The Prime Minister in the meeting with ministers and executives on Thursday said that Project Dantak wanted to get in around 15,000 workers for its projects but the government did not allow it due to COVID-19.
Lyonchhen said Dantak put up job vacancies offering Nu 12,000 or those without qualifications and Nu 15,000 for those with skills or qualification but not a single Bhutanese applied.
Lyonchhen said that on one hand there is a worry of not getting jobs but on the other hand the worry is of people not taking the jobs on offer.
Project Dantak, as a result, is left without foreign workers to work for them. All the Indian workers left to celebrate the Holi festival in March, and unfortunately, Bhutan had its first COVID-19 case on 6 March leading to the border closure, and the workers were not able to return back. The situation was made worse after India imposed its lock down to fight the spread of COVID-19.
It has been almost four months now that Project Dantak is facing worker shortage. A month ago, Dantak had announced vacancies for around 1,000 skilled and unskilled workers and around 100 to 150 skilled workers needed in the construction sites.
Project Dantak received lot of enquiries from the local people asking about the nature of work, locations and the payment aspects.
The update now according to Dantak is that only very few Bhutanese have applied for the vacancies and they have started working in Phuentsholing.
Project Dantak is still looking for the workers, especially, masons, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, operators, and drivers. It is ready to take in both skilled and unskilled local Bhutanese workers so that there is manpower enough to complete the construction projects. There were also efforts to recruit local Bhutanese workers to join them even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but there too hardly anyone applied.
Given the bleak economic situation leading to unemployment, Project Dantak expects that many locals will come forward to take up the jobs at the end of this month.
A Project Dantak official thanked the Bhutanese people working along the border in the southern region, and said, “We are living a normal life in this situation unlike in other parts of the world.”
Meanwhile, Project Dantak is requesting the government to allow them to bring back the Indian workers as India has also opened up its lock down, and also allow the people to move wherever they are working.
The government has given its permission to bring in only the professional workers with specialized skills and that too after following a proper quarantine of 21 days.