Movement during Tobaski

Monday, October 15, 2012

This is always a busy time of the year, with Christmas and New Year celebrations just around the corner.

And, on top of this, there is the Tobaski festival. So everybody has something to celebrate.

For the Muslims, the feast of Tobaski is a big affair, slaughtering the obligatory ram and sharing the mutton with friends, relatives and well-wishers.

Now that the feast is less than two weeks away, traders are naturally anxious to dispose of their rams. And buyers cannot wait to get theirs.

Obviously, getting around town during this period is, no doubt, bound to be more difficult as the feast of Tobaski approaches.

Those who commute to Banjul on a daily basis know how difficult it is to go to and from work.

Whether it is at Serekunda, or at the Cooperative Bus Stop, or the Bakau end, getting to Banjul is a nightmare in the rush hour.

It’s more nightmarish at both Serekunda and the Cooperative Bus Stop. There’s usually a milling mass of people, who jostle one another just to board a bus. People have to wait for hours on end to board a bus. In the resultant scramble, pickpockets have a field day.

Most drivers have no qualms about exploiting the situation. Sometimes, people who commute from Brikama to Banjul pay thrice the normal fare, as drivers break up the journey into several stages, just to make more money.

Buses leaving directly from Brikama for Banjul are few and far between nowadays. A commuter makes it to the bus stop in Brikama, hoping to get a direct bus to Banjul. He or she waits in vain for a bus going to Banjul, until he or she is told to get into a bus going to Lamin, then board another going to Westfield Junction, and then finally Banjul.

That is if he or she is lucky. Sometimes, the journey between Westfield Junction and Banjul is broken into two stops – at Old Jeshwang and then Banjul. Apart from the exorbitant fares, it is time consuming and physically exhausting.

Whatever the cause, we fear that things are really going to be rough at this time of the year, as most people will be travelling to the provinces to celebrate the Tobaski.

Already, drivers are warming up for a kill. And touts are also waiting anxiously to make a pile out of poor commuters.

With the touts, they take up a seat in a bus to give the impression that it is already occupied. Once they see passengers jostling one another for seats, they throw in their gambit. If the fare is say twenty dalasis, they add say ten dalasis on top. If the demand is high, they might even raise it a bit further.

If you pay, you have a seat, but if you don’t, you have to wait in the sun for a whole day or so before you could be lucky to get to your destination.

For most passengers, who are eager to join families and friends in the gaiety of the Tobaski, no expense is spared. They don’t really care whether or not they’re fleeced. While they get poorer, the touts get richer, so to speak.

This is a serious problem that shouldn’t be brushed aside. In a way, we can’t blame the drivers because the law of demand and supply governs business. That’s why the relevant authorities shouldn’t hesitate to make movement to and from the provinces during the Tobaski a lot easier for commuters.

But even at that, would we be asking for too much if we request our drivers to temper the law of supply and demand with the benevolence of the Tobaski?

“The fear of one evil often leads us into a greater one.”

Boileau-Despreaux, Nicolas