Mary Anugrah Rasita
A rights watchdog has criticized the state railway company for its installation of potentially deadly hanging concrete balls over train tracks to prevent roof surfers.
Yosep Adi Prasetyo, a spokesman for the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said the move by Kereta Api Indonesia to install concrete balls hanging from wires would lead to violations of human rights as the balls had the potential to kill.
“Picture this: If a student has to take the train, he or she would face the threat of being killed by the concrete balls,” he said. “Now his right to get to school safely is simply violated.”
KAI has repeatedly tried to discourage people from the dangerous practice of riding on the roof of trains. It has threatened measures such as fines and detentions, dousing roof riders with colored water and smearing grease on the roof.
KAI even resorted to seeking the help of religious leaders, asking them to speak to their followers about the dangers of riding atop trains.
Adi said those efforts were ineffective because the core problem behind the practice was that there was not enough trains to carry all commuters.
“These people need to get to their workplace on time and they will do whatever it takes to minimize the chances of being late,” Adi said.
He said that during peak hours, trains were so densely packed that even the toilets had commuters crammed in them.
In its latest bid to prevent roof riders, KAI is hoping that the threat of injury, or even death, will put a stop to the practice.
Last Thursday, it announced that it would install concrete balls at rooftop height at stations including in Bekasi, Tambun and Cikarang, as well as at train crossings.
“The construction was started since this afternoon,” KAI spokesman Mateta Rizalulhaq said on Tuesday. “The next destination will be the one that is going to Rangkas, where the trains are pulled by locomotive.”
He added that several things needed to be considered when setting up the concrete balls, including a detailed check of train schedules.
“We have to wait for every train to pass first because it is impossible to put up [the balls] when trains are passing by.”
The measure consists of a row of 20 concrete balls about 10 centimeters apart hanging across the railway track 25 centimeters above the height of a train’s rooftop.
He declined to say how much money it had cost to install the sets of grapefruit-sized balls.
Mateta said that the balls would only be used on tracks served by trains pulled by locomotives, while those served by electric trains will instead use swing doors that allow the pantographs of electrical trains to pass but cause complications for people on the roof.
Activists have previously given several reasons for people riding on train roofs, including a lack of space on board the train, a wish to avoid paying a fare and a desire for a joyride.