As the Islamic holy month of Ramadan comes to an end this week, cities across Indonesia are witnessing an exodus of people in numbers roughly the size of the population of Australia. About 20 million people are hitting the road this year to return to their hometowns to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, known in Indonesia as Idul Fitri. In Jakarta, political battles will be put on hold while the nation spends a few days focusing on food, faith and family.
Heading home for the holidays is known as 'mudik', and it's Indonesia's biggest annual movement of people. As such, it tends to strain the country's already weak infrastructure, testing the capacity of airports, sea ports, roads, railways and the rest. Japan, for one, is keen to help. A delegation led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Jakarta last Friday to reaffirm Japan's commitment to investing in Indonesia's infrastructure, hoping not to be edged out by China in the region. On Monday, it became clear that Indonesia wasn't ready to pick sides when the government announced plans to hold a 'beauty contest' between Japan and China, with the prize being a project to develop a high-speed train service between Jakarta and the nearby city of Bandung.
The poor state of infrastructure can be deadly for mudik travelers. A reported 152 people have died on the roads since last Friday, including in a collision on a new toll road in West Java that was just opened by President Jokowi on Saturday. In an attempt to reduce casualties, the Transportation Ministry has offered free rides to motorcyclists, as those are in greatest danger on the roads. The navy has reportedly also offered free transportation, even after the tragedy involving civilians on an air force Hercules earlier this month. Meanwhile, the National Police has launched its annual Operation Ketupat, named after the woven palm pouches of rice cakes eaten to celebrate the holiday, to secure the congested roads and empty cities.
High-tech travelers will also be assisted on their way by various traffic apps designed for the season.
A major television station sponsored the development of Peta Mudik, an interactive map that helps travelers report and avoid congestion, as well as keep track of their convoy. Then there's Marbel Ayo Mudik, an app designed to keep kids entertained with puzzles, games and videos on the trip, while also teaching them about road safety. Of course, the world's most Twitter-obsessed nation is also updating on the road with hashtags like #Mudik2015, #AyoMudik2015 ('come on, let's mudik') and #MudikAsyik ('awesome mudik'), presumably depending on the level of enthusiasm needed after 10, 20 or 30 hours on the road.
President Jokowi is expected to delay any announcement of a rumoured cabinet reshuffle until after the holiday. A survey released by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting last Thursday showed that public satisfaction with the President's performance is at 40.7%, compared to 70% for his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the same point in his presidency. However, that doesn't mean the public has lost faith in Jokowi's ability as a leader. About 52.8% of those surveyed were 'fairly certain' Jokowi had the ability to lead Indonesia toward a better future, and 87.9% of those who voted for him did not regret their choice of leader.
The survey also rates the performance of each ministry, so it may affect the President's thinking on the rumoured reshuffle. The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries showed a distinct lead in public approval at 27%, reflecting strong public support for Minister Susi Pudjiastuti and her policy of destroying illegal fishing boats. The ministries of tourism and agriculture received the lowest public approval rating.
Photo by Flickr user Budi Nusyirwan.