While we are definitely enjoying the fruit of rapid globalization and socio-economic growth, we are also facing numerous challenges that come hand-in-hand with modern development. As we transition from a traditional society to a fast changing modern Bhutan, social problems such as unemployment, broken families and substance abuse which hardly bothered us until decades ago are now constantly on the rise, and the government is still struggling to deal with them effectively. As a result, many people especially the youth who have been the victims of moving time are seen utterly frustrated. In the absence of means to legally earn a decent living, many people have now even started risking their lives, dignity and human values to find alternative means to survive in the society. It is no surprise that burglary, scams, deceptive practices, cheating and robbery have become so common today. You can be looted through various means at any time anywhere, and one tricky thing about those miscreants is that they can change their strategies according to time and context. The following stories are a reminder that we should be careful wherever we go.
1. A couple of years ago, a government employee was approached by a young guy when she was in front of a local restaurant in Hongkong Market one evening. The guy softly asked her if he could use her mobile phone just to call his friend saying he did not have balance in his mobile phone. The woman let him use her mobile phone. He dialed some numbers and began to talk. He gradually kept moving here and there as he talked to his friend and finally before the woman could suspect him, he had disappeared into the background with her phone. She went around looking for the guy but he was nowhere to be found. Her phone was instantly switched off. Similarly, another man was robbed of his mobile phone at the Swimming Pool junction. A seemingly desperate young guy requested him to let him give a missed-call to his friend from his mobile phone so that his friend would call him back. So the man agreed and gave him his phone. The guy dialed his friend’s number and gave a missed-call as promised. Instantly his friend called him back and he began talking. As he talked, he gradually walked away and thinking it could be a personal conversation, the man did not follow him. But after the guy did not return for sometime, he went looking for him towards the underpass but the guy was nowhere to be found. He had disappeared with his mobile phone. Later, the phone was switched off.
2. One of my wife’s friends owns a Paan shop in Hongkong Market. One day, a young boy came to her shop asking for a Nu.50 Tashi-cell mobile phone voucher. He made the payment and took away the voucher only to return after a few seconds to cancel his purchase. He told her he didn’t require the voucher and wanted to return it. She accepted the voucher back and returned his money. But later when she examined the voucher carefully, she found that the thin film covering the secret codes of the voucher was removed once. The boy had removed it so skillfully that the scratch could not be noticed easily. He had removed the covering and put it back very carefully. The secret codes were already used. She could not believe how easily she was cheated.
3. Another shopkeeper told me how he was looted by a group of young boys who had come to his shop asking if they could get change for Nu.500 and Nu.1000. He trusted them too much and gave them the changes before they gave him the notes. The boys ran away after getting the changes and disappeared into the town. The shopkeeper could not find them as he could not chase them far because there was nobody to look after the shop.
4. A taxi driver in Thimphu met a young girl sometime ago when she flagged him down and took lift in his cab. He found her sexually attractive and beautiful. She was very frank and open with him. He asked her if they could go on date and she immediately agreed. They drove to a secluded place in the outskirts of Thimphu town and had sex. But right after that, she threatened to charge him with rape if he did not pay her Nu.20,000. The taxi driver could not believe what was happening. He begged the girl to forgive him saying he did not have that much money, but the girl would not understand. She added that she had even noted down his taxi number and that she would report to the police if he did not pay her the demanded money in a few hours’ time. Shocked and nervous, the taxi driver had to literarily beg from his friends in the taxi parking lot and paid the girl. By the time he realized he was blackmailed, it was too late for him to escape. Another taxi driver says he knows this girl and always avoids her whenever he sees her.
One great lesson we can take from the above stories is that dangers are everywhere today. We must always be careful wherever we go. It is no longer easy to trust people. We can be deceived and blackmailed anytime anywhere. But I am just wondering if we should blame the miscreants who commit such crimes or the circumstances that push them to the edge of the society. I know these miscreants are those individuals who are deeply frustrated and have lost the sense of direction in their life. The government and the concerned authorities must really look into how such issues can be addressed once and for all so that we could live in a society where we have no fear, no feeling of insecurity and no dangers.