for it is in the minds of men and women that the defences of peace and the conditions for sustainable development must be built. ~UNESCO

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pick-pocketing- the creative way

Goods and Services are becoming tougher for the pockets since prices are constantly on the hike and the farmers on the highways are taking advantage of the already problematic financial predicament that has struck the citizens of Bhutan. An innocent citizen’s limited living experiences shared.

The mighty Himalayas acted as tough barriers for this country while the rest of the world was enveloped in the world wars. The country has been developing and it is prospering under the Wangchuck dynasty. Each year, Bhutan gets a new and rare species of bird, animal or a butterfly, discovered in Bhutan; Tourists are flying in, in thousands; Nature is at her best, as always; Literacy rate and living standards are on the rise. The pace of development that Bhutan trod is of a high caliber; Hydro projects are booming and industries too; The government is at full swing into development; Farmers are rich with their harvest so is the business community; Civil servants are becoming more professional; Children are in schools to draw out the best within themselves equipped with GNH infused curriculum; and the sun and rain does bless the country.

But of late, papers and websites are overflowing with the news and expressions on the Rupee problem. The general public know but very less of the actuality of the hitch. Government, aided by the media, is sharing the information at their best possible speed.  The news states of the fundamentality of Indian National Rupee (INR) situation; the Indian government releasing dollars or reserves and lots more of its kind.  Along the way, most people are significantly affected by the situation but as anywhere in the world, a portion of the Bhutanese community is reaping the sweats of the crisis as an advantageous situation to mint fast profit.

The business community versus their customers:
  No doubt that the Ngultrum was leveled at par with the INR for some wise reasons but the good reasons befall as a curse for the Bhutanese customers, all due to some kind of un-understandable situation. The INR crisis is making business profitable like never before; Price of commodities are skyrocketing on a daily basis with the reason of rupee deficit. Average Bhutanese customers are always taken for a ride with lame excuse of rupee situation, day in and day out. The losing battle for customers is on the go. The position which claimed that customers were the king of the market and where customers determine the price of goods and services has buried itself underground. For now, a customer is a blunt knife; it has no effect on the price factor, at all. The time is in favor of the other side- the sellers. Price of commodities has slapped the highest, with price increases ranging from a minimum of cheltrums to a shocking range of hundreds. Business heightening is taking form at a rapid pace. Business, both of service and goods, are taking immense pro and raising prices on an unimaginable rate. House rents take away a huge chunk from the limited income; Taxi fares are always on the rise like their increase in number. As a concerned citizen, I am with huge question marks over my head. Is the INR situation really affecting? How far is it true, for Bhutan? Is there a government agency taking care of the situation, I mean the price factor? The business community’s reasons and explanation, Are they revealing the real situation? To be straightforward, the situation is but worsening day by day. In an era where money is the most widely used medium of exchange, the value of money is not valuable at all. The salary remains the same and the prices do not wait for a salary hike, like in the past. After doing a regular weekend shopping around the square, we feel as if we have been pick-pocketed, the pockets become thin within no time. Any person like me with a sole limited income- the monthly salary would feel exactly the same. All thanks to the ever rising prices of commodities and the rupee situation. A typical example portraying price rise rate, if stated for practical explanation:
Customer: Aue, How much does this cost? (Pointing towards a 50 kg rice bag)
Shopkeeper: (politely answers) It is Nu. 1260. My dear…
Customer: (shocked) Ya-la-ma! Is it not Nu. 960?
Shopkeeper: That was some days back. (Now with in a raised voice)The price has gone up; we do not get rupee; the banks have many formalities; we just get Rs. 800 for Nu. 1000; It is hard nowadays to get goods; Oil price has gone up; Shop rents are raised… and the list goes endless.
Customer: Okay… okay, I’ll take it. (He has to buy the good, whatever the price may be because his kitchen demands rice for his family… it is a necessity!)

This development is just a small part from the situation which is running fast with its swift legs in the country. Likewise, most goods have seen a rapid rise in their price. The most daring and of high absurdity is the price hike of home grown or homemade goods. Are we using INR instead of Ngultrum in Bhutan? Necessities, compared to other goods and services, become the most exploited items. After all we need them to survive; the need wins the battle against the price. My view here is not to state that that the rupee crisis is not affecting Bhutan but I am of the stance that it does not affect the country as it is assumed or worked out as of now. It is a accepted truth that shopkeepers earn their living from profits. But, the way of achieving profit is the question. 

A Daylight Raid on the Highways:
It is accurately said that agriculture is advancement for the rural community and yes, it is proving added truth and opportunity for villagers selling agricultural products on the (Thimphu-Wangdue) highways. This is yet another condition affecting the citizens. Mind you, this situation was born before the INR crisis. It was a concept which was totally misunderstood. The government’s policy and guidelines of agricultural advancement, self sufficient ideas, sustainability through agriculture etc has not been able to find the right ears of the rural community. If I am true, most farmers heard and comprehended the agricultural wisdom in their own selfish ways. These guiltless yet ambitious farmers thought that the government is encouraging them to produce agricultural products so as to enable them to charge highest amounts when selling the harvests come in. The weather beaten rural face is covered with a broad grin of satisfaction when a traveler stops by to buy a 5 inch cucumber for Nu 25 and a thin bunch of beans for Nu. 60. The price of agricultural products has hit the highest crossbar. Farmers are working hard in their fields, rain or shine, which is of pure Bhutanese dream, however, the price they charge for their products is unreasonable. I take it for a daylight raid on the highway. Imagine, a maize head burnt on normal fire, costing Nu. 40, or a packet of peaches with 5 peaches inside costing Nu. 60. Is it not open innocent exploitation?

I have many experiences on the highway vendors but two incidents always dominate my thoughts.
1. It was a hot midday drive from Thimphu to Wangdue when I stopped at a highway vendor’s stall and asked the price of chilies. A man not as old as he looked answered that it was Nu. 180 per Kg. The irony was that the price in Thimphu, at centenary market, was Nu 80, on that day and the vendors at Thimphu buy from these farmers to sell it at the centenary market earning a little bit of profit in the process. I pondered- how on earth this could happen? It breaks the rule of economics as the selling price is lower than the buying price, for the Thimphu vegetable vendors. I did not answer the innocent sinner and drove off.
2. This is yet another interesting incident about raised price and its frequency. A Sunday morning with a wonderful sky, I was driving to Thimphu and made a stop at a highway makeshift stall to buy some fruits along with vegetables. I bought a package of plums (10-20 pieces) for Nu. 50; I picked four cucumbers, each costing Nu. 25;  a thin bunch of broccoli for Nu. 60 and another Nu 60 for 6 peaches. Just analyze the prices, is it not too much? Much interesting happened the same evening while I was returning home. I stopped at the same stall as my family asked for some fruits and vegetables. To my amazement, the prices of the same goods have gone up by either Nu. 5 or Nu. 10 for same products. I said to myself… the products have been in the hot summer sun for hours making it crispier and its weight has been reduced due to fluid loss, thus making it more valuable and costly. With this, I couldn’t buy even a piece of the cheapest stuff there.

A green light- Lately, we can see the highway stalls being upgraded from makeshift sheds to beautiful and efficient stalls. It is a well-thought venture. With the new stalls, let the price formulation and speculation be born mutually.

These scenarios are not happening in the imaginative worlds, it is happening in the land of GNH. The G and N from GNH are not present at all. H is obviously there for the farmers and their affiliates. There is no question that the INR crisis is a complex situation for a normal Bhutanese to understand yet we are bearing the crisis along with our friendliest neighbors.  But along the way, the complex situation is affecting the daily lives of many Bhutanese either through actual repercussions or through exploitation. We are not concerned with the actual impacts, it is the law of economics but the latter one, exploitation, should be observed closely. An out-of-the-box thinking is required for the situation to improve. We humbly request the concerned agencies to look into this and enable every Bhutanese to possess the H (happiness) from the GNH, too.


  1. nice blog,
    visit my blog at
    there is a little bit about education

  2. written with keen sense.. Good one. Keep going..