Thromdes, a harbinger of development?

Besides being a Constitutional mandate, the details of what being a thromde means is yet to be examined

Thromde:  Gasa will have a local government (LG) for 23 people should the dzongkhag thromde elections be held as scheduled in January next year along with the 14 dzongkhag thromdes.

The Gasa dzongkhag thromde is spread over 213 acres of land from Phulakha in the north behind the Gasa dzong to Kolikha in the south. However, except for Phulakha, there are no registered voters in the other five constituencies of Kolikha, Desana, Lingmithang, Doonkarleg, and Drey Chhamsa.

All 23 registered voters are the three households in Phulakha from which the thrompon and the thromde thuemis will be elected.  A dzongkhag thromde, according to the LG Act, is represented by a minimum of seven and not less than 10 elected members, including the thrompon,

With the boundary declaration finalised following the delimitation exercise and the dzongkhag cleared for the dzongkhag thromde elections, chief election commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, in an earlier interview, said that election can be held even if it is only in one demkhong (constituency). He said given the present scenario, Gasa dzongkhag thromde would be able to elect a thrompon, a tshogpa, and a thuemi from Phulakha demkhong.

Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said that it is the right of the people of Gasa to have an election after being brought under the thromde. “A thromde will need to be administered one way or the other as plans are there already,” Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said. “This is the first step towards establishing a democratic thromde system.”

As for the elections, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said all election procedures applicable would be used where the 23 registered and voting can determine who is elected and how they should function.

With the declaration of the final delimitation order, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) cleared 15 dzongkhag thromdes and 18 yenlag thromdes for the LG elections.

Although there is no dearth of candidates in Gasa with about four graduates in Phulakha alone, practical issues are foreseen.  Unlike other dzongkhag thromdes, the people of Phulakha would be the most represented.

Except for Bumthang and Paro that has 2,265 and 1,518 registered voters respectively, dzongkhags like Lhuentse, Dagana and Tsirang have less than 200 registered voters.

The rest of the dzongkhags have less than 1,000 registered voters. Area wise, Samtse followed by Trashiyangtse and Trashigang are the largest dzongkhag thromdes among the 15 declared with about 1,206, 706 and 663 acres respectively. The smallest dzongkhag thromde will be in Dagana on about 110 acres of land.

Irrespective of the size of the thromdes, all thrompons and thuemis are to be paid the same remuneration and perks. Today, thrompons of the four thromdes get a monthly salary of Nu 45,785 with a yearly increment of Nu 915 besides a 20 percent housing allowance. Tshogpas and thromde thuemis are entitled a monthly salary of Nu 7,000. A dzongkhag thromde also requires the appointment of an executive secretary appointed from the civil service.

Besides financial implications from establishment of thromdes across the country, some local leaders are skeptical about how thromdes would help bring about the government’s main argument of balanced regional development, address rural-urban migration and development of thromdes for self-sufficiency.

Some local leaders expressed concerns over how a dzongkhag and yenlag thromde in all dzongkhags irrespective of their size would function.

Most people in the dzongkhags dread coming under the thromde given the existing rural subsidies they are entitled to today. More issues like duplication of works, financial implications, less space for expansion in some dzongkhags and lack of candidates to contest in the elections are likely to appear.

Works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden said the benefits of thromdes would be enormous irrespective of their sizes.  Lyonpo said that the requirement of a thrompon or thuemis are prescribed in the Constitution.

Citing Trashigang and Gasa as an example, lyonpo said it doesn’t  make sense to pay different remuneration depending on the size of the dzongkhags. “How do we compare or differentiate the role of an elected representative in one dzongkhag to another?,” lyonpo said.

While the upcoming elections will be able to create more employment opportunities, many feel that a mere declaration of town would not bring about development.

Leader of the Opposition (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho said establishment of thromdes should be done as and when the situation and the ground conditions are right and the requirement fulfilled. “That’s why we proposed that thromdes should be established based on the readiness of a throm.”

Not all dzongkhags he said have the same physical environment, population, resources, and economic opportunities. “Although mandated by the Constitution, there is no time frame which is why thromdes can be established gradually.”

Opposition members said they had to support the proposal as they received a letter from the ECB stating that the opposition was against the establishment of the thromdes.

Calling it a rushed decision, south Thimphu’s representative, Yeshey Zimba said that the government had claimed said that proper consultation with people was done. “Thromdes mean a permanent change; we can’t say it’s a thromde today and tomorrow its not,” he said. “With a lot of people unhappy, we need to be mindful that the success of a LG doesn’t depend on the support of the government but the backing of people for a proper functioning.”

Kinga Dema

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