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Question Hour Highlights (21 November 2017)

Posted on :21 November 2017

1. The Member from Wamrong Constituency asked the Minister for Works and Human Settlement if the works of double-laning of the East-West Highway can be completed within eight remaining months of the term of  the current government. Similarly, the Member from Nubi-Tangsibji Constituency asked the Minister for Works and Human Settlement as to why the progress of the widening works of the East-West Highway especially, between Tsheringma Drupchu (Tangjsibji Gewog) and Yutongla is slow and poor, which is causing lot of inconveniences to the commuters.


In response, the Minister for Works and Human Settlement informed the house that till date 65 kms of Simtokha - Wangdue road had been completed, 86 kms of Wangdue - Churserbu road cutting and widening works had been completed, out of which 50-65 kms have been blacktopped, completing almost 90% of the works. She explained that the delay in works were mainly in the Chuserbu - Trongsa Nangar stretch and Yadi - Kheri stretch due to the steep geographical terrains, incessant rain in monsoon season and extreme cold weather conditions. The Minister assured that the works would be completed soon.


2. The Opposition Leader asked the Minister for Works and Human Settlement to clarify as to why there there was miscommunication with respect to the construction of road in Chamkhar town and the delay in construction of road in Chamkhar town.


The Minister responded that the local government and the concerned stakeholders were consulted during the formulation of the plans for the town and that works have been carried out according to the plan. The Minister said that although there was some delay due to the issue of payment of compensation to those affected individuals and minor revisions in the local area plans, the construction of the road will be completed on time.


3. The Member from Dogar-Shaba constituency asked the Minister for Works and Human Settlement update the house on the recent initiatives and achievements in her capacity as the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women and Children.


The Minister said women play a very important role in the development of the country. Although women and children enjoy equal rights in the eyes of the law, further interventions are required to fulfill the national aspiration of a happy nation where men, children and women live in harmony and with respect. Therefore, the Parliament has enacted the Child Care and Protection Act of Bhutan, 2011, the Child Adoption Act of Bhutan, 2012, the Domestic Violence Prevention Act of Bhutan, 2013. Furthermore, a policy on gender equality is also being formulated and had introduced gender responsive budgeting in collaboration with Gross National Happiness Commission. In addition, the Marriage Act is being reviewed and especially those clauses regarding women and children would be amended. Trainings to improve the skills and capabilities of women and children have been conducted in collaboration with NGOs, such as Tarayana and RENEW. The government has also increased the maternity leave of women from three months to six months to support working women and have established about 10 creches  and 9 more creches would be established very soon. The National Commission for Women and Children have also appointed gender focal persons in all ministries and agencies to look after women issues. A separate Family and Child Bench has been established since 2016 in Thimphu.


4. The Member from Panbang constituency asked the Minister for Works and Human Settlement on the deferral of the construction of the remaining 253 kms of southern East-West Highway and inquired if it will be pursued during the term of the government.


The Minister for Works and Human Settlement clarified that this was not a pledge made by the current government. However, considering the importance of road in the development of the country and benefits to the people, the construction of the highway was planned with support from Asian Development Bank. Nonetheless, due to security issues along the border in 2015, the construction was deferred. She said that the highway was being built stretch by stretch using domestic resources and local contractors.


5. The Member from North Thimphu constituency sought clarification from the Minister for Works and Human Settlements as to why there was a delay in blacktopping of roads in Hejo, Samtelling, Jungshina and Pamtsho areas.


The Minister informed that Nu.300 million has been allocated for the construction of seven kms of urban roads, 5km of drainage, 10 kms of electrical duct lines and foot paths, etc in those areas for which tender calls had already been floated for the works to be carried out in 12 months. Therefore, the works would be completed in the coming year.


6. The Member from Kengkhar-Werringla constituency asked the Foreign Minister on the status of establishment of Royal Bhutanese Consulate in Gawahati, Assam.


The Foreign Minister responded that the establishment of the consulate has been planned as one of the many activities to commemorate 50 years of diplomatic relations between India and India in 2018. The Consulate would promote tourism, business and access to medical facilities for the six eastern dzongkhags.


7. The Member from Dophuchen-Tading constituency asked the Minister of Works and Human Settlement regarding the construction of gewog center roads by the Department of Roads and the possibilities of including the Local Governments in the management and maintenance of the roads.


The Minister for Works and Human Settlement explained that with the enactment of the Local Government Act and decentralization policies, the responsibilities of the Central Government and the Local Governments are clearly outlined. Moreover, although the construction of the gewog center roads have been centrally executed through the Department of Roads, the people in the gewog and the local government are always consulted in the planning, budgeting and construction of the gewog center roads. The Minister reiterated that all gewog development plans are carried out in consultation with the local government.


8. The Member from Dremetse-Ngatshang constituency sought an update from the Minister for Works and Human Settlement regarding the Supreme Court writ on the declaration of the 16 Dzongkhag Thromdes and 20 Yenglag Throms being unconstitutional and illegal. He said that the court had directed the government to review the issue by instituting a high-level legal experts committee.


The Minister responded that the declaration of Dzongkhag Thromdes and Yenglag Throms was carried out by the government in accordance with Article 22, Section 2 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan and was passed by the Parliament. Subsequently, the Election Commission of Bhutan was responsible for carrying out the delimitation. The Minister clarified that the Supreme Court had directed the Election Commission to streamline the election procedures in line with the Local Government Act and the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan.


9. The Member from Drujeygang-Tseza constituency asked the Education Minister regarding the possibility of granting retirement benefits to the 574 non-formal education instructors and 307 child care center instructors and the future plans and policies of regularizing their services.


The Education Minister, acknowledging the important responsibility and challenging works shouldered by the Non Formal Education and Child Care Center Instructors, informed the house that the monthly pay for the NFE instructors was Nu.4,500 in 2007. It was revised to Nu.6,000 in 2009 and Nu.8,400 in 2014, increasing their daily wage rate to Nu.280. However, since they are not regular civil servants they do not get any retirement benefit. To resolve this issue, the Education Ministry has submitted a proposal to the Royal Civil Service Commission to include them in civil service in the position level of S5A. In which case, they will be entitled to retirement benefits. It is hoped that the RCSC would look into the matter and accept the proposal. However, if the proposal is not accepted, then the issue would be raised in the next Pay Commission.


Follow up Report on Bhutan Children’s Parliament


The Education Minister submitted a Report of the Expert Committee formed as per the Resolutions of the 9th Session to carry out studies with respect to Bhutan Children’s Parliament. He said that the Expert Committee was formed with members consisting of representatives of the Ministry of Education and Election Commission. The Minister reported that a total of 205 Democracy Clubs were established in many schools with 7,193 students participating the clubs. The Election Commission to fulfill its election mandate and for educating the public on voting and election procedures, and to give the students hands-on-practice of democracy, adopted the constitution for Bhutan Children’s Parliament in Punakha Dzong Kuenray in 2015. Since then, two Children’s Parliament Session had been conducted. One of the main aims of the objective stipulated in the constitution is to strengthen democracy and sustain it.


The expert group, after carrying out a detailed study, submitted six recommendations for endorsement to the House. Members raised various concerns regarding politicization of children, resource constraints, financial sustainability, issues to be discussed by the children parliament and the resolutions passed by BCP. It was also pointed out that instead the existing curriculum could be revised to incorporate values and principles of democracy. The benefits of such a parliament was also highlighted such as development of leadership, communication and social skills while at the same time gaining knowledge and confidence.


The House passed the six recommendations submitted by the expert committee based on majority show of hands and decided to continue the Bhutan Children’s Parliament. 


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