Bhutan was under absolute hereditary monarchy until 2008 when she made a transition into a constitutional monarchy in which parliament plays major role in policy making and governance. Yet, the King continues to wield extraordinary authority! Over the last decade the spectacular developments have taken place in the Kingdom's social, cultural, economic and political life. Present study endeavors to evalute critically democratic Bhutan's overall development in the arenas of health, education, environment, spirituality, political system, gender –sensitivity, minority rights, etc., and examine effectiveveness of the corresponding governmental policies. The Study inquires deeply inot the emergent issues connected with the shift from two –party to multi –party system and other ensuing matters: political participation, voting pattern, civil –society engagement in the goverence –processes, role of media etc.
Bhutan is one of the most under –studied country, consequently, there are very few publications focusing on various developments in Bhutan. The present work will certainly fulfill this gap as it provides an up –to –date account of the evoling political, socio –economic and cultural realities in a deocratic Bhutan.
About The Author
For last seven years Associate Professor at Center for South Asian Studies, JNU, New Delhi Rajesh S. Kharat has more than 24 years of teaching experience in the universities, first, at the Deptt, of Civics and Politics, University of Bombay, and Subsequently at the University of Mumbai, Mumbai. He is currently teaching courses on 'Bhutan' and 'Nepal' at JNU. He has authored Three Books: 1. Role of Small State in Regional Alliances: Bhutan in SAARC (1999), 2. Tibetan Refugees in India (2003) and 3. Foreign Policy of Bhutan (2005). He has also published more than 25 research papers/articles in various national and international journals and several edited volumes published in India and abroad on the Contemporary issues of South Asia. He served as Chairman of Board of Studies of Civics and Political Science at Maharastra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, Government of Maharastra, during 2003 -2008. He is also a Member of Board of Studies of Political Science, at Pune University since 2010 onwards.
Bhutan is world's last Shangri –la known for its unique and mysterious history. It was being ruled by absolute heredietary monarchy since 1907, for more than hundred years and only recently, in April 2008, it has become a constitutional monarchy where parliament has major role to play in policy making and goverence. The political power has thus been transferred to the people of Bhutan, who are not yet ready to grapple with the idea of government by the people and are reluctant to do away with the monarchial system of rule –thus, challenging the ethos of democratic system. On the other hand, democracy, more or less, forced from the above in Bhutan raised many issues and concerns in certain section of Bhutanese society as well as the rest of the world. On the face of it, introduction of democracy in Bhutan by a hereditary King by relinquishing absolute power quite willingly could have been buffered by the changing mood for democratic rule in whole in South Asia, i.e., the fall of monarchy in Nepal, return of democratic rule in Pakistan, and advent of multiparty democracy in Maldives. Nevertheless, one could still question the nature of democracy in Bhutan because of the fact that while the newly introduced parliament was granted lot of power to debate and legislate on issues concerning welfare of the people, the King continued to wield extraordinary authority both because of his formal constitunal authority and his overwhelming popularity among the people.
Similarly, the system of democracy introduced in Nepal was far from democratic in its operation. For example, the system was monopolised by the Mahayana Buddhists, who were reflexively averse to the idea of conceding equal rights to people from other religions and faiths in Bhutan. Emphasis on majority cultural homeograneity ignored the genuine cultural rights of about 30 per cent of Bhutan's total population who followed Hinduism. In early 1990s, Bhutan received universal condemnation for ethnic cleansing of Bhutanese people of Nepali origin on the basis of its controversial policy of "Revival of Bhutanese Culture" (which meant anyone who lives in Bhutan must speak Bhutanses language and wear Bhutan's national dress), and strict implementation of its policy of "One Nation One People". Even the phlosophy of GNH(Gross National Happiness) is also criticized for its limitations in practical life because in absence of strong public opinion and vibrant media and civil society, how can one measure an individual's happiness in different conditions.
At the same time, the country has witnessed spectacular development during the last decade. It has become modern in its own way, emphasizing health, education, sustainble development, enviromental preservation, and spirituality. Hence there is a need to study Bhutanese political system critically and examine effectiveness of govermental policies on education, health, gender –sensitivity and minority rights in a democratic Bhutan. Moreover, the shift from two-party to multi –party systemn the nature of political participation and pattern of voting behaviour, the nature of civil –society engagement in the processes of governance and role of media and other institutions in promoting the spirit of democracy would require an in –depth inquiry. It is also necessary for researchers to see how Bhutan is coping with development –related issues such as sustainable development, implementation of policies and programmes related to climate change and enrgy.
Bhutan being the most under –studied country in South Asia in general and India in particular, there are not many publications following developments in Bhutan on a regular basis. Whatever literature is available is mostly in the form of memoirs of bureaucrats or personal experiences and encounters with the people of Bhutan. There is a marked absence of any volume on Bhutan in the post monarchy political developments in Bhutan. The present work is expected to fulfill this gap by providing an updated account of the evolving political, socio –economic and cultural realities in a democratic Bhutan. The present voume is the first of series of publications on Bhutan focusing on various issues ofdomestic concern, religion, political participation, economy, health, education, GNH, tourism, youth, gender, climate change, media and borderland communities.
The contributors in this book are young researchers from the Centre for South Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, focusing on Bhutan. This Centre is one of its kind in South Asia which offers a course on 'Bhutan' at the M.Phil. level and encourage scholarly study on Bhutan. All the contributors to this volume are engaged in pursuing their academic work related with Bhutan as well as their research on social, that most of the contributors have conducted field visits in Bhutan for the purpose of their research works and therefore can safely claim their acquaintance with the ground realities in Bhutan. Therefore, this book stands out as a first academic work of its kind in comparision to any other avalilable literature on Bhutan.
While preparing this book, inputs provided by friends and colleagues in the Center for South Asian Studies were quited helpful in concetualizing this volume and sharpening the focus of themes covered for study. We would like to thank Dasho Karma Ura, Director, Center for Bhutan Studies, and all the staff of the Center for Bhutan Studies, Thimpu, Ms Lily Wangchhuk, President, Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT), Shri Gautam Bambawale, Indian Ambassdor to Bhutan who were immensely help ful in terms of rendering their insights and arranging meetings with diginitaries during the field –visits undertaken by the contributions to the book.
Akhil Sharma of Adroit Publishers, New Delhi deserves special applause for his faith in us. This book project was initiated during the winter 2013, and many publishers we approached were not ready to take up this project as Bhutan continues to be an untouchable and alienated subject in academic circles. We were encouraged by the interest shown in the project by Adroit Publishers and the patience with which they pursuied the process.
In the preparatery process of this work, we cannot forget the co –operation and guidence rendered by Dr. Shankar Nene from Pune, by way of making very significant editiorial suggestions. Dr. Nene tirelessly worked on the manuscript. Being an author of many books himself, his inputs were also helpul in enchancing the overall quality of the publication.
At the end, I thank all the contributors who worked day and night to complete their manuscripts. Special appreciation goes to Chunku Bhutia for helping men in organizing the contents of the manuscript and firming up the references. I also thank Shakoor Ahmed, Sandeep Kumar,Besii Kohli for both academic and non –academic assictance extended to me to complete this assignment.
However, the resposiblity of any errors and omissions is solely mine.
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