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The Drayang conundrum: Meeting govt. reopening standards

Majority of the existing Drayangs do not fulfill the criteria to reopen

Tashi Namgyal/Thimphu

There are currently 61 Drayangs in the country today. However, only eight of them fulfill the standards to reopen.

This comes after the government announced letting the Drayangs to operate soon with certain set of technical standards to follow, after nearly two years of closure due to the pandemic.

In a study carried out by the government, it was found that most of the Drayangs did not meet the prescribed technical standards to reopen. Although 29 Drayangs were found to fulfill the governmentโ€™s technical standards, the establishments needed to work on the overall improvement in their facilities.

It was found that 24 existing Drayangs in the existing locations did not have any scope of meeting the standards to be able to resume their businesses.

From the 29 Drayangs who fulfilled the standards to reopen, only 14 were found willing to comply with the new sets of standard operating procedure (SOP) that Drayangs must fulfill in order to reopen.

The procedures (SOPs) were developed after reviewing the situation of female Drayang employees in Paro and Phuentsholing through a study conducted by the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) in 2017.

It was also based on these reports that the Cabinet directed Drayangs to remove the song request system in any form. It was found that such solicitations made the Drayang employees vulnerable to exploitations and harassment from the customers.

โ€œAs a substitute for the request system, Drayangs are now expected to explore other sources of revenue generation with the reforms set by the government,โ€ Prime Minister (PM) Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering said. โ€œProviding bar and restaurant services looks to be a viable option.โ€

The proposed reforms include a menu system where customers can choose their favourite songs and dances from the menu to be played.

The Economic Affairs Ministry also recommended in its โ€˜joint report on reforming Drayangsโ€™ that the operational timing of Drayangs should be made similar to that of restaurants and bars.

The report mentioned that Drayang employees were subject to social prejudices and discrimination since a Drayangis perceived to be a place where customers consume alcohol and seek sexual pleasure, while the employees there are perceived to be of low moral character.

One of the reasons why it is observed that Drayang employees are sexually exploited by their customers was 63 percent of female Drayang employees were mothers, with 28 percent of them not having anyone at home to sit and look after their children when they are out for work.

Despite the odd working hours, the NCWC study found that most of the Drayangs did not provide transportation services to their employees.

The study recommended for Drayang employees to be provided with capacity building programmes, along with trainings and certification from reputed relevant agencies.

It is mentioned in the report that the government could consider providing soft loans and other financial support to those Drayangs that are willing to upgrade and improve their facilities to suit the specified standards.

In order to protect and safeguard the wellbeing of the employees, the report recommended mandatory implementation of Labour Ministry service rules too.

Among others, contrary to the mandate of having to keep a fire extinguisher each in every establishment, the report pointed out many do not even know how to handle it.

For those Drayangs who wants to pull their shutters down, the report recommended they be provided with reasonable compensation by the government in lieu of the investments made.

Meanwhile, Drayangs in the country initially served as an entertainment center where people came together to enjoy local music, cuisine and arts, with the primary objective of promoting the culture and providing employment opportunities.

However, maximizing profit has become the main objective and sole purpose of the Drayangs now with its rapid proliferation over the years.

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