A group of school dropouts, who are helping to construct a biogas plant in Pantang, a small locality at the bank of Mangdechu in Panbang, Zhemgang, take refuge under tarpaulin sheets.

With temperature soaring above 35 degree Celcius, the youth are in half pants and topless.

The youth say they cannot work in farms during the day because of the heat. “We do manual labours like this and earn wages,” Pema, 21, said. “But we construct temporary sheds and work inside.”

They are aware that their dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) members once resolved that everyone in the dzongkhag should wear a national dress from 9am to 5pm since last year.

“But wearing gho and working is not practical here,” Rinchen, 28, from Goshing said. “And I have not seen anyone wearing the national dress while working in the farms.”

The chairperson on the DT then was Goshing gup Sangay Lethro.

Rinchen said the gup, who is alleged of corrupt practices and is suspended, told people that he wants to make Zhemgang dzongkhag exemplary and that people should wear the national dress.

He said people then raised concerns that it was not practical but the gup never listened. “No one listened to the gup too.”

The DT session has resolved that starting December 17 last year people in town and villages must wear the national dress. The DT also proposed a penalty of Nu 100 for those who do not comply with the rule for the first time, Nu 300 for the second time and Nu 500 for the third time.

The DT members again met later and made the rule a bit flexible that it will not apply to those working in the farms, construction sites and emergency. The amended rule also stated that technical staff would wear their uniforms in the offices.

But in reality, no one has followed the rule and it has not even been implemented once.

In Panbang town, all the men and women are found in half pants and sleeveless shirts.

A resident, Sonam, said people have always worn the national dress when they visited offices and during official functions.

“How would people wear gho and kira and stay here. The electricity is so erratic,” he said.

In Zhemgang town, no one has followed the rule and people say it is not practical.

Civil servants, however, blame the unilateral decision of few DT members and lack of accountability on the failure to implement the decision.

A civil servant, on the condition of anonymity, said he attended both the DT sessions, where the decision was made and felt that the decision could not be implemented since it was not a unanimous decision.

He explained that all gups didn’t support the decision and it was decided by few gups.

“Few observers and gups suggested that there should be a voting system then but the DT chair and few members didn’t listen,” the official explained.

It was also learnt that the DT members decided to ask police and other local agencies to implement the decision and monitor it. “But police clearly said that they will not be able to implement and monitor it if there were no directives from the head office.”

Meanwhile, Zhemgang dzongdag Lobzang Dorji said although the rule was framed with a good intention to preserve culture and tradition, it could not be implemented. “As of now, it is like in any other dzongkhag.”

Tashi Dema and Tashi Tenzin