Clubbing it with the gewog or the dzongkhag administration muddles the issue more

Thromde: In the absence of a guideline or criteria on yenlag thromdes (satellite towns), it is not clear on how yenlag thromdes would function should it come under the gewog or dzongkhag administration.

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) is yet to hear from the government after it sought directives from the prime minister on whether the administration of yenlag thromdes would fall under the gewog or the dzongkhag.

The local government (LG) Act states that yenlag thromdes shall function either under dzongkhag administration or the gewog administration as decided by the government.

Works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden said the cabinet has not yet decided on where the yenlag thromdes would fall. “It could come under the dzongkhag or gewog depending on the proximity of the location of yenlag thromdes,” lyonpo Dorji Choden said. “It could differ from one dzongkhag to another which is why the Act states that it could come either under gewog or dzongkhag.”

However, numerous issues are foreseen either ways. With the declaration of dzongkhag thromde and a yenlag thromde in 15 dzongkhags, local governments comprise of a dzongkhag tshogdu, gewog tshogdu and a thromde tshogdu. Besides a gup and a mangmi from each gewog, the dzongkhag tshogdu would now comprise of a member each from the dzongkhag and yenlag thromdes.

The thromde tshogde, according to the LG Act, the highest decision making body of the dzongkhag thromde, shall comprise of not less than seven and not more than 10 elected members, including the thrompon. Therefore, representation of yenlag thromdes is directly in the dzongkhag tshogdu and not in the thromde tshogde. This is also stated in the Constitution.

Identification of yenlag thromdes

During the boundary declaration at the last Parliament session, lyonpo Dorji Choden presented that in most dzongkhags, the second largest town was proposed as the yenlag thromde. As per the Constitution, there can be more than one yenlag thromde in each dzongkhag but the Cabinet decided to propose only a yenlag thromde in each dzongkhag for now. In dzongkhags where satellite towns already exist, the dzongkhag municipal sector is expected to continue to serve these towns and facilitate its growth for it to graduate as yenlag thromdes in due course of time.

A yenlag thromde is represented by a thuemi each.

Gewog Vs. Dzongkhag administration

For a yenlag thromde to come under gewog administration, the foreseen issues are capacity of the gewog to handle the operations, conflict of interest and budget allocation, and subsidies among others. While gewogs would have the extra responsibility to administer yenlag thromdes, the budget allocation also needs to be looked into, as there is a budget ceiling for each gewog.

“If budget for yenlag thromde comes through the gewogs, it could affect developmental activities of a particular gewog given the budget ceiling,” National Council’s Gasa representative Sangay Khandu said. “As a thromde, it would require more budget and resources.”

If the administration is assigned to the gewogs, it needs to be seen if a thromde thuemi’s authority is equated to that of a gup or mangmi’s, as both are members of the dzongkhag tshogdu. This could result in conflict of power, for instance in who would be the authority in issuing clearance certificates.

Besides budget allocation, a thromde also generates its revenue through urban taxes and others. In case of yenlag thromde, there is also the question of who manages the flow of resources.

As gewogs are entitled rural subsidies like timber and tax, will yenlag thromdes get the same subsidies if they are under the gewogs? Confusions on voting are also expected because while they are part of the yenlag thromde, the voters are under the gewog administration.

Should yenlag thromdes come under the dzongkhag administration, it is also seen as a hassle with most yenlag thromdes located far from dzongkhag administration.

What does yenlag thromde mean?

Opposition member Yeshey Zimba said the government does not have a blueprint of how the LG would function at the yenlag thromde level. “It’s like another village so why call it a throm?” the former works and human settlement minister said. “The whole purpose of giving yenlag thromde autonomy and power at the LG is lost.”

Since only one yenlag thromde thuemi represents the rest of the yenlag thromdes in a dzongkhag tshogdu, Yeshey Zimba said there is no commonality of interest. “As the country develops, more villages are going to become throms especially those near the roads and that are more prosperous because of economic activities,” he said. “If they are given yenlag thromde status and taken out of the gewog, what would be the status of the gewog?”

Yeshey Zimba said in future, remote parts of the country could be left as gewogs. “Gewogs are the foundation of Bhutan, which is why the Constitution made it difficult to alter gewog boundaries.”

National Council’s good governance committee chairman and eminent member Tashi Wangmo said that while reviewing the LG amendment Act, they mulled over the administration clause. “As there was no clear concept on what a yenlag thromde means it was left open,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of debates on where yenlag thromdes’ administration should fall.”

Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said if yenlag thromdes come under dzongkhag administration, it would be like Class B thromdes specified in the LG Act before its amendment.

Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said the government directives on the administration of yenlag thromdes are necessary for formulation of strategy to conduct the upcoming local government elections as well as for future elections.

“If it’s under the dzongkhag, then we need to delist all chiwogs that may be affected by reduction of that area and define the electoral roll,” he said. “We also need directives from the government to decide whether voters will be voting for both gewog and thromde yenlag elections or vice versa.”

By Kinga Dema