More than 900 employees worked in around 60 drayangs across the country before it was closed down by the government. The closure of drayangs came as a shock to both the drayang owners (who invested millions in the industry) and the employees who were the main bread winners in the family.
A former employee of Druk Yangchen Drayang in Phuentsholing, Kencho Wangmo, said she is currently unemployed and has no academic qualification. She had been working in the drayang for five years.
“At this point, I am willing accept any job without any preference or second thoughts on the matter. I am currently still unemployed, and have a disabled son who isn’t able to walk. We are surviving on the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu for now. I never had any problems when I was working in the drayangs but after its closure, life has become a mess. Rents, children’s expenses, and basic survival are the only things on my mind. I received a call once from the ministry, and I was told they will call again after the lockdown lifts regarding my livelihood, but till now, I still haven’t received that call yet, and I am hoping they will call me soon. I have got to find a job soon before our funds run out,” Kencho Wangmo said.
Pema Wangmo is an ex-employee of a drayang in Mongar, and she has yet to find another source of livelihood.
“If possible, I am interested in opening up a business, like a shop, but I haven’t started as of now. I got a call from the labour office enquiring about what I was interested in. If the drayangs weren’t closed down due to the government’s directive, I would have continued working there without any regrets,” she said.
Namgay Dema worked in a drayang in Bumthang. She decided to undergo the month-long DeSuup skilling program, which did not keep her away from her children for too long.
“The government promised us, drayang employees, with work, but now, I am not very hopeful about that as there has been no word from them. Just like almost everyone else, I am also surviving on the Kidu, but now, it’s about to get exhausted. Most of us, drayang employees, have only studied up to about Class 6 so it’s very difficult for us to get a job. If we had the aptitude for it, we would have already worked in fields, like tailoring, bakery, etc., but since we are academically challenged, we opted to work in drayangs but that also is not possible now after the closure of drayangs,” Namgay Dema said
Sangay Pem who stays in Paro had joined the drayang ever since her father passed away 10 years ago, and she has been raising her kids from what she earned in the drayang. She has two children studying in class 8 and one who has just done his class 10 BCSEA exam. She is currently unemployed, but she is running errands whenever possible to earn some wages, like tending flower gardens for Nu 600 per day for four days.
Other times, she peels doma at Nu 300 for 10 pons at a factory. She says her hands were covered in bruises from peeling domas. She is a single mother, and when she got a call from the ministry some months ago, she told them she was interested in availing a bar license and a loan as well as business management training, but now she is yet to receive another call from the ministry.
After the closure of drayangs, she has had problems feeding her family at times.
For her, being uneducated was like being blind in the society. “It’s very difficult to survive in today’s world, especially when you are uneducated,” she said.
“It would be difficult to ascertain what the drayang ex-employees are doing right now, but if I am not mistaken, I think some of them are undergoing skilling programs,” said Kelzang Phuntsho, the President of Drayang Association of Bhutan.
As per the Executive Order from the Prime Minister’s Office, the drayang employees were supposed to have gotten jobs and that was supposed to have been taken care of by the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, the Drayang President said.
“So far, we have been waiting,” he added. The President and drayang community are waiting for a formal or official announcement to be made.
“About 10-15 percent of the drayang employees, were lucky enough to get employed when they contacted the ministry. Others, who didn’t even get a response, were not so lucky. The majority, which is to say, around 80 percent, are still unemployed. If I am honest, it’s like the ministry doesn’t care for the drayang folks at all. There are no concrete jobs for the drayang employees from the ministry’s side, and the ministry is just trying to fill up the slots in skilling programs since there are not many people who want to join the skilling program,” said the President.
According to the Drayang President, a drayang employee received Nu 12,000, which was topped up with Nu 10,000 quite recently from Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Fund.
“Everyone is devastated right now. The drayang industry was flourishing, and that was destroyed by the government. While they promised to restore the livelihoods of drayang workers, but now there is no mention of that from the ministry’s side. Every single one of the drayang members are suffering right now, with not enough to eat and drink, borrowing money from friends and relatives just to make the ends meet. As for my staff, I am taking care of all of them,” said the Drayang President.
Labour Minister Karma Dorji said “Our plans for the drayang employees remains the same as what we have announced before. We are going to provide skills development programs to the drayang workers. We have already made some calls to the drayang employees and asked them on what they are interested in, and some of the drayang employees are already undergoing the skilling program.”
After the drayang employees have acquired various skills under the skilling programs such as Build Bhutan Project, tailoring, bakery, etc., the ministry said that they will provide post-skilling support and facilitation for employment and placement.
The ministry is also trying to customize the entrepreneurship training to cater to those without education or lower literacy levels, as around 27.29 percent of them are illiterate, according to the MoLHR.
“Based on the interest, preference, willingness and qualification, the drayang laid off employees are eligible to apply for the courses that are already announced for the implementation,” was the response of the MoLHR to the media.
However, most courses offered under SDP require a minimum qualification of class X, and at least one educational background, and so far, the ministry has not enrolled candidates for SDP without qualification except for Farm Machinery Technology conducted at AMC, Paro, according to ministry.
However, the ministry stated that they are in the process of identifying suitable courses that can be delivered to laid off employees with no qualification. One such mode is Village Skills Development Program for the illiterate.