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Happy 'mudik', safe trip

Jakarta Post Editorial - April 6, 2024

Jakarta – Every year, the Idul Fitri tradition of mudik (exodus) causes a great deal of excitement for more than 230 million Muslims in the country.

Severe traffic congestion, jam-packed train stations and airports and overpriced train and air fares often fail to discourage people from making long journeys to hometowns to celebrate the holiday with families and relatives. The same goes for China, whose citizens seek every path to return home for family reunions for the Spring Festival, or the United States prior to Thanksgiving Day.

This year, nearly three quarters of Indonesia's population are expected to hit the road for the annual affair, potentially making it the largest mudik the country has observed. An estimate from the Transportation Ministry shows that a majority of holidaymakers still prefer to travel by road either in private cars, on buses or motorcycles.

To ease gridlock, several traffic policies, from one-way traffic engineering to odd-even rules, an alternate-day travel restriction based on license plate numbers, have been put in place on Java's main toll roads starting on Friday.

In Central Java, to which 30 percent of travelers will be heading, an unfinished toll road connecting Surakarta and neighboring Yogyakarta province is being opened for day-time travel during mudik.

Despite authorities anticipating severe traffic and trying to ensure that travelers make their journeys as safely and efficiently as possible, a stretch of the Bogor-Ciawi-Sukabumi (Bocimi) toll road in West Java had to be partially closed on Wednesday evening following a rainfall-induced landslide. The incident on the Bocimi toll road, which only began operating less than a year ago, left two people hospitalized.

The Transportation Ministry estimates that more than 193 million people, or roughly 71 percent of the country's population, will participate in the annual homecoming journey.

That figure will be a 56 percent rise compared with last year, when some 123.8 million people traveled to their hometowns freely without any COVID-19 restrictions for the first time since the soul-crushing pandemic.

To help alleviate congestion from today until Monday when the peak of the homebound travel is expected to happen, the government had encouraged holidaymakers to make earlier trips. The government has also announced a four-day extended holiday, effectively giving Indonesians a 10-day holiday until April 15.

All in all, the government is working to improve the exodus this year and there was a decline in traffic accidents last year.

There are, of course, some concerns about the exodus and some unexpected problems may still emerge, just like Bocimi.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has predicted light to moderate rainfall during the holiday season and warned that even moderate rains could still cause floods.

Police have also warned of the dangers of traveling with children on motorcycles during mudik. Free buses to transport these travelers, along with trucks to carry their motorcycles, have been provided by the government as an alternative means of transportation. Hopefully this will prove to be of benefit.

Idul Fitri is about tradition and reunions with families, relatives and friends. So it is fair to demand the authorities work harder for safe travel and bid fellow travelers to take part in ensuring a safe and enjoyable trip.

There are, of course, many people who will not have the luxury of celebrating the holiday with their loved ones. Many police and military personnel, medical workers at hospitals, firefighters and search and rescue workers will be on standby for emergency assignments, in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of holidaymakers throughout the post-Ramadan festival. They deserve our highest appreciation for their sacrifice.

For those who are traveling for Idul Fitri, have a safe trip!

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2024/04/06/happy-mudik-safe-trip.htm