Despite a nationwide ban, many people in the Greater Jakarta area in Indonesia are betting their hopes on being able to perform mudik — a yearly exodus for Hari Raya for those living and working in Jakarta back to their hometowns — as illegal travel vehicles spring up to smuggle them.
Jakarta Metro Police reported on Monday (11 May) that 228 illegal vehicles had been caught smuggling 1,389 passengers in the past 18 days since Ketupat Operation –- an operation by the Indonesian police to secure the mudik route during Hari Raya –- began on 24 April.
“Since Ketupat Operation took place, Jakarta Metro Police has secured 228 vehicles carrying 1,389 passengers to travel for mudik to various cities in West Java, Central Java, and East Java,” said Director of Traffic of Jakarta Metro Police, Director-General Sambodo Purnomo Yogo in a press conference on Monday (11 May).
The drivers of such illegal travel services were then given a traffic ticket with a fine of up to Rp500,000 (S$47.46) or a maximum jail term of two years.
Meanwhile, the passengers were requested to return to their homes in Greater Jakarta.
It looks like some people have seen the mudik ban as an opportunity to kickstart illegal travel services by promising the customers to take them to their hometown through illegal roads.
According to Mr Yogo, illegal travel agents promote their services through social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram.
While the cost for such services does not come cheap — the tariff can go up to triple the normal price — people are willing to pay such an exorbitant amount just to be able to celebrate Hari Raya in their hometown.
Several trucks were also reported to have been secured for carrying people who want to go for mudik. Hundreds of private vehicles attempting to join the mudik have been stopped as well.
Previously, the Indonesian government has banned the yearly tradition of mudik to prevent further spread of COVID-19 from those living in red zone areas such as Greater Jakarta, which is the epicentre of the pandemic outbreak in the country.
The government, however, has recently decided to ease the travel restrictions for all transportation services on several conditions, which include showing a letter of duty from the workplace and hospital referral letter stating that a person is not tested positive for COVID-19.
Those exempted from travel restrictions are individuals who have to commute for urgent COVID-19-related handling, immediate medical attention, or services related to key sectors such as defence & security and fundamental economic functions.