In the remote eastern dzongkhags of the country, life is turning increasingly tough with rural-urban migration becoming a common feature in the villages.
The young and able are leaving their rural lands and home for better facilities in urban centers like Thimphu and Phuentsholing causing repercussions back home.
On the other hand, capital cities like Thimphu and Phuentsholing, the fastest growing cities in the country, are buckling under their own growth.
With empty households increasing, Lumang Gewog in Trashigang Dzongkhag has adopted a system of collecting Nu 3,000 annually from the gungtong owners as tax.
Lumang Gup, Wangdi, said the number of gungtongs has been rising yearly. “When the government provides facilities, people have to contribute labor but we do not have enough labor to carry out the tasks,” he said, adding that those who are left behind complain about having to contribute double the amount of labor.
He mentioned that the impacts of gungtongs like loss of cultural values, weakening of family cohesion, administrative problems during annual census and tax collection are felt acutely and widely.
It was decided that Nu 3,000 would be collected annually from gungtong owners during the gewog meeting in 2017.
The initiative was adopted mainly to encourage people to return to their village. Until now, in the absence of a house owner, the representatives have been paying taxes on their behalf.
Zimba, a villager from Lumang Gewog, said that the initiative of collecting Nu 3,000 has helped especially the representatives of the owners of gungtongs. “The representatives back in the village have to bear the brunt,” he said. “Even when I call them to send money, they never do it. I have to pay taxes for two houses and since then I have been paying taxes for the land and houses all by myself.”
Another villager said that representing others is not easy.
“When we represent others, we have to attend meetings for ourselves and them too. So, we have to lock our house and we cannot work,” he added.
Lumang Gup said that the collection of Nu. 3,000 annually was decided for three main reasons.
He said the Gewog decided to collect Nu 3,000 annually mainly to use it in times of gewog meetings and tax collections. Secondly, there was a practice of collecting some amount during the times of festivals in Lhakhangs and Goenkhangs in villages. “During this time if we don’t collect some amount from every household including the gungtongs, people would raise questions and complain about it.”
“Third and the main reason for collecting the money is to encourage people to return to their villages,” he said. “So far, I could not meet with the ownesr of all the gungtongs but the feedback that I received from a few of them was good and encouraging.”
Lumang Gup attributed that abandoning the houses has also hampered the gewog administration in carrying out the developmental activities. “It is difficult to undertake any developmental activities when we have less Gungs or houses. When we propose for a school, the education ministry ask for the number of gungs in the gewog and it is same with the health ministry.”
Less people and gungs hamper the development of the gewog, he added.
However, after initiating the system, the number of gungtong has decreased to 70 from 85 in 2017.
Meanwhile, the Gewog is not just seeing an increase in population but houses too with several new constructions in place.
More than 10 households were registered in the last two years and many new gungpas were registered as well.
Lumang Gewog has six chiwogs with 725 households
Jigme Wangchen from Lumang, T/gang