Tue, 19 Dec 2000

Ferryman provides lesson for development

By A'an Suryana

BOGOR (JP): Development -- throughout the world -- always claims victims. And the victims, in so many cases, are usually the poor.

Saefuddin, 21, is probably the most obvious victim in the construction of a bridge crossing the Cisadane River which connects Gunung Sindur and Sukamulya subdistricts in Bogor.

His raft business which carries people, motorcycles and animals back and forth from Gunung Sindur to Sukamulya will end soon as the 150-meter-long and six-meter-wide steel bridge opens at the beginning of next week.

"This business has been running for four generations," Saefuddin told The Jakarta Post in an interview on Tuesday at a small hut, a few steps away from the bridge.

According to him and Kosim, the younger brother of Saefuddin's grandfather Zainudin, the family began the river crossing business at the beginning of the twentieth century.

"I don't know the precise time as to when the business started. I just remember that, during my teenage years, I started assisting my father Wahab during the Japanese occupation (in the 1940s)," said Kosim, a man in his 70s.

Both Kosim and Saefuddin said their family depended upon the raft business for their livelihood even though some of the family members hold other temporary jobs.

With the price of Rp 1,000 (10 U.S. cents) for each motorcycle and Rp 500 per person per crossing, family member (s) usually spend 14 hours every day assisting scores of people and motorbikes across the river.

"During the dry season, the bamboo raft is usually piloted by one person from the family.

But in the rainy season, other people in the family are required to help because the waves can be strong," said Kosim.

Saefuddin added: If no additional people are involved, the raft is simply dragged downstream by the strong currents."

Saefuddin said the business enabled him to support his family.

"Since my father passed away two months ago, I have to financially support my mother and my eight younger brothers and sisters," said Saefuddin, while refusing to mention his average earnings per day.

He said he started to take on the raft business last year shortly after he lost his job at a leather factory in Tangerang for personal reasons.

He then assisted his father Saudin until the latter's death earlier this year.

"We take anything, from people, motorcycles, even pet animals, though we aren't able to accept cars," he said.

Saefuddin said he had no fear at all about possible attacks from robbers.

"The area is quite busy, so I'm not really afraid of bad people if I work at night."

They operate the raft virtually everyday of the year.

"Even, in the severest dry season, the river never runs out of water so we can still transport people across the river," said Kosim.

Cisadane is a major river crossing several parts of West Java, the newly-established Banten province, and Jakarta.

Some of the people using the family's service are poor people living near the rivers edge.

"Once, I was paid with a plate, as the person didn't have any money," said Kosim.

With the completion of the bridge next week, Saefuddin and his family still have no idea about the fate of their raft business and how he can financially support his big family in the future.

"People will not use the raft anymore. Unfortunately, I don't have any other ideas on how to get another job," he said.