Labour Minister Ugyen Dorji has said that the number of Bhutanese youth placed in Japan under learn and earn programme applying for the newly introduced loan deferment scheme was increasing.

He said that about 230 students had applied for the grace period as of March 18, the last date to register online. Deadline was given, he said, to gauge the interest among youth and their parents.

“The number of applicants we received until March 18 is a clear indication that the youth and parents are interested in the scheme,” he said, adding that there could be more students who many have missed the notification but would like to apply for the scheme.

Applications, he said, would be open until May 31.

The prime minister signed a loan deferment order on March 1, and, as of March 14, 128 students had applied for the scheme that provides opportunity to the students to continue to learn the Japanese language, pursue higher education and enroll to themselves into vocational colleges or to look for a full-time job in Japan.

Some of the students are reportedly returning home in the first week of April. However, the labour minister said that he would not encourage the students to return home with false notion that the loan they had availed would be waived.

“I would ask the youth and their parents to weigh the options made available to them – loan deferment scheme,” he said, adding that people with vested interests could be instigating the students to return.  “The students are capable of making decisions for themselves.”

The labour minister said that the ministry had informed the students about the scheme through their email, social media and language schools in Japan. The duration of the courses is four years for class 12 graduates and two years for university graduates. The grace period will last until the completion of the courses.

The parents’ representatives, who have returned from a fact-finding mission in various cities in Japan, told Kuensel that they would once again appear in a panel discussion on BBS.

“We will meet with the parents and decide whether to take the matter to court after the panel discussion,” said Sonam Tshering, president of the parents’ committee.

He said that as much as 300 students could return home in the first week of April due to expiration visa validity. Of about 700 Bhutanese youth in Japan, more than 100 are reported to have returned home already.

One of the challenges the students are facing is the possibility of deportation after the completion of their courses since their visas are tagged with the duration of the courses.

Sonam Tshering said that agents had failed to help the students renew their visa despite their promise to provide assistance while in Japan.

The government has said that the embassies of Bhutan and Japan in New Delhi would assist the youth resolve issues related to visas.

Sonam Tshering claimed that the BEO and its Japanese counterpart NSD had breached the terms of condition of placement of the students in Japan. According to him, the agents had promised to provide a furnished room for two students.

“However, about seven students were placed in one room that cost about 20,000 Japanese Yen,” he said.

MB Subba