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Bhutan Observer
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Let us respond to the change
Namgay Tshering, April 04, 2013
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The recent ruling of Mongar District Court on the Gyalpozhing Land scam is a landmark judgment at the District level since our country’s historic transition to a constitutional democracy – a transition that we as citizens have mostly witnessed in the principles of governance which flourish with the democratization of society. A five-year-old democracy has gone to great lengths to manifest itself many noteworthy insights that will serve as guiding principles for charting our future course of action.

It is worth noting that government, judiciary and all forms of socio-political institutions must sail through a democratic culture within which citizens exercise their constitutional rights empowered by information and knowledge driven age. It has been noted that citizens lend more ears to the issues of governance than to their immediate neighbourhoods; to their enemies than to their acquaintances. They also keep their eyes on every function of the state unleashed by the idea of ‘welfarism’ hardly leaving any room for tolerance of maladministration, complacency and compromise.

At times citizens also feel that they must heavily rely on the government for proper guidance against which disillusionment may easily grow if the governance practices are not up to the agreed charter. This is because of growing consciousness among citizens about governmental actions and performance to which citizens place their expectations and aspirations. The governance therefore can no longer be a static framework, but must continually subject to redefining and reorienting its goals making it conducive to the changing social, political, economic and cultural environment.

Against this backdrop, let me humbly comment on recent ruling of Gyalpozhing land scam in the light of behavioral aspect of committee systems in our administration. The archaic style of committee system concerning its nature, scope, role and composition including general notions of committee members still predominate the culture of our committees today. Institutionalization of committee system for different matters apart from executive power of the members is to see whether the issues at hand are considered with merit of the cases with impersonal rules – meaning whether values exercised by individual member is kept at neutral while taking cognizance of the cases.

But whether it is at the Dzongkhag or at the Gewog level, the instrument of committee is just being used as a safeguard against possible future reprimand or adverse ramifications of the matters considered unilaterally or by some other means in the name of the committee.

Generally in our management practice, one-way flow of communication, mostly downward in any sphere of administration, still persists and this has eluded the democratic way of arriving at the decisions, particularly in our committee system that scarcely tolerates reverse communication. In most cases, decisions taken by committee manifest the nature of unilateral decision of the Chair. And members in turn credit the chair for better understanding of the issues. Members may have raised conflicting opinions against the chair as bold and outspoken members often do. But mostly the members refrain from it for fear of serious implications such as prejudice and alienation from the association.

On the composition front, besides lacking in some elements of consistency and conformity, members sometimes participate even without proper understanding of the issues and simply provide his or her endorsement of the decisions. This is where most of our committees stand today. Many such practices, some undemocratic in nature and some non responsive and obsolete practices incapable of acclimatising with the changing environment, that do not conform to the spirit of modern bureaucracy yet await exposure sooner or later as the democratic system of governance has all the five sensory organs.

Let us all learn that it is imperative to accord democratic outlook to any matter we consider guided by principles of good governance assertions. Further, exposure alone does not serve as remedy to the system unless we attend to the lapses consistently and provide prescriptive exercises to the perceived lapses. Restructuring and reorganizing the system must be considered and initiated to make it conducive to the changing environment.

Best practices we have must be continued. And in addition, an administrative reform commission suitable to our administrative needs must be instituted for reviewing and recommending required changes needed to the existing administrative structure with special emphasis on our bureaucracy. For bureaucracy if controlled and managed well, it is a veritable carrier of development. But it is also associated with countless evils, if entrenched, from where it is very difficult to reverse.

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