Finding a tshogpa in remote Tshothang chiwog in Lauri gewog, Samdrupjongkhar is a challenge. The chiwogs didn’t have one for the last seven years.

Most men in the chiwog are lay monks registered with religious institutions. Some youth who expressed interest were disqualified because they were underage.

The Election Act of Bhutan mandates that a religious personality to remain above politics and are, therefore, not allowed to participate in the electoral process.

For a religious personality to contest in local government, they have to deregister from their religious institutions, get a letter endorsed by the gewog administration, change their occupation with the census department and then notify the Election Commission.

Villagers said that some lay monks wanted to contest, but they were late for de-registration from their religious institutions and in applying for a new citizenship identity card.

Tawki, 52, from Rashuthang, said that the chiwog needs a tshogpa because no developmental activities are reaching the chiwog, as there is no one to represent in the gewog tshogde and dzongkhag tshogdu.

She said her son wanted to contest in the local government election, however, he could not as he was underage during the election. “I encourage my son to take up the post in next election for the benefit of the chiwog and hope we will have a tshogpa next time,” Tawki said.

A villager elder, Tshampa Tashi Penjore, 65, said that they have requested those who have completed non-formal education (NFE) to contest but they refused to contest after they learned they have to sit for the functional literacy test (FLT).

A villager, Karma Dorji, from Rashuthang, said although the Zangthi chiwog tshogpa shoulders the responsibilities, people of Tshothang chiwog still face problems like registration of newborn and timber permits, as they need the tshogpa’s seal and sign.

He said that since the chiwog shares border with Arunachal Pradesh in India, there are high chances of illicit trades taking place. “It’s important to have a tshogpa to monitor such illicit activities although there is nothing reported until now,” Tashi Dorji said.

Given the distance between the two chiwogs, the Zangthi chiwog tshogpa, Ugyen Namgyel cannot be present in Tshothang to provide satisfactory services. Tshothang is almost two hours walk from Zangthi.

Tshogpa Ugyen Namgyel said he visits the chiwog to provide services like collecting land tax and house insurance among others. “ It is challenging to visit Tshothang chiwog frequently as it is a two-hour uphill walk,” he said.

Lauri gewog mangmi, Tenzin, said the chiwog needs a tshogpa, as it affects the budgeting for developmental activities in the chiwogs besides informing people for census update and birth registration.

Kelzang Wangchuk | Lauri