Drayang owners in Thimphu are confused about the kind of reforms they are expected to initiate
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering has directed Drayang owners to make their industry respectable and professional by changing their modus operandi before being allowed to reopen.
He was very articulate when he said that although Draying operation is lucrative, “I am personally convinced that it is not a respectable and professional industry now and I really don’t want Drayangs to run the way they did pre pandemic.”
Meanwhile, karaoke, clubs and movie theatres were allowed to reopen but Drayangs have been put on hold to restructure their operation, streamlining it with our traditional values. The most drastic change demanded by the government is stopping the request system, which Drayang owners believe will hurt the industry, making it an unprofitable venture.
“We can’t pay salary to all our female artists which is why we work on the commission system, which is a win-win situation for both the parties,” a Draying owner said, adding that the government should not impose such stringent condition at a time when the pandemic has almost killed the industry.
Besides, Drayangs should ensure a minimum distance of two meters between the stage and the audience and provide separate clean toilets and changing rooms to their male and female artists.
Lyonchhen further shared how he wants Drayangs to grow into a real time entertainment sector, promoting our sacred culture to the local and foreign visitors.
“Studies that came to me pointed out that the Drayangs needed some reforms,” Lyonchhen said, asking the recommendation put forth by the Department of Cottage and Small Industries be implemented strictly so that the operation does not revert to the old ways.
“I am not really convinced by the reforms,” Lyonchhen added.
However, Lyonchhen agreed that the government should compensate Drayang owners since they were not allowed to open due to the ongoing regulations. He suggested Drayangs should adopt the concept of reality shows and charge entry fees from the guests visiting their establishments.
Further, many of the artists are single mothers, usually from disadvantaged families, who have entered the industry to give their children better lives, while earning between Nu 40,000 to Nu 100,000 a month. But their incomes were wiped out overnight by the pandemic, with many claiming their savings are completely depleted.
“If the request system is removed, Drayang owners won’t be able to retain the artists,” explained Sonam, a dancer, worried many would lose their jobs.
Meanwhile, Lyonchhen promised jobs to the Drayang employees if they are in dire straits but the government can afford to pay only between Nu 15,000 to Nu 20,000 a month.
Of the 37 Drayangs only nine are qualified to reopen since they initiated some reforms while 28 are disqualified as modification is impossible in absence of any physical infrastructure for reforms. There are 60 Drayangs in the country, which employs 900 people, and 90% of them are female.
The president of the Druk Drayang Association (DDA), Kelzang Phuntsho said that there is no clear direction from the government on what kind of reforms they want them to initiate.
“Then only will we be able to work on the reforms and reopen our business immediately. The requirements like entry and exit points, smoking rooms, two meter distance and doing away with the request system will not undergo major changes,” he said, adding that only Drayangs have been singled out by the government.
Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu