Recent publications of the Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH research

To augment the scholarship in Bhutan, the Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research has published four books this year: Comprehensive Review of the Land Act of Bhutan, 2007 for Revision; Thimphu’s Growing Pains; Wellbeing, Happiness and Public Policy; and JBS Volume 29. With these four books the total number of books published by the Centre adds up to 91 books since its establishment in March 1999. On average, approximately six books are published in a year.

Comprehensive Review of the Land Act of Bhutan, 2007

Comprehensive Review of the Land Act of Bhutan, 2007 for Revision is a timely publication since National Land Commission is in the process of drafting land policy of Bhutan. This book reviews policies and legislations on land and land-related issues through analysis of policy documents and national legislations and through consultations with various stakeholders such as MoAF, MoEA, NEC, NLC, committees of National Council and National Assembly, BCCI, chairpersons of 20 dzongkhags, gups of 205 gewogs, land record officers, agriculture officers and livestock officers.

Some of the findings of this book are: due to absentee landowners thousands of acres of Chhuzhing in Gelephu, Samdrupchholing, and Langchenphu are being left fallow; many people seem to misunderstand the minimum 10 decimal required for registration as the minimum ceiling; definition of forest should include real tree cover and not just any land and water body outside a Thromde; large membership of National Land Commission should be reduced for effective service delivery of land.

Thimphu’s Growing Pains

Thimphu’s Growing Pains describes the difficulties encountered in the implementation of Thimphu City planning, which are imposed by the lengthy process of land readjustment, limited organisational capacity, faulty cadastral information and resistant landowners. The mechanism for not conforming to Local Area Plans is mostly through authorisation of deviations either by a government order or by rule revision. That any new policy should be compatible with social norms and compliance on rules should be improved through consultations with stakeholders, such as Thimphu Thromde, NLC, MoWHS, are the two key recommendations.

Wellbeing, Happiness and Public Policy

Wellbeing, Happiness and Public Policy proposes how GNH concept of having nine domains of wellbeing can be shared in an international context. Each of the nine domains of Gross National Happiness are presented and their potential value discussed in an intuitive way by providing cameos examples of cost-effective policies. How GNH can be actually practiced on the ground is shown in this book.

Journal of Bhutan Studies, Volume 29

Journal of Bhutan Studies, Volume 29 is part of biannual publication of the Centre. The research articles are contributed by national as well as international scholars. The Centre for Bhutan Studies reviews articles submitted for inclusion in the journal and provides feedbacks and edits their articles to make it publishable free of cost. In particular, young aspiring scholars are provided guidance to write a polished paper provided their articles are original.

JBS, Volume 29 contains five articles, but to minimise using space only two articles will be mentioned here. The article “Does Democracy promote Social Capital in Bhutan?”, written by the contributor of this article, examines whether democracy, as measured by voting in elections, promotes social capital after Bhutan transitioned from monarchy to parliamentary democracy in 2008, using two cross-sectional GNH survey data of Bhutan conducted in 2008 and 2010. It compares how respondents who voted for the National Council (non-party based) election and those who voted for the National Assembly (multi-party) election effects trust in people in general, trust in neighbours and socializing with neighbours. The result shows that the introduction of democracy did not serve to increase the levels of voters’ trust in people in general and trust in neighbours. However, the positive effects of voting on socializing with neighbours as seen in the National Council election were removed due to the significant negative effects of multi-party election.

The second article of the JBS volume 29 aims to clarify whether tobacco existed in Bhutan before the 16th century, with many people having the notion that tobacco existed during the 8th century and that Guru Rinpoche declaimed against the use of tobacco.

The reference of tobacco in the Bhutanese religious texts before the 16th century were all found to be metaphorical than visual description; the authoritative reference to tobacco is found in the first legal code of Bhutan also known as “The Golden Yoke of Legal Edicts”, written by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, in the statement: “Functionaries and servants of whatever rank, high or low, once they have entered the Dharma door of the Choje Drukpa, may not perform deeds that violate the Dharma, such as sleeping with women, using intoxicating substances such as tobacco and alcohol, etc.”

Publishing in Bhutan has come a long way since the first modern printing began in 1967 with the establishment of Kuensel as an internal government bulletin. From 2000 to 2015, 3326 books were published in Bhutan. The Centre as the focal ISBN Agency for Bhutan started recording the number of books published in Bhutan in 2000. In 2013, 206 books were published. It increased by 7.28% in 2014 taking the total number of books published in 2014 to 221. This year the growth rate of books is expected to be more than last year. In a period of eight months this year (as of August 2015), 175 books were published. The Centre for Bhutan Studies is in the process of publishing at least two more issues of JBS and a few other monographs this year, which can be given as complimentary copies to any interested readers.

Contributed by

Sangay Chophel


Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research