LG: A 60-year-old gup aspirant from Bji gewog in Haa, Kaka Tshering has dedicated 39 years of his life serving the government and he still feels he can do a lot more to make a difference.

He claims that he was a critic who regularly complained about Haa receiving less development. This, he said, was because local leaders lacked the capacity and experience. “I would not say that they don’t have the potential, but people’s aspirations have been compromised,” he said

“At 60, I’m very healthy, I have no pressure and no life-style diseases,” he said.

At his age, he said, people pursue the dharma and go to the mountains to meditate. He said he pursued a modern education thereby barring his prospects of devoting himself completely to the path of dharma. “But I heard that service to humanity is service to god,” he said.

Kaka Tshering began his career in 1974 as a teacher and served as a headmaster from 1976 to 1988 in six different schools around the country. “Incidentally, in 1976, I served as the first headmaster of Katsho School in Haa,” Kaka Tshering said.  From 1989 to 2001, he served as the dzongkhag education officer. Thereafter he served in the education ministry in different capacities until he superannuated in 2013 only to head back to his village.

“I will not regret even if I lose, but I would regret my whole life if I did not declare my candidature this time,” the retired civil servant said, in reference to the ongoing local government elections.

Kaka Tshering’s father, grandfather and uncle have also served as gups in their own eras.

On the developmental front, he said his priorities are ensuring that the people benefit and not just a few influential people. “If elected, I want to come up with an open door policy planning process unlike the current practice of involving selective heads in local planning.”

Kaka Tshering is up against a former Mangmi who grew up and lived in the locality all his life.

Rinchen Dawa, 33, pursued his studies till class 10 in Ugyen Dorji Higher Secondary School in Haa. Two years after quitting his studies in 2003, he became a geydrung and served in this post until 2008.

He lobbied for the post of mangmi in the last elections but failed to secure the majority of votes.

Until recently, Richen Dawa was considering setting up a dairy farm with a loan from the Rural Enterprise Development Corporation Ltd, formerly known as the Business Opportunity and Information Centre.

“Fellow villagers have enforced my candidature and I am obliged for their trust,” Rinchen Dawa said.

Should he be elected, his goals are focused on enhancing the local economy. He said income sources from crops and livestock are not only narrow but also highly insecure with increasing instances of human-wildlife conflict.

He believes tourism is a more reliable source of income and his campaign resonates along the lines of improving infrastructure in the villages to accommodate tourists as a part of a home stay programme. “This doesn’t mean that my focus on agriculture promotion and marketing will diminish,” he said.

In the interest of the community, he promised that very few people from the gewog would end up settling their dispute in court. This, he said would be made possible by seeking the support of the Bhutan National Legal Institute at the local level.

He said he would also follow up on the quota allocation for students in the villages for admission to the Chhundu Central School, where 75 percent of students are selected from the military fraternity.

The remaining 25 percent, he said, is selected from among the top students across the country leaving behind bleak chances of students in the village getting admission.

“I know I am up against two strong candidates, but I have also served the people for a decade with utmost dedication and this brings me hope,” he said.

Villagers said that Rinchen Dawa has a strong chance of winning the election since he has the support of both chumpa chiwog, from where his wife hails and Yangthang chiwog, where he lived his entire life. “I am not sure because this was the same case in the last elections while I contested for the post of mangmi, yet I lost” he said.

The last contestant, Passang comes with ample experience at an early age of 32. Prior to first local government election in 2011, Passang was provided an opportunity to serve the community as a tshogpa.

In the last term, Bji gewog elected him to the post of mangmi. “Maybe there is something in me that people in my village always push me to contest for a higher post every time,” Passang said.

In the past, Passang said he was not involved in the local planning as a mangmi’s authority rests mainly with dispute settlement in the gewog. But having got the opportunity to closely interact with the former leader and dzongkhag officials, he said he has fair knowledge of both planning and procedural formalities to be able to help the people.

For instance, after discussing the plans with the people, he said it should be submitted to the government and then to the gross national happiness GNH commission for approval.

Passang feels that his knowledge and know-how of the country’s bureaucratic and judicial system will equip him to be in a better position to help the people.

Tshering Dorji | Haa