An end to Drayang business

Drayang owners and employees unhappy with the government’s decision 

SANGAY RABTEN & SHERAB DORJI | Thimphu

Drayang owners and employees in the country are unhappy with the government’s decision to obliterate Drayangs – a mainstay entertainment business for some. 

People from this entertainment sector said they are deeply concerned by the government’s decision to close Drayangs. The government had issued an executive order on 7 January to cease the operation of all the Drayangs in the country with immediate effect.

“We are left jobless and hopeless,” the Drayang operators and workers said.

Working in Drayang as a dancer and anchor, Kinley Yangden said that it was agreed that the government looked into the matter of Drayangs and was expecting to come up with better guidelines but “didn’t expect the decision to clamp down on the entire business. 

She said that there are many single working mothers in the industry supporting children’s education and many are leading better lives. Instead of shutting down, we expected the government’s support to make the entertainment sector a better place with new rules,” the dancer said.

“We respect the statement that women working in Drayangs are found most vulnerable, sexually objectified, and disregarded in society. But now where do we go? How do we earn for our survival? I am not happy with the government’s decision,” Kinley Yangden said.

A working mother in a Drayang in Thimphu, Ugyen Yangtsel, shared that after her job opportunity was deprived it has been difficult to raise her children. 

“I have no formal qualifications to look for other jobs. I have no other option than to work in the entertainment sector, but it’s closed now and the sustenance of my livelihood is at a finger cross-stage,” she said.

Rinchen Zangmo, who had been working in one of the Drayangs in Bajo town Wangduephodrang, said that working in Drayang was a good opportunity to sustain a livelihood. She was able to live by herself and support her family.

After the closure of the entertainment business with the outbreak of Covid-19, she depended on Royal Kidu. “The government’s decision to close Drayang has come as a doomsday for the workers,” she said.

Karma Yangzom from Punakha, who had been working in the industry for four years, said being an orphan and having no formal education she had to work for her livelihood. “To work in Drayang is not a choice but a need,” she added.

She has a view that closing Drayang cannot be termed as a wise decision. “I still wish the government would review the matter and consider reopening the Drayangs. The government should provide jobs if it should be closed. “

Karma Yangzom has been supporting her family and investing in her children’s education from the earnings she makes from Drayang.

Sangay Wangzom, who has been working in different Drayangs in Phuentsholing, said she supports her family and sends her children to school from the income earned from Drayang.

She said though the workers of Drayang respect the decision of the government; she wishes the government would reconsider its decision as they cannot get jobs in other sectors without having higher qualifications.

Working in the entertainment sector since 2013 and currently employed as a dancer in Sonam Drayang in Bumthang, Passang said that the government’s decision should be respected as it is for a good cause in this time of the pandemic. However, “there would be challenges in finding other jobs.”

The owner of Urigg Drayang, Gelephu, Pema Zangmo, said, Drayang operators and employees have no choice but to obey the government’s order. “Yet, we expect the government to compensate the owners soon,” she said.

She said Drayangs throughout the country had been waiting for the government’s decision and had been paying their rents on time.

Kinga Norbu, the chairperson of the Drayang Association for the Paro and Haa region and the owner of Jigsel Drayang, Paro, said that the entertainment business owner had been waiting for the government’s directive to reopen. He said that closing the business for two years had affected gravely.

He said that the Drayang owners had invested a lot in the establishment, and they had been paying the rent with a little concession from the owners. “We request the government to compensate for the loss incurred,” he said.

Kinga Norbu said that the dreams of Drayangs are shattered, and workers are hopelessly lost. “What could be the solution ahead?”

The owner of Puensum Drayang in Monggar, Karma Drupchu, said that making the Dayangs wait for almost two years and then deciding to close is unfair. “The government should not have made us wait if the plan was to close.”

He said that there was no record of any serious misbehavior by the owners or employees and that the government should not have decided to close immediately. “Thorough study must be done to come to a decision.”

According to the owner, Drayang owners and employees are losing their source of earning their bread.

Chencho, owner of Trophel Drayang at Lobesa, said that there is no adverse effect caused by the Drayang and there is no reason it should be shut down. “Otherwise, what is the solution from the government? Will we be exempted from paying the loan?” he said.

The owner of Thank You Club in Samdrup Jongkhar, Karma Dorji, said that the Drayang operators thought the closure of the industry could be because of a pandemic, but it is not the reason. He said it is unwise on the government’s part to come to the decision.

The government is unable to provide jobs to graduates and higher secondary passed out students whereas Drayangs helps to solve the unemployment crisis, according to the owner. 

He said, “The government has failed to recognize that Drayangs create employment opportunities, help in the preservation of culture and promote social well-being.”

He also said that the industry helps the dropped-out students pursue other studies with income from the Drayangs. The owner also pointed out that the government had never conducted a meeting with all the owners of Drayangs.

“Without looking for solutions it is unwise to close the Drayangs,” he said.

The president of the Druk Drayang Association (DDA), Kelzang Phuntsho, said that the government had kept all the Drayangs at a halt with no clear directives to reopen after it was closed to the pandemic. 

During the consultation meeting, the DDA had been requesting the government to allow them to open Drayangs. Pointing out that the Drayangs failed to set standards, he said, the government finally decided to close the particular entertainment business.

While the government did not allow the reopening of the Drayang, the DDA had asked the government to compensate Drayangs and provide loans to switch over to new professions.

The president of DDA said that the government has verbally agreed to compensate the Drayang owners. On the overall average valuation by the office of Cottage and Small Industries (CSI), each Drayang will get the compensation of Nu 3.5 million. However, compensation will vary depending upon the individual investor’s assessment. The government will provide the necessary support to the employees.

He said, “Drayangs, which help to preserve culture, should be promoted rather than encouraging modern clubs. It is disheartening to accept the decision. “

The members of DDA will meet to discuss the way forward. There are about 61 Drayangs and about 900 workers in the country.

Public opinions  

Meanwhile, the public has mixed opinions on the decision of the government to close the Drayangs. 

SonamDeki said that the cease of Drayang in the country is better than taking a risk during the pandemic time. “It will be hard for those employees of drayang but it is better to survive and to take care of our health.”

Kuenzang Dorji shares, “It is the best-endorsed decision seeing the current situation. However, we hope the government will arrange better planning and support to those affected.”

Yeshi Dema said, “Drayang is a place where many gather and there is a prime chance of spreading the virus which is a wise decision from the government.”

Dema also shares her thoughts on the closure of drayangs in the country. “As a girl, I feel the government has made a wise decision though there will be more disadvantages for the Drayang employees but am sure they will be stronger as they have always been.”

Namgay Phuntsho also said that the government made a bold decision though it will affect the employees of the sector. It is a noble decision for the long run. “It’s good that the government will now have to look for some alternatives for those affected.” 

Nima from Paro says, “It would be a great idea to close a social gathering platform such as Drayang in such a situation though many privileged people will be affected.” He further added that apart from drayang, even other platforms like nightclubs and karaoke should also be closed. 

Tshering Dorji said, “I think the closing of drayang is not a wise decision made by the government as many employees of drayang live their livelihood as a need not a choice.” He further added that it is also a platform for someone who has the interest to showcase their talents.

Rinchen Dorji also shared similar thoughts on the closure of Drayangs in the country. “Many employees of Drayangs will be affected as they will be losing their job which will directly affect the unemployment rate in the country.”

Sonam Choden, a civil servant said that it is the same as that of karaoke and night clubs where it was the main source of income for many Drayangs employees. “Many people will lose their job as I feel the government could have looked into it.”  

Social media comments

“Good decision for the welfare of our youths and nation as a whole, where there are some sort of unpleasant activities which jeopardize the dignity and decency of the employees,” Madhan Sharma commented. 

Nima YIC reacted in the post, “Good decisions ever made and hope it remains closed forever as this is only the place where people are brought together for fighting and robbing while I suggest even the party hall as well.”

Sangay Wangdi commented on a social post, “Where is equity and justice as per the constitution of Bhutan while night clubs, party halls, pubs, karaoke are allowed by the present government? Should Drayang owners stop the meals while the present government position fetches a handsome salary? We need all entertainment centers to be closed if there is equity and justice.” 

Another social media user commented, “If clubs and karaokes are open why are Drayangs closed. Shouldn’t all the night entertainment fall under the same as Drayang?”

The debate will continue.

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