The Jakarta Post
Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama once told Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi to relearn the Constitution, but now Ahok appears to be on the receiving end of his own advice ' this time from a seasoned social activist.
'Ahok doesn't have to be confused about [how to deal with poor people in Jakarta] if he reads the Constitution,' Urban Poor Consortium head Wardah Hafidz told The Jakarta Post recently.
Wardah cited Article 34 Clause 1 in the Constitution, which said poor people and abandoned children were the responsibility of the state. She also cited Article 27 Clause 2, which said every citizen had the right to a proper job, a decent livelihood and education.
Wardah commented in response to Ahok's recent statements that he did not know what to do with poor people in Jakarta, like the homeless who live in pushcarts known as manusia gerobak (pushcart people). He said they lived in inhumane conditions and it would be best if they returned home.
Ahok added that manusia gerobak were only pretending to be poor and they dramatized their lives to get easy money from people who felt sorry for them.
'They don't want to merely feed themselves, but they also want to be rich,' Ahok was quoted by tribunnews.com as saying.
He said it was better for the city to send them back to their hometowns and if they dared to come back to the capital, the city would charge them with a criminal offense.
Mukir, a 40-year-old man who lives in a pushcart, earns a living by picking up recyclable trash from the streets around Setiabudi in South Jakarta. During the day, his pushcart is a trash container, but at night he sleeps in it.
He said he lived in Jakarta alone as his children had already grown up and earned their own living.
'I prefer to sleep inside this cart in any quiet alley in the city rather than in a place where my fellow scavengers stay, such as Rumput market in South Jakarta,' said Mukir, who has lived in a cart for about 10 years.
According to Mukir, officers from the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) frequently arrest scavengers grouped in certain places.
'This cart is my only belonging,' he said.
Ropel, who also lives in a pushcart, said he wondered why Satpol PP officers often disturbed his life by arresting him. 'I don't bother anyone else. I'm doing a halal job,' he added.
Ropel said he scavenged for junk on a daily basis and sold it to collectors in Manggarai, South Jakarta, to meet his daily needs.
The 63-year-old said even though earning money in Jakarta was really hard, it was more difficult to earn money in his village. 'My family's poor economic condition has forced me to leave my village in Pamulang [South Tangerang, Banten],' said Ropel.
Although parts of Pamulang have been developed into a middle-class residential area, Ropel said his village was still mostly rural. He said he earned only Rp 10,000 (87 US cents) a day by helping farmers cultivate their land, while in Jakarta he could earn up to Rp 50,000.
'I'm confused. If I'm not allowed to earn money in Jakarta, where should I go? Why does the city administration catch poor people like me instead of helping them [to have better life],' said Ropel.
Ahok told the Koran Tempo daily that he would build a social welfare institution in Ciangir, Tangerang, to accommodate people with welfare problems in Jakarta.
The institution would add to the 27 existing shelters run by the city administration, which includes rehabilitation for the homeless.
Critics have said that existing institutions are not an effective way of helping poor people in the city. Many prostitutes and transgendered people who have been placed in a shelter in Kedoya, for example, said they had to pay to get out.
Wardah said Ahok should not forget his promise to tackle poverty in Jakarta when he campaigned for the city deputy governor position.
Wardah said manusia gerobak usually worked as scavengers and the city administration, in solving their problems, should integrate them into its waste management program. 'Many jobs related to waste management can be created in Jakarta, including trash collection, recycling and composting,' she told the Post.
She said the city administration could train manusia gerobak in an effort to create a waste handling team to collect organic and inorganic waste and process it.
Wardah said criminalizing such people violated the Constitution and that sending them back home would not solve the problem as they would gravitate to places where work could be found. (ask)
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