Guwahati , Dec 23 : As a country that has given the concept of Gross National Happiness to the world, Bhutan keeps the interests of its citizens paramount, be it for health, education or a clean environment.
Outlining the thrust given by Thimphu to these ends, leading Bhutanese writer and senior journalist Gopilal Acharya also dwelt upon the strong foundations of Indo-Bhutan relations while interacting with Guwahati-based scribes on Friday. He was participating from Thimphu through video-conferencing as part of Guwahati Press Club’s ‘Meet the Press’ programme.
“Led by the Kings who have guided our nation from monarchy to democracy, Bhutan stands firmly with India. When the Chinese annexed Tibet in the late 1950s, Bhutan sealed off its northern border. The visit of Pandit Nehru in 1958 was a watershed moment for Indo-Bhutan
relations, and since then Bhutan’s ties with India has remained firm.
This kind of friendship and trust is important for resolution of conflicts like the one we saw in Doklam,” Acharya said.
Talking about primary health benefits for Bhutanese citizens that are fully under-written by the government, Acharya revealed that a few private diagnostics centres have sprung up in Thimpu. “For advanced medical referrals, our people go to Siliguri, Kolkata or Bangalore. In this context, Guwahati can emerge as a major health destination for us,” Acharya pointed out.
As for Bhutan’s commitment for free and universal education to its citizenry, Acharya said that importance is given to every child as well as ensuring that teachers are well paid. Referring to tourism as a big foreign exchange earner, Acharya said that this is not at the expense of the environment. “We are not in favour of tourists coming in unmanageable numbers. We also restrict vehicles on the basis of pollution and emission norms,” he said. He also spoke about commercial potential of high-value medicinal plants found in Bhutan.
Dwelling on the forthcoming visit to India by newly elected Prime Minister LotayTshering, Acharya said that one important item on his agenda would be to negotiate a higher tariff rate for hydro power exported to India, particularly for the soon-to-be-commissioned Mangdechhu Hydropower Project.
Concluding with a brief account of the growth of media in Bhutan, Acharya said that while a number of newspapers have come up in the recent past, the Himalayan country till date has a single government-run TV channel. “Indian entertainment channels are popular in Bhutan. This helps to reinforce the appreciation that many Bhutanese have for India’s diverse culture,” he ended on a warm neighborly note.