Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vibrancy testing of democracy!

The importance of institutional check and balance came to the forefront. An overwhelming majority presence of the ruling party, a minuscule opposition and a newly organized Judiciary! For the common people with a little sensibility and just following the excerpts in the media from the constitution, it was always very clear that raising the tax without endorsement from the parliament is unconstitutional. No expert was needed to render that clarification. The constitution being the mother of all laws, would govern.

For the ruling party, I have no doubts in my mind that a genuine mistake was made although with good intent. A show of humility and respect for the constitution by simply accepting the mistake and tabling it for discussion during the next parliament session would have earned them a lot of respect from the people. But it was not to be, they instead chose the messy path, walking the path of the feigned and delusional understanding of the law. They have lost credibility and faith of the people by this act. I think they stuck to their guns even though they knew they were in the wrong, because they never expected the opposition to go to the Judiciary. I think the ruling party should have sensed the seriousness of the opposition when they demanded the resignation of Finance Minister.

For the opposition party, I think they risked everything. Having just two MP representation, a decision from the court in favor of the ruling party by whatever reasoning would have caused irreparable damage to their standing as opposition party. For they great risk that they took and for the outcome that came in their favor i can only say, well done, well done. You are executing your mandate well. The next time any serious issue crops up, I think the ruling party will now take you more seriously.

For the Judiciary, I think they got lucky. The first constitutional case that was presented to them was a straight forward case because of the stupidity of the ruling party. The judiciary has executed their role and ruled fairly. I hope this sets a precedence of the many judgments that will have to be passed to clarify the constitution. I say this because, i have a feeling that not many of us understand and comprehend the implications of what we endorse in the form of the constitution and the many acts.

What all this brings out is, we are all humans and the necessity of check and balance institutions is very very important. The legislative ( Ruling and the opposition), the judiciary and the executive are basic institutional set ups. More institutions are needed for check and balance for a vibrant democracy. The Anti-Corruption Commission seems to be in need of empowerment. Corruption is a major danger for any democracy, especially for a small country like ours. I also wish to see the National Council adopting more drastic measures than just exercising their votes for helping Bhutan become a vibrant democracy. God bless our nation!

Update : The ruling govt has appealed to the supreme court. Politicking is on. Lyonchens remark that the high court ruling is a very narrow interpretation is a smart comment. He wants the court to read more than whats written. He is asking the courts to be legislators! Its a pity. And in all probability, the supreme court will rise to the occasion and see the need to differentiate between direct taxes and indirect taxes. It sad, although the intent from both the ruling govt and the supreme court is for the larger good! I think it will be a sad case of the legislative and the judiciary not being able to function independently. It will again be a proof of the short commings of a small society, where every one knows or are related to each other. It will again bring out the challenge of democracy in a sparely populated small nation. God save us all!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

the bane of the ban!

I had a lively discussion with a friend on the issue of banning the sale of cigarettes. I am a smoker and he is not. His argument was that this was a fair law because people are still being allowed to smoke after paying taxes.

I had a different view. Firstly, alcohol is the bigger killer causing not only causing health issues to the person drinking it, but it causes social problems and domestic violence. Alcohol should therefore also be restricted and similar law be implemented, if the concern is for the health of the citizen. Focusing on issue of smoking itself, first question that comes to my mind is that, knowing the ill effects of cigarettes, why are we the only country in the world banning smoking? Is it because of the lobby groups in the countries? If thats the case, there are many eqaully small countries where lobbying groups dont have commercial interests. how come we are the only ones banning it? The answer is simple and straight forward. This infringes on individual rights, which sensible legislators will never dare delve into. Infringing on individual rights is nothing different that what the Taliban did in Afghanistan in requiring women to wear burkhas and men to keep beards.

I think the responsibility of the government is in educating the people about the ill effects of smoking and effects on others as a result of passive smoking. Citizens should have the right to decide on their own whether they want to smoke or not. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The extreme measure of banning smoking, although with a good intent, the danger is of setting a precedence, whereby the Government starts to look into the micro affairs of individual citizens, and curtailing their right to exercise their freedom.

I think the government can do a lot more on curtailing corruption, which is the biggest ill of any society, and will kill even the most vibrant society. This aspect, the government will not look into, because of the many linkages, and because of being possible beneficiaries themselves. Extreme measures, if at all necessary, but be on the bigger ills of the society and not on show pieces which affect the individuals. Think about it!

Update : 200 pieces of ciggrate a month, translating into les than 7 ciggrates a day with a receipt validity of one month. Beat this! is this anything less than saying dont smoke? Why not just explicitly say no smoking to everyone in Bhutan! this kind of tactics is very sad. Let see how the high ranking smoking officials are monitored and how will a tourism and aid dependent country entertain foreign dignitaries and tourists who smoke. C'mon, Lets get real!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The ability to fade away!

They say there is always a time and place for everything. Let me extend this reasoning to what I am trying to convey here. There are many well known faces here in our country, past and present, who have laudable achievements and hence are legends in their own rights. Well, thank you for what you all have done, and like it or not, its time for a new generation to take a shot at making history and casting their names on stone walls. Its time that the icons of their time know, they have had their time and now its time to fade away.

I write this inspired by His Majesty the fourth King, who has lead a very iconic life and whose contributions are many and now is leading the way in showing how to fade away. All of us have seen how little we see of him although we desire to see and hear more of him. His Majesty is showing that there is a new king and there is where all the focus should be. There are time like the Bumthang tragedy, where the present king was not in the country and his Majesty the fourth king has stood up to the call of a grieved nation. Our respect and love for the the Fourth king grows immensely everyday for his ability to do the right thing at the right time. He has not succumbed to the petty human need of recognition and public attention whether deserving or not.

There are many today in the public service who realize that their time has come and gone and yet they hang on. I wonder whether they realise that their selfishness is a cost the nation causing inefficiency and breeding negatives work cultures. Its time to move on and let the nation be served by people who should! Thank you but goodbye

Monday, October 18, 2010

Something different to what i do ususally!

I was recently invited to be in a panel to review some degrees in a college. This gave me a inside look into the higher education system of our country. I came out of the review appreciative of the hard work being put in by the college and more importantly surprised ( and a little scared) of how many of the futures of young children lay at stake for want of some decisions and because of the holy cows that had to be protected at any cost.

The first issue i saw was in whether we wanted to conform with the larger generally accepted understanding of degree brands or whether to invent a degree brand perception of our own. This was important especially between two degrees of almost similar course content but different names. Who would not like to be an inventor, a creator? The bigger question in my mind was, would creating a different brand perception not lead to confusion in the job market? The job market is being bombarded with graduates from different countries with the same degree name. I have no doubt in my mind that these graduates from different countries come with different levels of skill sets and competencies. God forgive me for this, but in the consideration of the holy cows, my vote went for creating our own country specific definition of the degrees being offered. This, in my opinion, was the best decision possible, given the situation. We would now have two degrees clearly differentiable for someone with deeper information on the degrees. For the sake of conveying this information to the job market, the specific majors on their degree certificates is expected to provide indicative information on a graduates skill sets.

The second issue was again of the need for differentiation. It is blasphemous to put it lightly, to give graduates the same degree for courses pursued diligently for differently periods of time. For the expected additional skill sets and competencies expected to be gained after spending additional year in college, there has to be a clear differentiation which the job market can easily know from the degree certificates. The job market has already become sensitive to differentiating between honours and non-honours courses. I am happy to say this issue has been resolved beautifully, with the additional recognition provided with an early exit option keeping in mind the duration of courses of other countries where our graduates come from.

The third issue. Ours is a small country. No publisher would see sense in comming out with text books specific to the syallabus prescribed for our degrees. For the development of the student, the course is made as rich as possible, which often means that a single available book in the market doesn't generally cover all the topics. This warrants heavy details in the syllabus, to ensure that courses don't change with change in lecturers, and different college don't approach the same course differently. Many topics taught remain implicit in the syllabus, which would not be covered by other lecturers of the same course. There seems to be elements of laziness and of defensiveness in getting detailed course outlines. I hope this gets done.

On a positive note, the course content seem very rich, and I have no doubts in my mind that, academically graduates from our local colleges would have superior or comparable skill set and competencies with the better colleges in the region.