Politics: As part of its “Rising East” programme, the government recently formed an Eastern Development Committee comprising of four cabinet ministers hailing from the east, and announced the establishment of three colleges in the east.

However, the opposition has raised serious objections against the initiative calling the programme “regionalistic, discriminatory and divisive, and in direct violation of the Constitution”.

The Rising East programme is an initiative to give special attention to eastern dzongkhags to accelerate economic development. The government, among others, promises to fast track all tourism projects in the east and prepare a special international marketing package for the eastern dzongkhags.

Opposition member and former labour minister, Dorji Wangdi said that there is no doubt that eastern region needs focused attention for accelerated economic development like other less developed regions or dzongkhags. “Indeed, balanced regional development had been one of the cornerstone development objectives in the country.”

The first elected government, the opposition issuing a press release stated, continued this noble policy under the development philosophy of “growth with equity and justice”, taking road, electricity, telecommunications and other critical basic facilities equitably to the corners of the country. The party said accelerated development in the east or for that matter, in any region or dzongkhag can be carried out without such “regional propaganda”.

“However, the government has explicitly sensationalized regionalism for electoral gains,” the opposition stated. The opposition party stated that people from other regions and dzongkhags are already asking questions and expressing feelings of discrimination and inequity because of the policy.

“There is now every possibility that other regions and dzongkhags would soon demand a similar special treatment,” the press release stated. The opposition states that ministers represent the nation and should work for furtherance of overall national interests and agenda rather than assigning themselves to represent a certain regional league.

“This is a policy of explicit regionalistic, discriminatory and divisive in nature and directly violates the provisions of the Constitution,” said Dorji Wangdi. It is a matter of serious concern for the Opposition Party and the nation as a whole.”

However, works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden who is assigned Pemagatshel dzongkhag said the Rising East initiative is a part of the 11th Plan programme to accelerate development in eastern dzongkhags. She said that there is no element of regionalism, discrimination and violation of Constitution.

Officiating Prime Minister Damcho Dorji said the government will provide its formal response latter.

According to the opposition party, the Rising East policy directly violates article 15(3) of the Constitution that states, “Candidates and political parties shall not resort to regionalism, ethnicity and religion to incite voters for electoral gain.”

The party states that it violates the principles of state policy which requires the state to endeavour to develop and execute policies to promote equitable distribution of public facilities among individuals and people living in different parts of the Kingdom (Article 9(7) of the Constitution) and also Article 9(8), which requires the state to endeavour to ensure that all dzongkhags are treated with equity.

“This is an unscrupulous political act and sets a dangerous precedent with a real potential for demeaning national unity, harmony and integrity in the long run.” It has urged the government to put the national interests above the party interests and act responsibly.

MB Subba