Tibetan Settlement Office of Dharamshala celebrated its golden jubilee, with 50 years of service to the Tibetans in the area.
The decked-out stage at Tsuglakhang Temple near the Dalai Lama’s residence was filled with guests which included the President of the Central Tibetan Administration, the Deputy Commissioner of Kangra, the Supreme Justice Commissioner of the Central Tibetan Administration, and the Deputy Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile.
Celebration of the Golden Jubilee was inaugurated by Tibetan cultural programmes, and a public feast for lunch for at at least one thousand people.
Tibetan Settlement Officer Dawa Rinchen presented a report giving the highlights of the office in the last 50 years.
The first person to lead this office, (then called Tibetan Welfare Office, and renamed to Tibetan Settlement Office in 2015), was Lobsang Gyaltsen in 1967, seven years after the Dalai Lama established McLeod Ganj as the base of the Central Tibetan Administration. Unofficially, it is called the Tibetan Government-in-exile.
The Dalai Lama arrived in McLeod Ganj on 30 April 1960 to set up his exile headquarters, after spending about a year in Mussoorie from March 1959. About 500 Tibetan refugees followed him to live in McLeod Ganj.
Until 1992, the Tibetan Welfare Officer was appointed by the CTA. Due to an amendment in the Charter of the Tibetans in exile, this post was made to be elected by the people. Dawa Tsering was elected to the post in 1992.
The Settlement Officer is accountable to the Local Assembly, also elected by the people. The Assembly came in to being after an amendment in the Charter in 1993.
The Local Assembly of Dharamshala area has 15 representatives, who meet two times a year in March and September to pass a budget and review the works of the TSO.
Rinchen said that there are about 15,000 Tibetans under his jurisdiction. His main work is to act as the bridge between the CTA and the people in Dharamshala.
“We look after the welfare of the old aged, poor and destitute, and youth addicted with drugs and alcohol,” Rinchen said.
There are two Review Committees that screen the requests for help.
Education of children of people and destitute, health and environment are some of the other areas the office looks after.
“Although the environment comes under the jurisdiction of the Dharamshala Municipal and City Council, we pay extra attention to that because of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s constant concern for the protection of environment.”
An Environment Desk was started under the TSO in 1994, mostly aiming to solve the waste management in McLeod Ganj by its green workers.
Connecting and networking with the local administration and the people is also a priority of the TSO.
Eight Block leaders, elected by the Tibetans in Dharamshala, help liaise with the Tibetans in the area.