Without Internet connection in their gewog community centres, officials of Lauri, Serthi and Langchenphu gewogs travel to Jomotsangkha to process online services.

Serthi gup Pema Chophel said the centres were supposed to provide offline, online and banking services to the local community but they only provide offline services like legal stamps and photocopy services when there is electricity.

He said they have to travel to Jomotshangkha to check their emails since they register the birth and death records online. “If we don’t check our emails on time, we might not provide correct figures to the census department.”

Serthi is about 23kms away from Jomotsangkha drungkhag.

Gup Pema Chophel said they have to travel to Jomotshangkha two or three times a week during emergencies. “We have to seek permission from drungpa to travel to the drungkhag,” he said. “But during emergencies, we travel without permission and we are not entitled to the daily allowance.”

He said as a public servant, they have to live up to people’s expectations. “But it is difficult in summer when the road conditions worsen and rivers swell.”

Lauri mangmi Tenzin Norzang said he travels to Jomotshangkha at least three or four times a week for birth registrations and to seek timber permission since these services need to be availed online.

Lauri gewog centre is 69kms from Jomotsangkha.

Community centre in-charge, Dechen Lhamo, said officials from Department of Information and Telecommunication Technology (DITT) in Samdrpjongkhar told her that they would connect Internet service by March 31 this year in all three centres in Jomotshangkha drungkhag.

“People come to the centre to avail security clearance and timber permission but since there is no Internet service, I send them to the drungkhag,” she said. “We even don’t have facilities for telephone and fax.”

Dechen Lhamo said although she was pressuring officials to have the services installed, she did not get any response.

Langchenphu gewog community centre is located near Jomotshangkha Middle Secondary School, which is three or four kilometres away.

Sources said the community centre location was decided by the then drungpa, gup and gewog officials assuming that people from Jomotshangkha town would benefit from the centre. “But people have to go to drunkhag to avail the services.”

Samdrupjongkhar dzongkhag IT officer, Nima Wangchuk, said the dzongkhag, DITT and Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) have been working hard to connect Internet to the three centres but since there is more than 50kms of dense forest between Samrang and Langchenphu, which is also infested with wild elephants, they could not connect it.

He said that since the fibre routes pass through few flood areas, fibres were damaged during monsoon when the electric poles were washed away.

Nima Wangchuk said they are planning to share the connection from Samrang community centre because DITT has provided an internal media converter chassis with three loaded media converter since the fibre route from Dewathang substation has insufficient fibre cores. “Since the Internet connectivity is included in the annual agreement performance, we are trying hard and planning to visit Samrang community centre with BPC officials to inspect the possibility of sharing the Internet.”

Meanwhile, except for Lauri, Serthi and Langchenphu gewogs, the other eight community centres and gewog offices in Samdrupjongkhar were connected with Internet on April 21 this year.

Kelzang Wangchuk | Lauri