The Tshogpa dilemma in northern gewogs

Taking the local govt. post means no income from cordyceps
LG: If filling the Booso Zeri chiwog’s vacant tshogpa post was any indication, finding tshogpas for the next local government election will be an uphill task, especially for gewogs that engage in cordyceps collection.
The former tshogpa resigned on health grounds on August 10 and it took nearly two months for the election office in Wangduephodang to find a replacement.
Election officials said they weren’t interested people in the chiwogs to contest for the post and most didn’t have the Functional Literacy Test (FLT) certificate, a must to contest the local government election.
The new tshogpa, Rinchen Khandu, 28, was elected on September 30 and joined office earlier this month. About 140 voters turned up, of which 129 voted in favor of the lone candidate. The chiwog has 438 registered voters. Tshogpa Rinchen Khandu will serve until the next election in January 2016.
Officials said following the former tshogpa’s resignation and after several announcements and meeting with the public, the chiwog saw only three candidates during a public meeting in August. But all three were underage, making them ineligible to contest.
“We went again and visited villages looking for people with the FLT certificate and encouraged them to participate,” said an election official. It is very rare to find people having FLT certificate in most villages, said officials. “We hope the next election will see more people with FLT certificates.”
“I wasn’t interested, but later I decided to contest when encouraged by officials and villagers,” said tshogpa Rinchen Khandu. “People, especially in Sephu are least interested in becoming tshogpa. The pay is low and work is more, above all being tshogpa means saying no to cordycep collection, which is the main source of income.
Sephu gup Rinchen Penjore said they have to literally force people to stand for the post. He attributed this to the meager salary and the huge responsibilities.  “Most of the time gups have to convince people of the important responsibility of the tshogpa and encourage them to stand,” he said.
The gup said he already experienced this in the first local government election. “It (cordyceps) is a good source of income and people don’t want to miss the opportunity.”
Officials said the problem was faced even in highland gewogs of Lunana and Laya during the last election.  Citing example Ramina and Lunana chiwogs under Lunana gewog, they could not find any candidates during the first round of election.
Election officials said they had to travel to villages of the chiwog, and conduct FLT in an aspiring tshogpa candidate’s house. “Despite that, we manage to get only a lone candidate,” said an official.
Local leaders said the problem could be due to low income and also if they became tshogpa, the law does not permit them to collect cordyceps. While a tshogpa earn only Nu 5000-7000 a month, a cordycep collector earns an average income of 200,000-500,000 within less than two months time.
Since most highlanders are least interested to become tshogpa, officials even go out to compile documents for them and encourage them to contest, said a local leader. Most tshogpa candidates are semi-literate and not aware about election procedures.
Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue

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