The sacrifice of an extraordinary King in these difficult times

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“The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.” – John Wooden

Somewhere in the Himalayas, there is a King who the people deeply revere — a compassionate and wise King who serves as a beacon of light in the darkness.

And that King is none other than the King of Bhutan — King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the fifth King of Bhutan.

So, why is he so well-loved by the people?

The answer is simple. It’s because the King puts the People at the centre of his very own life.

During the pandemic, some leaders may choose to isolate themselves from the public due to safety reasons; King Jigme Khesar is, however, at the forefront, leading the way, ensuring that the Bhutanese are safe and protected.  

The dedication, sincerity and selflessness of the King are evident from his busy schedule. Just last month, the King spent almost a month in the south, and now he’s all the way in the east. 

His Majesty is currently on a Royal Tour to oversee measures against the spread of COVID-19, concerned by the large number of community infections in the east recently. The King trekked for 5 days, accompanied by His Royal Highness Gyaltshab Jigme Dorji and the Prime Minister, Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering. They just arrived in Jomotshangkha yesterday after departing from Merak on June 8. The King alongside the entourage trekked through some of the highest altitudes in the east, along muddy trails and leech-infested dense forests.

His Majesty visited the border points-of-entries and outposts manned by Desuups, RBP personnel, and in one case, a retired police personnel.

Besides inspecting the border outposts, His Majesty expressed concerns on the impact that the pandemic and border closure has on the livelihoods of the people who depend on the interactions across the porous borders.

Let's take a look at the dedication of this extraordinary Dragon King towards his people. 

On June 7, His Majesty arrived in Tashigang and granted an Audience to the Tashigang Dzongkhag COVID-19 Task Force members. En route to Tashigang, the King visited De-suups training in woodworking in Bumthang as part of a Skilling Programme. The De-Suups who are participating in the programme receive high-level training in a diverse set of skills of their choice and can participate in projects of national importance in the country during the pandemic. In addition, His Majesty visited another Desuung Skilling Programme group who were training in construction at the Ugyen Pelri Palace in Paro, on June 6.

 

While he was in the south during May, His Majesty visited Gelephu, Samtse, and Samdrup Jongkhar besides Phuentsholing. His Majesty reviewed measures and protocols in place and visited facilities, high-risk points, and border outposts to personally inspect the ground conditions. 

His Majesty also expressed concern for the wellbeing and comfort of front-liners, often worried that they may get fatigued. The King constantly reminds the people that they should make every effort to keep the people safe and free from the anxiety of the pandemic and lockdowns.

The King having packed lunch at a security outpost during one of the inspection visits along the border in Tempaling, between Phuentsholing and Samtse.

On March 27, when Bhutan carried out the nationwide vaccination programme, the King was again in the east. His Majesty visited Mongar High School, one of the several vaccination centres in the district. 

On March 1, His Majesty travelled to Trongsa, Gelephu, Samtse, Tendruk, Tashichhoeling, Gomtu and Phuentsholing, and met with the COVID-19 Task Force teams, government officials, health workers, Desuups and frontliners. He thanked everyone for having worked diligently to contain the pandemic and address the issues caused by it to the people. Stressing that the pandemic represents one of Bhutan's greatest adversities in modern times, the King also encouraged the frontliners to remain vigilant as they continued to serve the nation.

 

While in Trongsa, His Majesty spent the night camped at Dangdung, near the Water Project site, to spend time with the Desuups working on the Project.

His Majesty inspects the Desuups' barracks in Dangdung. 

At Dangdung Yulsar Lhakhang - His Majesty met with the community gathered at the Lhakhang to offer Tshogchang to His Majesty.

His Majesty with Desuups training at Jigmeling.

His Majesty thanked the Desuups at the Water Project site and those training for the 44th batch in the 4 different sites for their volunteerism at a time when the country needed them the most. 

His Majesty granted Audiences to the Desuups at training centres in Tencholing, Paro Shaba, and Chhukha in February.

On Feb 15, the King visited the worksites in Tsirang where work is ongoing to build infrastructure to supply irrigation and drinking water to the people of Dangreygang Chiwog, at Semjong.

His Majesty spent the evening, which was the 10th Anniversary of Desuung Raising Day, with the Desuups who were working on the Semjong Water Project site, and spent the night in the gewog.

Semjong is the second pilot Water Project site under the Desuung National Service Progamme, which commenced on 25th November 2020. The project includes:

  • Constructing of a large reservoir tank for dry land irrigation.
  • Piloting micro-irrigation technologies such as drips and sprinklers.
  • Automation of the micro-irrigation system.
  • Improving technology for crop production.

Bhutan initiated the water projects under Desuung National Service in response to His Majesty’s Command in September 2020. He emphasised that the country must create opportunities for Bhutanese youth to participate in worthwhile nationwide projects that would benefit the people for posterity. Accordingly, subsequent Desuung Training Programmes included a specialised water resource management component, and young Desuups from the 42nd batch onwards were encouraged to join the projects.

Four other pilot water projects are underway in Guma Gewog in Punakha, Saling Gewog in Mongar, Langthel Gewog in Trongsa and Geling Gewog in Chhukha. 

During the Losar holidays, the King also visited the Guma Water Project Site and granted Audience to the 70 Desuups working there. The Project at Guma, the first pilot project, is expected to benefit over 1800 people in Phulingsoom, Changyuel Thara Tashijong, and Docha Ritsa, by making drinking water accessible to 258 households. The Desuups in Guma are working on building an intake structure, two transmission lines, and two reservoirs.

Through the days, weeks and months, the King has been tirelessly walking the ground, sacrificing his time and risking his personal safety. All in an effort to protect the people and keep the country safe. 

Druk Gyalpo Relief Kidu (DGRK)

From the onset of the pandemic in 2020, the King has commanded for the establishment of Druk Gyalpo Relief Kidu. The Druk Gyalpo Relief Kidu provides financial support to those directly affected by the pandemic. Up to July 2022, Bhutanese who require financial aids can apply for the kidu. Over 37,000 people and their children were granted monthly income support in the last one year, and close to 140,000 loan accounts benefitted from interest payment support.

While Bhutan is a small country, its efforts to stay united and to keep the pandemic under control were massive. These were all made possible by the extraordinary leadership of an extraordinary King. Little wonder, that the King of Bhutan is fondly known as The People's King. 

There is nowhere else in the world where you can find such a remarkable King. 



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