Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The post-fasting Id-ul Fitr holidays are special days that see millions of people traveling to their hometowns, locally known as `Mudik Lebaran`, to celebrate the annual festival with their families.

Transportation operators, however, have complained of the increasing number of public and business institutions that offer free Mudik programs during the current Id-ul Fitr exodus.

For many organizations, this event does not mean a mere ritual, but also an opportunity to display their virtues and win public sympathy for different purposes, including political and business benefits.

Public, political, business and other institutions are, therefore, competing with each other to win the heart of the public by offering travelers a free mudik program so they can go home for family reunions without necessarily paying transportation costs.

No estimate has been released on the anticipated number of Id-ul Fitr travelers this year, but it is expected to at least remain the same as last year, which reached 15 million travelers across the country. The Lebaran revelers returned home last year traveling on buses, trains, ships, planes, motorbikes and other means.

On such occasions, would-be travelers usually have problems obtaining tickets, and that provided an opportunity to different institutions to offer their free services.

Businesses such as insurance Jasa Raharja, herbal medicine distributor Jamu Sido Muncul, postal service PT Pos, pawnshop firm Pegadaian, and bank BRI are only the smaller companies mentioned among businesses which have offered free mudik programs to their employees.

Institutions with political links that also offered free of charge Mudik Lebaran include the ruling Democratic Party (PD), the National Mandate Party (PAN) and even Jakarta governor candidates Jokowi-Ahok.

Also offering free mudik programs are the nation`s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), and National Defense Force (TNI), which deployed its warships to ferry travelers.

With the help of these institutions, and many others, tens of thousands of Id-ul Fitr revelers could travel for free to participate in family reunions during the Lebaran festival.

The Navy's KRI Banda Aceh warship, for example, will ferry at least 1,300 motorists and 2,687 passengers departing from Tanjung Periok port in North Jakarta to Tanjung Emas, Semarang in Central Java on Thursday and Saturday. It will be seen off by Transportation Minister EE Mangindaan.

However, free mudik programs offered by a number of companies and regional governments have created adverse impacts on bus companies as some claimed ticket sales had dropped. The number of passengers is declining in the face of the Idul Fitr.

"In previous years, seven days before the D-Day (D-7) all tickets had been sold. But now, until D-5 we still have a lot of Lebaran bus tickets left unsold," Boy Mondo, operator of PO Gumarang Jaya bus firm with a Jakarta-Padang route, said on Tuesday.

The Idul Fitr D-Day will fall on August 19-20 next Sunday and Monday.

Last year, Boy said, his company saw eight buses leaving Jakarta for different destinations carrying 320 passengers every day.

Due to the introduction of the free mudik programs in the past several years, the bus company`s ticket sales continued to drop each year, he complained. "The number of passengers in 2012 declined and is lower than last year. Until D-5, tickets for Idul Fitr have yet to be sold out, while in the previous years all tickets were sold by D-7. Today, we only sent out five buses with only 120 passengers," he said.

A number of public bus companies at Kampung Rambutan Bus Terminal also complained that the free mudik program has hurt them. "Our number of passengers drop because many travelers this year turned to the free programs offered by various agencies," said Andre Jonathan, a ticket sales officer of PO Lorena bus company.

Andre said that on D-5 last year would be-passengers had lined-up waiting for buses and tickets had been sold out, though such passenger crowds had not been seen since D-7. But on Tuesday, would-be passengers could still easily get tickets.

Besides, competing with buses offering a free mudik program, bus companies also competed between themselves to offer inter-city bus tickets. "The price of tickets, on average, increased by 100 percent. The ticket for Surabaya, East Java, for example, which was usually sold at Rp230,000, was sold for Rp470,000 today. But the prices rose gradually," explained Andre.

In the meantime, Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo, who was inspecting the readiness of Pulogadung Bus Terminal for Idul Fitr travelers in East Jakarta on Tuesday, admitted that the profit margin of buses providing Id-ul Fitr tickets dropped this year.

Nunung Sulatri (36) a ticket sales agents for Idul Fitr, complained to the governor of the decline in the number of passengers as travelers turned to free mudik programs offered by different institutions and companies.

She said that on the D-5 there was no drastic increase in ticket sales as there was last year. "Mr Fauzi, how could you respond to this? The free mudik programs have cut a lot our ticket sales. It is not as booming as last year. Many travelers opted for the free mudik programs," Nunung said, complaining to the governor at Pulogadung Terminal.

In response, Fauzi promised he would evaluate the matter. According to the governor, the declining number of bus company passengers was due to their not being able to compete with the free mudik programs offered by various institutions, including companies which provide such transportation for their employees.

"We will evaluate this problem. But the Jakarta government cannot prohibit them from offering a free mudik program because it is part of the companies` CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) service that they offer to the public at large. Bus company operators should think of solutions to balance the free mudik programs," the governor said.

Fauzi claimed that the declining use of public buses was not merely because of the `free of charge` matter, but also because many Jakarta residents now turned to air transportation. This is proven by the increase in the percentage of those flying by airplanes, which reached 23 percent.

"The prosperity of Jakartans is increasingly improving so that they opted to use air transportation services for their mudik program. It could also be because many Jakartans are impatient to cover the distance during a long journey, when their leave is only for several days, so they choose air transportation," the governor said.
(T.A014/INE/KR-BSR/A014)

Editor: Priyambodo RH

COPYRIGHT © 2012

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