๐—Ÿ๐—ฎ๐—บ๐—ด๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ด-๐—ช๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ด๐—ฐ๐—ต๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ด ๐— ๐—ฃ ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ธ๐˜€ ๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—น๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—ฝ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐˜€๐˜‚๐—ฏ๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ฑ๐˜† ๐—ฝ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐˜๐˜† ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ ๐—ก๐˜‚๐—ฏ๐—ฟ๐—ถ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฌ๐—ฎ๐—ธ๐˜€๐—ฎ ๐—ฐ๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜„๐—ผ๐—ด๐˜€

PEMA TSHOMO

Thimphu

The National Assembly recently saw an interesting question raised by Sonam Tashi of Lamgong-Wangchang who highlighted a discrepancy in helicopter subsidy access for residents of Nubri and Yaksa chiwogs in Paro.

The MP brought attention to the case of Nubri and Yaksa chiwogs, located under Tsento Geog in Paro Dzongkhag. Despite being considered highland communities and facing similar challenges of road inaccessibility as residents of other highland regions like Lunana, Lingzhi, and Soe Gewogs, those residing in Nubri and Yaksa are not currently eligible for subsidized helicopter fares.

The MP emphasized that this exclusion had been raised repeatedly in past Dzongkhag Tshogdu including the most recent one, but no resolution had been reached.

The member sought clarification from the PM Tshering Tobgay on the reasons behind this prolonged neglect and the steps planned to ensure Nubri and Yaksa residents receive the same benefits as their highland counterparts.

In his response, the PM acknowledged the similarity between the situation in Paro and the existing helicopter subsidy program for Lunana, Lingzhi, and Soe Gewogs.

PM clarified that a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) in September 2022 outlines five specific categories for availing helicopter services, including transportation for critical programs in remote areas, disaster response, and subsidies for residents of the aforementioned high-altitude gewogs.

The PM revealed a crucial detail; โ€œParo Dzongkhag Tshogdu had directly approached Druk Air (the national carrier formed after the merger of Royal Bhutan Helicopter Service and Druk Air) regarding the subsidy extension for Nubri and Yaksa. Thus, it was not the proper course of an action.โ€

โ€œBoth Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Home Affairs are not aware of the request because the request has been put up to DrukAir. The MoF and the MoHA have not received even a copy of the letter,โ€ explained the PM.

PM also outlined the proper procedure for Nubri and Yaksa residents to gain access to the subsidy program. This involves routing their request through the Gup and Gewog administration to the Dzongdag.

The Dzongdaโ€™s office would then assess the situation based on ground realities and submit a report to the MoHA, considering the national security implications associated with highland communities. Following a review by MoHA, the Cabinet would have the final say on approving the subsidy extension for Nubri and Yaksa.

Further, the Prime Minister emphasized on the importance of following the established procedures as the government subsidizes 50 percent of the airfare for eligible individuals. He assured that upon approval, residents could approach the Dzongdaโ€™s office to avail the helicopter services adhering to the SOP.

Sonam Tashi said a subsidy for Nubri and Yaksa residents highlighted the logistical difficulties faced by highland communities despite their geographical classification. He said, โ€œWhile these chiwogs may be situated at a lower altitude compared to Lunana, Lingzhi, and Soe Gewogs, their road inaccessibility presents a significant barrier to essential services and economic opportunities.โ€

โ€œGranting us an access to the subsidy program would demonstrate a more nuanced understanding of highland challenges and ensure equitable treatment,โ€ he added.

The Prime Ministerโ€™s clarification regarding the proper channels for requesting the helicopter subsidy extension for Nubri and Yaksa residents demonstrates a focus on transparency and adherence to protocol. This not only streamlines the process but also ensures proper evaluation of requests based on national security considerations.

While the governmentโ€™s proposed solutions appear promising, there are potential considerations that warrant further discussion.

The PM said that the helicopter subsidy program, clearly defined criteria for assessing โ€œground realitiesโ€ in chiwogs like Nubri and Yaksa would be beneficial. This, he said, ensures fairness and avoids ambiguity in future requests.

Public perception of these initiatives will also be crucial. Transparency regarding the program’s budget, eligibility criteria, and long-term goals will be essential for garnering public support. Addressing potential concerns about potential misuse of funds or the programโ€™s effectiveness in achieving its objectives will be important.

The helicopter subsidy program ensures a more equitable distribution of resources. While challenges remain, these initiatives demonstrate the government’s commitment to finding sustainable solutions for a brighter future.

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