In the footsteps of a visionary King

His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck

KARMA CHIMI

Thimphu

Bhutan marked the birth of a great leader and statesman, as the nation celebrated the 66th birth anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo last week.

Under the far-sighted and zealous leadership of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Bhutan ventured towards modernization and the country has seen unprecedented structural change and economic growth.

Terton Drukdra Dorji, a great Buddhist philosopher during the 18th century prophesied that one day a Prince would be born in the Female Sheep Year and under his rule there will be unprecedented peace and happiness to the people of Bhutan.

As the prophesy foretold, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo was born to His Majesty the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the Father of Modern Bhutan and Queen Mother Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck on 11 November, 1955 at Dechencholing Palace in Thimphu.

As a young prince, His Majesty was well versed in both traditional and modern education, starting his formal education in Bhutan at the age of six to further education in St. Joseph’s School, Darjeeling in India and Heatherdown School in England.

After completion of his studies at Heatherdown in 1969, the Crown Prince started his education back in Bhutan at Namseling Palace and attended the newly established Ugyen Wangchuck Academy at Satsham Chorten, Paro in 1970.

In 1971, he was appointed as the first chairperson of National Planning Commission of the five-year development plans in order to prepare him for the future by His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo.

In the following year, in 1972, the young prince was assigned the post of Trongsa Penlop.

Due to the sudden demise of his Majesty the Third King on 21 July, 1972 at Nairobi, Kenya. At the age of 16, His Majesty took on the herculean task of the state as the youngest monarch in the world.

The coronation ceremony of His Majesty The King was held on 2 June, 1974. During the coronation ceremony, His Majesty’s addressed the nation, “…as far as you, my people, are concerned, you should not adopt the attitude and whatever is required to be done for your welfare will be done entirely by the government. On the contrary, a little effort on your part will be much more effective than a great deal of effort on the part of the government…”, which was a call for the people in decision making process.

His Majesty followed in his father’s developmental philosophies and activities focusing in education, health and infrastructure development in the country. The emphasis was also placed upon the preservation of Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage and natural environment during the phase of modernization.

The far-sighted vision of the King has made Bhutan an ecological corridor wherein, the Constitution of Kingdom of Bhutan mandates to 60 percent forest cover to be maintained for all times to come. Even as climate change is a global threat, Bhutan remains carbon-negative in the present day.

Under His Majesty’s reign there was expansion of Bhutan’s diplomatic relation with foreign countries, particularly with neighboring country, India.

The introduction of “high-value, low-volume” policy of tourism under the leadership of His Majesty helped in paving way towards tourism and Bhutan opening its door from isolation to modernization.

His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo wanted to promote and strengthen traditional culture, preserve the country’s spiritual heritage, agricultural developments and promoting environmental conservation. Thus, coining the concept of Gross National Happiness for sustainable development sometime around in 1986.

His Majesty’s tireless dedication towards the country has been immense during his 34 years of reign. Moreover, he has been an epitome of safe guarding the sovereignty and safety of the country, leading the nation by example like the flush out of insurgents in the southern borders of Bhutan in 2003.

Self-reliance was one aspect that His Majesty focused upon and brought in the innovative idea of hydro power sector which is now the highest income generator for the country.

The accomplishments of His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo is indubitable and indescribable in the chronicle of Bhutan.

Decentralization of power

From the dawn of his reign as a King, His Majesty wished for the decentralization of power from the golden throne to the citizen of the country. In 1981, His Majesty formed the Dzongkhag Tshogdu followed by Gewog Tshogde in 1991 to increase people’s participation in decision making.

Lhengye Zhungtshog or the Cabinet of Ministers was formed in 1998 to entrust the activities of the government to the ministers.

In 2001, the drafting constitution committee was established and on 30 November, 2001, the drafting of Constitution of Kingdom of Bhutan began. Following the year in 2002, the first ever election happened in Bhutan that is the election of gups.

During the 98th National Day Celebration in Trashi Yangtse in the year 2005, His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo in his Royal Address which remarked,  “……the Chhoetse Penlop will be enthroned as the Fifth Druk Gyalpo in 2008. As it is necessary and important for King to gain as much experience as possible to serve his country to his fullest capacity. I will be delegating responsibilities to the Chhoetse Penlop before 2008……”

The glorious reign of His Majesty The King came to an end when he abdicated the throne on 9 December, 2006 and passed it onto His Majesty The King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

Envisioning of the decentralization process by His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyapo, ultimately lead to the formation of the parliamentary democratic form of government in Bhutan.