Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

A Study of Resource Asymmetry and Food Deficit in South Asia1

Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

secular practices set aside, the piecemeal jurisprudence practices are yet not even grounded i...
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

economic justice as manifested in the asymmetry and deficit in resources and commodities
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

over a geographical area of 1138174 hectares and western region over 1753962 hectares in the
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

It is quite difficult to get accurate and reliable information about the cropping pattern. For...
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

Being principally a mono-cropped agricultural economy, there has never been prospect of much
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

ones as yet. A major part of what was traditionally handed over to the generations was the
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

the country, such a productive resource was further unequally divided among the cultivating
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

These agricultural resources are used by peasantry, and there is no homogeneous peasantry in
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

whereby the most vital agricultural resource called land is unevenly distributed among the
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

and level of asymmetry in the distribution of arable land and pasture as it existed throughout...
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

the rural areas’. If the employment status of 4040 persons employed in ‘agriculture in the urb...
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

well-off in the village to stave off hunger. In the aggregate sample, nearly 35 percent of
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

household. Adequate decent diet has been but a casualty for more than a quarter of population....
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

constant 2000 prices, and thus the real gross domestic product growth rate in the primary sect...
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

Table – 11
Agricultural Gross Output in Bhutan:
Cereals, Commercial and Other Crops, 2000-2005...
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

eastern region, was higher than that of paddy (a staple food of the western and southern regio...
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

the agricultural area under cereal cultivation had been steadily declining since 1996, the
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

4.5 percent to 4.8 percent since the cereals were produced largely for personal consumption. I...
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

at the present state of scanty data availability. The purchases of mithun livestock from the
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

quite difficult to estimate the quantitative volume of private informal import of grains even
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

of twenty-first century, the annual average import of beef, pork and chicken was nearly 265
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

Since fish is rarely available and harvested in the country, almost annual average amount of 1...
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

There have always been quite a good number of useful forest products which has been
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

distressing to observe that only 13 cubic meters of water is consumed per capita per year
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

in the eastern region. In 2003, there were almost 230,000 people who were all below the
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan
Corporation of India (FCI) ………………Until Bangladesh instituted major reforms in the early
1990s, ...
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

repaid was rupees 20804. The difference between original sum borrowed and the sum repaid
was r...
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

developmental missions and projects is a pointer to the observation that such infatuation had
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan

Anthony Griffin (1995), “Bhutan” in The World Business and Economic Review, London:...
Agrarian Justice in Bhutan
Planning Commission (2007), Rapid Impact Assessment of Rural Development, Thimphu: Royal
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Agrarian justice in bhutan

  1. 1. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan Agrarian Justice in Bhutan A Study of Resource Asymmetry and Food Deficit in South Asia1 Abstract Consequent upon the public declaration by the first-ever monarchy recognized and first-ever democratically elected ruling party in 2008, the attainment of justice and equity has become the impending openly asserted national agenda in Bhutan. In a country which is principally agricultural and rural in economic setting and is presently witnessing structural transition and commercialization of agriculture is also at the same time suffering from the noticeable phenomena of resource asymmetry, labour shortage and exodus, food insecurity and deficit, income and consumption poverty, and regional disparity and stagnation. There are facets of poverty which are as yet uncovered in the hilly terrain of Bhutanese society and economy. Amelioration of poverty must go hand in hand with some attempts to institute equity of income, resources and assets. Agrarian economic justice is then a significant and morally valuable feat to be accomplished. It is not merely the quantum of economic growth, which in the case of this tiny Himalayan nation has principally been accelerated and maintained by the financial-and-technical-aid dependent-electricity generation sector but also distribution of equity and justice that is required urgently. It is arguable that this feat must be carried out by the most bizarre and novel para-institution of the impending Gross National Happiness-state power in Bhutan. Key Words: resource, food, deficit, asymmetry, water, agriculture, land, forest, justice, equity, poverty, food insecurity, labour, employment, migration, gross national happiness, ideology Prologue A laggard society is a straggler not only in material achievements but also in the human values, and thus a concern about agrarian justice had never been a guiding principle of governance in Bhutan for a pretty long time. The historical general reasons behind this failure are but quite commonly shared across the whole of south Asia. In the case of this tiny nation in the remote Himalayas, the failure was however intricately also linked with the surviving specific political system of absolute monarchy prevailing here for almost a century since 1907 till 2007. A partial explanation may also be sought in the historical fact that while the neighboring countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are beneficiary of the colonial legacy of a modern judicial system and a system of public distribution of food and essential commodities in times of the crisis and famines, this geographically inaccessible region pitched between Tibet and India lacked such a legacy of positive dimensions of colonial experience. Neither was it a victim of the negative impacts of colonialism nor a beneficiary of the positive outcomes of the so-called civilizing missions of the colonialism. It is of course disheartening to observe that juridical justice as well continues to be endangered as yet in the country. The introduction of modern 1 It was originally published in the South Asian Journal, vol. 13, 2011, under a modified title. Mahmood Ansari Page | 1
  2. 2. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan secular practices set aside, the piecemeal jurisprudence practices are yet not even grounded in the true Buddhist textual traditions which the nation champions as its official ideology. To quote an astute observation: Recently, Buddhist training (one year-long) for judicial professionals has been undertaken and efforts are ongoing to establish the compatibility of contemporary judicial institutions with Buddhist traditions …………… Buddhist concepts and teachings have mostly been marshaled only to mitigate the untoward effects of modernization and to qualify externally-derived institutions. They have not been systematically mobilized to critically assess existing institutional paradigms. Nor have they been used innovatively to articulate distinctively Buddhist and/or Bhutanese institutional paradigms suited to contemporary circumstances (Hershock, 2004, pp.98-9). A major explanatory premise is but the hypothesis that the semi-feudal ruling class and agrobureaucracy could expectedly afford to stay callous and insensitive to the needs and rights of rural populace who were scattered across the inaccessible mountains and valleys. Such callousness and insensitivity was also revealed in the form of its grossly false denial of the very existence of poverty and malnutrition among its population for a long time since the quantitative database was absent throughout the twentieth century in this country. Whereas the denial of poverty was politically necessitated in the wake of ethnic violence which erupted periodically throughout the nineteen nineties, the first-ever debatable quantitative assessment of household income, expenditure and poverty was made available only at the turn of the century. The laggardness of the semi-feudal ruling class is also manifested in the verity that even the crude dimension of justice in its juridical meaning had not been at sight throughout the last century. Bhutan is today enmeshed in a unique state of economic affairs. It is facing a historically given asymmetric distribution of resources and general deficit of food and water. It is then really an irony that it claims to be enhancing some sense of ‘happiness’ of the people almost nation-wide. It is experimenting with an unprecedented newly-discovered meta-concept and unparalleled policy prescriptions associated with a novel nomenclature called ‘gross national happiness’ (GNH). This nomenclature is contemporaneously an official slogan presumably guiding the public ideology of augmenting the nation-wide aggregate magnitude of happiness. A solid foundation of the newly established democratic framework of polity-in-transition and the pursuit of the decade old gross national happiness in such a society-in-transition is feasible and achievable in realistic terms; it however requires but a political will to break with its lingering feudal past practices and instituting the bureaucratic efficiency in making an assault and a frontal attack on the economic vices of land ownership inequity, food and water insecurity, and mass poverty. This is so much necessary in breaking the mechanism and instrument which are of late conducive in triggering the exodus of people from the rearward underdeveloped regions to the developed ones. Such a goal centered at frontal attack on such economic vices is necessary to be set without delay at the earliest in the present, and this must then get an express priority in the government parlance. The urgency is there because such economic ills which are a creation of the inefficient bureaucracy contribute transparently into a denial of agrarian justice to the populace of the countryside. This feat of attaining agrarian justice is to be accomplished rather more urgently since the monarchical decentralized-polity-in-transformation and peripheral frontier agricultural-economy-in-transition in the country is as yet characterized by the vivid manifestation of marked prevalence of vehemently continuing high incidence of mass poverty, food shortage and regional disparity. It is arguable that the endangered status of distributional Mahmood Ansari Page | 2
  3. 3. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan economic justice as manifested in the asymmetry and deficit in resources and commodities combined with scarcity of institutions delivering justice in juridical sense has much to do with the semi-feudal mode of production in the country. The Himalayan tiny country had been bracketed and still falls in the category of a semi-feudal mode of production in the governance framework of the regulated gift-economy of the Buddhist democratic state. A legacy of agrarian justice being a non-agendum for public administration and governance across nearly a century since 1907 till 2007 is contemporaneously well exemplified in the maintenance of resource asymmetry and food deficit in the nation the discussion of which is taken up in historical perspective in the successive two sections of the present paper. The paper is divided into two sections excluding the prologue and epilogue. The format of arguments adopts the historical descriptive mode of elaboration, and the arguments are put forward on the basis of the analysis of macro-level state of affairs with regard to the asymmetry in distribution of the agricultural resources and nation-wide deficit in food and palatable commodities. 1. Resource Asymmetry A majority of land holders are small peasants, and a minority of livestock owners is affluent herders in this mountainous country. A section of rural population has suffered from assetlessness and income poverty for a pretty long time. There are at present shortages of human labour on the farms and pastures as well, and this insufficiency affects with varying intensity the already disadvantaged subsections of rural household in the countryside. Divided into two qualitatively distinct regions, the eastern province has inherited a comparative advantage over the western region in matter of natural endowment not only in terms of command over comparatively larger geographical area and agricultural land area but also the population of cattle livestock. In contrast, the western part has been a beneficiary of endowments in terms of larger area under the forest, horticulture and pasture, head-counts of rural labour resource and number of machinery-owning rural household in the population vis-àvis eastern region. Such regional asymmetry is in addition to the lopsidedness discovered at the level of village and household within each region. In a principally agricultural economy, critical farm resources are the land, livestock and labour. In Bhutan, such crucial resources have been all asymmetrically distributed for a long time not only across regions but also across the villages and households. While much of such unevenness is inherited from the past, a part of it is the creation of faulty planning exercise over the recent years as well. Certainly at the cost of any sincere formal attempt at the level of a region, the planning exercises have been too preoccupied with the district headquarter level. The Land Use Planning Project (LUPP), which could be cited as a step towards accounting for the importance of concentrating on the regional differences in land use, could start only in the early nineteen nineties Agricultural Land and Livestock The spatial stretch of geographical area of the country is confined to 38394 square kilometers (SYB, 2004, p.1) whereby it is divided into two agro-climatic regions, separated by range of mountains and valleys of differing altitudes. In 1994, the eastern region was stretched Mahmood Ansari Page | 3
  4. 4. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan over a geographical area of 1138174 hectares and western region over 1753962 hectares in the country (LUPS-PPD, 1997). Population being small, the land–man ratio in the country has been highly favourable at 6.31 hectares per person towards the turn of the last century. The land– man ratio in the eastern province was however above the national average at 6.50 hectares, whereas it was below the national average at 6.02 hectares in the west. In the countryside, the land-man ratio was comparatively higher. Since a significantly large area has been under the mountain, glaciers and forest, the area of arable and fertile agricultural and pastureland has been pretty low. Roughly, only slightly above 7 percent of the geographical area is under agriculture. It must be underlined that the estimate of exact amount of land under agriculture has not been accurately known, and therefore, the extent of agricultural land available is still controversial. A government statistical agency declared that the land under field cultivation was 776590 acres in total in 1995 (NSB, 2004, p.75). In the eastern region, all land under agriculture was comparatively larger at 348110 acres whereas it was 163890 acres in the western region. Following the pattern of major four types of uses of agricultural land, there were 95760 acres of wet land, 241020 acres of dry land, 218150 acres of land under shifting cultivation and 221660 acres of miscellaneous land in 1995. The regional division was as such that the amount of dry land was nearly 2.18 times larger and the land under shifting cultivation was almost 7.83 times larger in the eastern region vis a vis the region in the west. The west was however a beneficiary in matter of wet land; there was almost 2.03 times larger amount of wetland here in comparison to the eastern region. The number of farms with artificial irrigation was much larger in the western region. The gross amount of land under orchard, plantation and various types of mixed uses was but just a little higher in the eastern region vis-à-vis western region in 1995. In short, there is a marked regional disparity in matter of endowment and land use in the country. There are disparity in the distribution of forest land and pasture land as well. A major part of the land area is under forest. In 1995, almost 72.5 percent of geographical area was under forest. The western region was much more forested than the eastern region. It was 1.27 times more forested than eastern region. Table – 1 Pattern of Use of Agricultural Land in Bhutan: Region-wise, 1995 (In Acres) Classification of Land 1. Dry Land 2. Wet Land 3. Tsheri Land (land under Shifting Cultivation) 4. Land under Orchard, Plantation and Mixed–use 5. All Land under Agriculture (1 to 4) Agricultural Land Area in the Regions in Acres Eastern Region 115720 18380 145600 Western Region 53190 37250 18590 All-Bhutan 241020 95760 218150 68410 54860 221660 348110 163890 776590 Source: LUPP/GIS of PPD, Ministry of Agriculture, 1995-96 quoted in the Statistical Yearbook of Bhutan, 2005, p.60 Mahmood Ansari Page | 4
  5. 5. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan It is quite difficult to get accurate and reliable information about the cropping pattern. For a long time throughout the second half of twentieth century, the estimate of acreage devoted to the cultivation of principal crops in the country had been as controversial an issue as the approximation to the geographical area under agriculture. The rice acreage, for illustration, has been contentious. Various official data sources had furnished conflicting estimates of it over the years. In a recent publication of the official database agency called the Renewable Natural Resources, it was submitted that the aggregate area under rice crop was more than 19,396 hectares in 2000. This was the lowest estimate of rice area. The Geographical Information System of the Land Use Planning Project however claimed that the area under rice was almost twice the official estimates at more than 39,240 hectares whereas the estimate based on the Cadastral Survey was in the mid-range, i.e. more than 26,000 hectares (Shrestha, 2002, pp.4-5). Be that as it may. While the absolute numbers are unreliable, a comparative assessment could then be advanced since it cancels the unreliability element both sides. Paddy has been a major staple crop after maize. In 2002, the area devoted to the cultivation of principal three crops of maize, paddy and wheat was in total 121801 acres, distributed into 65007 acres of land under maize, 46708 acres of land under paddy and 10086 acres of land under wheat cultivation (NSB, 2004, pp.77-8). The eastern region had comparatively larger area under principal crops vis a vis western part. The former had 45376 acres and the latter 34287 acres under these three principal crops. In the eastern districts, the maize land has always abounded. The acreage under maize in these districts was almost 3.51 times larger than the western ones. The west was but endowed with comparatively higher amount of paddy land as well as wheat land. In the eastern region, the ratio between maize land and paddy land was 3.28:1. In the western region, this ratio stood at 1:1.86. It is not hard to observe the regional disparity in the fact sheets that the Scharchopa population of the eastern region has historically been considered to be principally maize eaters whereas the westerner Drukpa population could boast to be mainly rice consumers. Given the degree of sophistication of water control on farms being different for rice and maize, the regional disparity gets revealed at the level of water use as well. Whereas a significant amount of maize finds its way into making of an indigenous liquor called ‘araa’ in the eastern region, the west is an exporter of much-valued ‘red’ rice of the country. Table – 2 Area under Agricultural Crops in Bhutan: Region-wise, 2002 (In Acres) Agricultural Crops 1. Maize 2. Paddy 3. Wheat 4. All Principal Crops (1 to 3) Area under Principal Crops in the Regions in Acres Eastern Region 33954 10348 1074 45376 Western Region 9674 17967 6646 34287 All-Bhutan 65007 46708 10086 121801 Source: Adapted from Renewable Natural Resource, 2002 quoted in Statistical Yearbook of Bhutan, 2003, pp.77-8 and p.83 Mahmood Ansari Page | 5
  6. 6. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan Being principally a mono-cropped agricultural economy, there has never been prospect of much crop diversification, and there have also been visible limits to increasing the cropping intensity on the farms. The gross cropped land had been merely a little higher than the net sown area at least since 1980s in the country. This was principally because of the comparatively higher cropping intensity on the wet land and only marginally high intensity of cropping on the dry land. It was in the historic nature of land under shifting cultivation to be cropped only after the interval of a couple of years. The cropping intensity of land under shifting cultivation was therefore merely 24 in the year of 1983. The agricultural land cropped more than once in a year was comparatively higher in western region vis-à-vis eastern region. In the western region, the cropping intensity was 161 on wetland and 111 on dry land in 1983. In the eastern region, these magnitudes stood at 131 and 135 respectively. It is pretty clear that the regional economies situated therein along the eastern-western axis in the country are disparate and uneven in matter of distribution of not only agricultural cropped land but also with regard to the intensity of uses under principal crops. In the succeeding section of this paper, we would discover that neither of the regions is presently self-sufficient in food grains. Such food insecurity caused by deficit production vis-à-vis domestic consumption requirements is not as much a result of a deficiency in the operated land acreage as it is a consequence of stagnant yield of almost all principal crops in both the regions of the country. The productivity in the western region is comparatively higher but not as much higher as to redress the chronic problem of food deficits and mounting imports of rice, cheese, butter and mutton from neighbouring India. Table – 3 Agricultural Cropping Intensity in Bhutan: Region-wise, 1983 (In Numbers) Classification of Land 1.Wetland 2. Dry land 3. Tsheri-land Agricultural Cropping Intensity in Regions Eastern Region 131 135 20 Western Region 161 111 19 All-Bhutan 134 116 24 Source: Department of Agriculture, Bhutan quoted in Karan, 1990, p.144 Arable land farming is combined with the livestock rearing in the Himalayas. The land under pastures commanded only 3.9 percent of geographical area in the country. If there were more agricultural land in the eastern region because of preponderance of land under shifting cultivation, pastures abounded in the western part. The western region had nearly 4.0 times larger area under pastures in comparison to the eastern region. All land acreage devoted to the agriculture, horticulture and pastures together was 168549 hectares in the eastern region whereas it was 164139 hectares in western region; the difference was 4410 hectares in 1994 (LUPS-PPD, 1997). The private and communal pastures abounded in the past in the country. These were later given the registered status by the government. All pastures are not developed Mahmood Ansari Page | 6
  7. 7. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan ones as yet. A major part of what was traditionally handed over to the generations was the degraded and unattended pastures in many parts of the country. According to the draft pasture policy statement of the Ministry of Agriculture, there were almost 40 percent of the registered pastures which were basically unproductive land (Ura, 1993, p.10). The sixth plan document, 1987 and the plan review of the department of animal husbandry, 1992 concluded that only about 12964 acres of pastures were developed by the early nineties (quoted in Dorji, 1993, p.5). Principal victim of this underdevelopment is however the eastern province, where public outlay has been decisively disproportionate. In such a situation, the shortage of animal feed, declining number of domestic livestock and population’s dependence on import of cheese, butter and mutton from the neighbouring India has been noticeable phenomena in recent years. Table – 4 Arable Land, Pasture and Forest in Bhutan: Region-wise, 1994 (in Acres) Land Category 1. Agriculture and Horticulture 2. Pasture 3. Forest 4. All Land (1 to 3) Land Area in the Regions in Hectares Eastern Region 348645 (13.38) 67856 (2.60) 2189610 (84.02) 2606111 (100.0) Western Region 163992 (5.14) 241612 (7.57) 2785921 (87.29) 3191525 (100.0) All-Bhutan 776590 (9.31) 386480 (4.63) 7177310 (86.05) 8640380 (99.99) Source: LUPS-PPD, 1997, pp. 2-21 Note: It is warned by the LUPP that the pasture and horticultural areas may be under estimated; the figures have been rounded up to whole number while being converted from the unit of hectare to acre. Bovine livestock is often the only valued resource for those who are landless, otherwise it is a crucial resource for the landed aristocracy in this mountainous country. The irregular and uneven access to the registered communal pasture and reserved forest has but ensured that the livelihood prospects to the owners of bovine livestock are also quite asymmetric in nature. In 2002, the Renewable Natural Resources survey discovered that there were in total 371772 cattle and yaks, out of which the eastern region was the home of 136820 cattle and yaks and the western part could rear 124776 cattle and yaks in total. There were 12044 more cattle and yaks in the eastern region vis a vis the western province, making the former comparatively better endowed with livestock population. In the eastern region, there were 3.02 units of main livestock available per acre of sown area under principal crops whereas the same in the western part was 3.64 units per acre. Such an observation based on the aggregate data must however be complemented with the grass-root micro-observation. It is well known fact that the western region has been reservoir of improved breed of livestock in recent years. It is a tragedy that there has been no attempt made till date to separate the category of the mammal used for milk and meat from the draught animal and bullock used on the farms. Be that as it may. Given the unequal division of land space and livestock population between eastern and western regions of Mahmood Ansari Page | 7
  8. 8. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan the country, such a productive resource was further unequally divided among the cultivating rural households in each region. In 2005, the Population and Housing Census of Bhutan asserted that there were only 46398 rural households who owned some kind of livestock in the countryside. In other words, there were only 52.84 percent of all rural households, who were owners of livestock. In the eastern region, such livestock owning households were only 16701 in number whereas such a resource-owning rural household numbered 14969 in the western region. The percentage of rural households owning a livestock in the eastern region was 54.70, whereas such households comprised only 47.19 percent of all rural households of the western region. In the western region, livestock ownership at the household level was certainly much below the national average. This was amazing in view of relative richness of the western region in matter of pastures in the country. Table – 5 Livestock Particulars in Bhutan: Region-wise, 2002 (In Numbers) Livestock Particulars Population of Livestock across Regions Eastern Region 1. Cattle (Numbers) 2. Yaks (Numbers) 3. Principal Livestock (1 to 2) Western Region All-Bhutan 125120 11700 136820 107565 17211 124776 339904 31868 371772 Sources: Renewable Natural Resources, 2002, quoted in the Statistical Yearbook of Bhutan, 2003, pp.77-8 and p.83 In general, there has been acute shortage of livestock feed for domesticated animal in the manner of food deficit for human population. In a situation of landlessness combined with degraded common and private pastures, main victim had always been the poorer sections of the rural society. The livestock of such a section of rural population are to depend on the nearby forest for animal feed. This is true of both regions; however, grazing in the forest is rather more prevalent and common practice in the eastern side, close to Arunachal Pradesh of India. One of the main reasons for grazing in the forests was the fact that the pasture development programme, needless to mention always propelled by the international aid and assistance, was not taken up concurrently with livestock improvement and animal health care programmes. It started only after about fifteen to twenty years had already passed after the beginning of the state-regulated programme for the development of breed and quality of livestock in general. Pasture has always been by far the cheapest feed for cattle, and the delay in its development had adverse effect on whatever efforts were made with regard to the animal breed improvements in the country. It was this lack of coordination that was partly responsible for almost nearly 31 percent of feed deficit, compelling the herders to graze animals and allow foraging in the forests ((Dorjee, 1992; Dorji, 1993, pp.2-11). Trampling of plants by animals in the forest has been a major phenomenon in the eastern region, and thus the occurrence of roadside landslides in the rainy season every year has also been comparatively high here. Poor households with one or two cattle heads has no other option than allowing animals to forage in the nearby forest. Mahmood Ansari Page | 8
  9. 9. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan These agricultural resources are used by peasantry, and there is no homogeneous peasantry in existence any more. There is economic differentiation ongoing within the gamut of peasantry. A majority of the operational land holdings are of the size below two hectares or approximately five acres. A majority of petty, poor and small peasant households, desperately bearing with the natural hazards attached with being vastly scattered across the diversely endowed regional societies and economies, are interspersed with a minority of rich, prosperous and large peasant households in the country. A miniscule of large land holders is at present having about a third of the agricultural land area under their operation and control. According to the official renewable natural resource census data, almost 69.4 percent of the households are operating only 35.3 percent of the operational land area, consisting of land holding size below two hectares in the country. There is in existence the large operated land holding size above four hectares as well, but these holdings are operated by a minority of only 8.6 percent of the households over a large operational land area; the operated land area commanded by such households constitute almost 31.7 percent of the total operated land area in the country. Table - 6 Distribution of Land Holdings in Bhutan: Household-wise and Area-wise, 2000 (In Percentages) Size-class of Land Holdings 1. Less than 1.00 acre 2. 1.00 to 4.99 acres 3. 5.00 to 24.9 acres 4. 25 acres and above 5. All Classes (1 to 4) Number of Households (Percentage of All Farming Households) Area Operated (Percentage of All Operated Agricultural Land) 14.0 56.0 29.0 1.0 100.0 1.4 33.3 59.3 6.0 100.0 Source: Renewable Natural Resources Census, 2000 The compilers and tabulators of the Renewable Natural Resource (RNR) statistics did not find much of a change in the distribution of size-class of land holdings among the households later. Land being a source of livelihood, the predominance of petty, poor and small peasants along with a minority of rich and affluent peasants is not without a section of rural households being nearly landless as well. There were approximately 16000 rural households who owned land holding below one acre in the early nineties (Kuensel, 1993, 11 December and 25 December). In the early nineties, the most affected areas of the occurrence of landlessness were there in the eastern and southern regions of the country. In Samdrup Jongkhar, Pemagatshel and Lhuntsi districts of eastern province, there were almost landless households numbering 190, 250 and 209 respectively. In total, there were 2237 landless households in the country. A picture emerges Mahmood Ansari Page | 9
  10. 10. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan whereby the most vital agricultural resource called land is unevenly distributed among the households in the countryside. Table – 7 Distribution of Land Holdings in Bhutan: Household-wise and Area-wise, 2002 (In Percentages) Peasant Classes 1. Petty and Poor peasant 2. Small peasant 3. Lower Middle peasant 4. Upper Middle peasant 5. Rich peasant 6. Landlord 7. All Peasantry (1 to 6) Size-classes of Land Holding in Hectares Number of Households (Percentage of All Farming Households) Area Operated (Percentage of All Operated Agricultural Land) 0.0 to 1.0 1.0 to 2.0 2.0 to 3.0 3.0 to 4 .0 4.0 to 10.0 Above 10.0 All Size-classes 47.4 22.0 13.5 8.4 8.1 0.6 100.0 15.1 19.2 17.4 15.7 25.7 5.9 100.0 Source: Adapted from the Ministry of Agriculture (Renewable Natural Resource Census), 2002 In a country where a majority earns their material sustenance and living from a symbiotic vocation of hill farming of crops and plants, rearing of domesticated animals and collection of forest produces, it must be an express responsibility of the agro-bureaucracy to institute a sound governance structure. This is so paramount in significance in the case of a small-sized populace which has largely been rural in the country over the years and scattered across a ridge-by-ridgeinterconnected-mountainous-landscape. The status of deficient absolute amount and relative distribution of land are pointers to the callous and indifferent management of economy and thereby the discharge of agrarian justice. Disappointing and frustrating however has been the record of the semi-feudal bureaucracy in matter of the management of agricultural economy in particular and the regional economy in general. This had been true throughout the nineteenth century and first half of twentieth century, and has been as true for the second half of twentieth century. A feudal mode of production in agriculture had been principally premised upon the existence and maintenance of a specific system of economic class divisions in the agrarian society whereby a minority of feudal lords did survive solely by appropriating the surplus produced by the enslaved peasant-labour, and a majority of serfs worked on the land to produce surplus labour and product. Such a feudal economy of the period 1907-1959 harbored a miniscule of aristocratic title-holding masters, a majority of small-scale cultivating and pastoral households, and a minority of agricultural and pastoral slaves in the countryside. The institutional structure has not much changed today. It is but quite difficult to ascertain the historically given degree Mahmood Ansari Page | 10
  11. 11. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan and level of asymmetry in the distribution of arable land and pasture as it existed throughout the second half of the last century since the officially so-called decades of modernization and development drive during 1960-70 and 1970-80 were not at all known for any attempt of organizing agricultural land sample survey and economic census in the country. There had been neither sufficient finance nor technical expertise available in this international aid-parasitic country to conduct any such survey and census. In this respect, the decades of nineteen eighties and nineties were no different because the land ownership distribution and tenancy relations were even then not known in any concrete quantitative sense. In other words, whatever official claims are made about the paternalistic welfare state initiating a partial land reforms in the midfifties and early sixties could be taken as an indirect endorsement of the fact of iniquitous distribution of land ownership and control known to the public administrators on the one hand and on the other, a direct historical fact that such reforms were executed in the environment of quantitative information being almost absent. The royal establishment which initiated the measures was certainly having accessibility to such facts of inequity and asymmetry in the distribution of resources in the countryside. A concrete numerical estimate of such past asymmetry to be made public has but to wait till economic historiography develops and deciphers it in the country. Human Labour A tiny nation that it is characterized by prevalence of high infant mortality and maternal mortality rate in south Asia, it has always harbored a small sized population. Its aggregate population has hardly increased over the last five decades; rather it had lost population throughout the nineties in the process of out-migration of the ethnic Lhotshampa population for refuge and asylum in Nepal. In 2005, the rural population consisted of 438871 persons, who formed almost 87804 rural households in the countryside. The first-ever comprehensive census of 2005 claimed that the rural populace in the eastern region numbered 143449 persons whereas the same in the western districts aggregated at 161620 persons. It is but the household which supply the crucial input of human labour in agriculture and pastoral enterprise, and a rather detailed specific definition of a household was adopted by the decennial Census of 2005. It defined a household as consisting of one or more individuals ‘irrespective of relationship but occupying the same living accommodation, have common arrangements for food and consume certain goods and services collectively’ (Office of the Census Commissioner, undated, p.13). Certainly, the number of rural households in the eastern pockets of settlement was lower than those in western region, and the difference was of 1192 households. The eastern region housed nearly 34.77 percent, whereas the western districts were the residence of almost 36.13 percent of the total rural households in the country. Be that as it may. Given the skewed distribution of the renewable natural resources of forest, arable and farm animal, the renewable natural human resource is also unequally distributed. In the east, the rural labour force was 91680 persons whereas it was 109643 persons in the west. The number of rural workforce (‘actually employed active rural labour’) in the eastern province was but only 57305 persons, and in the west it was 71155 persons. A further classificatory exercise of the employed rural labour in different districts within the region was not available with the census, and therefore, the regional distribution of cultivators, unpaid family workers and agricultural labour was not possible to be estimated. What was noteworthy was this that there were almost 104577 persons who were employed in the occupation of ‘agriculture only in Mahmood Ansari Page | 11
  12. 12. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan the rural areas’. If the employment status of 4040 persons employed in ‘agriculture in the urban areas’ is also included, there were almost 108617 labourers working in the agricultural sector (rural plus urban agriculture) in the country. This was the segment of population working in agriculture, which supported the farming activities and were instrumental in supplying food to 125484 households in total in the country (Bhutan Living Standard Survey, 2007). Table – 8 Rural Demographic Particulars in Bhutan: Region-wise, 2005 (In Numbers) Rural Demographic Particulars 1. Population 2. Labour Force 3. Active Population 4. Active Employed Population (Rural Workforce) 5. Active Unemployed Population (Rural Unemployment) 6. Active Employed Population in Agriculture Subsector (Agricultural Labour) 7.Active Employed Population of Unpaid Family Worker (Rural Family Labour) 8. Active Employed Population of Own Account Worker (Rural Owner-producer) 9. Active Employed Population of Unpaid Family Worker in Agriculture Subsector (Agricultural Family Labour) 10. Active Employed Population of Own Account Worker in Agriculture Subsector (Agricultural Owner-cultivator) Headcounts in Regions in Number Eastern Region 143449 91680 57305 55935 Western Region 161620 109643 71155 69432 All-Bhutan 1370 1723 4415 39040 32923 104577 not available not available not Available not available not available not available 76669 not available not available 30877 438871 289701 183313 178898 39348 69754 Source: Office of the Census Commissioner (PHCB 2005), 2006, pp.304-415 As regards the economic conditions of the rural labour force, the situation is quite pathetic. In 2005, there were almost 4415 rural labourers, who were seeking jobs but were without any job in the past one week before the census operation began. Moreover, most of those who are employed are indebted households in the countryside. In 2007, it was found in the ‘individual household’ survey undertaken by the Planning Commission that many of the agricultural labour carried the obligation of redeeming their past debts for consumption. The consumption loans had converted the peasantry into a labour readily available to be hired by the moneylender and food-lenders in the countryside. In the absence of a food welfare system, those poor and small peasantries who faced food shortages often borrowed food and money, and also worked for the Mahmood Ansari Page | 12
  13. 13. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan well-off in the village to stave off hunger. In the aggregate sample, nearly 35 percent of respondents were suffering from the food shortages round year. Those who faced food shortages for more than four months in a year constituted 51 percent, while those suffering from inadequate food for a quarter of the year were the rest 49 percent. It was revealed that poverty and food insecurity of the rural households were correlated. The 35 percent of the survey respondents reporting food shortages corresponded closely with the 38 percent of the below-poverty-line rural population reported in the poverty analysis report (National Statistical Bureau, 2004). It was the inadequacy coupled with lack of productive land on the part of small peasant which accounted for almost 70 percent weight among the reasons reported for food shortage. Since the respondents were largely dependent on subsistence agriculture, declining land productivity was the principal factor in deepening the food insufficiency, and thus, in turn speeding up the phenomena of debt-bondage of agricultural labourers and process of depeasantisation. Some respondents cited more than one reason for food shortage; inadequacy of land was coupled with the loss of crops due to wildlife rampage. There has been in action a vicious circle of poverty, indebtedness and food insecurity engulfing a majority of rural and agricultural labour in the country. There existed a strong relation of interdependence among the ownership of land resource, size of labour employment, depth of debt accumulation, and severity of food insecurity. The simultaneous phenomena of depeasantisation and debt-bondage were progressing without restraint in the ethos of general food insecurity at the household level. On an average, the indebted rural households of small peasant and labourer hired out for almost 91 days every year only to pay-off the past debt. This was about three months annually and often this work was performed during the peak agricultural seasons of the year such as during transplanting, sowing, and harvesting. This meant that the petty and poor peasants were constrained to work for lower mandays on their own farms during the peak agricultural season. This had usually affected the harvest by lowering its volume, which in turn led to another cycle of borrowing to meet food shortages (Planning Commission, 2007, p.19). Since poverty and food insecurity were concentrated in the eastern region comparatively more than the western part, they were the labourers of eastern districts who had to bear the brunt. The food security situation in the eastern districts was further deteriorated by low asset holdings like cash crop production and ownership of monetary assets and livestock. A heavy exodus of labourers from the eastern region to the western cities of Thimphu and Phuentsholing is a grim reminder of fast deteriorating situation and low utilization of labour on the farms in the former province. 2. Commodity Deficit Given a reasonable amount of the precious and valued resources of land and livestock and a fairly sufficient number of able-bodied adult working members in the family, a dominant and rich peasant has been able to produce not only the essential part of family consumption in terms of food grains, processed food and animal products but also a surplus of these to be disposed-off so as to purchase the non-food requirements of the household in a year. A normal daily dietary intake in the budget of such household has included a decent minimum amount of cheese, butter and meat/fish since the traditional dishes made with these animal products have been complementary to the consumption of rice/maize in the daily menu of a well-to-do Mahmood Ansari Page | 13
  14. 14. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan household. Adequate decent diet has been but a casualty for more than a quarter of population. It is borne by the recent estimates of poverty, inequality and food deficit which are indicators of the failures of entitlement of food and its unequal division among the rural populace. There is at present endemic food insecurity for a number of disadvantaged households, and the communities are failing to ensure the sufficient availability of food to people due to failure in food production. Quite a considerable number of the rural as well as urban households are failing to ensure the access to food due to failure in assured household income, and a vast number of individuals have recently failed to utilize the food because of undue fluctuations in the food prices. A number of peasant-labourer is presently not even assured of necessary supply of water either for irrigation on the farms or cooking and drinking at the door of the household. Cereals and Foodstuffs In the inaccessible areas of the hills and valleys in the country, it is the quantum of domestic production of the crop, livestock and forestry products that is the ultimate mainstay of material sustenance and life of herders and peasantry. It had been the traditional activity of peasantries to cultivate crops on the settled individual, community, monastery and royal farms, nurture and husband the itinerant domesticated animal and livestock on flat individual and community countrified pastures, and collect the compost, fodder, fuel wood and logwood in the high-elevation gratis forests. The prevailing sources of livelihood for a majority of the mass of population is built upon the cultivation of maize, paddy, wheat, buckwheat, barley and potato as the main agricultural crops grown under field conditions, the rearing of yak, cow, pig and sheep as the main livestock fostered in the individualized kitchen garden, community pastures and gratis forests, and gathering of fuel wood, logwood, animal feed and fodder, manure and compost, timber and poles, medicinal herbs and root food as the principal forest products across the free mountains. For purpose of national income accounting, the agricultural sector includes the agriculture proper, livestock, fishing and forestry, and the estimates of gross and net value-added in agriculture are arrived at by is netting the value of gross produce from the ‘paid-out material cost’ of production. In Bhutan, a quarter of the national output and income is still generated in the agricultural sector. The value-added has declined from its level of 57 percent contribution to the national economy in 1980. In 2004, the value addition of the agricultural sector at factor cost stood at rupees 6351 million approximately in the base year price of 2000. It constituted merely 24 percent of the gross domestic product at factor cost reckoned at both constant and current prices. There has of late been low growth rate in the agriculture in terms of component of the gross domestic product While much of the fluctuations in the growth rate of agriculture and allied activities had always followed simply the pattern and trend of fluctuations in the overall growth of the economy in the past, the pretty low and very slowly improving productivity in the crop sector has been the main devil behind the low growth rate in agriculture in terms of component of the gross domestic product in recent years. Agricultural performance has been disappointing and very poor in the recent years, and the recovery if at all there is any has been pretty slow and imperceptible in the first decade of the new century. While the annual average growth rate of the forestry sector was 3.3 percent and the livestock sector 4.1 percent, the growth rate of crop sector hovered around 2.7 percent during 2000-04. Since 2003 the average annual growth rate of gross domestic product in the agricultural sector as a whole had been hovering around below 2.0 percent per annum at the Mahmood Ansari Page | 14
  15. 15. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan constant 2000 prices, and thus the real gross domestic product growth rate in the primary sector was 1.2 percent in 2005. Table – 9 Gross Domestic Product and Value Addition in Agricultural Sector in Bhutan: 1980-2004 (In Million Rupees and Percentages) Years of GDP at Observation factor cost in constant price 1980 1990 2000 2004 1095.00 2224.60 20085.00 27059.40 GDP in Agriculture at factor cost in constant price 621.40 992.80 5568.70 6351.30 Percentage share of Agriculture in GDP at factor cost in constant price 56.8 44.6 27.7 23.5 GDP at factor cost in current price 1012.00 4744.70 20060.00 32178.00 GDP in Percentage Agriculture at share of factor cost in Agriculture current price in GDP at factor cost in current price 477.40 47.2 1872.60 39.5 5569.00 27.8 7864.00 24.4 Sources: Adapted from Central Statistical Office of Planning Commission, 1989, p.11; National Statistical Bureau of Central Statistical Organization, 2004, p.33; National Statistical Bureau, 2005, pp.140-41; Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan, 2006, p.17; and, UNDP-APRMPRP, 2006, p.28 Notes: (1) 1980 is the base year for GDP data at factor cost at constant prices for the years of 1980 and 1990, but 2000 is the base year for the GDP data at factor cost at constant prices for the years of 2000 and 2004. Table – 10 Decomposition of Contribution of Agriculture to GDP and Annual Average Agricultural Growth Rate in Bhutan: Sub-sector-wise, 1980-2004 (In Percentage) Periods of Observation 1980-1985 1990-1995 2000-2004 1980-2004 Agriculture Sub-sectors Crop Contribution Annual to GDP Average Growth Rate 21.58 6.7 7.83 1.9 4.07 2.7 7.8 3.8 Livestock Contribution Annual to GDP Average Growth Rate 14.31 6.0 (-) 1.59 (-) 0.5 4.43 4.1 5.7 3.7 Forestry Contribution Annual to GDP Average Growth Rate 5.98 3.1 (-) 2.17 (-) 0.8 2.68 3.3 3.5 3.0 Source: NSB (2004) and RMAB (2005) quoted in UNDP-APRMPRP, 2006, pp.28-30 Mahmood Ansari Page | 15
  16. 16. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan Table – 11 Agricultural Gross Output in Bhutan: Cereals, Commercial and Other Crops, 2000-2005 (In Metric Tones) Agricultural Crops and Plants 1 .Cereals, 2005 2. Non-Cereals , 2000 Paddy Maize Wheat Barley Buckwheat and Millet All Cereal Pulses Green Legumes Chilly and Vegetables All Non-cereal Crops 2. Cash Crops and Plants, Apple 2000 Orange Arecanut Cardamom Potato Sugarcane All Cash Crops 4. All Principal Crops and All Cereals, Non-cereals and Plants Cash Crops and Plants Gross Output in Metric Tones 67607 93968 11306 4532 24176 201589 (66.86) 2776 5618 5846 14240 (4.72) 5113 29616 1330 510 35436 13695 85700 (28.42) 301529 (100.00) Sources: Adapted from Ministry of Agriculture; RNR Census, 2000; RNR Sample Survey, 2002; RNR Sample Survey, 2003; Statistical Handbook of Bhutan, 1985; Statistical Yearbook of Bhutan, 2002; Statistical Year Book, 2007, pp.99-100; and, Siok Sain Pek, 2005, p.11 Note: the figures in the parentheses represent the share of cereals, non-cereals and cash crops in all principal crops and plants. Paddy is not the main crop in terms of acreage and output (in comparison to maize) yet it is the main staple food crop for the majority of population and particularly the well-off in the society. In 2005, the gross output of paddy was 67607 tons in the country. It is a well known observation that rice is mainly produced on the hilly wetland of the western region and valley cultivation of southern pockets. The gross output of maize, which is mainly produced in the Mahmood Ansari Page | 16
  17. 17. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan eastern region, was higher than that of paddy (a staple food of the western and southern region, primarily), and the difference was almost 26000 tons. The output of buckwheat and millet, consumed by the poor section of the population, was approximately 24000 tons only. In 2005, approximately 0.2 million tons of all cereals was produced and its weight in all cereals, noncereals and cash crops and plants produced in the country was 67 percent. The gross output of all cash crops produced was 85700 tons, and that of pulse, legumes and chilly 14240 tons in 2000. Potato is the principal cash crop after orange fruit produced in the country; some part of the former enters India whereas some portion of the latter is exported to Bangladesh. Whereas the production of apple is mostly confined to the alpine northern region, the oranges, areca nut and cardamom are flourishing in the subtropical plains of the southern region in the country. It is officially claimed that the importance of products of horticulture within agricultural sector is increasing. In other words, the value-added contribution of the farms of commercial crops of apple, oranges, areca nut and cardamom are increasing in the economy. In south Asia, Bhutan is one country where the gross output estimate of rice provides an illustrative example of an interesting picture of the wide variations of data reported by various agencies, so much so that any final judgment about the performance of agriculture in the recent decades is fraught with suspicion. The gross output of rice varied from approximately 40000 to almost 63000 tons per year. Whereby it is difficult to arrive at a judgment in case of paddy output, it is the same with other crops. The production of agricultural crops and plants is bracketed into cereals, non-cereals and cash crops and plants, and a wide margin of variation in the data on the gross output of the crops is reported rendering such information decisively highly unreliable. The problem is lack of coordination among the various official sources of data. Be that as it may. The first-ever systematic random sampling method based Renewable Natural Resource survey of farming households was completed only towards the end of nineties. This was the first-ever comprehensive-coverage-oriented-nation-wide agricultural census of all agricultural households, conducted with technical assistance from the DANIDA project towards the end of the year 2000 only. The first-ever partial sample survey was but conducted in the year of 1983, and the next in 1988 and 1989. Such data were again questionable in matter of accuracy and reliability simply because the surveys were not complete and therefore the quantitative “estimates’ of gross output of crops between 1983 and 1990 were arrived at on the basis of derivation with application of statistical methods. It is not to deny that the quantitative information on the gross output of individual agricultural commodities was made available at the onset of third five-year plan. Prior to this date and year, no data on output was ever made available. A time series data may thus be claimed to be available but the possibility of drawing conclusions from such reading about the performance of agriculture is quite difficult then. The possibility of having a time-series analysis of gross output of principal crops is almost marred. Acute hunger is rare in the Himalayas since it is full of free gift of nature – down-slope flowing water, hunted-and-gathered food and eatable wild roots and plants in the nearby forest. This must not but be a solace and reason for complacency on the part of bureaucracy who certainly failed in assuring self-sufficiency in food grains even after almost close to five decades of macroeconomic planning of a heavily protected and paternalised economy. For a number of peasantry and labourer, such failures have cause d food insecurity of both short-term transitory-in-nature and long-term chronic-in-nature, and given the vagaries of market coupled with the callousness of agro -bureaucracy, the former has often led to the latter phenomenon. It is rather a well known fact that whereas Mahmood Ansari Page | 17
  18. 18. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan the agricultural area under cereal cultivation had been steadily declining since 1996, the population has increased by 0.15 million over a period of eight years during 1996 -2004. The domestic supply of food grain did not keep pace at all with the domestic demand, and the attempt to attain food self sufficiency level for the country had not improved particularly when compared to the demands by the growing population (Siok Sain Pek, 2005, pp.11-12). Table – 12 Agricultural Gross Output of Rice in Bhutan: Recent Statistics of Comparative Data Sources (In Metric Tones) Data Source and Year of Estimation Gross Output in Metric Tones 1. CSO Database, !988-89 2. G I S/ L U P P , 1995 3. Ministry of Agriculture, 1997 4. Cadastral Survey, 1999 5. RNR Statistics, 2000 6. F A O Database, 2001 7. Average for 1988-2001 (1 to 6) 8. Ministry of Agriculture, 1989-1997 9. All Average for 1988-2001 (1 to 8) 39,790 88,338 63,065 59,685 44,298 50,000 57,529 56970 57249 Sources: Ministry of Agriculture, 2000 and Samjhana Shrestha , 2004, p.5 Note: The Cadastral Survey of 1999 and the Agronomic Survey of 1989 (CSO) were relatively reliable data sources. The distress situation was the culmination of a trend from the past whereby the food deficit kept on mounting till the end of the twentieth century. In mid-1990s, agriculture accounted for 90 percent of all economic activity with subsistence farming accounting for the majority of farmers. Principal crops were maize which took up some 40 percent of cultivated land, generated around 40,000 tones of output with yield as low as 890 kilograms per hectare. Rice was the second crop, cultivated on some 29 percent of all cultivated land with average annual production around 43,000 tones and yield again low at 1654 kilograms per hectare. Without ruling out the probability of overestimation, agricultural production was then inadequate to fulfill the country’s needs, resulting in a deficit of $ 3.1 million in 1990 (Anthony Griffin, 1995, p.88). It is then quite implausible what the Cadastral Survey (1999) claimed: the national selfsufficiency in the main food grains of rice in the beginning of the twenty-first century was almost forty-six percent and only the remaining requirements of 54 percent of rice were met by imports and food-aids in the country. What was claimed was that the national shortage of food on an average was worth the requirements of 2.2 months only. It was equally implausible what the official data source of the Renewable Natural Resource (2000) claimed: the self-sufficiency in food grains was almost sixty-five percent, and the marketable surpluses varied in the range of Mahmood Ansari Page | 18
  19. 19. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan 4.5 percent to 4.8 percent since the cereals were produced largely for personal consumption. In the light of the government announced data and based on the Shrestha (2004), it is fruitful to use the average figures and have an exercise of the following type, claiming it to be plausible for the year of 2006: Rice Production Rice Import Rice Availability Population in 2001 = = = = 57000 tons 33000 tons 90000 tons 734340 persons In other words, there were in the middle of the first decade of twenty-first century almost 90,000 tones of rice which was normally obtained through the combined efforts at domestic production and imports principally from India. Since this gross supply was available to feed the population of 734340 persons in the country, the per capita rice availability worked out to be 122 kilograms only. Given the actual observed milled rice consumption per capita in the southern and western region standing at nearly 167 to 262 kilograms, the aggregate amount of the actually consumed milled rice requirement was either 122634.78 metric tons or 192397.08 metric tons in a year in the light of the government announced data as quoted in Shrestha (2004). In other words, the annual deficit was either 102397 tons or 32635 tons, and the gross aggregate nation-wide supply was decisively insufficient to feed the population adequately. In such a situation, the outcome was simple: a section of population relied on combing the forest edible products with farm grown rice, another relied on combining the home-grown rice with illegally smuggled rice from across the Indian borders, and yet other suffered from the phenomena of under-consumption or under-feeding because of low per capita availability despite formal commercial import through the Food Corporation of Bhutan and food-aid disbursed under the Worldwide Food Programme of United Nations Organization in the country. Bhutanese are fond of using a good amount of cheese, butter and chilly in their vegetarian menu and meat and fish in their non-vegetarian menu; such use is on an almost daily basis. The shortage of such non-cereals in this context is quite distressing. In 2000, the gross output of milk was 25000 tons. According to the Renewable Natural Resources data source, it was processed into 20750 tons of cheese and butter – the main dietary stuff of population in the Himalayas. The population is principally non-vegetarian, and the gross output of mutton, chicken, pork meat and beef was only 1700 tons. All livestock products were therefore 47450 tons in 2000. There were only 15 million units of eggs being produced in the country. A comprehensive livestock census on the line of comprehensive agricultural census is still awaited. There are fragmented information on the livestock population and products since seventies and eighties which is extrapolated and intrapolated by officials for purpose of receiving international aid and assistance from time to time. In other words, the problem with quantitative information on the output of livestock product is equally the same as with the crop data, and probably worse. It was therefore remarked early in the nineties that throughout the mid-seventies to mideighties, it was clear that “the accuracy of livestock census was highly questionable” (Jambay Dorji, 1993, p. 6). What is being questioned is the possibility of over-estimation. There are in reality very meager production of livestock products in the country. The quantitative estimates of the gross output of farmyard manures and draught power which are principal livestock products are as yet not available. Whether these are sufficient as far as domestic production is concerned or some amount of these is also imported can not be decisively estimated accurately Mahmood Ansari Page | 19
  20. 20. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan at the present state of scanty data availability. The purchases of mithun livestock from the neighboring Arunachal Pradesh in India by the eastern regional farmers have however been ever heard. Table – 13 Agricultural Gross Output of Livestock Product in Bhutan: 2000 (In Metric Tones) Livestock Products and Eggs 1. Milk 2. Cheese and Butter 3. Mutton, Chicken, Pork Meat and Beef 4. All Livestock Products (1 to 3) 5. Eggs (in ‘000 Numbers) Output in Metric Tones 25000 20750 1700 47450 15000 Sources: Adapted from Land Use Planning Project, 1994 quoted in Kinlay Dorjee, 1995, p.24; Siok Sain Pek, 2005, p.12; and, RNR Census, 2000 Note: The milk is converted into cheese and butter, and therefore a large portion of milk is not available for consumption. In the saga of compensatory measures to tide over the domestic deficits, the formal and registered import through the channel of Food Corporation of Bhutan had been merely one part of the overall food import over the years in the country. In case of imports, both channels of public import by the government as well as private import by informal unlicensed traders and hawkers from the border of India exist. Since the Food Corporation of Bhutan was importing almost one-third of the aggregate import volume of rice from India during 1995-2000, the rest of the two-thirds was accounted by WFP procurement and the private informal unregistered imports only. In 2005, the World Food Programme aid provided 17 million meals to 41,396 school children at 196 schools throughout the country. In addition, 8,753 individuals in remote communities benefited from “food for work” support through rural access projects. Under the Road Workers’ Welfare Scheme, a total of 9,095 national road workers benefited (Gerald Daly, 2006.). The focus was also providing food for education so as to improve the rural children’s access to educational services, and food for work so as to improve the rural households’ access to agricultural services. WFP is actively involved in the management of a counterpart fund generated from road workers’ salaries under “Improving Road Workers’ Access to Education and Health Services” with a remaining balance of over dollar 700,000 (World Food Programme, 2006). According to the Annual Report 2005 of the World Food Programme in Bhutan (2006), the daily food basket supplied by the WFP-aid programme was made up of seven commodities in total, consisting of the rice, broken maize, pulses, vegetable oil, fish, sugar, and CSB / PWB. Such a basket of food had presumably been successful in providing almost up to 87 per cent of the recommended daily calorie intake and up to 99 per cent of the recommended daily protein intake to the Bhutanese students. Rest of the shortfall is quite often compensated by smuggled rice from India, which remains unrecorded by the official agencies of the government. It is but Mahmood Ansari Page | 20
  21. 21. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan quite difficult to estimate the quantitative volume of private informal import of grains even presently since no data has ever been compiled by the public authority. Table – 14 Annual “Net” Import of Rice and Wheat in Bhutan: 1981-2006 (In Metric Tones) Years of Observation 1981-1984 1984-1987 1987-1990 1990-1993 1993-1996 2001-2003 2004-2006 Annual Import by the Food Corporation of Bhutan in Metric Tones (Three Years’ Average) FCB Rice FCB Wheat 4740 7960 12750 9722 10966 10765 7235 1907 2800 5530 1611 2910 2102 845 Sources: Food Corporation of Bhutan data quoted in table –5.15 of Central Statistical Organisation,1991, p. 45; FCB data quoted in table – 5.20 of Central Statistical Organisation,1996, p. 63; Central Statistical Organisation (2001) and Ministry of Agriculture (2000) quoted in S. Shrestha (2004); FCB, Phuentsholing quoted in Statistical Year book, 2007, p. 103 (Table - 5.16) Moreover, it is not only the formally announced quantitative data on the volume of output but also those on the recorded foreign trade data that are to be handled with care, since all sorts of data are problem in the country. To quote: The primary source of trade data is the import and export declarations made by traders at the frontier customhouses. There are five regional offices of the Department of Revenue and Customs in the south of Bhutan, and none in the north, as there is no trade there. There are 18 permanent checkpoints and three seasonal checkpoints (the latter usually for oranges). For the import of oranges and apples, a Nu800per-truck charge is imposed, and Nu3000 for cardamom. Other agricultural commodities are not taxed. There is an import tax on processed goods composed of a sales tax and a custom tax. The trade with India is free (no export or import custom duties) ………………..… The Food Corporation of Bhutan, whose main role is to adjust food supply and demand through market intervention, collects trade information on food and agriculture-related materials through its auction records. Although FCB information on trade is limited, it can be used (FAO-UN, 2001, p. 10). What is true of rice and wheat is also true of the other cereals, vegetables, fruits, nuts, coffee, tea, spices, vegetable fats and oils, prepared and processed foodstuffs, and animal products like cheese and butter. These are in short supply domestically, and therefore, often compensated by inflow from neighbouring India. In other words, it is not only rice, wheat and cereals which are in short supply in the domestic economy but also the animal products, examples being the meat, fish and eggs as well as the non-cereals, examples being the cheese and butter. In the early years Mahmood Ansari Page | 21
  22. 22. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan of twenty-first century, the annual average import of beef, pork and chicken was nearly 265 percent of the domestic production approximately. Table – 15 Agricultural “Net” Import of Food in Bhutan: 2000-2003 (In Million Rupees) Name of Consumable Products 1. Cereals, Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts, Coffee, Tea and Spices 2. Vegetable Fats and Oils 3. Prepared Foodstuffs 4. All Cereals and Processed/ Prepared Foodstuffs (1 to 3) 5. Animal Products 6. All Plant and Animal Eatable Products (4 to 5) Value of Food import in Million Rupees across Years of Observation 2000 2001 2002 2003 Four Years Average 304.7 275.7 216.4 488.2 321.25 168.6 227.8 701.1 201.0 285.3 762 220.9 337.3 774.6 174.5 182.6 845.3 191.25 258.25 770.75 209.6 910.7 270.6 1032.6 317.2 1091.8 368.6 1213.9 291.5 1062.25 Source: Adapted from data of the Department of Revenue and Customs of Bhutan quoted in Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan, 2005, pp. 89 Table – 16 Annual Imports of Processed Meat, Fish and Eggs in Bhutan: Year-wise, 2002 and 2003 (In Metric Tones) Animal Products and Eggs Quantities Imported in Metric Tones across Years 2002-03 1. Beef 2. Pork 3. Chicken 4. Fresh Fish 5. Dry Fish 6. All Animal and Fish Products (1 to 5) 7. Eggs (Carts) 2003-04 2539 1103 914 455 761 5772 259 2494 980 965 501 1159 6099 243 Average for 2002-2004 2516.5 1041.5 939.5 478.0 960.0 5935.5 251 Source: BAFRA Agricultural Progress Report, 2002-2003 & 2003-2004 quoted in Siok Sain Pek, 2005, p.13 Mahmood Ansari Page | 22
  23. 23. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan Since fish is rarely available and harvested in the country, almost annual average amount of 1438 metric tons of it was imported only. In total, 5935 metric tons of all animal and fish products were imported and this was exclusive of huge amount of processed cheese and butter which enters the country from neighbouring India. The annual average value of net import of cereals, vegetables, fruits, nuts, coffee, tea, and spices was rupees 321 millions, of vegetable fats and oils rupees 191 millions, and of prepared foodstuffs rupees 258 million during 2000-2003. Adding animal products together, there was net import of all edible food amounting to rupees 1062 million annually. Table - 17 Total Imports and Exports of Agriculture Products in Bhutan: 2000-2003 (in 1000 dollar) Trade Flows 1. Imports 2. Exports 3. Net Imports (1 minus 2) Value of Agricultural Products across Years of Observation 2000 24,898 13,838 11060 2001 17,931 14,376 3555 2002 18,185 13,795 4390 Four Years Average 20930.5 13973.5 6957 2003 22,708 13,885 8823 Sources: SBSAD, 2005; Table – 18 Gross Quantity of Forest Product Supplied in Bhutan: 2002-2005 (In Numbers, Cubic Meters and Kilograms) Name of Forest Product 1. Trees (Numbers) 2. Poles (Numbers) 3. Logged Timber ( Cubic Meters) 4. Firewood (Cubic Meters) 5. Charcoal (Kilograms) 6. Bamboos(Numbers) 7. Cane Shoots, Oilseeds, Lemon Grass, etc Three Years’ Average Quantity (2002 to 2005) 105533 1007056 94041 488827 77103 619491 not available Source: Department of Forest of Ministry of Agriculture quoted in the Statistical Yearbook of Bhutan, 2005, p.67 Note: Supply figures are probably the estimates of ‘harvest’ of forest products in the country. Mahmood Ansari Page | 23
  24. 24. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan There have always been quite a good number of useful forest products which has been indirectly usable in the maintenance of peasant households as well as the farm in the country. There are forest products which are directly used as the food in the households of peasantry and labour. The mushroom is always collected from the forest. The food originates not only from the arable agriculture under the field conditions and the livestock in the controlled pastures but also the free forest. In some areas of the country, the root crops collected from the forest had been a popular item of the normal diet, and this continues till date without any rupture. All said, the net import of all agricultural products have always been a high positive figure signifying negative balance of trade in Bhutan. What is that which finances the import of edible food, foodstuffs and animal products? We must remember that the country has surplus production in forestry products. It is not agroforestry and social forestry as endeavours of domestication but the natural forest which is a source of considerable amount of revenue for the public exchequer. Much of the forest products are exported, and there is virtual self-sufficiency in it. There is a very good amount of timber harvested from the natural forest. The annual average gross quantity of logged timber was 94041 cubic meters during 2002-2005. The firewood harvested was 488827 cubic meters. The annual average number of harvested trees, poles and bamboo from the forest were 105533, 1007056 and 619491 in the middle of the first decade of twenty-first century. Drinking and Irrigation Water It is not only the natural forest but also the ‘water’ which is the free gift of nature and therefore the most abundant resource here. The availability of water was 58000 cubic meters per capita per year in the country. Notwithstanding the fabulously rich availability, the consumption is still at its low. The provision of safe drinking water in rural areas has never been adequate. Whereas the new households established nearby the roads in recent times have driven the settlements farther away from the traditional source of drinking water and irrigation water, the household water supply system has not adequately improved to the convenience of the population. Given the inadequate development of the public water supply system in the country, only the affluent section of the rural society could succeed and is successful in having sufficient water over the changing seasons in a year. Despite the fact that piped drinking water in villages reduces the burden of carrying water over long distances and saves time for women and girls, the traditional watercarriers, efforts made historically in this direction has been frustrating. During the dry season in winter there are competing demands for water not only on agricultural farms for the purpose of irrigation and in households for drinking and washing purposes but also in hydropower generating stations for a crucial input. Because of lack of water production of hydropower bottoms out at a time when farmers need water for irrigation. More than ever before, there is a pressing need to provide additional water to the people in the mountains who depend on rainwater and snow for all their needs. Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the Queen, in the Introduction entitled “Water: Source of Life” in the book written by Zurcher and Choden (2004) writes that although water is relatively abundant in our country, it is limited by the distance to the source, seasonality of flows, and the cost of bringing it to the users by pipes or channels (quoted in Zurcher and Choden, 2004, p.5). The state and the bureaucracy could not succeed in developing an adequate, sufficient and equal provision of household food and water supply system in the country. It is not only astonishing but also Mahmood Ansari Page | 24
  25. 25. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan distressing to observe that only 13 cubic meters of water is consumed per capita per year (Zurcher and Choden, 2004, p.151). Such low consumption is not at all a reflection of the frugality and thriftiness of the rural populace but rather the failure of the public authority in harvesting it due to the dissuading high cost of carrying the water to its place of use. Although it is claimed that piped water has reached almost a majority of villages, very few families actually have it in their houses. It is only a small percentage of cultivable land that is under artificial irrigation. There are moreover disputes with regard to the direction of farm-channels of irrigation water. There is now competition for irrigation water between up-land and low-land owner-farmers. The traditional water users associations have rather deteriorated and fallen into disarray in many parts of the country. In the traditional system, the male shifting cultivators generally select a piece of land based on the fertility of the soil and the maturity of the forests, not the availability of water. In such a pattern of life, women and girls become the traditional watercarriers. Women must ensure that there is water in the house all the time. The household mainly uses water for cooking. There is dualism emerging in the women sector; whereas the far-off rural women are as yet the traditional water-carriers from a distance over rugged terrains of mountains, the affluent and educated women are beneficiary of being free from this work of being the traditional water carriers (Zurcher and Choden, 2004, pp.20-4). The modernization and development drives since the sixties have brought about changes and transformations in the way of life of people. In view of the increasing migration rate orchestrated by the push factors of poverty and food shortages at the places of origin of migration, it is but urgent to make the availability of water a national agenda since the dimensions of ease of life associated with water is equally a pull factor at the destination. The water scarcity is not an immediate problem but insufficient water availability at the local level is a reality. To secure adequate quantity and quality of water, it is important to bring to the people of the localities a sustained level of well-being through development, by reducing poverty and rate of emigration (Zurcher and Choden, 2004, pp.146-149). While being rich in the history of efforts centered at developing a number of marvelous traditional bridges over the streams and rivers, the attempt to harness water for drinking purpose of households as well as harvest for artificial irrigation of farms has been quite frustrating in Bhutan. General Consumption Deficit Poverty is a state of human life in its material standing whereby a person is having so meager a money income that s/he is not in a position to meet the basic necessity of a socially decent biological survival on par with his/her fellow human beings. It is a situation whereby ordinarily consumable goods and services are not available to a person. In 2007, there were approximately 146,100 persons who were below poverty line in Bhutan. These poor constituted 23.2 percent of the population (more accurately between 21.7 and 24.7 percent). They had income below rupees 1,096=00 per person per month, and thus failed to meet the food requirement valued at rupees 688=00 and non-food requirement valued at rupees 408=00. Almost 49 out of 50 poor persons resided in rural areas only. The rural poor constituted 30.9 percent of the population (more accurately between 29.0 to 32.9 percent). The highest proportion of poor and extremely poor resided in the single district of Samtse only. Poverty rates were quite high in Zhemgang, Samtse, Mongar, Lhuntse and Samdrup Jongkhar – all in the eastern region. The Poverty Analysis Report of 2007 concluded that poverty was concentrated Mahmood Ansari Page | 25
  26. 26. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan in the eastern region. In 2003, there were almost 230,000 people who were all below the national poverty line which stood at rupees 740=36 per person per month. These poor, surviving with monetised income standing just at rupees 740=10 per person per month, constituted nearly 31.7 percent of population in the country. In the regional perspective, almost 48.8 percent of the population residing in the eastern region was poor whereas the percentage of poor was only 18.7 percent of the population and 12.7 percent of all households in the western region. In the countryside, the poor constituted 38.3 percent of the rural population. The Poverty Analysis Report of 2004 claimed that poverty was higher in rural areas. The Household Income and Expenditure Survey of 2000 established it that the average per capita household income was at around rupees 1200 per month only. The Poverty Assessment and Analysis of 2000 stated it unambiguously that for a considerable section of the population the household incomes were quite low whether reckoned at a lower poverty line at rupees 612 per capita per month or the upper poverty line at rupees 748 per capita per month. The Nutrition Survey of 1999 had revealed it that the phenomenon of malnutrition had been pervasive and its extent had been quite high almost nation-wide. An average child from the eastern region had comparatively been nutritionally worse-off than those from other regions, however (UNICEF, 2000). In other words, it is pretty clear that there existed a noticeable phenomenon of the inequalities in the consumption pattern across households and regions in the beginning decade of the twenty-first century. In a country which has been witnessing nationwide deficit production of grains and non-grains of food and edible animal products combined with under-supply of safe drinking water for over decades down the line, poverty of income and consumption for a considerable section of the society is as much a product of perennial national deficits in food and foodstuffs as of inequality in distribution. In a country which has been suffering from the aid-syndrome, there are additional problems. There is no domestic financial strength to eliminate poverty, and the bureaucrats are shopping in search of the international aids and assistance. The Millennium Development Goals Needs Assessment and Costing (MDG-NAC) exercise was precisely done to impress upon the world community that the country needs rupees 502.2 million annually to reduce poverty from 31.7 percent in 2003 to 20 percent by 2015. This much fund would constitute 16.6 percent of the total cost of realizing the MDG, which in turn is rupees 113.110 billion at 2005 prices (Tshiteem and Rosellini, 2007, pp. ix-x) The government does not have any targeted public distribution system at all despite it that the national economic planning was already started in 1961 and the Planning Commission was renamed as the (Gross National Happiness) GNH-Commission in 2008. This is quite ironic in view of the perennial shortfalls in production and meager share of government channels in import and border trade in food grains, non-grains and edible stuffs. Unlike other South Asian countries whereas Bhutan had not been the beneficiary of positive outcomes of colonialism, it is as much failing to participate in the post-colonial trend of social sector activism. It has neither emulated public distribution system of India nor the ration system of Bangladesh nor any system at all. Public food grain distribution programs in India and Bangladesh share a carry-over from their common colonial experience. In both countries, food grain is typically procured at fixed prices. In Bangladesh,, most government procurement is done directly from farmers or traders at a fixed price. In India, fixed procurement prices and state procurement targets for rice and wheat are set annually by the central government and state government institutions or cooperatives procure grain on behalf of the Food Mahmood Ansari Page | 26
  27. 27. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan Corporation of India (FCI) ………………Until Bangladesh instituted major reforms in the early 1990s, subsidized sales of grains through ration systems were major distribution channels in both countries (Dorosh and Murshid, 2004, p.105). Given the shortfall in production, shortage of public funds to import food grains through the parastatl marketing corporation and absence of public distribution system in the country, there is a general consumption insecurity apart from the familiar noticeable phenomenon of ‘food insecurity’. In 2007, whereas food insecurity affected 39 percent of male it affected 31 percent of female population in the country. This was astonishing since incidence of poverty affected males and females rather equally (Planning Commission Report, 2007, p.19). They were the majority of children and pregnant women who bore the burnt of food insecurity in all regions. The main victim of chronic food insecurity in rural areas were pockets of the landless farmers, daily wage earners and farmers without sufficient land or livestock holdings (Siok Sain Pek, 2005, p.ix-x). In 2005, there were at least 51 village-clusters, almost one-fourth of all villageclusters in the country, which were identified as most vulnerable to food insecurity. The administrative district of Zhemgang suffered most. Ranking the food insecure districts, three districts out of first five were in the eastern region only. The food insecurity was certainly regionally unequally distributed. In the eastern region, the phenomenon of food insecurity was deepened because of low asset holdings in ownership of monetary livestock, and low income from producing cash crops due to limited access to markets which in turn was the result of poor road communication system and means of transportation being confined to mule and power tiller tracts. Moreover, as dry land is the major type of agricultural land in these parts, it also restricts crop production by limiting the production to only a few varieties of crops. The dry land crop producers faced the problem of low yield, negatively influenced by the weather conditions and the practice of monocropping unlike multiple cropping practiced in the wetlands of western region (Siok Sain Pek, 2005, pp.24-26). There is growing a vicious cycle and circle of poverty, food insecurity and general consumption hunger mediated by a widespread interlocking phenomenon of household indebtedness orchestrated by the usury capital in the countryside. The Planning Commission report of 2007 found that borrowing money from neighbours was the most common means by which food shortages were addressed at the level of a household in the rural areas. Almost 63 percent of the food insecure population was compelled to work as daily wage labour to earn a livelihood. There was at least 69 percent of food insecure population who borrowed money from all sources to tide over the crisis. Once fallen into the trap of indebtedness, the familiar mode of repayment consisted of either redeeming in cash or in kind or unpaid labour or all three in combination. A considerable number of food-insecure-indebted population resorted to all three means of repayment simultaneously. The phenomenon of interlocked input and output markets permeated the whole mechanism of delivery of advance and redemption of loan. The average amount of grain borrowed was 295 kilograms, and the average amount repaid was 177 kilograms; the average amount of money borrowed was rupees 6827 and the average amount repaid was rupees 7258 (Planning Commission, 2007, pp. 48-9). Given the monetary value of borrowed grain, estimated at rupees 25 per kg of rice, amounted to around rupees 7400, the total annual borrowed amount was rupees 14200. Redemption of borrowed sum in cash and grain required rupees 7258 combined with 177 kg of rice and 91 days of unpaid labour to be repaid annually. Given the monetary value of 177 kilograms of grain at the sale price of rupees 25 per kilogram amounting to rupees 4424, and that of unpaid labour of 91 mandays at the estimated rates of daily wage at rupees 100 per day amounting to rupees 9122, the total money Mahmood Ansari Page | 27
  28. 28. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan repaid was rupees 20804. The difference between original sum borrowed and the sum repaid was rupees 6604 annually for a food-insecure-person on an average, and this difference is the basis of another cycle of advance and redemption of loan. Any attempt to alleviate poverty, eliminate food shortage and achieving food security would then be quite difficult till the phenomenon of widespread indebtedness caused by food insecurity and general consumption deficit continues. Epilogue What have we learnt from the descriptive storyline on asymmetry in resource distribution, food deficit and insecurity and mass poverty? An analytical lesson! A watch over the track-record of poverty by the semi-feudal bureaucracy would have probably shown that the mainstream theory of trickle-down effect had not worked in this remote hilly nation in the manner it did not work in either countries of south Asia. Given the perennial deficit in food and low prospects of income generation in the primitive hilly agriculture, it seems reasonable to postulate that it must not have been ignored outright over the years that passed by. Poverty and malnutrition was bound to be endemic in such a society. The status of poverty is an indicator of the degree of inequity in the income and consumption distribution in the society. Belated as it is due to the callous indifference shown to the necessity of developing a quantitative database, what is being missed in the presently existing endeavour to estimate absolute and relative poverty either on the basis of the income threshold in the year of 2000 or the consumption thresholds in the years of 2004 and 2007 is the conditioning and causal relation it has with the contemporary phenomena of inequalities in the distribution of arable land, livestock and asset. A silence is observed in the official reporting since such inequities have been carried over from the past societal framework through the institution of inheritance and windfall gains of awards and rewards under the semi-feudal paternalistic governance framework of a century of absolute monarchy. The consumption poverty, resource inequality and lack of gainful employment opportunities are presently complemented with the corollary phenomena of landlessness and shelter-less-ness in this tiny country. It goes without saying that the nation is presently on the path of a developing vibrant agricultural economy proper but characterized by the acute absence of food security and self-sufficiency at household, village and national level. Bhutan is presently characterized by obstinate perennial deficits in directly consumable and indirectly usable cereal food supply, and the dairy products like cheese and butter and poultry products like eggs have also been for a long time in acutely short supply. The neighboring countries of China in the past and India at present supplies and thus meets the deficits in grains, dairy and poultry products and other ready-made foods through the mediation of flourishing but unaccounted informal and unregistered trade on the border. It is then quite surprising almost to the level of creating a shock that a loyal coterie of agro-bureaucracy could so blatantly boast in the columns of the national weekly newspaper in the early nineties that poverty as a western vice had been quite low in the country. How could one boast in a situation of virtual absence of systematic quantitative estimate being made available either for the duration 19071959 or 1960-1999 is really difficult to comprehend? While there had been befitting enthusiasm over the past four and half decades about increasing the various aggregates of national income as well as per capita income in the country, a perusal of the national and international Mahmood Ansari Page | 28
  29. 29. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan developmental missions and projects is a pointer to the observation that such infatuation had not been matched by a simultaneous watch over the track-record of asymmetry, deficit and poverty. It is then a matter of solace that recently the political agenda of bringing about equity and justice was declared in the Manifesto of the first-ever democratic ruling political party called the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) in 2008. It affirmed that that its political vision was a sovereign and prosperous nation of enlightened citizens committed to the pursuit of Gross National Happiness through growth with equity and justice, encompassing economic self reliance, social harmony, environmental integrity and political justice (DPT, Undated, p.12). Such a political declaration is but merely a declaration since much of the power with regard to management of the national and regional economy vests still with the royalty and the king in the country. The sustainable continuation of newly-discovered politics of parliamentary democracy and political economy of gross national happiness that the metropolitan rulers and elite of agrarian society are presently obsessed with, would be contingent not only upon the successful break with the remnants of legacy of the semi-feudal agrarian society and economy but also on the choice of some novel strategies to do away with the continuing contemporaneous nationwide poverty and food insecurity in general and glaring inequities in the distribution of assets and resources among households and across regions in particular. Any such focused endeavor to do away with these economic ills would be very much in line with the political-rhetorical manifesto of the ruling political party here. It seems however quite difficult to achieve it in the near future for the sole reason of a rigidly-rooted legacy of obstinate institutions of agrarian injustices of medieval vintage which have been carried forward to the present age. Agrarian justice would require equity in the surplus generation capacity of the peasantry, and at present, there is no surplus in the nation. Mahmood Ansari Page | 29
  30. 30. Agrarian Justice in Bhutan References Anthony Griffin (1995), “Bhutan” in The World Business and Economic Review, London: Kegan Page and Walden publishing Ltd. (1995 edition) Aris, Michael (1979), Bhutan: The Early History of a Himalayan Kingdom, Warminster-England: Aris & Phillips Ltd. Aris, Michael (1994), The Raven Crown: The Origins of Buddhist Monarchy in Bhutan, London: Serindia Publications Central Statistical Organisation (1991), Statistical Yearbook of Bhutan -1990, Catalogue Number -1, Thimphu: Royal Government of Bhutan Central Statistical Organisation (1996), Statistical Yearbook of Bhutan -1994, Catalogue Number -101, Thimphu: Ministry of Planning, Royal Government of Bhutan Dorosh, Paul and K. A. S. Murshid (2004), “Trade Liberalization and National Food Security: Rice Trade between Bangladesh and India” in Dorosh, P., C. Ninho and Q. Shahabudddin (2004) (Eds.), The 1998 Floods and Beyond: Towards Comprehensive Food security in Bangladesh, Dhaka: University Press Limited in collaboration with Washington: International Food Policy Research Institute Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (Undated), MANIFESTO: Growth with Equity & Justice, Thimphu: Bhutan Times Ltd. FAO-UN (2001), “Improvement of Agricultural Statistics in Asia and Pacific Countries - General Status of the System of Food and Agriculture Statistics in Bhutan”, GCP/RAS/171/JPN, Bangkok: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations G N H Commission (2008), Draft Tenth Five Year Plan, 2008, Main Document, vol.1, Thimphu: Royal Government of Bhutan, February Gerald Daly (2006), “Preface” in the World Food Programme (2006), Bhutan - Annual Report 2005, Thimphu Hershock, Peter D. (2004), “Bhutanese Public Policy in the ‘Century of Interdependence”, Journal of Bhutan Studies, vol.11, winter Munro, L. T. (1989), “Technology Choice in Bhutan: Labour Shortage, Aid Dependence, and a Mountain Environment”, Mountain Research and Development, vol.9, no.1 National Statistical Bureau (2004), National Account Statistics, 1980-2003, Thimphu: Royal Government of Bhutan, November Office of the Census Commissioner (2006), Results of Population & Housing Census of Bhutan 2005, Thimphu: Royal Government of Bhutan Office of the Census Commissioner (undated), Census Enumerator’s Manual: Let’s Get Counted! Population & Housing Census of Bhutan 2005, Thimphu: Royal Government of Bhutan Pek, Siok Sain (2005), Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping of Bhutan - A Study Conducted Jointly by Ministry of Agriculture and United Nations World Food Programme, Thimphu: Policy and Planning Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Royal Government of Bhutan, September Planning Commission (2000), Poverty Assessment and Analysis: Report on Main Findings, Thimphu: Royal Government of Bhutan Mahmood Ansari Page | 30
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