…and has returned home 

Yangchen C Rinzin 

His Majesty The King has commanded the government to look into creating job opportunities for Bhutanese working overseas and has returned home in the wake of the Covid- 19 pandemic, according to Prime Minster Dr Lotay Tshering.

About 2,604 Bhutanese from 25 countries has returned since March. However, a majority of them are students.  Another 2,000 Bhutanese will be returning between April 18 and 28, which will include both students and working overseas.

Many of the Bhutanese workers have returned because of the situation in the country and plans to return once the situation improves. Some had quit jobs because the company they had worked for asked them to resign and leave.

Returnees who talked to Kuensel are apprehensive of going back and worried about livelihood is given the unemployment problem in the country. Some are hoping to avail job opportunities in Bhutan should the Covid-19 situation worsen for the next three months and they cannot return.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that His Majesty is concerned and commanded the government to tap the potential of these returnees equipped with experience and skills of working aboard. “We must devise a mechanism to take advantage of their skills for the country, as commanded by His Majesty,” Lyonchhoen said.

The government is working along this line and as far as possible create enough opportunities for them to stay back.

The government will conduct a survey to see what skills they have, how much they used to earn so that it could provide as a basis to create opportunities. “It would be my failure if we cannot come up with plans to attract these workers to stay back.”

Lyonchhen however, said that the government would not force them to stay back.

The prime minster said that Bhutanese leaving to work overseas was because the government has not created enough opportunities in the country. “These workers have experience and capability and has gone through a rough time to survive in a foreign land.”

Although nothing had been finalised, the government is looking into areas where the returnees are trained for startups. The government would build on the current plans like CSI flagship, startup programmes and agricultural entrepreneurship.

“They could become employers with the experience they have gained aboard,” he said.

Meanwhile, the second phase of repatriation flights will start from today where about 429 Bhutanese will return from India including 136 students.

Another 145 Bhutanese will return today from Kalimpong, Darjeeling and Sikkim via bus arranged by the government. A total of 160 students from the Maldives and Sri Lanka will also return.

The government has also arranged a fight to bring back 398 Bhutanese from the Middle East and another five Bhutanese from Canada. Additional flights to the Middle East has been also arranged to bring Bhutanese between April 25 and 28.

Flight has been also arranged to bring 108 Bhutanese from Australia, Malaysia and Japan via Malaysia.

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji at a press conference yesterday said that although more than 500 from Australia had registered to return, due to issue in the connectivity flight and expensive fare from Malaysia, it was cancelled.

“Another 48 students in Sri Lanka decided to stay back and another 345 Bhutanese have decided to stay back in Japan since they still get a salary. They are also taken care of by the Japanese government.”

Lyonpo said that although there are four Bhutanese in Singapore, five in The Philippines, 33 in USA and 15 in Canada who want to return, the government couldn’t arrange flights for them.

“We’ve requested them to stay back until we manage the flight and when India lifts the lockdown.”