Toll Free Number Woes in Thimphu

Emergency number woes

In Thimphu city, the men in blue generally seem to be all over the place.

They are either walking around, cruising by on white motorcycles or pedalling purposefully on gear bikes or zooming past in the dark grey or dark blue Toyota Hilux, some of which have written across the side, in white, dial 113 toll free.

No one is clear when the option of dialling 113 came into existence, even the cops are not sure, but it probably came after more Bhutanese could afford to own a phone.

That was when cellular services started toward the end of 2003 and if existing figures are any indication, almost half the population is on the cellular network.

Dial 113 toll free became more prominent several years later when the police establishment announced such a facility and splashed it across its vehicles.

People have welcomed it but not many are happy with the response. Obviously with the imagery of the men in blue all over most expect a quick response, at least within minutes if not in seconds.

Some point out how traffic personnel hide in the dark and wait for people to break the rules when a particular route is closed. They are thrilled to seize documents and issue the fine notice. If that kind of a zest also existed when responding to the 113 call, it would make a world of difference.

But then it is not as straightforward. The problem here appears to be with the system the establishment has with the toll free number. Police say that to the caller the 113 number will appear to ring even when its busy thus creating an impression that on one is attending the call.

Why have such a system in the first place that does not serve the caller or the receiver’s purpose? But the bigger problem appears to be the people itself who make crank or hoax calls. Other toll free numbers such as the 112 for medical emergency service also report endless numbers of hoax calls that test the patience and demoralise service providers.

After a while even those with a passion to make a difference lose interest and the effect is that when someone genuinely needs help no one responds. It’s like the boy who cried wolf.

Elsewhere, emergency numbers have a system to track calls and those that try to make a hoax call could find themselves in boiling hot water.

Unfortunately the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) does not have such a system as of yet to penalize those making a mockery of the emergency system.

But if the hoax calls could be reduced there would be little else the police can hide behind to explain for late response. This is unlikely to happen unless few are made examples of for the benefit of the majority.





This story from Sonam Pem

Sonam Pem has the distinction of being our very first author on Bhutanomics.


  1. sonamtshering says:

    Y not the police ask the caller to call a no. where they can track the callers no. n act immediatly. Police themselfs hasitate to react n says pls call in dhis n that no. n so on n they even say the place of reporter doesnot fall under us so call other no. n all which means they r not responsible person to tsawasum..