Kidu: Bhutan's benevolent fund that has aided thousands of Bhutanese
Bhutan’s kidu has ensured that children are educated, the sick receive proper care, the poor are aided, the media is efficient, and many more.
What is Kidu?
The Kings of Bhutan have always lived in service to their people, placing the welfare of the Bhutanese above their own.
On 6 November 2008, the fifth King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck told the people of Bhutan during a public address, “Throughout my reign, I will never rule you as a King. I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother, and serve you as a son. I shall give you everything and keep nothing; I shall live such a life as a good human being that you may find it worthy to serve as an example for your children.”
Consistent with this desire to serve, His Majesty launched the Kidu Foundation in 2011. This followed the Kidu Fund that was set up by the Gyalpoi Zimpon (Office for People’s Welfare and Wellbeing) to assist the victims of the natural disasters that hit the Kingdom in 2009.
Similar to the Kidu Fund, the foundation aims to provide support to the people, especially the children, elderly, disabled and sick.
On top of that, the foundation complements the government’s efforts in addressing critical issues in education, the rule of law, democracy, media, sustainable economic development, and preservation of the country’s environmental and cultural heritage.
The Kidu Foundation’s Areas of Focus
The Kidu Foundation has several ongoing projects. They include the following:
Bhutan’s culture is what makes them so special. Even when Bhutan opened their door to the outside world at the end of the 20th century, mass tourism is discouraged. This is largely to preserve their culture.
And a major element of the Bhutanese culture is the 13 arts and crafts (Zorig Chosum). In an attempt to preserve this valuable aspect of the culture, the Kidu Foundation supports the Dharma Project, an initiative that trains artisans and craftsmen, equipping them to keep the heritage alive.
Similarly, the Kidu Foundation has also contributed to the reconstruction of Druk Khamsum Wangdi Choki Phodrang Dzong. A fire in 2012 burnt the dzong to the ground — this was one of the oldest and most impressive dzongs of the country. Noting the effect this had on the people’s morale, His Majesty the King offered Nu. 200 million towards the restoration of the monumental fortress — Nu. 100 from the Kidu Foundation, and Nu. 100 from the armed forces.
On top of that, the Kidu Foundation contributes to Civil Service Organisations (CSOs), which are defined as not-for-profit entities apart from the government. There are 28 registered CSOs in Bhutan. Working with the Kidu Foundation, they work to improve livelihoods by covering the gaps where the government lacks resources.
The Kidu Foundation recognises the role of education in the progress of the country. As such, they offer aid and incentives to students. This includes the King’s Scholarship, Trongsa Penlop Scholarship, financial aid for underprivileged students, and allowance for academic excellence.
Furthermore, the Royal Initiative for Innovative Learning seeks to use media technologies to make learning meaningful and fun for students. Tutorials are broadcast on TV, distributed as CDs, and uploaded on websites. Also available are easy-to-read books.
Another project by the Kidu Foundation is Camp RAVEN. Camp RAVEN is an educational camp for the children of military personnel. The acronym RAVEN stands for:
R - Responsibilities
A - Adaptability
V - Valor
E - Educational
N - Never give up
Media & Rule of Law
An independent and responsible media is the central tenet of any democracy. Recognising this fact, the Kidu Foundation endeavours to oil the wheels towards this aim.
To foster the growth of an efficient, independent, and functioning media system, the Bhutan Media Foundation was formed on 21 February 2010.
In the same year on 11 June, the King dictated that an awareness of the law was to be developed among the people, and hence, the Royal Law Project (RLP) was launched. Involved in the project are Bhutan National Legal Institute (BNLI), Royal Institute of Law (RIL) and the Law Library. The RLP is overseen by Her Royal Highness Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck as President.
Much like their other undertakings, the Kidu Foundation has established initiatives to benefit segments of the population that are in need.
Patients with illnesses that cannot be treated within Bhutan are referred overseas at the expense of the Bhutanese government. However, seeking treatment outside the country means spending a fortune on accommodation. Therefore, the King established a Kidu Guesthouse in Kolkata near the Tata Medical Centre (cancer hospital). Lodging there is free and is funded by the Kidu Foundation.
On top of that, the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital handles referred cases from all the 20 dzongkhags (districts). They have sophisticated equipment and are the central facility for patients requiring complicated diagnosis. Unfortunately, many of these patients that require long periods of treatment come from afar are poor, and do not have relatives in Thimphu where the hospital is located. Furthermore, there are insufficient hospital beds to accommodate them. Therefore, the Kidu Foundation funds the Thimphu Medical Hostel Project to house patients like these.
Another initiative by the Kidu Foundation is the Royal Society for Senior Citizens (RSSC) so that retired senior citizens who had a distinguished career can continue contributing to the country.
The recreational area of Centenary Park, Thimphu, was refurbished and reopened by the Kidu Foundation in conjunction with the birth anniversary of His Majesty the fourth King.
Last but not least, the De-Suung programme was introduced to encourage active citizenry through volunteerism. The training includes value-based lectures, basic military drills, disaster management skills, etc. The goal is to instil life skills in service-minded individuals. Although this programme is relatively new, the De-Suups provided relief services during the 2011 earthquake, the aftermath of the Wangdue Dzong fire, numerous forest fires, vehicle accidents, and many more.
His Majesty Grants Land Kidu to 123,265 Beneficiaries
His Majesty found that land ownership is directly proportional to poverty, which led to wealth inequality in the country. There were many who used state land for generations without owning the land, due to unfortunate discrepancies resulting from less accurate ways of measurement in the past. Aware of this, His Majesty the King announced the Land Kidu, making it possible for these people to own land. For these agrarian societies, owning land put them ahead by leaps and bounds.
As of 2018, His Majesty had granted a total of 133,297.765 acres of land as kidu in 171 villages in Lhuentse, Bumthang, Mongar, Wangdue, Haa, Dagana, Punakha, Trongsa, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Zhemgang, Pemagatshel, Samdrupjongkhar, Thimphu, Chukha, Gasa, and Samtse.
During a national day celebration in Trongsa, the King said in reference to the Land Kidu, “The objective of the Land Kidu is to place the much-treasured land upon the hands of our children, and enable them to use it to better their lives and secure the future of their children.”
“It is a concern that in a rapidly growing economy, inequality may bring great divides in our society between the rich and the poor. Another objective of the Land Kidu has been to empower and uplift people and allow them to prosper.”
Covid-19 Relief Kidu
Covid-19 has caused many Bhutanese their livelihoods. Aware of the hardship his people are facing, the King established the Druk Gyalpo Relief Kidu (DGRK). The National Resilience Fund was first set up in April 2020, providing monthly income or loan interest payment to support borrowers. Over the April 2020 to March 2021 period, over 37,000 people and their children, as well as 140,000 loan accounts, have benefited from this initiative.
On 22 April 2021, the King extended the kidu for another 15 months from April 2021.
This decision was made after considering the impact of Covid-19. To accommodate the initiative, the country decided to draft the 12th plan to increase national debt.
Many Bhutanese Have Benefited From Kidu
The Bhutanese government listed the following as terms to qualify for the Covid-19 relief kidu:
- Employees who have been laid off, placed on unpaid leave, or reduced salary in tourism-related industries
- Employees of businesses that have been mandated to remain closed
- Individuals who run tourism-related businesses
- Bhutanese working abroad who had returned to the country following loss of employment
Nonetheless, there has been discord over the recipients of this kidu, as there are those who applied for the aid even though they do not need it. There have been calls for accountability against those exploiting the King’s benevolence for their personal gain.
Kuensel, Bhutan’s media outlet, urged the Bhutanese, stating that “applying for kidu implies a responsibility in itself”.
“Applicants for the income support kidu are those who have genuinely lost the means to support themselves and their families. Applicants for the interest waiver and loan deferment are required to acknowledge past grants and assets. This level of transparency is healthy. But, to truly deserve this sacred gift, we need to make principled decisions to differentiate between greed and need.”
“Because the Bhutanese system works when all of us understand that kidu is sacrosanct.”