While the parents and students of the ‘learn and earn’ program are geared up to file a case against the agent, Bhutan Overseas Employment (BEO), the case will now also drag in the Ministry of Labour and Human Resource (MoLHR).
The committee lawyer Ngawang Tobgay said that while the actual battle is in getting justice for the youths from the agent, for which the case has to be filed, the case also involves the MoLHR as the program was being monitored by the ministry and the ministry was responsible for approving the license of the agent.
Initially, several students had approached the ministry to appraise on the issue after the agent failed to respond. “For that, the case also falls under negligence as both ministry and the agent has not provided timely intervention although the issue was made known to them for a long time in addition to not monitoring the program properly,” said the lawyer.
“Actual studies and research were not being done by the ministry before starting the program” he said pointing out that there were similar issues in relation to other countries who had implemented similar programs, long ago.
He said in Japan there were numerous cases of the Japanese mafia being involved and even prostitution being prevalent through such programs in the past which the ministry did not look into before approving the program and supporting it.
He said such issues was also discussed in the Japanese parliament.
“Had such research and studies been done before sending our youths to Japan, such issues would not have emerged at all,” he said.
Ngawang said that the government puts the reason down due to work culture in Japan and culture shock of youths, but he said such differences between the two countries could also have been studied. He said some licensing regulations and Overseas Employment regulations have been breached by the ministry and the agent. The lawyer said that even the Japanese government had not been informed about such programs of sending Bhutanese youths to Japan. “They didn’t even inform the honorary council based in Tokyo and Osaka, and this was just between agent to agent, language schools and the ministry and so due process was not followed.”
He said had the talk been between the two governments, since the program is under the government, the issues would have received timely intervention and they would have been solved easily. “The presence of such programs and our youths in Japan was hardly known until the issues became public and with our visit in Japan,” said Ngawang.
Meanwhile, he said a huge amount of loan was allowed to be taken by the students proposed by the agent and assigned to the bank by the ministry without studying the actual required amount.
“The bank statement of the youths was manipulated and since the language schools didn’t know the reality, youths were assumed to have huge amounts which could be one reason the schools pressured our youths,” said the lawyer.
The students are also expected to use the ACC report as it says that the MoLHR officials led by the DG favored the agent in many ways to the extent of even threatening the students to keep quite.
The ACC report apart from the criminal charges pointed to labour officials led by the DG even actively working to ensure that agent benefitted financially and also pushing the program despite the reluctance of the former minister.
ACC even accused the DG of defending the agent after a study tour to Japan.
The last RCSC Commission, contrary to the advice of the ACC, decided to not suspend the DG on administrative grounds, apart from the criminal charges being handled by the OAG.
The government has also been accused by the parents and students of being defensive of the labour officials and the DG.