Tackling the deeper issues in happiness focused Bhutan: Kuensel

Bhutanse monks walk past shopkeepers in Thimpu, on May 31, 2017.
Bhutanse monks walk past shopkeepers in Thimpu, on May 31, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

In its editorial on June 12, the paper calls for better remedies to societal challenges in the country.


THIMPHU (KUENSEL/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Tshering Lhamo is one example of how Bhutanese society is neglecting certain groups of our people. Our old people, who are forced out on the streets, are finally getting homes.

As we develop, well, as our society changes, we are faced with difficult challenges.

Kuensel carried a story of a woman in Mongar (eastern Bhutan) who is caged like an animal because our health system couldn't help her problem.To put it precisely, our society couldn't find a place for people like her.

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This is sad. This is the narrative of our progress and prosperity. In the rural village of Phanas in Ngatsang is a mentally sick woman. It's a desperate situation she lives in. The woman goes into extreme fits. She paints her face with her menstrual blood and eats her own faeces. She is tied in a corner like an animal.

It was in 1993 and Tshering Lhamo, 13, in Mongar Primary School when she began alarming her classmates with an unusual behaviour. She is schizophrenic.

Tshering Lhamo is one example of how Bhutanese society is neglecting certain groups of our people. Our old people, who are forced out on the streets, are finally getting homes.

Being a Gross National Happiness (GNH) society, things like this can be complicated.

We have an image to care while our people are being pushed to the fringes. But what is more important is that we must be able to face the reality. That is real development.

As we advance in developmental terms, we will face many challenges. Our worth as a nation will be measured by how we tackle them as they come. There is a need for a fundamental shift in the way we design and build our build our society. Empty promises are the sign of weak governance. Poor governance does no nation any good.

Let's look at how far we have come and how far we could gorge on. Our development policies are not inclusive. If they were, our people wouldn't be house-bound, some chained like animals. Our cities and public services would be disabled-friendly; our buildings would have provisions for people with myriad health challenges.

Let's also look at the way we plan our development. To say the least, our plans are pitiably short-sighted. The making of our plan does not take into account those people who are quietly own their own. While we 'celebrate' the health days on and on as they come, what good are we doing to improve the illnesses of our society?

There are people in our society that need intensive treatment. Our health outreach service is still weak.

Care-and-rehabilitation facilities - sanatoriums tailored on Bhutanese value system with trained caregivers - could be the solution. It could be expensive, but it's one viable option we have.

We have come to the point when we should plan our development according to the needs of the time. That will be possible only if we can wean away from praising our own achievements unnecessarily.

Development has to be all-incisive. Otherwise, our efforts will be counted as self-centred propaganda.

We call for change because there is a real need for change.


Kuensel is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 news media entities.