The kingdom of Bhutan,’ the land of the thunder dragon ‘ lies in the eastern Himalayas bordered north by China and on all other sides by India. It has very high mountains, fertile valleys and thick forest forests.
The first hereditary King of Bhutan was installed on 17 Dec 1907. An Anglo-Bhutanese Treaty signed in 1910, placed Bhutan’s foreign relations under the supervision of the Government of British India. After Indian became independent, that treaty was replaced in August 1949 by the Indo-Bhutan Treaty of Friendship, whereby Bhutan agrees to seek the advice of the Government of India with regard to its foreign relations, but remains free to decide whether or not do accept such advice.
King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk was succeeded in 1972 by the Western-educated 16 year old Crown Prince, Jigme Singye Wangchuk . The new King stated his wish to maintain the Indo-Bhutan Treaty and to strengthen friendship with India. Bhutan joined the UN in 1971 and the Non-Aligned Movement in 1973. In 1983 Bhutan became a founder-member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Bhutan is a monarchy, without a written constitution. In 1092 the Tongsa Penlop (the governor of the province of Tongsa in central Bhutan), Sir Ugyen Wangchuk, was elected the first hereditary Maharaja of Bhutan. The Bhutanese title is Druk Gyalpo and his successor is now addressed as King of Bhutan. From oct 1969 the absolute monarchy was changed to a form of democratic monarchy. The National Assembly (Tshogdu) was reinstituted in 1953. All Bhutanese over 25 years may be candidates. Ten monastic representatives are elected by the central and regional ecclesiastical bodies, while the remaining members are nominate by the King, and include members of the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet) and the Royal Advisory Council. The Royal Advisory Council (Lodol Tsokde), established in 1965, compress 10 members. Council of Ministers is know as Lhenhye Shuntsog.
Recent reports indicate that the mountain kingdom is inching towards democracy. A political transformation is under way, its main force being the reformist monarch Jigme Wangchuk. A Royal edict placed before the 510-member National Assembly in June 98 said a to-third majority in the House could force the king to abdicate. The Assembly (its term 5 years) will also thrown up the Council of Ministers, one of whom will remain as chairman for a year.
There are 20 districts. A Nepalese minority makes up 30-35 % of the population. Bhutan by world stands is one of the poorest countries. Its economy is largely a subsistence economy. People are engaged in subsistence farming; and barter in practice. The transition to market economy has changed social life. Life expectancy : 49 years. Urban population is 7 % . Large deposits of limestone, marble, dolomite, graphite, lead, copper, slate, talc, gypsum, berly, mica, pyrites and tufa have been found.
Chief crops: Rice, millet, wheat, barley, maize, cardamom, potatoes, oranges , apples. Extensive and valuable forests abound. Livestock includes cattle, yaks, pigs, sheep and goats, and poultry. Industry: Food industry, cement, etc. Trade with India dominates.
Free education is available, but there are insufficient facilities to accommodate all school age children. Many students receive higher technical training in India. All Bhutanese national are obliged to wear the national costume. Under law, Bhutanese women are treated as equal to men. The Government of Bhutan has chosen National Happiness as the index of progress, the major components of which are : environment protection, economic growth, cultural promoting and good governance. Cultural Promotion includes spiritual and ethical values. Technological progress may become a curse rather than a blessing if it is without ethics.