South Asia

Bhutan Parliament Passes Bill Mandating One Year Training Programme for All Citizens

The Gyalsung (National Service) programme would include three months of basic military training followed by nine months of specialised training in various fields.

New Delhi: Both houses of the Bhutan parliament recently approved a Bill that would mandate every citizen who attains the age of 18 to attend a one-year integrated training programme.

The one-year training programme, called Gyalsung (National Service), would include three months of basic military training followed by nine months of specialised training in various fields like agriculture sciences, entrepreneurship, computers and coding, and health sciences. Commencing in 2024, it will be mandatory for all those who have reached 18 years of age and completed Class XII.

The programme was announced by the Bhutanese king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck on December 17, 2019. He later exercised his royal prerogative to introduce a Bill in Parliament, which was passed in the lower house, the National Assembly, on November 7 and the upper house, National Council, on November 9.

According to the Bill, the programme will have four special training sessions after the basic military training: cyber security, food security, home security, and country security.

Sonam Kinga, introducing the bill in the lower house, said that the programme is expected to “empower the youth with knowledge, skills, and values, and contribute to realising the national goals and aspirations”.

“It is also to empower the youth with the capabilities and attributes needed to succeed academically and professionally,” Kinga, a member of the Steering Committee of the National Service Core Working Group, said.

“The program is not being established under the pressure of any emergencies. The program is not just for military purposes. Rather, it is to enhance the capabilities of the youth and contribute to the well-being of the people and the nation,” Kinga said, according to the Bhutan Broadcasting Service.

The report added that there are five Gyalsung Training Centers being built to train the youth.

“A person below the age of eighteen years and six months may volunteer for early registration for Gyalsung training with the consent of the parents or the legal guardian,” the Bill adds, according to the Bhutanese newspaper Kuensel.

The governing council, as a one-time measure, will determine the eligibility criteria for the first batch of Gyalsung cadets. In later years, a person deemed medically unfit by the medical board will be exempted from training, as will monks.

The Gyalsung headquarters will issue notices to eligible persons to register for the programme, following which they must register within 90 days. Failure to do so will result in a “penalty amounting to the daily national minimum wage rate of up to 90 days”, according to Kuensel.

“A person who evades or deserts Gyalsung training commits an offence and shall be liable upon the conviction for the fourth-degree felony as per the penal code of Bhutan,” the Bill adds.

MP Nima asked how the trainees would be distributed among the five academies, saying the procedure needs to be explained clearly. In response, Kinga said that the academies “will have dedicated training programmes with a maximum of two programmes. It will depend on which training they want but career counsellors, teachers, and parents should play a vital role in guiding them in which training to choose”.