By Tendar Tsering
DHARAMSHALA, May 18: Tibetans living in scattered communities in India, including Dharamshala, are now eligible to apply for the annual agriculture training programme in Israel, reserved until now for only agricultural-based settlements.
The announcement was made earlier this week by Chimey Rinzin, Additional Secretary at the Department of Home, Central Tibetan Administration.
“The Department has decided to extend the opportunity of the farming training programme in Israel to the non-farming Tibetan settlements including Dharamshala,Kullu, and Shimla among many others,” Rinzin said.
“This year, we have 55 seats and we hope Dharamshala will get at least 2 seats,” Rinzin added.
Under this unique agricultural training programme, students from developing countries learn advanced agricultural techniques both formally in classrooms and practically in the field over a period of ten months.
Participants are also provided with opportunities to generate income during their stay in Israel.
However, under the new rules, applicants from non-farming settlements require a minimum educational qualification of a matriculation degree (Class X), which invariably leaves out many unemployed youths.
“We are happy that now Dharamshala can participate in the project but I don’t understand why our applicants need Class X certificates while others from the farming settlements are exempted from this criteria,” Sonam Dorjee, the Dharamshala Tibetan Settlement Officer said after the announcement.
Former head of the Tibetan political prisoners’ group ‘Gu Chu Sum,’ Ngawang Woebar noted that the new rule was not fair upon Tibetan new arrivals, many of whom are unemployed and haven’t had the opportunity to study in normal schools in exile.
“Majority of the Tibetan new arrivals haven’t had the opportunity to finish Class X as the specially designated Tibetan Transit School in Dharamshala provides equivalent education only till Class VIII!” Woebar said. “It would be good if the relevant authorities reviewed the qualification rules.”
When asked, the Tibetan Settlement Officer said that he will take up the issue with the Home Department and file a petition.
In another shift, the programme, which has tried to maintain an equal gender representation since it began in 1998, this year will include only eight females against the 55 available seats.
Authorities said that the decision was based on certain untoward instances that had happened in the past, involving undignified behaviour by earlier female participants.
Former participants of the agricultural training programme have conformed that the knowledge and experience obtained is “invaluable” for the agricultural economies of the Tibetan communities in exile.