Railway Squatters Ordered to Go

The Jakarta Globe

Squatters living beneath an elevated railway track in Central Jakarta have pleaded with state railway operator Kereta Api to delay its eviction plan to give them time to find new lodgings.

KA has announced a March 8 deadline to raze all 800 homes built beneath the section of track running from Sawah Besar Station in Central Jakarta to Kota Station in West Jakarta.

None of the residents affected by the order will be compensated because their homes are built on state-owned land.

Rumiyati, a mother of two who lives beneath the tracks in Kebon Kelapa, Central Jakarta, and also rents out boarding rooms there, has called on KA to put off the eviction until the end of the school year.

“I wouldn’t mind having to move out because I’ve known all along that this would eventually happen,” she told the Jakarta Globe on Monday.

“However, I need time because I have kids and they’re still going to school. Finding another place isn’t easy or free. That’s why the March 8 deadline seems impossible. It’d make it easier if the government was compensating us, but they’re not.”

She added she was reluctant to transfer her children to another school because of the disruption and the additional expenses.

“It’d be fine if we were the kind of people with millions of rupiah in our pockets, but we’re not,” said Rumiyati, who is originally from Central Java. “We moved here because we wanted our kids to have a good education. So all we ask is that we be allowed to stay until the school holidays.”

Ita Ludiana, 23, said she had moved to Kebon Kelapa from Bogor because she believed she could earn more money in the capital.

She said she rented one of the illegal lodgings for Rp 600,000 ($70) a month but would not mind having to move.

“We don’t own the place so we have nothing to lose by moving out,” she said. “However, we can’t simply move someplace else. Finding lodgings near here at this kind of price is difficult, so we want the government to give us more time to move out.”

Yudhi Permada, a motorcycle taxi driver who has lived beneath the tracks for more than 15 years, said he also had no objections and was thankful to have been allowed to stay as long he had.

“Why would I protest against the eviction?” he asked. “It’s the government’s land. I don’t own it and I know it’s not right to live beneath the elevated railway track because it’s dangerous, so the government is in the right.”

The only reason he lived there, he said, was because the Rp 250,000 a month rent was affordable for him and his family.

Officials from KA and the Jakarta Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) visited the area on Thursday to serve notice to the squatters about the upcoming eviction.

Mateta Rizalulhaq, a spokesman for KA, said the squatters had been informed of the plan at the beginning of the month. “Today we’ve come to remind them in person to prepare to move out,” he said.

“We can’t accept their request to delay the eviction because we don’t want any complications to arise during that period.”

He added most of the residents were amenable to the move. “Just a few days ago we had a discussion with the squatters’ representatives, and they thanked us for letting them live there for many years without cracking down on them,” he said.

Mateta said KA would give the squatters free train tickets to their hometowns.

He said the main reason for the eviction was to improve safety along the train tracks.

He cited a fire last month at a shack beneath the elevated track in Tamansari, West Jakarta, that melted cables controlling railway signals and disrupted the train schedule for a week.

“The priority is to curb the illegal dwellings near Kota Station, which is the train safety control center,” he said. “We want to manage the area beneath the tracks and safeguard the signal system for the trains.”

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