Yangyel Lhaden

The way  drayangs operate should change or  they would not be allowed to operate.

The government has set a standard operating system (SOP)  for drayang operation, whereby the request system is prohibited so that there is no contact between the customers and the artists. The Prime Minister’s Office would monitor the operation of drayangs, which earlier was under the Thromde.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said while there is no proof, there are indications that drayang  was operating like  a red-light area. “Several researches on drayangs have found out that the operation of drayang is not formal.”

The new reform mandates a separate team of waiters and waitresses to serve customers. It also says that artists will not perform the dual functions of an artist and server. There will also be a dress code for different employees, while artists will have to wear proper national dress and perform only Bhutanese songs and dances.

It also reiterates that underage employment should not be practiced.

Lyonchhen said the government is willing to help the drayang operators in infrastructure reforms.

He said the finance minister has designed a loan scheme for drayang owners for infrastructure developments.

Since February this year, drayang owners are asked to make drayangs fully sound proof, install closed circuit television (CCTV), maintain a minimum of 2 metre distance between stage and audience, have separate clean toilets and changing rooms for male and female artists.

A team from Thimphu thromde inspected the drayangs in February and found that most drayangs did not follow a standard operating procedure (SOP) developed.

According to the Prime Minister, SOPs and technical standards for drayangs should be adopted to transform from a perceived exploitative commercial place to a dignified and safe entertainment centre where people including families and tourists could enjoy traditional music, local cuisine, art, and folklore.

He said the government is serious about the drayang reforms and said that the drayang owners who cannot comply with the reforms could surrender the business licence. “The government is willing to pay the loans and rents of the drayangs impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Prime Minister said their motive is clear and they want to create a decent society.

He said he already provided the option for drayang owners to switch their businesses during the pandemic and even directed the economic affairs ministry to facilitate. “Drayang owners could venture into sales, restaurants and bars.”

Lyonchhen said that the government would find employment for drayang employees. “Some drayang workers approached me, requesting not to do away with the request system. I offered them jobs,  but they earn about Nu 50,000 a month. Rehabilitating them is also difficult.”

He also said the drayang owners were not happy to do away with the request system. Many drayang owners told Kuensel in an earlier interview that reviving from the loss of closing the drayangs is huge and doing away with the request system came at the wrong time.

Edited by Tashi Dema