For most kids in the country, education is out of reach. But for these young ones in south Mumbai, their school has got out of reach. Some 100-odd students of Aryan Education Society in Girgaum, who depend on the BEST bus, have been having a distressing time getting to school since a fortnight ago.
Without any warning, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport, which started a special service a few years ago to drop the kids to school, decided to curtail the number of pick-up spots from seven to one -- at Backbay Reclamation. So the parents must now interrupt workday routine to drop their children to the school, or the bus stop.
The parents of most of these kids work for high-profile government officers and live in servants’ quarters. Many of them said that it was not feasible for them to leave work midway and go drop or fetch their children from school.
The bus service, which began at Backbay Reclamation, would halt at many stops, namely, Backbay depot, Badhwar Park, Yashwantrao Chavan Pratisthan, Mantralaya (servants’ quarters), Samrat Hotel (Yashodhan), New Marine Lines and onwards to Girgaum.
Parents in a flap
Parents of these schoolchildren spent Rs 800 for a semi-annual pass from their respective stops to the school. All that money -- a considerable portion of their budget -- has gone down the drain, they complain.
A man whose two boys study in Stds IX and VII said, “We were informed that the bus would halt at only one stop where all the students would be picked up from and dropped off at, unlike before when the bus would halt at seven stops.”
Another parent Alka Patil said, “When there is a stop near our place and when for years the BEST has been halting at all these stops, why this sudden change? My children would go to the Mantralaya bus stop from where they’d be dropped to school. But if the BEST is adamant about halting at only one stop, then instead of taking my children to that stop I’d rather take them all the way to the school.” She added, “Taking them to the bus stop from our place would get expensive for me since I’d have to buy a ticket too, whereas taking a cab everyday is not practical for people like us.”
School riled up
The school appears to be the most disturbed with the BEST’s attitude and has written to the undertaking’s administration, asking them to provide for more halts instead of a non-stop ride to Girgaum from Backbay.
Amod Usapaar, chief of Aryan Education Society, says a lot of kids coming to the school cannot afford travelling by private transport. “So far, the BEST bus service was going on smoothly. We are not asking the BEST to halt the bus anywhere on the way, but they can do that at least at places where there are bus stops. Our children have already paid some amount of advance money to the BEST for their passes. There are a lot of them who cannot even manage to pay for the pass. So we have asked a few social organisations to help them.” Roughly, more than 100 children depend on this service during morning and afternoon hours.
When contacted BEST spokesperson AS Tamboli said, “Our traffic official met the parents of the children studying at the school and the school management yesterday. There was an issue but we have decided to halt at a few stops and the problem should be solved.”
A certain section of parents remained unconvinced. Some said they had not been given any written communication and so were sceptical whether their kids were in for some more bother.
My two boys travel via bus to the school. The past few days have been a hassle for me what with the bus skipping the originally scheduled stops.
Sakshi Kurundkar, Yashodhan servants' quarters
I have to miss a few hours of work just to drop my kids -- in Stds I and III -- to the Backbay bus stop. Earlier the kids would be picked up from the Samrat hotel stop.
Priti Raut, Yashodhan servants' quarters