It was in the second session of parliament, after Bhutan transited to parliamentary form of governance, that the issue of bifurcating some gewogs was first raised.
It came up because far-flung villages were still days away from the basic services set up in the gewog.The Assembly resolved the home ministry should look into the possibility. That was more than three years ago. Yesterday, bifurcation came up again at the National Assembly, but the home minister, who spoke of it, suggested merging, instead of bifurcating, gewogs. The justification was that a lot of development services like roads, health, cellular services had now the reached the gewog centres, the heart of development in a gewog. Roads had now brought many of the far-flung villages closer to gewog centres or to development services. On the other hand, bifurcation would require more expenses, because the new gewogs would need a separate road connection and basic health, education and agriculture facilities. Besides, the local government elections also showed how difficult it was to find people to serve as local government officials.
Several Assembly members raised some valid points. Some gewogs had suffered because of the delimitation exercise to create new boundaries before the local government election, and were further away from the centre today than in the past. In some places there were hundreds of households days away from the gewog centre, where development services are concentrated, and therefore qualified bifurcation into a separate gewog immediately. Yet many felt the government had more important works to be completed and bifurcation should be left to the next plan. The house did exactly that. It resolved the issue be taken up from the next plan, which begins in July 2011, after the local governance department has done a thorough study.
While it is true that there are many important issues confronting the country, problems people in rural Bhutan face are equally as important, if not more so, at least to them.The primary responsibility of any elected government is to serve the people. This means taking development services closer to the majority, who still live difficult lives in difficult terrain, with a significant number in poverty.
Bifurcating gewogs is going to cost money, but it is going to be money well spent, if many more villages can access health, education and agriculture services, and can take the road to a market to sell their farm products. This is the kind of investment, which will bring returns that can transform the country. While bifurcating is more complex than just drawing lines it has been three years since the issue was first raised. A government that feels there are more important things than making the lives of its citizens better ought to reconsider their priorities.
The Kuensel, Editorial, 13 June 2012