A Reuters report on a recent IFAD announcement regarding the rural poor in the developing countries once again rakes up the question of what to believe and what not to believe about our own Druk Yul. Even though eye-witness accounts say that the Bhutanese peasants (those that still remain behind, that is) are doing well enough thank you, (and Thimphu’s unilateral reduction of the home population down to 700,000 has raised the per capita GNP the country to from US 190 to U$ 425 per annum), international agencies continue to chum out horrendous statistics for Bhutan. There is a good PhD thesis here for someone who wants to study the creation of economic myths and realities. IFAD, the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development, says that according to an index relating food production, consumption, income distribution, access to education and health services, the worst off rural poor are in Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Somalia, Mauritania and the Sudan. Or does IFAD know something we don’t?
Former Indian Prime Minister, Chandra Shekhar, came out of oblivion to speak up for Poorvanchal, a region encompassing Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh which, he maintained, has suffered from backwardness due to the Centre’s neglect. Speaking before an audience in Delhi on 24 November, reports The ‘Times of India, Shekhar called for restoring the self-respect of the people of the region, adding that the Biharis and Uttar Pradeshis were also being cheated of adequate wages in the capital. He regretted that the word Poorbia was used to ridicule the people of the region. It should not he lost on Kathmandu’s leaders of men that Nepal borders on what Shekhar defines as Poorvanchal. Any increase in self respect among the Poorvarschalis should without doubt help the economy of the region which, in turn, should help the Nepali economy. Maybe even some of the newfound self-respect will rub off northwards,
Still on Arunachal, it appears that the Itanagar government and Centre are intent on “doing a Mustang” on the state — opening up to “high-budget Indian and International tourists”. The words were those of Suman Swarup, Arunachal Resident Commissioner in New Delhi. In another piece of writing, Amulya Ganguli, The Times of India analyst is not so sure. “The full implications…of opening up the state after its long isolation do not seem to have been adequately considered. It will be futile to deny that the current tranquility is partly the result of the fact that the people of Arunachal have been left to themselves, with the army acting as a benevolent guardian. The result has been that the affluent classes comprising politicians, officials and feudal chiefs have managed to do well for themselves in the absence of sufficient competition, while the poor, like the poor everywhere, have been left to endure their fate in silence.” This leaves one confused. If there is a link between isolation under a benevolent stewardship and poverty, would opening up help spread the moola around?
The Indian military has taken a major decision to phase out over the next two decades units based on religion, caste or class. Only the Indian Gorkhas, apparently, have escaped the axe, India Today reports that the big shift in policy was made in an effort to give a “national character” to the armed forces. The sections most affected will be the armoured corps and the artillery, where most units have been nurtured on the concept of martial races. The days of the all-Sikh, Rajput, Jat or Dogra regiments are therefore limited. “Only the Gorkha will be exempt as touching them could affect relations with Nepal.” The small advantages of fighting in another country’s army…
Here’s a report on the establishment of the South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre by civil libertarian, Ravi Nair. Among other things, the Centre publishes a monthly summary report for its subscribers about “human rights abuses in India and Bhutan.” What about the rest of us, Mr Nair?
A man-eating leopard stalks the hills of Himachal villages between the Rana and Sukhud rivers. The Times of India report of 25 November carries some rather specific information: over 14 victims have been claimed over the past six months; children between the ages of five and 14 are more liable to be picked off; and the leopard strikes once every 20 to 25 days; from the pug marks the animal appears to be 14 years old, has a deformed front paw and has a canine missing from the lower jaw. Eight sharp shooters of the police force and eight hunters hired by the Wildlife Department, in addition to a number of volunteer shikaris, have not been able to nab the man-eater. The Government of Himachal has announced a cash reward of NRs 20,000 for whoever gets the animal. So far, the resulting shooting spree has left six leopards dead but the roan-eater is still at large. Meanwhile, a Congress MLA from the region had this to say about compensation being given to the next of kin: “If a man kills a leopard he is fined Rs 50,000, but when a leopard kills a human being the compensation is only Rs 15.000.”
Eat your heart Prasar Bharati! Bhutan’s nationally owned media has beaten you to it. As of 1 October, as announced by the Minister of Communications, T. Tobgyel, and with the blessings of King Jigme, the national newspaper Kuensel and the Bhutan Broadcasting Service have become autonomous. The establishment of an independent and effective media, said the Minister, was “a significant achievement of His Majesty the King’s noble policy of decentralisation”. Cynics abound, however. Said a former editor of the Nepal’s Gorkhapatra daily, “The Gorkhapatra, too, is autonomous in name hut it makes little difference, as long as the society is feudal, if you are government-owned or autonomous.” And a Lhotshampa refugee leader had this to say, “In Bhutan, autonomous merely means that you are financially independent and have to earn your own keep. It cannot extend to editorial freedom.” Still, one can hope, and any media anywhere, autonomy in name is always better than no autonomy even in name.
A PTI agency report from Beijing quotes a “top Tibetan official” as announcing that hair was “growing” on the preserved body of the Panchen Lama, who died in January 1989. While this Mr. Rauh seemed to ascribe the phenomenon to “special effects” of Tibetan medicine, “experienced foreign hands’ say it is quite normal to find hair and nails growing from preserved bodies. Mr. Raidi, who was attending the Communist Party Congress of mid-October as a delegate, said the Chinese Government had spent a large amount in building a stupa for the Panchen Lama (due to open at the end of 1993) and had also decided to look for his reincarnation. But since the Panchen Lama was “a good patriot”, said a confident Mr. Raidi, the reincarnaton would also be one. Astu.
Chukha seems to have left a good taste in the mouth — good income for Bhutan and cheap electricity for India. King Jigme Singhe Wangchuk said as much while presiding over the signing of a memorandum of understanding to study the feasibility of the Bunakha Reservoir Scheme in Thimphu on 6 November, reports Kuensel. King Jigme pointed to the Chukha Hydro Power Corporation as “a shining testimony of Indo-Bhutan friendship.” Like the Chukhha Project the new project is also on the Wang Chu, but seven kilometres upstream. The project is expected to require a 140-metre dam across the Wangchu and two power houses producing 60 megawatts each. The total estimated cost is Nu (IRs) 1,200 million.
Apparently, Chine se restaurants in Delhi have decided to retain desi cooks and make up for the lost flavour by having “Mongoloid waiters” from Nepal. Since the authentic chef, whether from Sechuan or Hunan is rather difficult to import, and since a Punjabi dhaba cook can whip up a mean chopsuey anyway, this proved the easiest way to provide make-believe ethnic chic, which seems to be the rage, in the Indian capital these days. The. Times of India reports, “Most of these Chinamen are actually Nepalese hauled over from across the border.” Or could it be that some of them are. Naga or Manipuri? There is great resentment amongst the Northeast population that Hindustanis in the Indian mainland refer to, them generically as Nepalis,
If the intro of Manisha Jain’s article in The Statesman is to be believed Arunachal Pradesh is “the land of numerous tribes and dialects, dark, brooding mountains and lush green valleys (which) is rich in mineral resources, forests, arts and crafts yet plagued by backwardness.” The piece turns out to be about yaks and, when she gets around to it, Jain provides some useful information. The National Research Centre on Yaks set up in Dining, is presently conducting a study of yak genetics and examining the characteristics of the animal’s “undercoat”. Fifty-one varieties of grass species have been obtained from different countries for fodder tests. Five or six varieties a rethought to have passed the taste test of the Centre’s finicky yaks. Sally, the Centre is understaffed. It has only one scientist its residence, reports Jain. Yaks deserve better treatment.