Squatters find railway tracks ideal space for living
There is still an abundance of open spaces in Jakarta, but many squatters find the edges of railway tracks their ideal place for living.
For sex worker Karwen, 50, it was easier for her to find clients along the railway tracks of Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, while for others it was an ideal space where they could sell food and beverages.
Karwen, an illiterate woman from Indramayu, West Java, said that many other women worked as sex workers there.
“Some can earn Rp 400,000 (US$46.80) a night, the figure can be doubled during the weekend. Beautiful women can make up to Rp 1,000,000,” she told The Jakarta Post.
Similar to those occupied by others, Karwen’s “house” was made of cardboard.
Some squatters even have more than one cardboard house that they lease to others. “I have four cardboard houses and I have leased the three of them for Rp 100,000 a month,” said Karwen, who had been living there for two years.
The widow explained that she obtained the houses from their former owners. “At that time, I paid Rp 1,000,000 for the areas I have now.”
Karwen and her neighbors said they did not have money to rent a proper place to live.
State railway company PT KAI has planned a series of raids on illegal settlements near the railway tracks after the Idul Fitri holidays in August.
The eviction is necessary because building settlements near the tracks are in violation of Law no. 23/ 2007 on Railways, PT KAI spokesperson for area I covering Greater Jakarta Mateta Rizalulhaq told the Post.
“The settlements may disturb the trains’ operational schedule,” he said, giving an example of the blaze that occurred in the housing area along the tracks of the Jayakarta Train Station in Central Jakarta last month. “The fire destroyed some of the station’s equipment and delayed train schedules. Besides, living near the tracks is very dangerous,” he said.
Mateta said that PT KAI has evicted and relocated squatters living along the tracks at certain stations, such as in Senen Station and at Pasar Gaplok.
“We have been relocating the settlers along the Jayakarta-Sawah Besar tracks in Central Jakarta since March. Some residents begged to prolong their stay until the end of their children’s school semester this year,” he said.
The squatters had known about the eviction plan.
Adung, 70, who came from Cikampek, West Java, said, “People here are often forced to leave, but we always come back.”
Critics have repeatedly condemned the Jakarta administration and the central government for simplified approaches, such as evictions and relocation, when it comes to the perennial issue of squatters, arguing that to settle the problem and control urbanization, authorities should focus on village development, decentralization of education, healthcare, economy and life necessities. (aaa)
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