In an effort to control the alarming traffic congestion faced by residents while commuting, the Sikkim government has decided to explore ‘cable cars’ as a means of public transport system in state capital Gangtok.
The length of the conceptual mass transit systtem rounds up to 12.42 km with 13 stations.
In a statement, the state information and public relations department said that Sikkim chief secretary SC Gupta on Wednesday chaired a meeting on ‘Techno-Economic Feasibility Study of Cable Car as Public Transport System for Gangtok’ held by the Urban Development & Housing Department in co-ordination with Urban Mass Transit Company Limited (UMTC) in New Delhi. The meeting was also attended by the head of various stakeholder departments of the state for their opinion over adopting cable cars as a solution.
The statement further stated that representative of UDHD while attending the meet at the national capital informed that it had engaged UMTC since September 2016 and thereafter, during a period of three months, the UMTC team will conduct a primary survey of data for the projection of traffic situation in the next 30 years in Gangtok. The chief secretary also stressed that the report being presented during the meet was only preliminary data and not the detailed project report (DPR).
Chief secretary Gupta in the meet also stated that adopting cable cars as mode of public transport in Gangtok is being explored as one of the appropriate solutions available for the capital to tackle the burgeoning traffic menace. He said that if adopted, cable cars can become a viable long term solution to solve the grievances being faced by the state in terms of road traffic. He also put forward the resolution of the state government to effectively decongestant the roads of the state capital and mentioned that all possible options are being explored with utmost priority.
Adding to it, Gupta also expressed that Gangtok is a hill station and all the challenges in terms of geography and limited space are being considered while devising customized solutions to solve the traffic problem for the capital.
In the meeting, the state chief secretary also made various inquiries regarding safety, travel time and environmental factors related to cable cars and expressed satisfaction at the study that was done by the concerned department and UMTC.
Meanwhile, UMTC manager Harshita Sharma focussed on ‘moving people and not vehicles’ as per National Urban Transport Policy, 2016 and taking into consideration the population of Gangtok including tourist inflow and the unique geography of the town.
She further added that the key mobility concerns of the town were challenging terrain conditions, limited land availability for road network development, increasing private vehicle share, extensive dependence on taxi services, poor infrastructure and lack of parking spaces.
The presentation also touched upon coverage, multi-modal integration, accessibility and safety of cable car transport system.
The ice that has long defined South Asia’s mountain ranges is dissolving into massive new lakes, raising the specter of catastrophic flooding.
Gokyo village, nestled beside a lake fed in part by Nepal’s Ngozumba Glacier, doesn’t face immediate danger from flooding, but other Himalayan communities are threatened by rising glacial lakes.
It’s a landscape like no other on the planet—the colossal glaciers of the Himalaya, which for millennia have been replenished by monsoons that smother the mountains in new snow each summer.
But take that same jet trip 80 years from now, and those gleaming ice giants could be gone.
Earlier this year, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development published the most comprehensive analysis to date of how climate change will affect the glaciers of the Himalaya, Hindu Kush, Karakoram, and Pamir mountains, which together form an arc across Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar. The study warned that, depending on the rate of global warming, one-third to two-thirds of the region’s approximately 56,000 glaciers will disappear by 2100.
Scientists say the accelerated melting of Asia’s estimated 56,000 glaciers is creating hundreds of new lakes across the Himalaya and other high mountain ranges. If the natural dam holding a glacial lake in place fails, the resulting flood could wipe out communities situated in the valleys below. Engineers in Nepal are looking at ways to lower the most dangerous lakes to reduce the threat.
This is a dire prediction for some 1.9 billion South Asians, who rely on the glaciers for water—used not only for drinking and sanitation but also for agriculture, hydroelectric power, and tourism. But the survey also looked at a more immediate question: As the glaciers rapidly melt, where will all the water—more than a quadrillion gallons of it, roughly the amount contained in Lake Huron—go?
The answer is that the Himalaya, long defined by its glaciers, is rapidly becoming a mountain range defined by lakes. In fact, another study found that from 1990 to 2010, more than 900 new glacier-fed lakes were formed across Asia’s high mountain ranges. Because of the remote locations, scientists must rely on satellites to count them, and new lakes appear to be growing so quickly that it’s difficult for scientific teams to agree on the precise number.
“It’s all happening much faster than we expected it to even five or 10 years ago,” says Alton Byers, a National Geographic explorer and mountain geographer at the University of Colorado Boulder.
To understand how these lakes form, think of a glacier as an ice bulldozer slowly plowing down the side of a mountain, scraping through the earth, and leaving a ridge of debris on either side as it pushes forward. These ridges are called moraines, and as glaciers melt and retreat, water fills the gouge that remains, and the moraines serve as natural dams.
“They start as a series of meltwater ponds,” Byers explains, and “they coalesce to form a single pond, then a larger lake. And year by year they get larger and larger, until you have a lake with millions of cubic meters of water.”
And as the lake fills up, it can overspill the moraines holding it in place or, in the worst-case scenario, the moraines can give way. Scientists call such an event a glacial lake outburst flood, or GLOF, but there’s also a Sherpa word for it: chhu-gyumha, a catastrophic flood.
One of the most spectacular Himalayan GLOFs occurred in the Khumbu region of Nepal on August 4, 1985, when an ice avalanche rumbled down the Langmoche Glacier and crashed into the mile-long, pear-shaped Dig Lake.
The lake was likely less than 25 years old—a photo taken in 1961 by Swiss cartographer Edwin Schneider shows only ice and debris at the foot of Langmoche. When the avalanche hit the lake, it created a wave 13 to 20 feet high that breached the moraine and released more than 1.3 billion gallons—about the equivalent of 2,000 Olympic-size swimming pools—of water downstream.
The Sherpa who saw it described a black mass of water slowly moving down the valley, accompanied by a loud noise like many helicopters and the smell of freshly tilled earth. The flood destroyed 14 bridges, about 30 houses, and a new hydroelectric plant. According to some reports, several people were killed. By a benevolent twist of fate, the flood happened during a festival celebrating the coming harvest, so there were few local residents near the river that day, which undoubtedly saved lives.
“There have always been GLOF events,” Byers says. “But we’ve never experienced so many dangerous lakes in such a short amount of time. We know so little about them.” The Dig Lake flood focused attention on the risks posed by other lakes across the Himalaya. Chief among them were Rolpa Lake, in the Rolwaling Valley of Nepal, and Imja Lake, near the foot of Everest, directly upstream from several villages along the popular trekking route to Everest Base Camp.
In the late 1980s teams of scientists began to study those two lakes. Satellite imagery revealed that Imja Lake had formed after Dig Lake, sometime in the 1960s, and was expanding at an alarming rate. One study estimated that from 2000 to 2007, its surface area grew by nearly 24 acres.TODAY’SPOPULAR STORIES
“The challenge with glacial lakes is that the risks are constantly changing,” says Paul Mayewski, director of the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine and leader of the 2019 National Geographic Society and Rolex expedition to study Nepal’s glaciers. For example, many moraines holding back glacial lakes are naturally reinforced with chunks of ice, which help stabilize the overall structure. If the ice melts, a once solid moraine may fail.
Other threats lurk beneath the ice. As melting occurs, large caves can be hollowed out inside a retreating glacier and can fill with water. These hidden reservoirs sometimes link via conduits in the ice to surface ponds. When an escape path for this reservoir suddenly melts out, dozens of linked ponds may drain at once, converging to create a major deluge. Though smaller and less destructive than GLOFs, this type of event—known to scientists as an englacial conduit flood—happens more frequently. Little is known about these floods. “Figuring out how water flows through glaciers is not so trivial,” Mayewski says.
But for the moment, GLOFs remain the primary worry. Byers points to the moraine at the foot of the Khumbu Glacier, where a cluster of small ponds currently sit. “That’s the next big lake,” he says, noting that the moraine towers above the trekking village of Tugla. “It’s only a matter of time before it turns into a potential risk.”
It’s difficult for scientists to assess the danger without conducting fieldwork, which often requires days of hiking to reach the remote lakes, but a 2011 study identified 42 lakes in Nepal as being at either very high risk or high risk of flooding. Across the entire Greater Himalaya region, the number could be more than a hundred.
Another nation with a long history of dealing with rising glacial lakes is Peru, a mountainous country that has lost up to 50 percent of its glacial ice in the past 30 to 40 years and has seen thousands of people killed in GLOF events. After a devastating flood from Lake Palcacocha wiped out a third of the city of Huaraz, killing some 5,000 people, Peruvians began to pioneer innovative ways to partially drain dangerous glacial lakes. Today dozens of lakes in Peru have been dammed and lowered—creating hydroelectric plants and irrigation channels in the process.
But there are major obstacles to implementing some of those solutions in Nepal.
The big difference between Peru and the Himalaya is the logistics, explains John Reynolds, a British geo-hazards specialist who helped direct an effort that lowered Rolpa, considered by many to be the most dangerous lake in Nepal. “In Peru you could virtually drive to within a day’s walk of the lake,” he says. In Nepal, “it could take five, six days to walk to the site from the nearest roadhead.”
Rolpa Lake is so remote that heavy machinery had to be helicoptered to the lake in pieces and then reassembled. After constructing a small dam with sluice gates, engineers slowly began releasing water and drawing down the lake. “If you draw the water down too quickly, it can actually destabilize the valley flanks, particularly the lateral moraines that impounded it,” Reynolds says. Ultimately, the water level of Rolpa Lake was lowered by more than 11 feet—the first mitigation project in the Himalaya.
In 2016 the Nepalese Army participated in an emergency project that drained Imja Lake by a similar amount. Neither measure has completely relieved the respective flood risks, but both represent, along with the installation of warning systems, a positive step.
Not all glacial lakes pose an equal threat, and as scientists continue to develop new ways to study the lakes, they are learning how to assess the true level of risk each lake poses. In some instances, they’ve found that the perceived risk was overstated, including in the case of Imja Lake. “There is no actual relationship between causality of a GLOF and lake size,” Reynolds says. “What’s critical is how the lake body interacts with the dam itself.”
And it’s not just the large lakes that pose threats, says Nepali scientist Dhananjay Regmi. “We are concerned more about big lakes, but most of the disasters in recent years have been done by relatively small lakes, which we never suspected.”
Whether the lakes are small or large, there’s little doubt that conditions for setting off floods are increasing. Reynolds points out that as the permafrost begins to thaw, massive rockfalls and landslides will become more common, and if they hit vulnerable lakes, they could trigger floods similar to the 1985 Khumbu Valley flood.
“We need to be conducting integrated geo-hazard studies of these valleys,” Reynolds says. “GLOFs are just a piece of it.”
Regmi considers the growth of lakes an opportunity for development. “Every lake has its own characteristics, and each needs to be treated differently,” he explains, noting that some might be good sources of mineral water and some might be good for generating hydropower or tourism, while others might be reserved for religious purposes.
Alton Byers is optimistic about the progress already made. “It’s not just the big infrastructure projects, like lowering Imja. People who live in remote high-mountain regions are quietly going about developing their own technology to adapt.”
This story appears in the December 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.
The koala received severe burns and was dehydrated so staff at Koala Hospital Port Macquarie tried their best to revive the animal.
Animal welfare activists,, rescuers and doctors have been working round the clock to help and koalas and other animals that have been affected by the raging bushfires in Australia this week. As the historic fired raged through over 2.5 million hectares of forest land, several areas with heavy koala populations were torched, causing hundreds of koala deaths.
While an estimated 350 koalas are being presumed dead in the fires, heartbreaking stories of rescued koalas has made the plight internationally viral. One such video surfaced recently where a badly burnt koala named Kate was being fed water by a man in Bellangry State Forrest.
The animal had received severe burns in the bushfires and arrived at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital completely dehydrated.
Taking to Facebook, the hospital share a vide of the marsupial drinking water from the hands of the man who rescued her, named Darrel.
According to Koala Hospital’s post, the koala who had “burns to hands, feet, face and full singeing of her body,” had been rescued by Darrel who fed her water when her came across her.
They further added, “She arrived very dehydrated and is now in the 5 star service burns ward at the Koala Hospital.”
In the video, the man can be heard saying, “There you go, you’re so badly singed aren’t you?” as he helps the poor marsupial drink some water.
The man wrapped up the koala and brought her in for treatment.
As soon as the video was posted, a number of people took to Facebook to comment on the act of kindness and forwarder inquiries if they could help.
One user wrote, “Aww the poor thing! Is there anywhere we can donate to help our wild life?”
While another posted, “Great job rescuing her Darrel. Glad she is being treated and looked after. Love your work Koala hospital!”
A third user went on to write, “It is very upsetting to see this but so glad this beautiful girl is in the amazing hospital getting the care she needs.”
Meanwhile, fires continue to rage in Australia with crews still battling over 120 blazes in several areas including Queensland and New South Wales. Four fire related deaths ave already occurred
The Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) and the Austrian Coordination Office (ACO) signed three grant contract agreements at GNHC office yesterday for financial assistance of Euro 5.3 million.
The grant is a part of ACO’s assistance to the 12th five year plan (FYP) and it will be implemented by Justice Sectors, Royal Audit Authority (RAA) and Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC).
Assistance will address access to a free and fair justice and enhance the capacity of justice sector institutions under Justice Sector Programme, enabling RAA’s capacity and accountability in diverse and emerging specialised auditing fields and to enhance the domestic capacity in hydropower sectors.
From the total financial assistance of Euro 5.3 million, Euro 4.5 million is allocated for the Justice Sector Programme in achieving 12th FYP and in particular for the National Key Result Area (NKRA) 16 (i.e. justice services) and NKRA 12 (i.e. reducing corruption).
GNHC’s Director General, Rinchen Wangdi said that signing the Justice Sector Programme grant agreement would results in better access to free and fair justice. “The capacities of all legal institutions will be strengthened.”
Justice Sector Programme has three main objectives: to make justice competent and motivated, justice sector services accessible and inclusive, and the infrastructure adequate to deliver justice services more efficiently.
Improving access to justice services and improving access to information are intended for second goal. Action areas for the final objective includes, enhancement of forensic capability and enhanced justice services through infrastructure development.
Justice Sector Programme will support the justice service providers comprising the Royal Court of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, Anti-Corruption Commission, Royal Bhutan Police, Bhutan National Legal Institute, National Commission of Women and Children, Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law, Bar Council and Alternate Dispute Resolution Centre.
RAA and DGPC will receive Euro 0.2 million and Euro 0.6 million respectively for the capacity development.
“Assistance rendered will have immense benefit as both RAA and DGPC has shifted their focus in line with the requirement of international auditing standards and construction of hydropower,” said Director General, Rinchen Wangdi.
Myanmar struck back Friday after a surge of global legal pressure over its alleged crimes against the Rohingya, branding an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) “not in accordance with international law”.
On Thursday the ICC approved a full probe into Myanmar’s 2017 bloody military crackdown against the minority Muslim group.
The decision came after rights groups filed a separate lawsuit in Argentina —- in which former democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi was personally named —- and a further submission of a genocide case at the UN’s top court.
Two years ago some 740,000 Rohingya fled over the border into sprawling camps in Bangladesh in violence UN investigators branded as genocide.
Myanmar has repeatedly defended the crackdown as necessary to stamp out militants and has long refused to recognise the authority of the ICC — a position it reiterated Friday.
“The investigation over Myanmar by the ICC is not in accordance with international law,” said government spokesman Zaw Htay at a press conference Friday.
Even though the country has not signed up to the court, the ICC ruled last year it has jurisdiction over crimes against the Rohingya because Bangladesh, where they are now refugees, is a member.
Zaw Htay repeated that Myanmar’s own committees would investigate any abuses and ensure accountability if needed.
“Myanmar and the government are neither in denial nor closing our eyes,” he said.
Critics deride the domestic panels of whitewashing atrocities.
– Myanmar accused of genocide –
The ICC decision came after West African nation The Gambia on Monday launched a separate case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s top court, also based in The Hague.
The Gambia, acting on behalf of the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), accuses Myanmar of genocide. The first hearings are scheduled for December.
The ICJ normally deals with more legalistic disputes between states but also rules on alleged breaches of UN conventions.
Myanmar, which has signed the Genocide Convention, would respond “in accordance with international legal means,” said Zaw Htay.
In the case filed Wednesday in Argentina, Suu Kyi was among top Myanmar officials named for crimes against the Rohingya, the first time the Nobel Laureate has been legally targeted over the crisis.
Human rights groups submitted the lawsuit under “universal jurisdiction”, a legal principle that some crimes are so horrific, they can be tried anywhere.
The lawsuit demands top leaders — including army chief Min Aung Hlaing and civilian leader Suu Kyi — face justice over the “existential threat” faced by the Rohingya.
Argentine courts have taken up other such cases in relation to ex-dictator Francisco Franco’s rule in Spain and the Falun Gong movement in China.
Myanmar’s government spokesman offered no comment on the lawsuit. ( Agencies)
THE new bridge over Sisseri River, which will be inaugurated by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday during his two-day trip to Arunachal Pradesh, will reduce travel time between Dibang and Siang valleys in the state, sources said here on Thursday.
According to a senior official of the Indian Army, the 200-metre bridge, which will connect Pasi Ghat with Roing, will reduce travel time between the two places by at least five hours.
The bridge built by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) falls along the road that is being constructed by the Union government under the Trans-Arunachal Highway project.
“The road will be extremely beneficial for local transportation. Earlier, the locals had to trudge several miles to reach Pasi Ghat from Roing or vice versa. With the new bridge, travel time between the two places will be cut by more than five hours,” said the official.
The bridge, engineered by the BRO, is a double-carriageway structure with four spans of 50-metre each.
“The bridge is an important link in the Trans-Arunachal Highway that is being built from Tawang at the extreme end of Arunachal Pradesh to Kanubari. The Sisseri Bridge will help travelling to the Dhola-Sadiya Bridge through which commuters can reach Tinsukia district in Assam,” said the official.
The Dhola-Sadiya Bridge, named after popular Assamese singer and filmmaker Bhupen Hazarika, is the first road connection between Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. It was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2017.
The Trans-Arunachal Highway being constructed by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways spans a total length of over 1,500 km. The project, though launched by the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, has been pursued aggressively by the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) since 2015.
The highway project is expected to boost tourism in Arunachal Pradesh besides giving impetus to the under-developed industrial sector in the northeastern state.
Rajnath Singh reached Arunachal Pradesh on Thursday where he was received by the state’s Chief Minister Pema Khandu.
A Defence Ministry official said that Rajnath Singh visited the Tawang War Memorial and Tawang Monastery on the first day of his two-day trip. He also attended the Maitree Diwas celebrations, a multi-cultural social event, held in the Gyalwa Tsangyang Gyatso high altitude stadium in Tawang as the chief guest of the event.
On Friday, Rajnath will visit India’s forward post at Bum La near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, apart from inaugurating the bridge.
In October, Rajnath had inaugurated another bridge of the BRO that has been built across the Shyok River in Ladakh. The Shyokm River bridge, named after a valiant soldier of Ladakh, Colonel Chewang Rinchen, has been built to allow ease of troop movement to the Daulat Beg Oldi sector, located near the LAC along China’s Xinjiang province, where a 21-day military standoff had taken place between India and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
The government of Nepal should ensure that forthcoming legislation to regulate social organizations protects the right to freedom of association, Human Rights Watch said. The government should hold open consultations with activists before introducing these laws.Following previous attempts to impose draconian regulations on nongovernment organizations (NGOs), activists fear that legislation being prepared by the Home Ministry will weaken civil society, including organizations defending human rights. These groups had been supervised by the Social Welfare Council, a government body established in 1992 to “co-ordinate” and “promote” social organizations. But under the current government, the Home Ministry, which is otherwise responsible for internal security and law and order, has been taking over the regulation, registration, and supervision of social organizations.
“Nongovernmental organizations need to be independent so that they can hold the government accountable, criticize policies, propose alternative ideas, and represent different points of view,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “The Nepal government’s recent attempts to place constraints on groups rings alarm bells for democracy and human rights.”
Jitbir Lama, president of NGO Federation Nepal, described activists’ concerns to the Kathmandu Post, saying “We are concerned if the ministry is focusing on controlling nongovernment organizations, instead of regulating and facilitating them.” Achyut Luitel, chairperson of the Association of International NGOs, warned that the government is trying to adopt “controlling measures” to restrict groups that work on human rights.
The government’s 2019 International Development Cooperation Policy states that international aid mobilized through Nepali groups should be in line with government priorities, which it identifies mostly as infrastructure development.
The National Integrity Policy introduced in 2018 placed a number of onerous restrictions on activist groups and on the foreign funding that many rely on for their work. The policy requires groups to seek government permission to receive foreign grants. Once enforced, international nongovernmental organizations will be banned from doing advocacy on policy issues and from making “inappropriate allegations,” “spreading ill will,” or doing anything to “jeopardize the Nepali civilization, culture, social relationships and harmony.” Reports that they send to their home countries must be approved by the government.
These broadly drawn prohibitions could be used to prevent a wide range of activism on issues such as human rights, corruption, and gender and caste discrimination. Since the work of all international groups must be carried out through local partner organizations, the policy severely constrains domestic organizations supported by foreign partners.
A 2018 letter from four United Nations special rapporteurs stated, among numerous concerns, that the National Integrity Policy would “severely hinder the access of funding for associations.” They pointed out that even unregistered organizations are entitled to freedom of expression rights under international law and said that restrictions on activities of these groups under the policy do “not appear to pursue a legitimate objective under international human rights standards.” The special rapporteurs concluded that the policy was “aimed at hindering civil society’s ability to operate, especially NGOs and INGOs that are advocating for the promotion of ideas that are not shared by the Government.”
In June 2018, the government also introduced a directive that all nongovernmental groups must register with Home Ministry officials in each district, include a declaration of the personal property of all officeholders, and amend their statutes to specify just one field in which they would work. Those orders were later rolled back in the face of widespread opposition and threats of legal action.
International law protects freedom of association, including through nongovernmental groups. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) holds that no restrictions may be placed on this right other than those that “are necessary in a democratic society” such as protecting public safety or the rights of others. Any limitations should not destroy or negate the essence of the rights guaranteed in the covenant.
Groups in Nepal accept that some regulation is necessary, for example with relation to financial management. While it is appropriate to regulate and scrutinize the financial affairs of not-for-profit organizations to address corruption, the Nepali government’s approach unnecessarily infringes on the fundamental right of citizens to organize and campaign on issues of their choosing, Human Rights Watch said.
“The government should not be interfering with or constraining which issues organizations can work on, and should listen to activists, including critics, instead of treating them as a threat,” Ganguly said. “In the past, Nepali political parties, including the one currently in office, received the support of groups that backed democracy and human rights, and all members of parliament should ensure that any new regulation is bolstering these groups instead of undermining them.”
The crime graph on the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) points to a steady uptrend in crimes committed against children in Nagaland. As per the NCRB’s latest but delayed Crime in India (2017) compendium, from 61 reported cases in 2015, crimes against children rose to 78 in 2016 to reach a high of 93 at a rate of 13.9 per lakh of population in 2017 against the national rate of 28.9.
Despite the visible increase from a state perspective, Nagaland ranked lowest among the states in terms of incidence and was the only state with fewer than hundred cases reported. Only the Union Territories of Puducherry, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu and Lakshadweep reported lesser cases than Nagaland.
In terms of frequency, the then state of Jammu & Kashmir ranked lowest at 8 per lakh of population. J & K had a total of 359 reported cases. The all-India total of reported cases was 1,29,032.
Kidnappings and abductions (46 victims) and cases cognizable under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (43 victims) dominated, registering 42 and 41 cases, respectively. It also included 1 rape, 2 attempted rapes, 2 under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act and five others.
The two attempted rapes were also featured in the data for Crime against Women.
With the inclusion of 5 other victims, the total number of victims under this category stood at 101.
The state police investigated as many as 143 cases relating to crimes committed on children, inclusive of 50 pending from 2016. Of the outstanding total, 53 were charge-sheeted, inclusive of 12 pending cases from 2016. There were 2 abatements and 60 others deemed and disposed as false report, mistake of fact or of law or civil dispute, insufficient evidence. The year ended with 28 in the process of investigations.
During the year, the courts tried as many as 94 cases, including 41 cases pending from 2016. Hearings were concluded in 22 of the court trials, resulting in 15 convictions, 4 acquittals and 3 discharges. The number of persons convicted included 25 men and 1 woman.
There were relatively swift trials too, as 8 of the convictions were of cases that reached the court during the year. Cases pending trial at the end of the year stood at 72— in other words, a pendency rate of 76.6 percent.
The Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) on Tuesday said child trafficking cases has increased by at least 55 per cent in 2019 across the state.
A total of 125 cases of different crimes against children were registered with the organization during the current year. Till November 10 this year, we have registered 17 cases of child trafficking. This figure was 11 for the whole year of 2018.
ASCPCR has registered 43 cases of child sexual abuse in the same period this year against 53 in 2018. There were five cases of child marriage too compared to six in last year.
Instances of violation of right to education for children has also seen a considerable rise with 13 cases being already registered this year, while the same was just nine in 2018.
ASCPCR registered 24 cases of child in need of care and protection till November 10 as against 36 in 2018, she added.
There are five cases of other crimes this year as against one in last year.
ASCPCR on Tuesday rolled out a mobile application for lodging complaints of child rights violations.
People and organisations in many countries around the world claim to have adopted Bhutan’s human development vision of Gross National Happiness (GNH).
However, what they actually portray is different people’s perceptions of GNH. Some are philosophical, some are well researched academic constructions, while the others are spaced-out theories.
GNH has been described as an esoteric philosophy, an inspiring concept, a developmental goal, a measure of development, a wake-up call, and so on.
It is also being criticised as a platform for ambitious politicians, a mere catchphrase, an empty promise, meaningless platitudes, a purely intellectual concept, as well as an academic redundancy.
If confusion is truly the beginning of wisdom, all these are ‘wonderful’. I, too, would like to add to the confusion by sharing my understanding of GNH, by attempting some responses and clarifications to ideas that are being exchanged.
What exactly is ‘Happiness’?
To talk about GNH, I believe that we have to first define what happiness is.
I know that the world’s greatest minds have been trying to define happiness for centuries but I have my own idea of a GNH perspective on happiness.
The happiness in GNH is not fun, pleasure, thrill, excitement – or any other fleeting emotions, it is the deeper and permanent sense of contentment that we consciously or, in our sub-conscience, seek.
Have we achieved GNH in Bhutan? The answer is ‘No’. But has GNH had an impact on Bhutanese society? Yes.
Everyone who has visited Bhutan senses a different atmosphere from the moment he or she arrives. I believe that this sense comes from the values that have been nurtured over the centuries.
Today, we are calling it GNH, therefore, I offer my understanding of GNH as it exists today.
I see GNH in four forms – the intuitive, the intellectual, the responsibility and the emerging global.
First of all, I see intuitive GNH values in past generations of Bhutanese who had strong mutual understanding and enjoyed interdependent existence as members of small rural communities.
The village astrologer, the lay monk, the lead singer, the carpenter, the arrow maker, the elders and the youth, all of them had their own responsibilities.
The values, drawn from Buddhist teachings, from the experience and wisdom of our ancestors and from the very practical needs of a subsistence farming lifestyle, inculcated a reverence for an interdependent existence with all life forms, or all sentient beings.
Some examples of these are seen in the reluctance to hunt and fish (both of which are banned in the country), the sometimes frustrating tendency to be less ‘productive’ to avoid hurting or upsetting someone, and putting up with the cacophony of an unruly stray dog population. To put it simply, people basically identified with their own priorities in life.
In the 1980s, farmers of one village were taught successfully to do a double crop of paddy, meaning that they doubled their rice production that year.
However, they refused to do it the following year because, as one farmer said, “We did not have time to play archery, to enjoy our festivals or to bask in the sun.”
Another perception level I see is the attempt to define, explain and measure GNH, along with the academic construction of the concept.
The four pillars and nine domains of GNH
As discussed earlier, the best accepted definition of happiness is the abiding sense of inter-relatedness with all life forms and of contentment that lies within the self.
This is related to the happiness that Buddhists seek from the practice of meditation.
In one understanding of GNH as a development vision, a representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) described it as a much more advanced concept of the Human Development Index that the UNDP has been refining.
This takes me to the third perception: GNH as a government responsibility.
As discussed, I think the definition of happiness as the abiding sense of contentment as well as GNH as a government responsibility make basic sense, although the translation of these into policy, legislation and prioritised activities is very much still a work in progress.
In other words, we may agree on goals, values, and responsibilities, but differ sharply on the best strategies to achieve these goals.
And yet, it is the recognition that GNH must be the basis of mainstream policy thinking that sets Bhutan apart from some countries that have expressed interest in harnessing the values of GNH.
As we have seen during the GNH conferences in Thailand, Brazil, and Canada, some people doing good work among their communities, such as the NGOs and civil society organisations, thought that they have found an identity in GNH.
In Bhutan, however, the four pillars and nine domains of GNH have given politicians and bureaucrats some idea of national priorities.
This is useful because public servants do not intellectualise policy but make decisions that have an impact on all citizens.
The international discourse
The fourth perception level is the “internationalisation” of the GNH discussion.
(Source: Chencho Dorji)
Bhutan has certainly not worked out the solutions to the world’s problems, but I think we have opened up an amazing conversation and we need to give this conversation coherence and direction.
The concept of GNH, even partially understood, excites and inspires people. After five international conferences on GNH and the April 2 meeting in New York, one criticism at home has been – stop preaching GNH overseas and make it work in Bhutan.
This is a resounding example of the need for clarity in GNH thinking and understanding. Here, I emphasise the point that we are not preaching to anyone, rather, we ourselves are learning.
There is a vast amount of research, analysis and experimentation done on GNH-related issues such as sustainability, well-being, climate change and much more, by intellectuals including Nobel laureates, by universities and institutions and by civil societies.
Bhutan must learn from them to in order to deepen its own understanding of GNH.
International discourse can only benefit Bhutan because we ourselves do not have the capacity to undertake the necessary research and analysis required to implement the tenets of GNH fully at home.
In conclusion, there is a growing understanding of, and even fear that the human population, driven by the values of GDP, is literally consuming the earth.
That is why GNH is a pun on GDP which used to be known as Gross National Product. The loud message is that human development needs a higher goal, that is, beyond GDP.
“The favourable aspects of a site in Thimphu valley have made it eminently suitable for the capital.” A recently discovered report titled, “New Capital for Bhutan in the Thimphu Valley,” dated April 1963, reasons why Thimphu was eminently suitable as the new capital of Bhutan.
The first reason was that Thimphu was suitable for round-the-year living. It was also found that the practice of shifting the capital from Thimphu to Punakha during the winter was found expensive for the state. Although the report does not state, it implies that by moving the capital permanently to Thimphu, the state would be absolved of this financial burden.
Secondly, the proposed site for the capital adjoins the Tashichhodzong and it would be in the proximity of His Majesty’s Palace. In the life of the Bhutanese, these two institutions are of great significance.
Thirdly, Thimphu had the land required for housing a population of 12,000 to 20,000. Fourthly, Thimphu could be reached in about 10 to 15 hours from the Indian airstrip of Hasimara. This factor was considered of great consequence in a country where access in the mountainous terrain was hazardous, time consuming and expensive.
Fifthly as the site of the capital, Thimphu could maintain effective control on movement in the highways from the north as well as from the South.
Sixthly, the physical features of Thimphu made it scenic and impressive. Located at an altitude of 8,000 ft. and in between two sub-Himalayan ranges rising sharply to about 12,000 ft., Thimphu provided a good aspect for the capital. Lastly, Thimphu commanded a perennial source of water supply. The terrain was found suitable for good drainage and sewage disposal systems.
The neatly typed seven-page report has been classified under four broad categories. The categories are;Preliminary Framework of the capital, Social Base, Economic Base and fourthly the Plan. Under each broad category there are subsections. For example under the first category, the subheadings are, “ Need for a governmental centre, the Site and Scope of Planning. Given the significance of the historical data extracts of the report are being reproduced.
Under the first broad heading of Preliminary framework of the capital, the need for a governmental centre is justified as “ the opening of the 120 mile highway from Phuntsholing to the Thimphu valley and beyond augurs an era of a development and progress in Bhutan. Activities of varied nature will spring up a consequence of the inter-communication made possible by the highway. It is appropriate that a governmental centre, from which the nation building activities can be conceived, directed, co-ordinated and controlled, be established and developed.”
In the scope of planning, the report states that, “the planning of a township of the size envisaged in a country such as Bhutan, presents problems of adaptation common to all places where such work is being done for the first time. Such problems as arises need to be solved during the first five-year development. The resources of the country have to be harnessed and geared to this end. This work itself will be thebulk of the programme for the first five years. The growth of the township immediately after this period will be faster. It is possible for the capital to reach the planned size in about 15 years on the whole. A comprehensive plan for 15 years has been envisaged.”
Point 2.1 is classified as Population and its characteristics; “ In the absence of Census data, population estimates can be made only approximately, based on the employment potential of the community. An estimate of the total employment generated in the capital at Thimphu is worked out in paragraph three. It is assumed that the family size will continue to be between three and four persons. Adjustments for factors such as average life expectation, fertility rate, infant mortality, etc., are made on the basis of available information. The estimate of population is as follows:
1967, 5,000 persons, 1972, 7,000 persons, 1977, 10,000-12,000 persons may achieve a high figure of 20,000.”
The report states that the housing policy for the capital must include the provisions to be made by the various departments of the government to house their staff, the extent to which private housing will come up in the capital and also on the clusters to which the Bhutanese workers would like to move in the capital. Adaptations of the prevalent building techniques in rubble, rammed earth and timber will have to be evolved. The resources for putting up a large number of buildings need to be studied.
To realise the housing facilities demanded, the report assumes that Bhutanese who move to the new capital will continue to build on developed land made available to them. The houses would be similar to or a little improved versions over the traditional adobe houses. It is expected of the government to build houses for their employees on a scale determined by the number of institutions set up in the new capital.
The report states that the extent of development of Thimphu town will span over an area of 700 acres. However, only 400 acres will be used for the development of the town and the balance of 300 acres will be used for agricultural purposes.
The report proposes to keep a provision for an orchard or alternatively a plantation. The designated area would be north of the Tashichhodzong and cover an area of 20-25 acres. It will also have an agricultural experimental station with a piggery and poultry.
The consultants estimate the rate of development of Thimphu as Rs. 8,000 per acre. The town plan is based on the population estimate of 12,000 with a maximum projection of 20,000 people living in the capital city. The city dwellers were categorised in five income groups starting from those earning Rs. 300 per month to 1,200 per month. Subsistence farmers are also included in the category.
The report proposes to have a police force of 50 personnel, a school with enrolment of 300-400 and ultimately 600 students. At that time, there was already a hospital and the report recommends adding a T.B Ward to the hospital.
The April report has a list of maps. Out of the 11 maps, only three were attached to the report; Housing Layout, Road Hierarchy and the Design Report for the Water Supply & Drainage Scheme of the City at Thimphu Valley-Bhutan. The missing eight maps are, Comprehensive Plan 1962-77, Plan for the first stage, Housing Sector D, Housing Sector C, House Design, Perspective of Cluster, Industrial District, Plot and Building Analysis and lastly the Road Hierarchy.
One of the first documents reflecting the intentions of His Late Majesty to make Thimphu the capital is reflected in a letter dated 3 June 1962. While details are not available, apparently, the Royal Government of Bhutan wrote the letter to the Director of Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur to review the terms of contract.
The outcome of the letter was the first town plan meeting held in Phuntsholing. The meeting was held on 9 August. The Bhutanese delegation was led by Dasho Lhendup Dorji and consisted of Rai Bahadur T.D. Densapa, Sri M.S Nair and Sri O.P Mathur. The two Indian professors, Prof. R.K. Dhar and A. Subbakrishniah from the Indian Institute of Technology travelled from Kharagpur to Phuntsholing to present the preliminary plan in the form of 22 points. Nine months later, in April 1963, the seven-page report, “New Capital for Bhutan in the Thimphu Valley,” was drafted.
The process of shifting the capital to Thimphu started much earlier. In 1952, His Majesty the Second Druk Gyalpo passed away and his dying wish was for his son to move the capital from Bumthang to Thimphu. After completing all the funeral rites His Late Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo and Her Majesty Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck moved to Paro and embarked on setting up Thimphu as the new capital of Bhutan.