Though some students said language could be a possible problem
from Radhi, Trashigang
Three decades back when Kulung, all of 34, and a seasoned Drungyig (gewog clerk) ventured out to surmount new challenges as the Gup of Radhi Gewog in Trashigang, the settlement was remote and isolated with few basic amenities.
Farm roads did not connect the gewog. Villagers survived on brackish, contaminated water for both consumption and washing purposes. Large swathes of land lay barren due to soil erosion, and the relevant government agencies had just initiated massive seedling plantations to alleviate the problem.
Ironically, irrigation channels did not exist before therefore no paddy fields existed in Radhi, which now is known as the “Rice Bowl of the East”.
At present, Kulung is 63 years old, making him the oldest contender in the Radhi Local Government (LG) elections. Also, in terms of experience, he has worked as Radhi Gup off and on for 12 whole years.
“I helped the authorities then as best as I could, especially in taking care of the plantations,” he said pointing to the richly forested hills.
And though he lost in the last LG elections, it hasn’t deterred him from giving it “a final shot” for the post of Gup this time.
Kulung hails from Tongling Pam Chiwog in Radhi, and his is a story both of tragedy and triumph. Born to an alcoholic father, both his parents passed away when he was pursuing the life of a Gomchen as a 27-year-old.
Subsequently, he felt that he could serve his community better with his learning and joined work as Drungyig for six years after which he became the Gup.
He said his fellow-villagers have been extremely persistent that he re-contest for the post of Gup this year, therefore he gave in to their insistence.
He won in the primary round with 127 “yes” votes, and 15 “no” votes.
However, he does not have grand promises to make, as experience has taught him to be practical as well.
“During the 12 years I served as Gup, I could bring little changes because then, power had not really devolved to the grassroots. Neither did the government have enough funds to disburse for developmental purposes,” he said, “but now, whatever activities remain from the last Five Year Plan, I will expedite while completing all newly introduced projects.”
When he first became Gup in 1987, his salary was Nu 450 for a year after which it has increased gradually to almost Nu 8,000 a month.
“But I have never misused government funds for personal purposes because I don’t want to be corrupt or give a bad name to my children,” he said.
Asked about his chances of winning, he said his contender is “very young and inexperienced” therefore the scales could most probably turn in his favor.
He also added that consultation with the people before making decisions would remain one of his priorities.
Further, he wants to push forward women to take up challenges in fields outside home and family so that they can be involved in decision-making.
Kulung is optimistic about the democratization process, which he feels is evident in the fact that now the most menial person has the right to exercise his or her franchise
Kulung is a father of five and has a brother.
His contender is 32-year old Pema Tenzin from Kadam Chiwog.
Radhi has 3,611 registered voters: 1,768 male and 1,843 female.