… 746 applicants withdrew their applications because of various reasons

Tshering Palden

As of May 28, a total of 31,257 applications were received for the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu (DGRK), of which 68 percent or 21,195 had applied in April. The maximum number of applications, 4,615 were received on April 15, the second day after the relief kidu was announced.

Of the 21,195 who applied for the relief kidu in April, more than 78 percent were found eligible after the assessment that in some cases included field verification.

3,324 applicants could not be considered for the kidu. “These applicants were found to be in a relatively better position compared to others and so, in a way, they should not feel disappointed,” an official said.

Most of them were employers who had applied to pay salary for their employees. During the assessment, it was found that their employees had applied on their own and received the kidu.

746 applicants withdrew their applications because they had either found alternative livelihoods or were now in a more comfortable position and felt that the kidu should go to others who needed it more.

As of May 28, about Nu 163 million has been disbursed for the 68 percent of the applicants who filed their applications in April. The monthly relief kidu comes in two categories: a full amount of Nu 12,000, and partial amount Nu 8,000.

With the completion of disbursement of relief kidu amount for April, the DGRK will begin disbursing child support kidu of Nu 800 per child. An additional Nu 7 million is being disbursed as child support.

The DGRK team is now working on completing the assessments for applications received in May as well as continuation of disbursements for the April applicants.

Officials leading the DGRK team said that assessments took much longer than initially expected because more than a third of the applications came from outside the tourism sector. Many were from the informal sector for whom there were no means for third party verifications. While assessments and disbursements for applicants from tourism and related sectors were completed by the first week of May, the remaining applications were reviewed further and had to be supplemented with field visits.

Field visits added a new dimension to the verification process while also providing valuable insights on the multi-dimensional aspects of the distress that applicants are currently facing.

“If we had not conducted the field verifications, many of the applicants would not have received the kidu,” one of the officials said.

Relief kidu has also augmented the delivery of other kidu to the needy, mainly in the urban areas, according to the officials with the DGRK. In particular, as part of the field verifications, many senior citizens as well as households in need of ration support were immediately brought under the attention of the ongoing programs of the Office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon to provide vitamins and one-month basic ration stock to them.

The DGRK conducted verification of applications in the dzongkhags with the help of dzongdags and drangpons.

In some instances, a few of the officials visiting homes for verification had to endure abusive responses from the applicants. However, this has not dampened the spirit of the officials nor affected the assessment process.

“They were initially disturbed by the abusive responses but despite that, they said the applicants really were in need of the kidu,” another official said.

Officials also said that following feedback and proposals from hoteliers, a new formula has been devised to disburse the kidu amount to the employees working in the industry.

Hotels and tour operators will submit the list of employees along with their pay scale to the Tourism Council of Bhutan secretariat that will verify the details and submit to the DGRK team for further scrutiny.

Officials said that the number of calls to the grievance cell has also reduced gradually.

224 applications could not be assessed because applicants have either switched off their phones, provided the wrong numbers or don’t respond to calls from the assessment team.

There are 311 applicants who do not currently require kidu. The DGRK will be monitoring these applicants in case their status changes.

Those who are assessed as eligible will continue to receive kidu until June 2020. However, officials urged recipients to take up opportunities to employ themselves.

“We also receive calls and requests to discontinue their benefits because they have got a job or their business has improved.”

The relief kidu was granted as a temporary relief for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic on April 14.