English | Dzongkha Thursday, August 22, 2019

Parents accuse BEO of breach of contract

Pema Tshewang, Thimphu
Dec 26, 2018

Apart from seeking the government’s immediate intervention, the students in Japan on Learn and Earn Programme and their parents are accusing the Bhutan Employment Overseas (BEO) of a serious breach of contract.

In a letter submitted to the prime minister on Monday, the parents stated the programme, initiated jointly by the private recruitment agent and labor ministry, misled and deceived their children right from the beginning.

Going by the letter, there are evidence of the agent’s procedural lapses and document forgery in implementing the programme.

In some instances, students were persuaded to sign documents on behalf of their parents or guardians and in others, the agent forged certificates to meet the eligibility criteria for the programme, which is strictly prohibited by the Japanese government.

This malpractice, according to the concerned parents, has put their children in a risky situation with high chances of them getting into serious legal troubles if discovered.

In the letter, the parents also alleged the BEO of heavily overcharging the students.

Besides the agent fee of Nu 57,000, the BOE took an additional amount of Nu 17,000 per student as visa, translation and documentation fees. These charges should have been covered in the agent fee.

“We trusted in the programme since the labor ministry was working closely with BEO. They repeatedly told us that we can recover the loan amount of Nu 700,000 within six months,” Tenzin Gyeltshen, one of the students who had returned home, said.

“As per our agreement, we were to get two jobs within few days but that did not happen when we reached Japan. Out of 51 students in my language school, four of us got jobs after a month. For the rest, it took three months,” he added.

As per the letter, the agent strategically placed relatives in Japanese schools. They disseminated misinformation to the students on behalf of the agent.

“As reported, the relatives of the agent did not work like other students of the programme,” Ngawang Tobgay, the Legal Officer of the Parents’ Committee, said.

“We also heard they did not have huge loans in their names like others. Some even got scholarships from the agent. We could not carry out a detailed investigation but the information we are sharing are based on what we heard from our sources in Japan,” Ngawang Tobgay added.

Citing a Japanese source, the parents and students mentioned that the agent and its counterparts in Japan, SND and Light Path Company, received a commission of US$ 1300 for each student from the Japanese Schools they were enrolled in.

The agent allegedly charged the students a withdrawal fee of as high as Nu 50,000. The students also submitted their original documents, which the agent claims to have been handed over to its partners in Japan.

Moreover, the letter stated no proper records were maintained for any monetary transactions.

“When I reached Japan, I met with some Nepalese. They said they paid only Nu 200,000 for the same programme. From Nu 700,000, the agent deducted Nu 57,000 as commission. But according to the Japanese government, this is not allowed,” Tandin Dorji, another student who had returned home, said.

“When the former prime minister visited Japan, we did not get an opportunity to enquire about it. When some of our friends questioned about the loan details, the agent explained that it was spent for various purposes. However, we did not get any proper money receipts.”

“The agent denied deducting certain amount from our payment. From our hourly payment, 300 Yen was deducted. I found this when I was punching my work card. When I asked my employer, they said, the money deducted goes to our recruitment agent,” Tandin Chophel said.

The BEO, however, said they have worked as per the agreement between the office and the students.

Including four Bhutanese with serious health issues, over 90 youths sent through the programme have returned home. They could not cope up with the harsh working conditions and stress.

Currently, there are over 600 Bhutanese youths working in various parts of Japan as part of the Learn and Earn Programme.

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