Masters of arts in development studies

Method of mobilising household and community labour contribution

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4.4 Method of mobilising household and community labour contribution

This section will analyse the pattern of land holdings among the state, aristocrats, monastic body and peasants. Yumbi Umling, a place in Jasabi was well known for its fertility. It was locally called as, khechen ge sa’55 which meant that all duna gu (the nine cereal crops) could be cultivated. To present insights into the size of land ownership, it was found that aristocrats owned approximately of 80% of the total arable land, where as 19% was owned by the full-fledged taxpaying households and only 1% belonged to serfs56.For example an average taxpaying household owned at least four langdos of land. Most ‘serfs’ were landless. Only few serfs owned half langdos57.

To illustrate the distribution of the population in Jasabi village before the reform, it was found that on an average each household had a family size of 12 members as discussed in the previous section. It is also clear that there existed around 20 households with approximately 240 people living there. The interview data suggest that out of 240 people 70% were serfs58, 20% were ‘threlpa’ (taxpaying household)59 and remaining 10% constituted the landed aristocrats60

Those people who were serving as serf (zab) had to work under the ‘shingke’ system. Under this system the serf worked for two days for their landlord, while they were given one day free (thus 2/3 of his and his family’s labour time was meant for the landlord). During those two working days, they would be served meals, but on the whole they were given some food ration and clothes to wear. They were also given a small plot of land known as ‘bolang sa’ on which he could cultivate and grow some farm produce, but they could not own that land for themselves. The housing materials were provided to build their own house on that given plot of land. Thus the relationship of the serf with the aristocratic family remained hereditary.

The work that serf did included terracing (aring tsho) and transplantation (changla) to grow rice, and weeding (werza)61. The most difficult fieldwork would be weeding and chilly plantation which remained time consuming. However, during off season, they would be engaged in collecting firewood and doing household chores at landlord’s house and estate. Sometimes they serve as adung (stable boy/riding assistant) for their landlord. This meant taking his horse to the Lhuentse Dzong for load transportation, especially if the landlord owned so many horses. They had clear understanding with their landlord and did not face much difficulty. Sometimes they were langpon62. This is how they would bring up their children and support family.

The one day off time of those ‘serfs’ were spent in a myriad ways.63 There were instances where they would go and work for others if they think their family does not have enough to eat. Sometimes they would collect enough harvest from the small plot of land given to them by their landlord, and if so they wouldn’t choose to go to work for others.64 On the other hand, the annual yield from their landlord had to account to 400 dreys65. This was paid as tax to the state, therefore, they have to make sure that this was produced. But the yield highly depended on the labour force and monsoonal rain. There were instances where there would be shortfalls, and in this case the tax payment was accumulated for the succeeding next year. But if there were surpluses, the landlord would share it with their serf. The serf were not levied any punishment if the yield has not been met or tax was accumulated at the end of the year. However, this was not the same case for the entire serf system across the regions.

Respondents recalled the frustrations of their difficult life thus getting ‘worried’, ‘tired’, and ‘thirsty’ and ‘hungry’ (‘eu gam’ ‘hudu’ ‘kha kham’ ‘tokay’). Not having enough to wear and eat were their constant worries as some serf had a big family. Sometimes they did ‘corvee’ labour such as becoming head of the village community (mangiap) and messenger (perpon) but without much benefit for themselves. In these positions, they would be responsible for mobilizing peasants for various developmental activities such as in the construction of the bridges and delivering messages across the households. They were paid a minimal amount in kind (such as butter and granaries) for the service they would render considering the number of working days.

Similarly the other category of serf known as Drap worked to the monastic land. Draps were responsible to a particular dratshang. The kind of labour they contributed included working on the monastic land, and also carrying food items (dre-tang), weighing 40 kgs (such as salt and loads of butter) three to four times in a year to the monastery they were affiliated to. Aside from working the monastic land, the draps also worked on their own land and on ‘dang-len’66. They grew crops (such as maize and rice), but when their harvest was not enough, they would borrow from others and paid back when their harvest is good. Also when they needed help to work on their land, they would go for labour exchange(known as pchu system), which means if a person comes to work on ones land for three days, the same number of working days is returned. For instance an excerpt for an interview where an elderly who remembers his experience in this system.

“I carried food items (dre-tang), about 40 kgs of salt and loads of butter three to four times a year to Khomtey lhakhang I have to cross the bridge and do extensive walk”67 I own six langdo68 of land including the wet (chuzhing) and dry (kamshing) land which was inherited. Aside from working the monastic land field I worked in my own land and also did ‘dang-len’69 I grew maize and rice. When the harvest was not enough, I borrow from others and paid back when the harvest is good from my own. When I needed help on my land, we go for labour exchange system (pchu)” (Source: Interview held on July 2010)

The Lhuntse Dzong (lhakhang70) had a separate land approximately 16 - 17 acres both dry land (kamshing) and wet land (chushing). This was exclusively for religious purposes for annual tshechus71 and ceremonies which takes place for eight days in a year. For this the host family concerned with the lhakhang organizes the event. Some of the ‘draps’ were working on this lands. The ordinary tax payer households (khrealpa), they were paying their regular taxes to the state and to work on their land they do ‘pchu system’. They also have to make unpaid labour (Woola) contribution to the state which will be discussed briefly below.

Generally, all households (Mephu) members (both male and female) had to contribute labour tax (woola) to the state from the age 16 and onward to 50 years. This burden varied among different categories. The aristocrats had to contribute only 30 days in a year, whereas there are some family who did not have to do it at all and the normal tax payer had to contribute 10 days. The ‘zabs’ also had to do woola while the ‘drap’ were wholly responsible for the monastic land labour. This unpaid labour was known as ‘goonda woola’.72 Some households with the ‘cheta kasho’73 they were exempted from tax in labour and in kind. The other kind of free labour was known as ‘shabto lami’.74 This is free labour from every household for every kind of developmental activities which was discussed in the previous section

4.5 The reform process

As indicated in chapter three the first stage of the agrarian reform was implemented in 1953 under the leadership of the third Druk Gyalpo. We now understand that the implementation and agrarian change at the village level had been part of larger strategy led by the king. Having stated this it is important to emphasize that the agrarian reform was also brought in social change.

The reform Implementation in Jasabi village began only after the establishment of National Assembly75 Dasho Dzongdag was the focal person for implementation the reform. The Gup (gewog head) and the Chipons (messenger) were responsible for relaying the order to the community households. The gup appointed Chipon Gom (head messenger) to represent him in his absence at local and regional levels. All my respondents remember that the reform implementation had taken place in the 1950s but from their memories no one was able to recall the exact year. The national assembly resolutions were therefore used to pinpoint about the year.

Although lands were granted to those landless, the recipients had to register themselves in Thimphu (capital city) to receive the land. During that time although there was road construction going on but still there was no road between the eastern region and the capital city76 so it was understood that most of the ‘serf’ in this village could not go and most preferred to stay in the village and continue working the land of their landlord, but as of this time they were no more considered as ‘serf’ and also had clear terms with the land lord (see chapter three). While some people say that the land they owned today was inherited from their parents and not received as grant from the state.

Today from my observation in the village, peasant land owning is at least they owned one acre (four langdo) of land. All land owning peasants had become tax paying households. There are however few share tenancy households who do not pay tax. It was their choice to live and farm the land of the landlords on share cropping basis. The system was based on ‘danglen’ or shared tenancy (the produce is shared equally)77 and later known as ‘sumdang’ which is where the land lord gets 1/3 of the share and rest owned by the peasants. That was the agrarian relationship which still exists today. While I also see there are lots of incentives from the government like seeds, techniques for farming, water facilities, sanitation, and health, provided to the people. So they are satisfied with their livelihood.

My respondents indicated that many households in this village lost their excess land holdings to the government. They surrendered without resistance. It was also evident that when the ‘serfs’ were freed, the landed elites lost people working on their land. As a result land remained empty and turned into thickets and forests78. For instance Landlord A mentioned that when the land ceiling was imposed most of the land already reverted to and was therefore considered as government land. It was said that because of the labour shortage even prior to the reform most of the land belonging to landlord A were unused thus remained forested. It was a rule set that unused land/forested belonged to the government. But there were some instances where some landlords could retain their landholdings by transferring some of them to their children’s name. This remained very rare. Similar cases were shared by few others but not from this village.

Furthermore it appears that the third Druk Gyalpo was very strategic and careful with the threat of social upheaval among the aristocrats, local elites and the peasants. There are clues that indicated resistance from traditionalist and monk communities but we cannot conclude as it remains unclear. We can only confirm the whole process was non revolutionary and without any major social upheaval (see chapter three)

4.6 The post reform and transition

To discuss about the post reform period we will now look at the situation how gradual changes had been happening after the agrarian reform had been implemented from 1953 onwards in this village. While we see there is modernization of the state which led to more strong bureaucratic institutions, the change at the village level happened differently. As indicated earlier the agriculture practice is still in a very traditional way (langdo) as people call it. This is due to the geographical terrain while the people are also comfortable with this practice. The ‘danglen’ and ‘sumdang’ known as share cropping are still prevalent in another form (no longer linked to the serf system) but still there retaining some of the former servile character. The pchu known as labour exchange system is one of the common agriculture practice.

This is due to the scarcity of labour supply on the farms. Today from my observation in the field there are very few who don’t own land and work on other farms on wage and share cropping while majority of the people have land on their own. At the same time the state has established schools, health clinic, water supply and sanitation facilities,bridges,agriculture centre and rural credit although these are based at the district level but not very far from the village. Overall people today seem to be very much satisfied with their livelihoods and those who did not have land they are satisfied with the way they are, they do not want to get grant. But in future some say if they can afford to buy machineries for their agriculture that would be very much useful for them.

4.7 Agrarian structure and agrarian relations

In discussing the changes in the agrarian system and the shift from unfree to free labour from 1953 onwards, it would be very risky to generalize all across the villages and districts since things happened differently in each location. So we will now look into this specific case. In 1953 after the resolution had been passed by the national assembly, firstly the ‘serf’ were not called by various indigenous terms and they were all called as ‘nangsen’. The ‘serfs’ were free to leave the landlord but without taking away any property such as the shelter they were allocated while they worked the land or continue to stay with the landlord. If they wish to stay they had to farm their land but this time they had a better deal. They could keep certain amount of the produce from the total harvest as said earlier. With this they did not get the annual livery such as food and clothing.

For those who left there was land grant by the state in other villages and districts whereby they had to register for the land grant (Choktham)79 in the central district in Thimphu.The minimal holding of land grant80 was two to three langdos.81With this the national assembly first resolutions also indicated that the people from eastern districts were permitted to migrate to the western provinces(see chapter three) Thus every serf had been transformed as a full tax payer household which is discussed below.

My respondents from this village indicated that even prior to 1953 the serf were always called as ‘nangsen’(see earlier section) and this term is actually a dialect used in this district and in this village too. In 1953 while it was announced from the state that the ‘serfs’ were to be called as nangsen the deal between the ‘serf’ and the land lord changed. The shingkhey and the remong system of working the land with the land lord had changed. Earlier the serf worked three days for the lord and one day was off. From my understanding the serf did get some amount of the produce if the harvest was good for the year. Now the ‘serf’ had to work three days for the landlord and two days they were set free from working the land. Whatever produces remained after paying off the tax was shared equally between the ‘serf’ and the landlord. But this time they were not paid food and clothes. Much of the land they owned remained empty even while the ‘serf’ was there because of shortage of labour. While the system changed much more land remained still empty.

In 1958 when land reform had been introduced the aristocrats had to give away the excess land beyond 25 acres to the government82. Either the excess land was all those land which had been forested or otherwise they had transferred the land ownership to their sons and daughters. Both ways had prevailed. The land they surrendered was forested and it was included into the state forest land, which then was indicated as national property. The state did redistribute the excess land to the landless in other districts. There were some peasants who came in from other districts as resettlement in this village. It seems clear then, that former serfs were suppose to settle in different areas. With the introduction of land reform the ‘serf’ could make a shift from servile to (relatively) free labour, in the sense now they could now operate a farm on a shared cropping basis whereby they could keep 50% of the produce and 50% they had to hand over to the landlord. Most of the landlord had then been migrating to the city in Thimphu while their land had been continuously farmed by the peasants but they were not called as nangsen anymore. They get half of their share annually. Two excerpts from the interview illustrating the transition:

“As a young girl, I remember eating dough made from flour, thuk-pa (porridge) and chili. Unlike past, I can eat good food, tea, aara (local brew) boiled egg, paa (meat) (Source: Interview held in July 2010)

“Now life is much better I can afford to eat good food, wear good clothes and manage to live properly. In the past only rich people had sufficient food, poor had not much choice and hardly managed to meet ends. I practiced the same agricultural tradition like my parents had done in the past. In the past, I worked very hard to meet our needs. There was little food to eat and wear nice clothes. I use to wear jute gho and kera. Women mostly stayed home and wove clothes. Later I managed to wear cotton ghos bought from Gudam83”. (Source: Interview held in July 2010)

While I was doing my research I met some former ‘serf’ (from the same district but not from this particular village) in the central region where they had received land grant. The first one was very happy with his farming work and also able to sell the produce in the market. The agriculture system was much more mechanized using power tiller track, rice mill and improved seeds that the government made available for purchase. His rice mill was also used by the neighbouring households and he could get extra income from that. I met another former ‘serf’ who actually originated from Jasabi village in Thimphu who shared the same experience and had better opportunities in the city than living in the farm in village. I met with most of the aristocrats in the capital city while their farm had been cultivated still. Some still remained empty. They had migrated out with various circumstances but wished to move back to village in future.

4.8 Taxation and labour contribution

The first monetization of tax (from kind (longthrel) to (kamthrel) cash) began in Tashi gang District In the east in 1955 followed by Haa District in the central region and process of monetization was completed in 1968. Hence, this removed one dimension of the social hierarchy that existed earlier as every peasant now had to pay tax in cash and became equal to a taxpayer. Gradually the taxation system had been standardized and made uniform and consistent all across the country. The tax burdens on the people were drastically reduced. While at the national level there was merging of the sub districts(dungkhags) which reduced certain positions this also saved lot of labour because earlier their salary had to be paid in tax(kind) by the state(see earlier sections). From the national assembly resolution in 1960 an example of monetization can be seen as below:

Table 4.3

Transition in Tax from Kind to cash (1960)


Type of Tax

Annual tax rate



Wet land

It varied from Nu six to Nu four per langdo according to the standard of the house.

Nu indicates Ngultrum(national currency in Bhutan)

1 Nu is equivalent to one rupee Indian currency

Four Langdo makes one acre


Dry land

Nu. Four per langdo of maize and millet field, Nu. Two per langdo of wheat field at high altitudes and Nu. Three per langdo of wheat field at low altitudes.


Shifting cultivation land

Chetrum 0.75/- per langdo.

This is not prevalent any longer


Tax on kitchen garden

Nu. 1/- per langdo.


Tax on domestic animals (as soon as they attain three years)

Nu. Three per (Jatsha, Jatsham and Mule),

Nu. Two per (male Horse), Mare, Donkey, Yanku, Yangum, Thabum, Oxen and Bajo Nu. Two and 50 chetrum per yak.

Jatsha and Jatsham are high breed cows

Mare(adult female horse)

(Yangku,Yangbum,Thabum,Bajo (different cattle breeds)

(Source: Compilation by author from National assembly resolutions: held on the 13th of the 4th month of the iron mouse year corresponding to 1960)
We understand from the above table how the various taxes had been imposed in cash. From 1961 onwards with the inception of the first five year plan there was gradual change and integration with other neighboring countries and opening up of economy such as trade had started with India and there was also the establishment of motorable roads.84In the earlier system tax were collected in kind and mainly used to fulfill the needs of the state and the monastic system. There now seems to be more focus on the livelihoods and welfare such as the socio economic development had started then. Peasants with minimal land holding (less than an acre) were totally exempted from tax.85

Furthermore with this transition the labour mobilization for the state had also changed. Peasants did not have to contribute regular labour tax for the state as indicated earlier. My respondents confirmed that whatever labour they contributed for any kinds of developmental activities such as road construction, renovation of temples, dzongs, and water supply schemes was now compensated. The state also ensured that they should be involved only in activities that directly benefited them. Accordingly gungda woola (compulsory labour) contribution to those activities was changed, while zhapto lemi (voluntary labour contribution) still continues today. From my own experience while working with the communities on developmental projects like water supply, sanitation, community schools and so forth for the maintenance purposes the communities have to depend on labour from households in the village. This can be paid or unpaid labour. For major construction activities labour is always outsourced.

Chapter 5
Concluding Reflections

This research paper has attempted to fill gaps in our knowledge regarding the agrarian conditions and structures pre-reform in Bhutan. The research engages an exploratory study of the inter-relationship between agrarian reform and the political processes of state modernization in order to identify if and how political processes and geo political events shaped and influenced Bhutanese agrarian reform efforts and implementation in the 1950’s. This study has also importantly reflected on the discourses surrounding ‘serfdom’ and ‘feudal’ in order to understand how the current and previous systems have been reflected, represented and thus shaped. As there is no introspection of these terms in Bhutan, the research refers to literature from Tibet scholarship. Through in-depth analysis of a case example from one village, the research was able to illustrate some of the nuances of agrarian reform in terms of both tangible outcomes as well as the perception of individual village members. The village study provided an opportunity to shed more light and meaning on our understanding of agrarian reform.

This paper demonstrates that agrarian reform was an effective political strategy for state modernization and legitimization by reducing and weakening the power of the political/ landed elites whose power remained rooted in land and land ownership in their respective jurisdictions. With the restructuring of the administrative structure, power was decentralized through the creation of District administrations run by Dzongdags. The empirical findings from this study did not indicate any resistance from the people except in the pre-reform period when there was heavy taxation from the state to keep administration functioning. However those were the times when the region was controlled or regulated more by the regional and local tier. This system was later standardized after consolidating the central power and strengthening the state system. The revised taxation system has reduced the burden on the people and also the transaction of taxation changed from being in kind (grains, butter etc) earlier to monetary (coins and paper money was introduced). Previously the regional and local rulers were also paid in kind as for their salary. When their positions were reduced and changed, the whole taxation system was transformed and became more efficient. Gradually we could see the serf system was abolished and followed by agrarian reform that also led to the redistributions of land to the landless. This transformed peasants into ordinary tax paying households. Nonetheless, we see the system of danglen and pchu are common still today.

Based on the case study of the village and my field observations, there is an overall improvement in livelihoods (in rural Bhutan). Today we see that the state has established facilities such as free and safe drinking water and improved sanitation, while at the district level there are schools, free health services, agriculture and livestock support centers and so forth. Coming back to the discourses on ‘serfdom/feudal’ I want to clarify that the pre reform agrarian structure was labeled or characterized as such based on the western typology or otherwise heavily influenced by the Marxist discourses. This had labeled the past system in various ways so we refer to these discourses only as a means to dig deeper into the layers of understanding. For instance, the discourses in Tibetan scholarship demonstrate how political the whole process of labeling is. This can help us understand the dynamics involved in defining and labeling and their subsequent impact on politics, perception and ultimately, representation. This explains why the terms serf and feudal have become so sensitive and shed light on why a precise definition is less relevant. There is also the deeper question of whether serfdom - even in Europe was as exploitative as it is often made out to be. As derived from the analysis of this research, terms such as ‘serfdom/feudal’ for Bhutan are an over simplification. Hence, the use of indigenous terms should be considered more appropriate.

Similarly, in the case of Bhutan it has not very common phenomenon as we saw in chapter two on the cases of other agrarian reforms. Thus, Bhutan refers to a unique case neither without post war occupation nor without any revolution as far as from the empirical findings illustrates. There is a discourse that the past system is pre modern and today we live in the modern period. This is partly ideological in the sense that the past system is used as a way to legitimize the present system. Perhaps this study helps to break down this internalization by reviving the memories of the past. Finally I acknowledge that this research paper is exploratory and certainly incomplete and immature on many issues. As many questions it answers as much questions it leaves open. Simultaneously, the satisfaction I experienced with every modest theoretical grasp and with every contact I had with elderly village participants, the senior government officials and many others, has left me with the sense that there is a need for more empirical research and analysis on this little studied and important period in Bhutan’s agrarian history.

Appendix I

List of Interviews conducted during the field research between the period of

(Mid July to mid August 2010)





Dasho Shingkhar Lam

Retired senior government official (Ex Dasho)


Dasho Gaza

Retired senior government official(Ex Dasho)


Dasho Dzongpon Dreb Kado

Retired Senior government official(Ex Dasho)


H.E. Lyonpo Dr. Pema Gyamtsho

Minister, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Thimphu Bhutan


Dasho Nima Tshering

Secretary, National Assembly Secretariat, Thimphu


Dasho Serub Gyeltshen

Secretary, Dzongkhag Development Commission,Thimphu Bhutan


Dasho Karma Ura

Director, Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS), Thimphu


Dasho Sonam Kinga

Deputy Chairperson,Member of Parliament,National Council of Bhutan


Dasho Chang Ugyen

Retired Gup,Councilor and chairperson of the District Development Meeting


Dasho Sangay Dorji

Dzongkha Specialist, Dzongkha Development Commission, Thimphu Bhutan


Mr. Dorji Thinley

Dean of Academic Affairs, Paro College of Education,Royal University of Bhutan


Mr. Tshewang

Deputy Secretary, National Land Commission, Thimphu


Mr. Kunzang Thinley

KMT printing, Thimphu


Dr. Tandin

Institute of Management studies, Thimphu.


Mr. Tshering

Retired Gup, Kurtoe Geog, Lhuntse District


Ms. Francoise Pommaret

Anthropologist, Institute of Language and Cultural studies, Simtokha


Melvy C.Goldstein

Melvyn C. Goldstein, Ph.D. John Reynolds Harkness Professor in Anthropology Co-Director, Center for Research on Tibet,Cleveland,Ohio

List of participants under Lhuntse District and few under Central District




Aum Choney


Aum Kesang Chhoden


Ap Thinley Wangdi


Ap Gongala




Pema Wangchuk




Aum Karma Lhajey


Aie Penden, Jasab


Phuntsho Tshewang




Aie Namgay


Ap Nuentela


Aum Tshering Tshomo




Aum Sonam Uden


Ap Tshechula,


Ap Chophela

Appendix II

Photo taken by author in July 2010

Ap Tshechula one of the most interesting elderly farmer who was filled with excitement to share his lived experiences. He feels that agrarian system had drastically changed today while he tried to recollect back his memory of the old system.86


1See also (Brenner 1977, Byres 2004, Khan 2004, Kay 2002)they share the same view on politics

2 Dasho here refer to the red scarf official equivalent to the English title ‘honorable’. In those days they were the personal attendant of the king.

3 For valuable exceptions, see (Griffin et al. 2002, Putzel 1992).

4 More details refer to Goldstein and See also (Shakya 1999)

5 Refer to also (Pommaret 1984:1-175).

6 From my interview with Dasho Karma Ura, Director, Centre for Bhutan Studies, (CBS) on July 2010, Thimphu: According to Dasho Bhutan has a religious history and cannot be compared to European or other Asian ‘serfdom/feudalism’.

7 Where you have the Catholic Church, manorial lords, military structure, the serfs were tradable commodities and lords had the full authority over them.

8 Even the European literature exaggerates the oppression of regular serfdom in Europe. (Brenner 1976) argued that in the later part of the13th century in Europe upon the ‘Black death’ which led to decrease in population whereby the peasant had better deal with the landlord and later this change in condition led to the end of serfdom in Europe.

9 Refer to (Dargyay 1982, Goldstein 1986).The main argument among most authors and common understanding is that the traditional system in Tibet is not appropriate to be called serfdom as used in the west Europe.This is the start point.

10 See (Aziz 1978, Coleman 1998, Miller 1988, Dargyay 1982).

11 From my interview with Ms. Francoise Pommaret, She shared her opinion that Bhutan cannot be termed as feudal. Bhutan has a religious history and culturally it is a different country. (Anthropologist, Institute of Language and Cultural studies, Simtokha also a (Tibetologist) interview held on July 2010, Thimphu).

12 See also (Aris, 1979)

13 Thimphu penlop was responsible for (main capital city), Dagana penlop was responsible for (south west regions), Trongsa penlop for the(central and eastern region) and Paro penlop for (western region)

14 Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang,Lhuentse, Mongar,Tashigang (central and eastern Districts)

15 In Haa(central District)

16 who were the ones to administer a group of villages which is known as a Gewog today

17 Store master for various products such as butter, grains, meat etc

18 Chamberlain

19 Personal assistant to the king

20 Associated with discipline and etiquette

21 Man in waiting to the king, he should be at the door and ready for any kind of commands

22 According to a senior government official

23 From my interview finding but needs more research as this was not prevalent in my village study

24 Kind taxes known as lonthrel such as grains,butter,meat etc

25 Ex Dasho’s

26Quote from my interview in English language. Name, Date and place are kept anonymous for confidentiality

27 With the inception of the Tshogdu various resolutions were passed and these can be used to fix the dates of the different stages of reform. My respondents recalled only the 1950s.They years they mentioned varied from each person to another.

28 Some tax payers left the land not able to pay the tax. we don’t have details for this

29 My respondents mentioned that it took 30 days to reach the capital city (Thimphu) and central regions those days by foot.

30 Man in waiting

31 Today these titles don’t exist anymore

32 Judge in the high court

33 Responsible for the entire District

34 Kishu thara is a reputable and colorful Bhutanese textile popularly woven and worn by the ladies in Khoma (Another village in the same District), Kurtoe. Today the price of a silk kishu thara ranges from Nu 30,000 to Nu 60,000.

35 Crops such as Wheat, buckwheat, millet, rye, oat, rice, barley, maize and sorghum

36 Local indigenous name for the ceremony held

37 District in the eastern Bhutan

38 Excerpt from my interview: An example of peasant resistance not through violence but literary devises such as folklores, sayings and aphorisms. An old saying from Tashigang (district in the eastern region, in its local dialect known as sharchop) which alludes to the heavy taxation both in kind and labour during that time: “Merak Sakteng si Sakteng; Waktsa sokpey si mala”:Translation: Merak and Sakteng are butter plenty, but not even enough to apply on baby’s body as lotion“Radi Phongmey to phongmey, Waktsa bilay to mala”: Translation:Radi and Phongmey are rice bowl, but not a morsel to feed the child’s bowl. “Galing Changmey yu changmey, Serkem phubey yu mala”: Translation:Galing and Changmey are wine plenty, but not a pint for libation (wine offering to God).

39 Four langdor makes up one acre. Therefore one langdor is less than half an acre

40 Those belonging to religious head or the state

41 In some cases it happened that the draps already owned some share of land hereditarily but otherwise they were provided land

42 Labour tax under the Dzong(Dzongkhag Administration)

43 Name, place and date are confidential

44This excerpt contributes in building up our understanding of drap relationship. This was a family narration while we also get an understanding of inheritance. However the respondent was not from the study village but belonging to the same block/district.

45 Honorific term to address an official who wears a red scarf today

46 My discussion with the Ex Dasho

47 Mephu thre known as fire tax had also been paid. Every small hut that makes fire was also levied tax.

48 According to official A: The measure of tax imposition was in langdo (size of a land an oxen bullock can plough in a day) in the east and sondrey (son=seed, drey=measurenr unit) in the west. Some landlords shared their land with the peasants to share the tax burden. But I did not find this in the study village.

49 ‘Cheta kasho’ written on the bark of the tree contained detailed information on the reduced tax liabilities in terms of both labour and goods. This status granted by the King to households with special problems(e.g. disability, death etc)

50In earlier times, according to informants, people were not paid at all but later during the third king’s reign there was payment in kind of Nu. One per day rising much later to Nu. 30 per day .Today this system is abolished.

51 This is unpaid labour contribution for development activities. This is paid in most cases today

52 This illustration is used for understanding the asset owned pre reform period and the tax system. The identification of the person is confidential


53 Wangyon: it literally means levy for blessings, but generally understood as taxes (wang=blessing, yon=tax). The monastic body preformed rituals for the wellbeing and happiness of the community, people and the country. The people paid in kind taxes (food grains, meat and butter) to the monastic institutes/schools (Dratshang) in return.

54 One such example was the ‘sungchoe-bumdey’ the annual puja which is still continued.

55 Indigenous term used to call fertile land

56 80% of the land belonging to aristocrats had been the herediatary.later when the division of property started the eldest daughter had more choice in terms of having serf and also land share. Later the eldest daughter’s family will own the same and have the same power. This is all belonging to one household.

57 Langdo is the local measurement for land used in those years.4 langdo makes up 1 acre of land.

58 (Drap constituted at least 5% and the rest zab. some Draps owned a ‘langdo’ of land) 14 households out of 20 were serfs, which means there were 168 serfs (12 average household members x 14 serf households =168 serfs).

59 constituting 4 households (12 household members x 4 threlpa households= 48 threlpa people)

60 Which are 2 households with 24 members

61 Weeding mainly for maize (know as bachupa in local dialect), wheat, potato and chilly. Maize was planted twice or thrice in a year

62 Ploughing the oxen

63(An excerpt in local dialect from interview held on July 2010)

“ner shang nang ta ta ke chey la.Ner sang mu ne chey la tag ko ge to go chey la. Phey chey ge brmra, hoto rey be la. ‘bolag sa’ ge ne maparang me lang ta.bra ba to khorga blang rata. ber br to jola bleng ya merata la. Nema,threy phe thong nga le sun ra sun shang la”Translation “I have to check my kitchen. When I go to work on others land I get paid in grains. My ‘bolang’ land is not enough for my family. Sometimes I get bag full of rice. I get fed up with the taste of wheat soup all the time”

64 Working on others land also includes tilling the field with oxen

65 One dre is equal to 1.67 kg

66 Share cropping

67 Khomteng lhakhang is a Tibetan settlement across the border. An elderly shared his experience in the barter exchange with Tibet in 1950s.That use to be exchange of clothes like silk, woolen clothes (known as hota, jalo and namboo), salt and oil exchanged mainly with rice and maize.

68 Approximately 1.5 acres

69 Share cropping

70 Religious institution

71 Religious festivals held annually

72 This includes, carrying of tax which in kind to be carried in the central monastic and central region, postal services, loading of official luggage’s, carry load, cooking utensils from one place to another, goods for barter with Tibet and so forth.

73 Royal decree from the king

74 Development work like building of road, bridges, monastery and so forth. The meals were served in this labour contribution.

75 Refer to chapter 3 on starting up of National Assembly

76 In order to reach the capital city would be more than a month by foot.So they could not reach there and chose to stay in village.

77 This is also known as 50-50 basis.50 % of the share the land lord can own and the rest 50% by the other peasant working the land.

78 Due to lack of labour most of the land remained forested even prior to reform.

79 According to the present land commissioner each one had to do land registration known as choktham

80 (a plot of land that an oxen bullock can plough in 2-3 days)

81 My interview with Dasho sangay Dorji in August 2010, he mentioned that this kasho was from third Druk Gyalpo

82 While I communicated with the senior land commissioner land measurement had been a complex issue. Earlier the standard measurement was evolved from langdo (size of a land an oxen bullock can plough in a day) in the east and sondrey (son means seed and drey means measuring container) in the west. This being replace later to chaktha (the chain survey) to plane table survey. Today it is done by cadastral survey. When the equipments were replaced the land owners had to further give away their land and there had been land excess issues.

83 Place in India

84The current tax today as stated in the (Ministry of Finance 1996)the wet land tax is Nu 24/- per acre and dry land tax is Nu 12/- per acre.

85 Today the current land act 2007 which replaced the earlier 1979 makes things more valid and legitimate.

86 This photo is included with his permission

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