The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Monday, July 3, 2006


Written to confuse the reader, Zhabtog Laymi is the compulsory labour each house has to pay to the local government bodies or individuals . seldom they are paid.

Zhabtog Laymi, till the Ninth Plan
Posted on Wednesday, June 21, 2006, @ 08:53:33 EDT

National Assembly: 21 June 2006- The National Assembly decided on July 19 that the Zhabtog Laymi system, where beneficiaries contribute half the cost of a project in voluntary labour, would continue up to the end of the Ninth Plan period.

The resolution followed deliberations where chimis asked for the contribution from the beneficiaries to be reduced.
“It is a very heavy burden for the people,” the Samtse chimi, Sangay Khandu, told Kuensel. “If the total cost of a project was about Nu. 1.2 million - 1.4 million the government provided only about half a million Ngultrums which was less than half the committed amount.” He added that only farm roads did not require any labour contribution from the beneficiaries.

Sangay Khandu said that while there were alternatives to pay in cash if physical labour could not be contributed, Zhabtog laymi was still a burden for the rural people.

The Bumthang chimi, Dorji Wangchuk, said that it was only the rural people that had to bear the brunt of the system. “In the urban centers contractors do all the work.” He added that if the Zhabtog laymi continued there was no chance for the rural people to work hard and increase their output because they would be contributing physically most of the time.

The Samdrup Jongkhar chimi, Dallay, said that the extent of contribution had to be reduced so that rural people had more time to work in the fields.

The Samdrup Jongkhar chimi Yonten Thinley said that people in places like remote Shingkhar Lauri under Samdrup Jongkhar, had to walk for days carrying construction material from the nearest roadpoint. This discouraged people to remain in the villages.

The Bumthang chimi, Ugyen Dorji, said that with most of the capable people in the villages having migrated to urban centers the burden that fell on those that stayed behind was heavy.

The home minister, Lyonpo Jigmi Y. Thinley, acknowledged that there were a lot of problems associated with the system.

Physical labour contribution was even more difficult for less populated settlements.

“Zhabtog laymi is one reason that forces rural people to migrate to urban centers,” said the home minister.

However, he added that rural people were also paid wages for their contribution.

While the residents in the urban centers did not have to contribute in physical labour Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley said that they also bore equal burden by paying for water and other related services and taxes.

The minister said that contributing labour was also good for self-sustenance.

The minister informed the Assembly that the draft zhabtog laymi Act was being drafted in consultation with the local leaders and would be submitted in the next session of the National Assembly.

The Assembly Speaker, Dasho Ugen Dorje, said that the system would continue till the end of the current plan as many development works were in progress.

By Tashi Dorji

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