By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service Middle East Correspondent(MMNS)
The crime rate in Kuwait is soaring and criminals continue to find new and inventive ways to plunder the pockets of the most vulnerable in this society: pedestrians. Only the rich and moderately wealthy can afford to own a car in Kuwait. The rest of the population is forced to either walk to their destinations or utilize the Kuwaiti transportation system, which is primarily made up of buses and taxis. A round trip on the bus is the most affordable for most. The buses offer full air conditioning and a television to boot! It seems simple. Passenger wait for the bus, board it and away they go. However, over the past few weeks some bus rides have become a lot more complex. A new crime specifically aimed at bus users has literally swept one city by storm. Kuwaiti citizens have turned their pick-up trucks into private taxis and are blocking the city buses until passengers fill up their trucks. They are literally lining their pockets with money that would otherwise go to the government Public Transportation sector.
The sole city affected by this new crime wave is called Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh and it is one of the poorest and most overpopulated cities in Kuwait. The majority of residents there are poor expatriates who work in Kuwait so that they can send money back to their homelands to help their families. Their salaries are meager and they have no choice but to rely on the buses in order to get to work and fulfill other tasks. As a result, the buses are always packed and the daily fares revenue is definitely an asset to the Kuwaiti economy.
Sensing an opportunity to steal some cookies from the governmental â€˜cookie jarâ€™, some Kuwaitis have turned to operating their very own private taxis, which is completely illegal in the first place. Rather than trolling the streets to find customers that need rides these opportunists hang around until the buses pull up to the bus stop and lay in wait until the buses are full. Then before the bus driver even has a chance to pull out of the terminal, they swoop in with their trucks and block the buses. They refuse to move their trucks until passengers come out of the bus and fill up the bed of their trucks. Often, not wanting to be stuck on the bus for hours, passengers will get into the beds of the trucks and pay the same fee they just paid the bus driver! So, one trip costs these impoverished workers double! As if it could not get any worse, the passengers who decide to ride in the back of these trucks are risking their very lives. The highway leading out of Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh is one of the most dangerous roads in Kuwait. The city itself is used for industrial purposes and at any time of day you can see construction trucks and tractor-trailers barreling down the highway. The road is full of bumps, cracks and potholes, which could send one, if not all, of the pick-up truck riders sailing out of their precarious sitting place. Add to that the scorching temperatures in Kuwait. The riders are being exposed to unbearable heat and toxic exhaust fumes. Itâ€™s a recipe for a public health disaster!
So, where are the police in all of this and why arenâ€™t these illegal â€˜taxiâ€™ operators being sought out and prosecuted? Unfortunately, due to the congestion of the roadway in Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh, it is hard for the police to even get to the area if someone calls in a complaint. In addition, a lot of bus passengers are afraid to report the illegal taxi operators for fear of vengeance. Itâ€™s safer for them to put up a double fee and just shut up.
The exploitation and extortion of the weakest members of any society is nothing new and is an unfortunate thread in the social fabric of all nations. However, just because it is the norm that we have become familiar with, it is still the responsibility of all nations to protect the public safety of all itsâ€™ wardens no matter how difficult the task at hand might be. As humans we have the right to choose and should not be forced to do things under the threat of force, or in this case, the threat of injury over a ride on the bus!