The Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) and its stakeholders such as Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Limited (RICBL) will initiate an advocacy program on the Package Pilgrimage Regulations 2017, which came into force on November 24, 2017, and cover all 20 dzongkhags.
In the absence of such regulation there were numerous reports of accidents, injuries and exploitation of Bhutanese pilgrims in India with one case of carelessness even resulting in death.
The Bhutanese newspaper had done an investigative story on the above issues contributing to the government doing an investigation and coming up with the regulations.
Acting on its investigation findings and the minister’s instruction, OCP came up with this new regulation to provide timely information, protect lives, health, safety and other rights guaranteed by section 4 of the Consumer Protection Act and to define responsibility of tour operator and pilgrims.
Chencho from OCP said, “As a statutory agent under MOEA, OCP is mandated to promote and protect the economic interest and safety of the consumers, raise awareness on consumer rights and responsibilities and ensure redressal of their grievances. We came up with the regulation to protect pilgrim’s rights but now we decided we need to do more, that is educate the people about the regulation which begins with signing the pilgrimage agreement with the pilgrim operators and lodging complaints with OCP if they are not happy with the services provided by the operators”.
She said, “Accordingly, OCP shall initiate advocacy program in all 20 dzongkhags, where tour operators, gups from different gewogs and common people shall be briefed about the minimum standards, procedures and responsibilities of pilgrimage operators, pilgrims and other relevant implementing agencies. We shall also distribute brochures on pilgrimage regulations. The advocacy program shall begin from January 2018.”
She also said, “We are also actively engaged in awareness programs with tour operators in Phuentsholing and Thimphu and we are happy to receive a large number of participants of around 54 in Phuentsholing and 34 in Thimphu”.