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Walking 7km every day to save on 90-sen bus fare

While it may seem like a small amount, it all adds up for migrant workers saving up to help their families back home.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
3 minute read
Migrant workers queue in this file picture.
Migrant workers queue in this file picture.

Every day, Saidi and his wife set up their nasi lemak stall in Old Town, Petaling Jaya, which they run from morning to evening.  

And every day, their Indonesian helper Inah is by their side, frying chicken and packaging food to be taken away. 

In between orders, she also runs errands for the couple, going to the sundry store to pick up whatever is needed. 

Her regular routine once the stall closed would be to walk to the nearby bus stop and wait for the bus, which would take her back to her rented room in Taman Medan. 

Lately, however, the couple noticed that this routine had changed. 

Instead of waiting for the bus, Inah would leave on foot together with a friend.

"We thought she wanted to eat or to buy something somewhere before waiting for the bus," Saidi said. 

"But this would happen every single day. My wife and I kept asking if anything was wrong, until she finally told us that she had been walking home – 7km back from our stall, every day. 

"When we asked her why, she said she wanted to save money as she was now required to pay a fare for the bus." 

Inah, a migrant worker, had relied on the Smart Selangor bus service in order to go to and fro from work each day. 

She continued taking the bus even after March 2021 when the state government imposed a 90-sen fare. But after a while, she found herself having to cut down on her other expenses in order to pay the daily fare. 

Eventually, she decided that she could no longer afford to keep taking the bus. 

"People say it's only 90 sen," Saidi said. "But over 10 days, this is equivalent to RM9, and that's just one way. 

"What if they have to go back and forth? They come here without any money at all, and we ask them to pay more. Can't the bus service be given for free again?"

These days, Inah gets a lift for part of the way to Saidi's stall from a neighbour who happens to take a similar route each morning. 

After that, she completes the last 3km or so on foot. 

The Selangor government first proposed fare regulations in 2021, when Ng Sze Han, the exco in charge of local government, said these would cover the costs borne by the state administration and local authorities. 

Recently, a 90-sen fare was imposed on foreigners who use the bus service in Petaling Jaya. 

The move was criticised by many who described it as calculative and pointed out the many contributions of migrant workers to the country's development. 

For herself, Inah no longer considers it a hardship to walk to work each day. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, the 26-year-old said she only wanted to save up so that her family at home could benefit from all of her hard work.

She also said that she did not want to cause dissatisfaction among the locals, adding that people did not like it when the bus was filled with foreign workers. 

"If the bus service is given for free again, I might take the bus but I would wait until it's mostly empty before getting on," she said. 

"Sometimes I still take the bus if it's raining or I want to meet up with friends in other areas. It doesn't always rain, so I don't have to spend so much then. 

"But I walk to work because I have to go to work every day."