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Question Hour Highlights (28.11.2017)

Posted on :28 November 2017

1. Issues related to Alcohol Consumption

The Member from Chhumig-Ura constituency asked the Health Minister to inform the House on the annual spending by the government to treat alcohol related diseases, policies and plans to reduce consumption of alcohol, implementation status of alcohol reduction policy and current status of alcohol consumption in the country.


The Health Minister informed that consumption of alcohol is not only a leading cause of mortality but also a serious public health problem. The minister informed that from 2011-2016, the hospital has registered 16,521 cases related to alcohol in the outpatient department, 7759 as in patients and 962 deaths caused by alcohol.  On an average, 2954 OPD cases have been witnessed, 1294 in-patients and 160 deaths are seen every year.


Considering this problem, National Policy and Strategic Framework to reduce the Harmful use of alcohol, 2015-2020 was approved by the Cabinet and Executive order was circulated to all Dzongkhag  and agencies for implementation.  Dzongkhag Alcohol Harm Reduction Committees were formed in all the Dzongkhags and 60% of Gewogs have formed Gewog Alcohol Harm Reduction Committee. These Committees monitor the implementation of national policy and review and provide feedback to the implementing agencies in the Dzongkhag.  


2.  Issues related to Auction of Potatoes  in Phuentsholing and Samdrupjongkhar

The Members from Nganglam and Nyishog-Saephu constituency asked the Minister for Agriculture and Forest on the problems faced by the people in auctioning potatoes in Phuentsholing and Samdrup Jongkhar due to lack of proper storage and space and duration taken to auction off potatoes and the future plans and policies to improve the current situation.


To this, the Minister for Agriculture and Forest informed that due to mechanization, improved seeds and fertilizers, production of potatoes have increased by 46,000 metric tons in 2012 to about 62,000 metric tons in 2017 which is an increase of about 16,000 metric tons in five years. To resolve the problems related to lack of space in the auction yards, the Government has introduced online auction system in 2016 and about 300 trucks of potatoes have been sold online. With creation of more awareness and information this will help reduce the problem. Further, cold storage facilities have been constructed places like monger and Samdrupjongkhar and the government plans to construct more such storages. Also with the establishment of local chips factories in Nobding and other small enterprises will create more demand for potatoes which will benefit the farmers.


3.  Question related Helicopter Services

The Member from Dramedtse-Ngatshang and North-Thimphu asked the Minister of Health to inform the House on the budget incurred on the provision of helicopter services, report on grounding of one of the two helicopter and issue of patient escorts not allowed to be airlifted.


The Minister for Health informed that two helicopters were bought for Nu. 484 million to provide services to the people.  One of the helicopter is undergoing mandatory scheduled maintenance by the Royal Bhutan Helicopter Services after having completed 600 hours of operationalization to keep it functional.  The Health Minister informed that the helicopter services have, till date airlifted 466 patients, the cabinet ministers have availed the services 21 times mostly during emergencies and the private sector has used the service 169 times.  As for patient escorts, not being able allowed to travel with the patients, according to standard operation procedure, there are three levels of urgency, priorities 1 and 2 are life threatening emergencies and urgent medical transfer which require medical teams with both doctor and nurse and priority 3 due to geographical isolations allows only one patient attendant. This is for the safety of the patients however, considering the concerns and problems the government will conduct consultative meeting and study the guidelines on use of helicopters for medical emergencies. into the problems faced and provide better services.


4. Issues related to export and falling price of cardamom

The Member from Dophuchen-Tading asked the Agriculture Minister regarding the falling prices of cardamom in the country and possibilities of exporting cardamom beyond India and Bangladesh.


The Agriculture Minister reported that although the price of cardamom has been falling recently due to increase in production, studies show that the prices received are about 20 to 30 percent above the production cost. The Government has also explored the possibilities of exporting cardamom to the middle east as suggested but it is found to be cost ineffective. The government is however, studying the possibilities of exporting to nearby countries of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore which will benefit the farmers. The minister also said use of online auctioning services would also benefit them.


5. Provision of Ultrasound machines in Riserboo Hopsital

The Member from Wamrong constituency said that the appointment of two additional doctors in the Riserboo Hospital has hugely benefitted the people in getting better health services.  However, the hospital is in dire need of a ultrasound machine, this would benefit the people of Lower Tashigang and nearby gewogs of Pemagatshel.


The Minister informed that as per revised service standard all hospitals will be provided with ultrasound machines however due to resource constraints there has been problems in providing the services. The Ministry has trained four radiographers this year in ultrasound to address the shortage of technicians and prioritized the procurement of few ultrasound machine. The government plans to provide Riserboo Hospital with one ultrasound machine along with ultrasound technician in the beginning of 2018.


6. Maintenance of Power Tillers in the Gewogs

The Member from Nubi-Tangsibji constituency asked the Minister for Agriculture for Forest on the existing maintenance procedure for out of order power tillers in the Gewogs.


The Minister informed that that Farm Machinery Corporations have been established in all the 205 gewogs with trained personnel for repair and maintaining of power tillers and farm machineries. The House was also informed that certain guidelines and procedures  for maintenance and repair of machineries have been developed for use in all the gewogs.


7. Installment of CT Scan machines

The Member from Kengkhar-Weringla asked the Health Minister when the government can install CT scan machines in regional Referral Hospitals of Mongar, Gelephu and Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital.


The Health Minister informed that globally, for every, one million population, there is one CT scan.  Currently, the country has only one CT scan machine in the Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital. The government with support from Japan government will be upgrading the existing 16 slice CT scan machine to 64 slice  and provide  two 16 slice CT scan machines along with technicians to the two regional  hospitals in Gelegphu and Mongar by June 2018.


8.   Issues relating  Farm Shops

The Member from Panbang constituency asked the Minister for Agriculture and Forest regarding the engagement of farm shops grocery business defeating the purpose of marketing local agricultural and livestock products and the reasons for its failure to deliver the original intended objective.


The Agriculture   Minister informed the House that reports have been received from the four gewogs in Panbang which show that the farm shops have benefitted the people and are running successfully as otherwise suggested.


9. Allotment of Rural Timber

The Member from Bji-Kar-Tshog-Uesu said that people in the Yenglag Thromde and those falling within 2 km radial distance from the declared boundary of Thromdes are not eligible for subsidized timber. The Member asked the Minister of Agriculture and Forest on plans and policies to resolve this issue.


The Agriculture Minister informed that as per the Forest and Nature Conservation Rules and Regulations of Bhutan, 2017, subsidized timber is not eligible for those falling in the Dzongkhag Thromde and Yenlag Thromde as declared by the Government and areas falling within 2 Km radial distance from the declared boundary of Thromdes. However, subsidized timber are allocated under the following circumstance 1) if the applicant is a native of the area, 2) if  the applicant is the Head of Gung, in whose name the land on which construction will take place is duly registered (3) if  the timber requirement is for bona-fide rural use, (4)  if the rural house to be constructed with subsidized timber is for the personal dwelling of the applicant and his family, and 5) if the land on which the rural house is to be constructed is inherited and not purchased by the applicant.


National Assembly concludes deliberation on Audit Bill 2017

The National Assembly concluded the deliberation on the Audit Bill 2017 after scrutinizing the Bill clause by clause for two days.


The House spent some time debating on the clause related to deposit of recoveries into the Audit Recoveries Account maintained by the Royal Audit Authority and recoveries pertaining to cases under litigations. Some members argued that that the Authority should be allowed to use the recoveries for operational expenses. However, the House agreed to allow the Authority to maintain the account but not use it for operational expenses.

The House will vote on the Bill tomorrow.



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