By SANJEEV CHOPRA
Mussoorie, 17 Nov: The Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration celebrated ‘Bhutan Day’ for the first time on 11 November to mark the birthday of Jigme Singme Wangchuck, the fourth monarch of the dynasty, with a cultural programme performed, together, by the officer-trainees of the Royal Bhutan Civil Services (including the Police and Forest Services) with their counterparts from the Civil services of India undergoing the 94th Foundation Course from August to December 2019. This was followed by a dinner of cuisines from Bhutan and a group dance in which the members of the visiting delegation from Bhutan and officers from India held hands and prayed for peace and happiness for every sentient being on this planet.
While the Academy has been training officers of Bhutan from the early sixties, since 1986 the programme has been institutionalised and structured, with two to three officers from Bhutan being trained along with the IAS, and later the IPS and the Forest service as well. In fact, the core of the administrative leadership of Bhutan is alumni of this Academy, and they cherish the time spent not only at the Academy, but also during the Winter Study Tour (Bharat Darshan) and the attachments and visits across the country. Officers from Bhutan usually excel in the outdoors, and every Counsellor group has loud cheers for their team mates from Bhutan: it gives them more medals and honours!
Earlier this year, a delegation from the Academy led by this columnist visited Bhutan to call on the Civil Services Commission and interact with the Director and faculty of the Royal Institute of Management (the counterpart institution to LBSNAA) besides the Royal Institute of Governance and Strategic Studies at Phuntesoling and senior leaders in the government who had been trained at theAcademy. We had been overwhelmed by the wonderful reception given to us by the officers from Bhutan, and requested them to return the visit and also help the Academy organise Bhutan Day on the lines of various state days that are organised at the Academy on a regular basis, and about which the column has reported in some of the previous editions.
The first official delegation from Bhutan to LBSNAA comprised Dasho Lhendup Wangchu, Tashi Pem, Choki Drakpa, Sangay Yeshi and Sonam Pelden Thaye. Sonam did her training here in 2001, and naturally there was a special bond and connection with her. At an interaction with the Academic Council, it was decided that some of the knowledge modules organized by RIM, especially those on Gross National Happiness (GNH), and the modalities of measurement had great relevance for India especially as several state governments had established Ministries for happiness. Academic inputs and hand- on training on Mindfulness and work life balance also evoked a lot of interest.
This was followed by a very engrossing address by the Head of the Civil Services Commission of Bhutan. He said that the civil services in both Bhutan and India had to perform ‘higher order responsibilities’ and that professional competencies were of utmost importance to enable the civil servants to perform their assigned roles. Those selected for this mandate indeed had a salient role in the development of their nations, and this could be accomplished only by working together in a non-adversarial manner.
This was followed by a presentation on GNH, and the ways of measuring it. It was remarkable that one of the smallest, landlocked, highland countries had given an alternate measure of performance to the world, so that while the most developed countries as well as institutions like the World Bank and IMF were looking at development only through the lens of GDP, Bhutan had shown to the world that the GDP was not an end in itself, and that in the pursuit of GDP, individuals, communities and nations were losing something even more precious: their eco system, their culture and their spiritual moorings. And, therefore, while agreeing that material progress had to be made – and nations do need schools, hospitals and roads, there was no need to focus excessively on such infrastructure and manufacturing that would lead to ecological damage. All flora and fauna, in fact, even the rivers and the mountains had a right to live, flourish and prosper!
While measuring happiness, it was clear that happiness was also dependent on access to land and livelihood and integration with the community – but the term for those who did not meet the threshold of happiness was ‘not –yet- happy‘, rather than unhappy. For the kingdom believes that sooner or later everyone will be on the trajectory of happiness!
And the unique way of dressing in Bhutan is also conducive to promoting egalitarianism. Everyone in the kingdom (with the exception of those in uniform) wear the same colourful dress, and I was most embarrassed because unlike my better half who looked resplendent and charming in the lovely dress she had purchased during our visit to Bhutan, I had ignored her sane advice about buying a dress for myself, and so your columnist stuck out like a sore thumb in the cultural performances and the Bhutan Day dinner that followed. Two important lessons and take-aways for me: Happiness is important, and the best way to get to it is to follow the sane advice of your more intelligent partner, who as I wrote two decades ago walks with me, and is often ahead!