Editorial: The exodus
Paper Edition | Page: 6
The busiest weeks of the year have started as millions of people are leaving urban areas across the nation for their hometowns to celebrate post-Ramadhan festival of Idul Fitri, locally known as Lebaran. They know they will face hardship and ordeals as they did in previous years due to traffic chaos in the process, but it does not deter their wishes to share the holiday with loved ones — parents, relatives and old friends.
According to the Transportation Ministry, the number of homeward-bound holiday revelers this year will reach nearly 16 million, up by almost 6 percent from the previous year. The exodus, or mudik — normally takes place seven days ahead of and after Idul Fitri all across the country.
Although such a massive movement of people is not unique to Indonesia, as there is Thanksgiving Day in the US, Chinese New Year in China and Christmas in many other countries, the Idul Fitri exodus is quite phenomenal in terms of the number of people involved.
Therefore, this seasonal event has always been a headache for many parties, particularly the government. Both the central and local governments have to repair roads to ease the traffic of holiday revelers traveling by cars, buses and motorcycles; state-owned public transportation operators have to prepare additional buses and trains to anticipate a surge in the number of passengers; and the police, backed by the military, have to guarantee the safety of the travelers.
Of course, all those efforts may not satisfy everyone due to the gap between supply and demand and the need for safety and convenience. As an example, state railway company PT KAI only sells tickets based on seats available for the sake of passengers’ convenience, but at the expense of thousands of others. Previously, PT KAI sold tickets without seats, which resulted in overcapacity.
Capacity, however, is a constant problem when it comes to the annual exodus. Many people have to fight for seats in overcrowded buses because they have no other alternative means of transportation. Others resort to motorcycles to solve the limited capacity of public transportation, although a ride on a two-wheel vehicle covering hundreds of kilometers amounts to a vivere peri coloso. Police data in the past revealed that most accidents during the exodus involved motorcycles.
Therefore, it is commendable that the Navy has prepared some of its vessels to transport thousands of people and their motorcycles to their hometowns.
The Lebaran exodus and all of its consequences will repeat in the coming years. According to the statistics, regardless of the economic ups and downs, more people are expected to partake in the ritual.
Visiting places of origin is an escape from tiring business and a break from the routine. For Indonesian Muslims, mudik symbolizes their return to their roots and reconciliation with their fellows.
Apart from the spiritual justification, the exodus undeniably has a positive impact on the local economy due to a sharp increase in the amount of money circulating there. For many people, Lebaran is a time to divest their savings — irrespective of their economic status.
They will bring home cash and spend it on gifts for their parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and old friends. Migrant workers will send huge remittances to their families at home for the holiday.
For better or worse, the annual exodus is something that we as a nation have to cherish rather than lament. It is therefore the state’s responsibility to improve services to ensure that holiday makers enjoy a nice, safe trip back home.