Serving in the mountains

Civil service: Without electricity, road and literally cut off from the rest of the country, being a civil servant in Laya gewog, Gasa is not easy.
If it is the cold for almost eight months in a year, the ravaging Mochu during the short summer blocks their paths and washes away bridges.
“In an event of an emergency in the family, we can’t make it on time especially in summer when the river swells and the roads and bridges are washed away,” a teacher said.
Laya’s gewog administrative officer, Jigme Samdrup said serving in the mountains above 3,800 metres was challenging.  “Most of the civil servants have their families in other dzongkhags or where better medical and educational facilities exists such as in Punakha and Wangdue districts,” he said.
Almost all the civil servants live like in a school hostel. They bring gas cylinders and stock up their ration in the beginning of the year.
Most of them have served more than half a dozen years. Eight of the teachers in the Laya lower secondary school have applied for transfer this year.
Gasa education officer, Choney Dorji said that finding immediate replacement for teachers was an issue.
The principal of Laya Lower Secondary School was relieved last year but the replacement came only mid way through this year. Falling ill with altitude sickness, the new principle was transferred to another school after a week and the school is still without a principle.
But the situation is no better at the dzongkhag head quarter. Some dzongkhag staffs in Gasa still live in dilapidated quarters, built many years ago. In one block, with rooms separated by ply boards, about six households share a bathroom.
“There is no privacy at all,” a former civil servant recently relieved from the dzongkhag said. “We can’t think of entertaining guests.”
The National Housing Development Corporation is building a few single storied units but those would not benefit all the civil servants in the district.
While official porter pony rate is Nu 300, civil servants in the dzongkhag have to pay between Nu 1,000 and Nu 1,500 when travelling to Laya and Lunana gewogs. That too if they can find horses without work in the first place.
“Most of the horses remain engaged and we’ve to request our local friends for,” another teacher in Gasa said.
Those in the dzongkhag headquarter do not qualify for altitude and difficulty allowances as they are located a few hundred metres below the qualifying height, 3,000 metres.
The civil servants have yet to receive the revised altitude and difficulty allowance.
Dzongkhag officials said a circular has come from the home ministry and those eligible could get the allowances soon.
Cost of essentials is another issue. The prices of commodities increase substantially in Gasa mainly because of transportation costs. Civil servants said the dzongkhag is yet to have a fully black topped road connection, while other gewog roads are being black topped.
“We’d appreciate if the government could at least black top the road, because in absence of a public transport, our vehicles suffer damage frequently,” another civil servant said.
But they are happy of one thing: they have become sturdy and fit given the frequent long walks they have to make.
Tshering Palden

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