ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Bhutan- A Growing Minority

A Correspondent writes:
THE recently enthroned King of Bhutan must be watching developments in neighbouring Sikkim with growing trepidation. The present crisis in Sikkim is a spillover from last year and basically reflects the attempt by that country's Nepali population to asset itself against the dominant Bhotia-Lepcha minority. Nepalis constitute 78 per cent of Sikkim's population. It is very much on the cards that sooner or later a similar train of events may be triggered off in the Dragon Kingdom of Bhutan. Officially, Bhutan's resident Nepali population is put at under 15 per cent. The 18-year-old King estimates that another 25,000 to 30,000 Nepalis have come in as migrant workers. This would still put the Nepali population at less than 20 per cent out of a total of 1.1 million people. Privately, however, it is guardedly admitted that the Nepalis form at least 40 per cent and that soon they may even comprise the majority! The Nepalis have come into Bhutan to work on the hydro-electric and other Indian-aided projects. Despite the attractive daily wages, very few Bhutan- ese are prepared to do this work, mainly because they arc tied down to their subsistence farming. Most of the Nepalis have settled in the South. The older residents have been allowed to buy plots of farm land but the newcomers are not, which is a major grievance. The immigrants have not as yet become too conscious of their political rights. Even so, the Royal Bhutanese Government saw fit to ban their political party, the Bhutan Congress, ten years ago; leaders of the party are cooling their heels in Siliguri.

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