KP Sharma

In a recent parliamentary session, the Infrastructure and Transport Minister, Dorji Tshering, announced the government’s decision to take over the Gewog Centre (GC) roads in the 13th plan. 

While this move has received support from a majority of local leaders, certain gewogs in remote regions have expressed concerns about potential service quality issues due to their distant locations.

The decision to transfer responsibility for the GC roads comes after the opposition party requested the government to allocate additional funds to the gewogs for road maintenance. 

Supporters of the government’s plan argue that it would alleviate the burden on the public and the gewog, allowing them to focus on other pressing needs and enhance service delivery.

However, some local leaders, such as Getena Gup Kinley, express apprehension about the service delivery impact on remote gewogs when roads are transferred to the government. 

Currently, gewogs are comfortable maintaining the roads by hiring private machines and resources at the dzongkhag’s quoted rate, ensuring swift action when the roads are blocked. The concern arises from potential delays in response time when roads are managed by the government.

Passang Tshering, the gup of Maedtabkha Gewog in Chukha, who has served as a local leader for over 15 years, emphasises the convenience of maintaining GC roads under the Gewog’s control. 

He points out that the government’s involvement in road management could lead to delays in clearing roadblocks, affecting timely service delivery. However, he also acknowledges the advantage of the government having access to Public Works Department (PWD) workers on-site.

The decision to transfer GC roads to the government finds support from Dagana’s Dzongkhag Tshogdu’s Thrizin, Bal Bdr Rana, who believe that the current grant from the government is insufficient. 

They find centrally budgeted plans more promising, as GC roads require timely maintenance, which is challenging due to a shortage of labor and higher wages in other industries.

During the opposition leader’s visit to Samtse, local leaders submitted a report requesting the consideration of transferring the roads to the government. 

Sangngachoeling gup, Phata Singh Ghalley, highlights the inadequacy of the government grant, particularly for gewogs with long stretches of GC roads. 

Tshering Wangdi, the gup of Khoma in Lhuntse, believes that the crucial factor for maintaining quality work is providing the local government with an adequate budget, regardless of whether the GC roads are managed by the gewog or the ministry.

On the other hand, Chhudzom Gup in Sarpang points out instances when budget constraints and a shortage of labor hinder the ability to clear and maintain roads within a year. 

He believes that transferring GC roads to the ministry could ensure high-quality roads, provided there are no service disruptions.

However, not all local leaders are in favour of the transfer. 

Yangngyer Gup Duptho in Trashigang stresses that the gewogs’ inability to maintain quality roads is primarily due to resource constraints and suggests revising wage rates for workers to encourage more participation and contribution.

The debate over the future management of GC roads extends to the jurisdiction issue. 

Langchenphu Gup Guman Singh Gaylal in Samdrupjongkhar calls for a clear and definitive policy on whether GC roads should remain under the gewog’s jurisdiction or be transferred to the ministry. 

He argues that shifting responsibilities based on convenience can lead to unnecessary inconveniences and suggests that the ministry’s takeover may not guarantee quality and timely service.

Overall, local leaders from various dzongkhags believe that the deteriorating condition of GC roads is primarily due to insufficient budgets and a lack of adequate expertise and workforce at the gewog level. They say that with proper funding and experts within the gewogs, the local government would be better equipped to ensure the maintenance of high-quality roads.