Yangyel Lhaden

Not a single soul. Nothing stirs. This could very well be a scene from an apocalypse film. This is Thimphu.

The city’s main thoroughfare, Norzin Lam, is empty. So it has been for weeks now. Otherwise ubiquitous, traffic police are conspicuously absent. However, that doesn’t mean police are without work. In fact, ensuring that people do not move around without movement pass during lockdown is by much bigger, greater responsibility.

Police, especially of the traffic division, have been deployed in different locations in Thimphu—Yangchenphu Higher Secondary School (YHSS), Olakha, the Memorial Choeten, Lingkana, and Chubachu areas.

On the morning of the lockdown, for example, the whole division was on duty as early as 3am. Surveillance happens around the clock. The vehicles are being checked; commuters must have the movement card.

Many have left behind their personal comfort to serve the nation in extraordinary times such as these. Some are new fathers, but they have just seen a glimpse of their newborn and are on duty.

Dedrim Tshewang with the traffic division said that unauthorised vehicles were allowed considering health emergency. Anyone who has to leave the house urgently, he or she must call 111 to get prior permission from the division.

On the night of August 23, a man wanted to get out in the cover of darkness. He wanted to meet his wife and children. The police told him to go back when he was caught at the Chubachu checkpoint.

And when it rains hard, people try to fool the police. A car, for example, drove past fast to avoid checkpoint near YHSS but the driver was caught at the next checkpoint.

Chuma Kinley Wangdi said that there was no getting away easily. “We have a robust system in place, almost foolproof.”