More than 30 youth sent through the Guaranteed Overseas Employment Programme have returned home 

About 30 Bhutanese youth, who had gone to New Delhi, India this year through the Guaranteed Overseas Employment Programme, have returned home with a bitter experience.

The Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR) had sent 86 class 12 graduates to India in the second batch of the Guaranteed Overseas Employment Programme to India in April. According to officials, more than 50 youth remain in India either working or attending interviews.

The ministry had signed a contract with the India-based Alfresco Solutions LLP, whereby the company had agreed to provide training and placement. The company was also supposed to provide food and accommodation for the trainees, while the ministry would provide a monthly stipend of Nu 4,000 for the first month and Nu 3,200 for the second month during the two-month training period.

However, the ministry’s client in India provided neither proper training nor placements for most of the youth, according to those who have returned home. The situation worsened, the job seekers claimed, when the ministry failed to release their stipend on time.

The labour ministry had assured that the Indian company would provide jobs that would give them a net salary of INR 15,000 excluding accommodation and food allowance, provident fund and transport expenses.

The company was supposed to provide placements in BPO (business process outsourcing) companies in India.

“After reaching India, we were told that we would be given between INR 11,000 to 12,000. They said that the salary of INR 15,000 had arisen because of a typing mistake,” one of the affected youth said adding that it was a collective view of the affected and did not want to be named.

“Some of our days in India went without a proper meal,” he claimed.

After the training, 34 trainees were taken to Gurgaon in Delhi in June for interviews and placement by the company. The youth claimed that all of them were kept in two rooms without food.

The youths said that they attended 30 to 40 interviews during their stay in India. But only a few of them were actually employed.

“In some instances we were told that we were selected. But soon after they said the companies were closed,” one of them said.

Another challenge for the youth was the requirement of an Aadhaar card and the need to speak Hindi. They said it took more than a month to process and acquire the card.

In May, a team comprising auditors, lawyers and the chief employment officer from MoLHR visited Agra, where the youth were based and met the company’s officials and the trainees to resolve the issue. However, the visit did not help change the situation, according to the youth.

They claimed that they were subjected to verbal abuses from company officials. “They told us that we should go back to Bhutan. They said they won’t be responsible if anything happened to us,” he said.

After returning home, some of the youth met labour officials recently to request the ministry to help them find alternative jobs. Although they remain unemployed, they would be counted as employed in the ministry’s record.

One of the terms and conditions of the agreement on the Guaranteed Overseas Employment Programme states, “If the trainee contravenes the provisions of the undertaking, the trainee shall not be entitled for any opportunities from the ministry and shall be considered employed.” The youths could only discontinue the programme on medical grounds.

Director general of the department of employment, Sherub Tenzin, said that his department has accepted that the issue was real. According to him, about 50 youth remain in India.

“If they are having a difficult time in India, they can come back,” he said. It is the client in India that has failed the ministry and the youth.

He said that his ministry would try and help youth in genuine cases and that the ministry is working towards resolving the issue with its client.

Sherub Tenzin said that the youth have to accept the challenge of finding a job in a competitive world. He said that although the company had failed, it would be difficult for the ministry to terminate the contract considering the fate of those still working in India through the company.

The youths who have returned however claim that some of those working in India are having a difficult time without proper jobs. According to those Kuensel talked to, some of them have been forced to look for jobs on their own.

MB Subba