I cannot think of any better and more deserving person to write on this topic at this particular time. The kingdom of Bhutan recently completed the festivity of the 60th Birth Anniversary of her Fourth King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk. The entire year of 2015 was dedicated to celebrate the prosperous reign of the dynamic, farsighted and a selfless leader. The king, who has given his all for his country and his people, led a war so that his people are safe and gave up his power so that his people remain empowered; such is my king, such is my hero.
His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck popularly known as “The Great Fourth” or "The Father of the Nation” was born on 11th November, 1955 corresponding to the Wood Female Sheep year of the Lunar Calendar to their Majesties King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck. We, Bhutanese, believe that his birth was a realization of a religious prophesy which was declared more than three centuries ago; a sacred reincarnation destined to safeguard the nation and take care of his people. True to this prophesy, he was barely 17 years old when his father passed away and at such an early age he was forced to shoulder the daunting responsibilities of steering the nation into modern progress. And when he ascended the Golden Throne on 2nd June 1974, he became the youngest monarch in the world.
The present king, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck time and again mentions that, "There was never a King like the 4th King and there will never be one hereafter." His reign was unique considering not only the conditions of his accession to the throne and departure, but also the nature of the policies he pursued during the thirty four years. How Bhutan stands proudly in the world today is all because of His Majesty's miraculous contributions and in a way it has all been unique.
In 2005, he received the 'Champions of the Earth' Award from United Nations Environment Programme for his outstanding work to enhance the protection of natural resources and keeping environment preservation at the center of country's constitution. Besides many development activities during his Majesty’s rule, there are three important milestones I would like to discuss in depth in this paper, which makes him not only my hero but the hero of the nation. Firstly, his noble contribution of sacrificing his power to empower his people. Secondly, his prioritizing of the happiness and wellbeing of his people over the economic development of the country. Thirdly, his brave and fearless role in safeguarding his people and the country.
While, in today's world, leaders are trying protect their power and maintain it for their own interests, in a tiny kingdom like ours, the great king has always prioritized his people and empowered them. In 1998, His Majesty initiated the process of administration decentralization to involve the people intensively in the planning and implementation of the development activities by handing the executive power to the Council of Ministers.
Another major stride was taken during his reign, when he announced that time has come for the Kings to hand over the control of government to the people. "Democracy is a gift from the golden throne", say most Bhutanese. The first constitution of the country was also initiated. Soon after on December 14, 2006, at the age of 51, he announced his immediate abdication and the transfer of the throne to his son Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck. It was the first time in world history that a monarch, who was initially vested with absolute powers, voluntarily reduced the scope of these powers and eventually abdicated with no other reason than his own dedication to political reforms. (Thierry Mathou, 2008). Finally in 2008, Bhutan saw her first parliamentary elections and a new system of governance with a new king.
Further, the Gross National Happiness (GNH), the unique development philosophy that the world knows Bhutan for was also propounded by His Majesty in 1974. The farsighted leader long before realized that materialistic approach to development could never be a substitute for happiness. "King Wangchuk said that instead of relying on Gross Domestic Product as the best indicator of Bhutan's progress, it should instead consider its GNH. That was to be measured by its peoples' sense of being well-governed, their relationship with the environment, satisfaction with the pace of economic development, a sense of cultural and national belonging", reported Dean Nelson (March, 2011).
This philosophy not only introduces Bhutan as a peaceful and a happy country to the rest of the world, it also takes care of its individual citizen's wellbeing. The great king believed that happiness is the ultimate desire of every citizen and that it must be the purpose of development to create the enabling conditions for happiness. Today, despite Bhutan being a low income developing country, every citizen is provided with the amenities of free education, free health care, free land distribution for people who are living under poverty hence, reducing the poverty rate at its minimal. This approach to improving people’s wellbeing is unique and partially explains the heroic dynamism of the King.
Another landmark made by the Father of the nation, in the history of Bhutan was when insurgent groups from India namely; United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) threatened the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bhutan for almost a decade. The life and property of the people living in the south eastern and south western borders of the country became unsafe. His Majesty tried several times to have peaceful negotiations with these militants but to no avail. As a result, in December 2003, he initiated and led what was called 'Operation All Clear' that impelled all the insurgents living in illegal Camps in the foothills of Bhutan to leave and peace to the country was restored once and all. The King demonstrated that he was a leader who can risk his life for his people and country. That, as well, makes him a hero.
I could state thousands of achievements the King has made and many reasons why he is my hero if I was allowed to go on and on. Nonetheless, the three main reasons above give a clear basis on why I consider His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk, the Forth king of Bhutan as my hero. His compassion and wisdom can only be compared with that of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
P.S- This Essay was written as a part of my Masters Degree Course as my final paper :)