Operators appeal to PM

Yangchen C Rinzin

Almost a decade after the Community Centres (CC) was established, those working with the centres, about 212 are still looking for a parent organisation that would take ownership of the centres.

The centres with the mandate to provide rural communities with access to fast, affordable and reliable public services using information communications technology, are bogged down with ownership issues, that operators say could defeat the whole purpose of the centres.

The operation and management of CCs, when it was first launched in 2011, was with the Bhutan Post Corporation. However, in 2015, its operation and management were handed over to the Bhutan Development Bank Limited (BDBL).

It was then said that the government decided to transfer management of CCs to the BDBL to increase the utility of the centres as financial services along with public services like government to citizen (G2C) services, among others. It was not finalised for how long BDBL will operate the CCs. The operators were transferred as contract employees.

The ownership of the CCs, when it first started, was supposed to be eventually transferred to the department of local government from department of information technology and telecommunication.   

However, nothing materialised even when the ownership issue was discussed several times.

Without proper ownership, 212 CC operators including seven operators on standby, had appealed to the Prime Minister (PM) Dr Lotay Tshering last month to look into the possibilities to regularise their services either with the gewog administration or BDBL or any other relevant agency.

The operators had submitted a similar appeal to the Prime Minister in August this year.

“This will not only secure our employment but also ensure our right to fair and reasonable remuneration,” the letter stated.

One of the CC operators said that although administrative jurisdiction of the CCs was changed, the operators still abide by the contract agreement, which is renewed on an annual basis.

Operators receive a monthly salary of Nu 7,245 with a 10 percent of contract allowance and 20 percent corporate allowance. The gross payment comes to Nu 9,419. The operators are on contract.

“However, there is a statutory deduction of Nu 2,208 as a variable salary deduction from the gross salary,” an operator said. “We don’t have any other emoluments or allowances apart from salary.”

The operators in their letter state that while the job requires sacrifices, they lack adequate means of livelihood.

The operators shared that the monthly salary of Nu 7,245 has not changed since their recruitment in 2011 despite several salary revisions in many other sectors and the government including revised daily minimum wage rate.

The CC operators were dejected when the recent salary was revised for state-owned enterprises including BDBL and found out that the revision did not cover them.

One operator said that although they had appealed for raise, the BDBL management informed them that it couldn’t revise their salary unless they receive a subsidy from the government.

“It’s sad that even after being an employee of BDBL, we still do not get any raise,” one said. “However, we want to first fight for our ownership. If this happens so many issues would be taken care of, including salary.”

The operators, in their appeal letter, stated that except for the contract agreement that they have signed with BDBL management, no other rules and regulations govern the operators. Another operator said the BDBL management was not in a position to bring in any tangible outcome to their previous request to the management.

After the appeal letter was submitted, the operators have created a group in a social media application (WhatsApp) that also includes the PM as a member. One of the members said that they were informed over Whats App that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is looking into the issue.

The overall goal of the CCs was to reduce poverty, empower communities, and improve the quality of life in rural areas.

An official from the PMO said that after receiving the letter, PM has ensured to form a CC task force, which is studying the issue currently.

BDBL managing director did not comment since the appeal letter was with the Prime Minister.