Happy citizenry paramount for Bhutan

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GUWAHATI, 22 Dec: As a country that has given the concept of Gross
National Happiness to the world, Bhutan keeps the interests of its
citizens paramount, be it for health, education or a clean
environment.

Outlining the thrust given by Thimphu to these ends, leading Bhutanese writer and senior journalist Gopilal Acharya also dwelt upon the strong foundations of Indo-Bhutan relations while interacting with
Guwahati-based scribes on Friday. He was participating from Thimphu
through video-conferencing as part of Guwahati Press Club’s ‘Meet the
Press’ programme.

“Led by the Kings who have guided our nation from monarchy to
democracy, Bhutan stands firmly with India. When the Chinese annexed Tibet in the late 1950s, Bhutan sealed off its northern border. The visit of Pandit Nehru in 1958 was a watershed moment for Indo-Bhutan relations, and since then Bhutan’s ties with India has remained firm.

This kind of friendship and trust is important for resolutionof
conflicts like the one we saw inDoklam,” Acharya said.

Talking about primary health benefits for Bhutanese citizens that are
fully under-written by the government, Acharya revealed that a few
private diagnostics centres have sprung up in Thimpu. “For advanced
medical referrals, our people go to Siliguri, Kolkata or Bangalore. In
this context, Guwahati can emerge as a major health destination for
us,” Acharya pointed out.

As for Bhutan’s commitment for free and universal education to its
citizenry, Acharya said that importance is given to every child as
well as ensuring that teachers are well paid. Referring to tourism as
a big foreign exchange earner, Acharya said that this is not at the
expense of the environment. “We are not in favour of tourists coming
in unmanageable numbers. We also restrict vehicles on the basis of
pollution and emission norms,” he said. He also spoke about commercial potential of high-value medicinal plants found in Bhutan.

Dwelling on the forthcoming visit to India by newly elected Prime
Minister LotayTshering, Acharya said that one important item on his
agenda would be to negotiate a higher tariff rate for hydro power
exported to India, particularly for the soon-to-be-commissioned
Mangdechhu Hydropower Project.

Concluding with a brief account of the growth of media in Bhutan,
Acharya said that while a number of newspapers have come up in the
recent past, the Himalayan country till date has a single
government-run TV channel. “Indian entertainment channels are popular in Bhutan. This helps to reinforce the appreciation that many
Bhutanese have for India’s diverse culture,” he ended on a warm
neighborly note.