LG: Without any villagers having appeared the functional literacy test (FLT), Tshothang chiwog in Lauri gewog, Samdrupjongkhar, might be left without a representative in the local government.

The chiwog did not have a tshogpa during the former local government.

While men in the village were mostly lay monks registered with religious institutions, women were not keen to take up the post. A lone woman, who was willing to take up the post, was disqualified because she was only 24 years old.

The Election Act mandates 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 religion, get a letter endorsed by the gewog administration, change their occupation with the census department and then notify the Election Commission.

A villager, Sonam Dorji, said although some villagers wanted to contest, they were late for de-registration and in applying for a new citizenship identity card. “That is the reason why we don’t have a tshogpa candidate.”

Villagers said they requested some women, who completed non-formal education (NFE), to contest but the women backed out after they learned they have to sit for FLT.

Sonam Dorji said without a tshogpa to represent them in the local government, they do not know decisions taken in the gewog. “We even allowed gomchens to resign expecting we can have a tshogpa but it was too late.”

A lay monk, Sonam Wangchuk, said he decided to contest but could not because of the lengthy process. “Before I could complete the formalities, the registration deadline was close.”

He said their village is remote and they do not know the government rules or regulations. “We don’t get news on time.”

Tshothang has about 60 households and is almost a day’s walk from the gewog centre. It is the remotest chiwog and shares a border with Arunachal Pradesh in India.

A former gup, Pema Dhendup, said they need a tshogpa to update them on security matters.

Meanwhile, election officials have assured the chiwog that if there is a candidate, they would conduct the election again to fill the vacant post.

An election official explained that they would conduct FLT for aspiring candidates. “If there is no candidate, the tshogpa post would remain vacant.”

Meanwhile, Lauri gewog has two candidates each for the post of gup and mangmi.

The common forums that began from September 14 will end today. The last common forum will be held in Tshothang chiwog.

Yangchen C Rinzin |  Samdrupjongkhar 

Supported by Bhutan Media Foundation and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation