The president of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), Pema Gyamtsho’s bond with Laya is a special one. He is not a new face among the elderlies in the gewog.

“My relation with Laya is of a mother and child,” he said during his campaign meeting in Laya. The president walked for five hours to reach Laya on the evening of October 2 and returned to Thimphu on October 3.

Between 1993 and 1996, during the course of his PhD research, Pema Gyamtsho spent four summers in Laya and knows every household in the gewog personally.

“It has changed a lot since then. A decade ago every village was distinct and now it’s all clustered. A lot of houses have been built,” he said.

A lot has been achieved, he said because the former government has built on the foundation laid by its predecessor, the DPT government. Which is why, he said whichever government comes to power, activities and policies that benefit the people must be continued so as to reap the fruits of true democracy.

Highlands, he said play an important role in safeguarding national security but with modernisation Laya too is confronted with social issue to keep the age-old tradition alive.

Should DPT form the government, a special project for the highland is on the cards. Pema Gyamtsho said the practice of yak herding among Layaps is declining. While cordycep collection has improved the living standard in the highlands, he said highlander couldn’t take solace in this single source. “To make it sustainable guidelines should be reviewed,” he said.

While Laya is one of the tourist hotspots, he said the people could not reap much monetary benefit. With the Gewog Development Grant (GDG) increased to Nu 7M and by not using it to supplement planned works, he said social sector could be strengthened to generate income for the people.

For instance, he said people have big houses in Laya and yet tourists stay in tents. With the GDG, a good bathroom could be built and homestay promoted. Others can supply vegetables and dairy products. A grass cutter machine could be purchased with GDG to make it easier to collect fodder.

Although Laya has the potential to set up a small dairy processing unit, he said the current power supply is not sufficient. DPT pledged to increase power supply in all the gewogs around the country from single phase to three to accommodate small industries.

In terms of health, he said Laya deserves better facilities because other gewogs near the road could easily reach bigger hospitals. A doctor, an X-ray machine and an ultrasound machine could be provided, even if the government has to provide additional incentives to the doctor.

To keep their children closer to their homes, he said Laya Central School would be upgraded to class 12 from 10. He reiterated that central schools would not be shut down but few policies reviewed, so the community gets the opportunity to supply goods. In Lungu village, DPT pledged to upgrade the community primary school into a full-fledged primary school.

Road is the top priority for Laya.

A villager from Laya, Passang said that if road comes to the community all their problems would be solved. “Today, we have to rely on mules and if we buy 10 mules it cost us Nu 1M and with this amount we can easily by a bolero,” he said.

Pema Gyamtsho said whichever party comes to power, road to Laya will be the priority and that people should not be worried. But he cautioned them against promises of freebies. “It may attract the people for votes but you must know where the money will come from. For a donor dependent country, it could send a wrong signal to the donors and it could affect important development priorities,” he said.

He also campaigned on waste management as he came across huge load of trash dumped in the mountains between Laya and Lungu. He urged the people to segregate waste and make compost pit from the degradable waste.

Pema Gyamtsho said the Khatoed-Laya candidate, Chenga Dawa was the last one to be declared and going by the name it is auspicious for the party.

Meanwhile, the DNT candidate of Khatoed-Laya Tenzin entered the hall mid-way during the DPT president’s speech. He followed the DPT president until Laya and also shadowed the President who was on his journey to Lungo. The returning officer called the DNT candidate that he couldn’t shadow the president.

Tshering Dorji | Laya