Saturday, June 25, 2011
The Unaccountable Big Brother Is Watching You
This paper (The Journalist) would like to laud Business Bhutan for their breaking lottery story that has resulted in the government’s decision to altogether do away with lottery. It’s a gamble. Whether this is the correct call or not remains a debatable issue. One thing is glaringly clear in this whole gamut that had been going on for who knows how long. There is no accountability.
No heads have rolled, as is the unpalatable tradition in this country. Millions of Ngultrums are unaccounted for and really, who the heck is responsible? The norm seems to be pretty black and white. In this case, unilaterally shutting down what used to be a money maker with no individuals held accountable as if to say, “Now that we’ve been caught, let’s just bring the curtains down on this episode.” Is this being done to zealously shut-down any nagging would-be co-conspirators and the nexus thereabouts between that man, who sounds like a bond-villain character, Santiago Martin, and perhaps people of high-connect in the government?
The common man plays the lottery in that quintessential display of human optimism: hope. And now that the government is plainly uncomfortable with the issue, what is its response? A blanket decision to stop the lottery business – sounds a tad too extreme and on the defensive. The question resurfaces yet again: aren’t people accountable when obviously there have been such blatant shortcomings? Or is accountability only implemented when it concerns the dispensable lot? Look at the Tobacco Act – and judge for yourself where the parity lies, insofar as the punishment befits the crime. It’s a permanently lopsided yoyo.
While we are gambling with people’s lives, we might as well put on the illusion of appearing all concerned and alarmed. Hence the tax on the alcohol, which incidentally brought in a concerned comrade who happens to like his Special Courier. It was a drop-in to make enquiries regarding the tax on the booze and since when had this hike taken place. He’d been having his usual quota when the bill came with unusually high digits. “So they are making the one comfort I have expensive?” He asked. I said that seems to be the case. “What do you call a country that keeps on making rules and regulations, bans and prohibitions?” He asked again. “A communist country?” I ventured. “No. Bhutan” he said and left.
That might be stretching the rubber but the gist of the exchange was not. It was a state of confusion tagged by a sudden sense of panic bordering on the insane. “If this is democracy, we are (explicit),” said another friend, now pondering emigration to a country where the state does not tell you what to write, what to portray, what to eat and what to avoid. Yes, apart from the bans and taxes that have emanated from the present proceedings, there is also a-none too subtle war of attrition going on against the media, from a controlling authority, and the directives are rather clear and robust: comply and play by our rules or conversely, pay the consequences.
It’s a threat, and the best part is that it’s not even a veiled threat.
All of this unfolds in the light of the generous lip service rendered to the so called Fourth Estate. At this rate, the media will become anything but the Fourth Estate, rather, the Fourth Shack shacked up at Char Kilo below the highway would be a better description, going by the way and the manner in which it has been treated and continues to be treated.
So in a nutshell, here it is: no cigarettes and babas, but most certainly jail and accountability. Booze available but at a higher price, with supply unperturbed. And as for hitting that lottery and starting that spa and hotel of yours with the catchy name “The Last Resort,” consider it an unfulfilled foolish fantasy.
As far as accountability is concerned, put a huge question mark in there with an accompanying exclamation point. And make it large!