Catut

Rampant underground trafficking in Jakarta during Indonesia’s occupation by the Japanese. This phenomenon occurred because of the scarcity of many goods such as rice, medicine, textiles, and food. Sometimes the catut trade was only in the form of barters, for example medicine would be traded for textile or chinaware with food. In addition to catut merchants, scavengers were also rampant who charged higher prices than the stores.

During those times the lives of people in Jakarta were truly saddening.  Communication with areas outside the city was disconnected due to the destruction of roads, bridges, and railway bridges by the Dutch earth scorching tactics. This led to rapid price increases of basic necessities. To prevent chaos, the Japanese government passed a law strictly prohibiting accepting or promising prices of goods, wages, land leases, and housing rent that exceeded prices on January 1, 1942. One price for basic foods was also determined to control the market, for example the cost for a quintal of rice was f 8.30-f 10.80; 1 kg of sugar f0.10; 1 kg of salt f0.15; and 1 can of coconut oil f 2.50. A price list in guilders was placed in the markets and shopping alleys so that they could be used as guidelines. However, this provision was not complied with because the prices kept  growing ridiculously, for example, 1 can of coconut oil cost f4.40; 1 kg of sugar f0.25;  and 1 liter of rice f 0.14.

Supply of rice in Tanah Abang and Karet also experienced crisis causing people to only eat sticky rice, cassava, taro yam, or fruit. This condition led to the emergence of several groups wanting to help the people like the Koperasi Perusahaan Dagang Indonesia (Indonesian Cooperative Trading Company) in the Pulo Empang Village led by R. Bunawan and also the Perserikatan Warung Bangsa Indonesia (Perwabi) (United Small Shops Indonesia) led by BR Motik. Perwabi was also aided by several national figures among them Mr. Asaat and Mr. Kasman Singodimedjo.