme for highlanders.

Lingshi Gup, Wangdi, raised various issues highlanders were facing at Thimphu’s dzongkhag tshogdu yesterday.

In response, an official from LDD said that the division submitted the recommendations from the steering committee for the flagship on April 22 to the Cabinet for approval.

The government found that the plans and projects for highlands had no unique scope. The project could not be specified under the national flagship.

The official clarified that the fund for the highland flagship would be refunded in the development project and all highland dzongkhags would be entitled for the fund. He said that the project would be inclusive because the highland flagship programme of the previous governments was only for Paro, Haa and Bumthang.

Wangdi said that former government agreed to allocate separate budget for the highlanders and called it Brogpa project.

According to Soe Gup Kencho Dorji, allowing the collection of Yagtsa Goenbub as the source of income helped the highlanders. However, the strategy has not solved rural-urban migration. From the profit, the highlanders bought land and houses in Thimphu and Paro. Lack of proper road connection and basic infrastructure were factors leading to migration.

He said that the allocation of separate budget (one billion) for highland flagship programme had brought them some hope.

During the deliberation of 12th Plan in the first session of third Parliament, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that the National Highland Development flagship was aimed at improving standard of living in the highland communities through provision of facilities and amenities and by enhancing and diversifying sources of livelihood. Development of highland enterprises, supply of yaks and sheep and improve health, education and other facilities for highlanders would be promoted.

Highland settlements have limited access to most of the social services.

The programme was aimed to improve the quality of life of the undeserved inhabitants of highland through approaches of increasing income.

Soe Gup Kencho Dorji said that there were no regionally balanced plans and polices. The three highland gewogs of Thimphu, Haa, Paro and Bumthang had access to the facilities. However, the flagship funds were allocated for them.

However, director general of Department of Livestock, Dr Tashi Samdup, said that he personally appreciated the decision taken by the prime minister. Flagship programmes are interventions to address high priority national issues in a concerted and holistic approach for certain duration. 

“Flagship programmes are usually for specific duration, however the highland development programme under MoAF is a long-term plan”

There are nine flagships programmes in the 12th Plan worth Nu 15B. However, only eight have been approved. The programmes are integrated water supply (Nu 3B), Digital Drukyul (Nu 2.5B), Cottage and Small Industry (Nu 1.2B), Tourism (Nu 1.5B), Organic Bhutan, Health, Sherig and Waste management.

Phub Dem