Yangchen C Rinzin | Bumthang
It is 8am. Choki Lhamo and her friends wear their safety gears to begin their day.
Choki has been working as a labourer at the roadside in Bumthang for the last five months.
She lost her job as a dancer in drayang when all entertainment centres were closed because of Covid-19 pandemic.
Divorced and a single mother of two, Choki had to depend on the Druk Gyalpoi’s Kidu. “It was not enough since I’ve a large family and other dependents,” She said.
Choki and her friends, who also work in the same drayang, decided to apply for work at the road widening project area executed by Construction Development Corporation Limited (CDCL).
“We wanted to help our families because when we applied for kidu, we were advised we should not depend only on the kidu money,” Kinzang Dema, 20, said.
Although many construction works are on halt due to shortage of labourers, the work along the internal road widening project in Bumthang is in full swing where many Bhutanese youth including unemployed and laid-off youth are involved in the construction.
Project engineer Jigme Wangchuk said youth are employed by various sub-contractors under the same project to work mostly on for the drainage, walls and footpaths.
There are about 83 such youth involved including few youth who had come from village looking for job. Skilled workers are given about Nu 900 a day and Nu 600 for non-skilled workers.
Sangay Wangmo, who had come with his husband to Bumthang but got stuck due to lockdown said they earn about Nu 15,000 a month and it is a good money.
“My husband is a mason but we can’t depend only on his salary because Covid-19 has affected his work. So, I decided to work at CDCL instead of staying idle,” she said.
Jigme Wangchuk said the workers could leave anytime if they get their job back or if drayangs open. “Since they are affected right now, we’re trying to help them.”
The widening project started in March 2019 and is expected to complete by July 2021. “We are working phase wise and some of the youth work until the phase completes. However, a few have started leaving due to cold weather.”
A class 10 graduate, Ugyen Chophel, said if youth want they can do any kind of work, which is why he took up the job that is available to earn.
He said his friends did not agree to work with him but he decided to work. “It’ll be an experience while we’re earning, but many youth feel shy to work at the roadside. With this, I did not even apply for kidu because I am earning.”
It is 6pm and Choki, who is still working at the site, said if one puts their heart, no job is difficult.
“It’s difficult but we’re getting used to the work now. I’m looking forward to reopening drayang but for now, this is my workplace,” she said.