MB Subba

The Trashigang dzongdag is between the devil and the deep blue sea. The cause is the Merak gewog centre (GC) road.

The Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS) say one thing and Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) the other.

The MoWHS last month, on the prime minister’s instruction, overturned the Trashigang DT’s decision and directed the dzongdag to blacktop the GC road via Khardung village in Radhi. However, the dzongdag on July 3 sought further directive from the MoWHS after the DT chairperson asked him in writing to uphold DT’s resolution, as per which the GC road should be blacktopped via Chaling village in Shongphu.

Section 263 of the local government (LG) Act prescribes that the dzongdag shall be accountable to the DT in respect of implementing the decisions taken by DT. The Act also mandates that the DT as the highest decision-making body in the dzongkhag to promote balanced socio-economic development in the dzongkhag.

Starting from Merak, the GC road must pass either via Chaling or Khardung to connect with the highway below.

Dzongdag Chekey Gyeltshen on July 3 wrote to the secretary of MoWHS, Chencho Dorji: “In view of the DT chairperson having written to me that the DT resolution should be upheld, I would like to seek your guidance on how to go about the issue.”    

The secretary, however, reiterated the government’s stand and directed the dzongdag to blacktop the road via Khardung at the earliest.

“You may also note that the GNHC (Gross National Happiness Commission) is in the process of re-prioritisation of 12th Plan activities and further delay in the implementation of the work may lead to re-allocation of the fund in other activities,” the MoWHS secretary replied to the dzongdag.

Earlier, a field investigation by a team of officials from the MoWHS had concluded that blacktopping via Chaling would entail additional budget, as the length of the GC road would increase significantly. The government says that the allocated budget of Nu 147.9M (million) is only enough to blacktop the road via Khardung.

Khardung village falls under the Radhi Sakteng constituency, which belongs to the works and human settlement minister, Dorji Tshering. Chaling falls under the Bartsham Shongphu constituency, which belongs to opposition MP Passang Dorji (PhD).

The Trashigang DT reasons that the decision was taken considering that it would benefit about 300 households. The road via Khardung is expected to benefit only 80 households.

Chairperson of Trashigang DT, Kinzang Dorji, said that it would be in violation of the LG Act to implement the work by bypassing the DT decision. He, however, added that the prime minister during a recent meeting with him had explained about the lack of budget and that it was a difficult situation.

“On one hand, we have to go by the DT’s resolution. On the other, the project could be left incomplete if we keep insisting on the DT’s resolution,” he said.

Earlier, Kinzang Dorji had written to the dzongdag, saying that GNHC officials had assured additional funds if need be. However, the GNHC secretary Thinley Namgyel, on July 3 wrote to the DT chairperson stating that GNHC was not able to provide additional budget for the work.

According to the GNHC, implementation of the new proposal would entail an additional budget of Nu 25.2M. The GNHC, whose chairperson is the prime minister, also stated that the work has to be completed within the stipulated time to avoid a budget lapse.

The GC road become controversial after some residents from Merak contested the DT resolution, which was passed in September last year.

In response to the government’s directive to the dzongdag, the tshogpas of Chaling and Shongphu recently appealed in writing to the prime minister and the Bartsham Shongphu MP to uphold the DT resolution.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, however, in an earlier interview maintained that the Merak GC road initially was supposed to go via Khardung and that the blacktopping should be done accordingly in view of the limited budget.

The dzongkhag administration has asked the public to find a consensus on the issue. The dzongdag in an earlier interview said the dzongkhag had already tendered the work in the non-disputed stretch, which is from Merak gewog to Shetimey.