Tashi Wangmo, Thimphu
On June 27, 2017, 120 Bhutanese students who had gone for training in constructions to Dhualana and Faridabad, in India, returned. After reaching Bhutan, the students are claiming that they were mistreated and not even provided basic necessities, like shelter and food. Citing several reasons, the students are calling for an investigation by the Department of Employment (DoE), Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR).
However, the private Financial Management Institute, through which the youth had gone to the training institutes and officials from the Department of Employment (DoE), Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR), have a different story.
Speaking to The Journalist, the youth alleged that although they went for general supervisors training at Gurgoan, they were sent to the Construction Industry Development Council (CIDC), Hapur, Dhualana, for learning how to make tiles and marbles work.
One of the youths said that facilities such as food, water and logging facilities were worse. He said that the roof of the house they were staying in was leaking and that they were made to work in harsh weather conditions and that the quality of food was very bad, making many of them sick.
“We used to find metals, wire and other stuffs in the food,” he said, adding that many of them even had to stay without eating for a few days, with some of them becoming sick now and then.
Another youth alleged that although their friends got sick, the trainers hardly heeded to their requests and that they had faced many problems, looking for the medical assistance.
“Even labourers at the construction sites were delighted that we were doing all of their work for free,” he said. However, he mentioned that the youth who were sent to Faridabad were treated well. He further said that they had even complained to the captains of their groups, to talk with the consultancy firm regarding these treatments. However, nothing happened.
He also mentioned that the 120 were divided into three groups, with 40 each in a group. “The 40 who went to Faridabad were treated well. However, the other 80 faced many difficulties at Dhualana. The 40 friends at Faridabad were lucky since they didn’t have to do much physical works like us,” he said, adding that they were involved in work like digging the ground, followed by other physical works and very few theoretical studies. He added that the trainers were not capable and the students faced many language barriers.
“One of our friends even attempted suicide. Another was admitted at the JDWNRH as he had pneumonia and he was discharged yesterday,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a telephonic interview with the owner of the Consultancy firm, The Journalist was told that the term ‘construction training’ means more of practical work compared to theory. The training was divided into three types; tiling work, bituminous work and general supervisor.
The Firm’s CEO said complaints about the students, saying that they were not attending classes, abusing substances, forming groups, fighting; carrying weapons and also stealing were received.
However, the students said “there may be a few who misbehaved.” They added that due to fear they started to stay together, after one of the Bhutanese boys was threatened by a non-Bhutanese. “Almost all attended the training without fail,” he said, adding that there are a few exceptional cases where students missed the class sometimes. “We used to fall sick because of the weather condition, poor food facilities and harsh labor work,” one of the students said.
“The concerned agencies can investigate and the truth will come out,” another student said. “Just look at our physical conditions,” another student said.
Officials from the DoE, MoLHR, said that they did not receive any complaints from students, even during their visit to the training institute. The trainees of Faridabad said that officials from the ministry as well as the consultancy firm visited them. However, trainees of Dhualana said that only one staff from the firm visited them once.
From the 120, 24 are girls. They had left on March 23, 2017 for a period of three months. They were paid a stipend of Nu. 1,500 a month.