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Bus drivers go on flash strike in Pune, leave 3,000 students stranded

After the traffic police put wheel locks on some school buses outside St Mary’s, the drivers called for a two-day strike; frantic parents rushed to the school to pick up their children

Students’ transportation was thrown into a tizzy at St Mary’s School on Thursday, as over 60 school transport drivers went on a two-day strike to protest the traffic police department’s decision to put wheel locks on 15 school buses that were parked just outside the school campus in the morning.

School Bus
In a jam: The traffic police put wheel locks (circled) on 15 school buses parked outside St Mary’s school around 9 am yesterday. Though they removed the jammers when school ended, the bus drivers refused to drop the children home, calling for a two-day strike instead

As many as 3,000 parents had to drop whatever they were doing to go pick up their children from school in Camp, after the drivers called to tell them that there would be no transportation service until the matter was resolved.

Parents distressed
One of the parents, Rupesh Pawar said, “I was supposed to attend an important meeting when I got a call from my wife asking me to pick up the children.There has to be some streamlined process through which the bus owners and the traffic constables can come to an agreement.”

school students
As many as 3,000 school students had to wait for their parents to pick them up from school when the drivers refused to take them home after the morning’s dispute with traffic cops

Ashutosh Joseph, another parent said, “I had to take an extended lunch break as I had to go to the school all the way from Hadapsar. There has to be some rule that makes it obligatory for the school buses to drop the children back if they have taken them to school on any given day.”

While most parents had complaints about how the dispute between the drivers and the police had upset their schedules, there were others who weren’t even informed of the strike and got a serious scare when their children didn’t return on time. “I was waiting for my child who usually comes home by 12. At 12.45 I got worried and rushed to the school, as the bus driver was not picking up the phone. The driver could have at least informed me, so I could have come early,” said Sheeba Sheikh, a distressed parent.

‘Lightning strike’
The school, meanwhile, put up a message from the principal on its website — ‘Dear Parents, the transporters have gone on a lightning strike today, you are therefore requested to come and collect your wards from school.’

At odds
The issue is expected to be discussed in the school transport committee meeting today, after which the school transport will probably resume again. Ashok Rupe, president of Maharashtra Vahtuk Sena (Mahasangh), said, “Without any prior intimation, the traffic department put wheel locks on 15 school buses. The incident took place at 9 am, when the school transport vehicles were dropping the school children off at the school.”

The traffic department however claims that it had notified the school bus owners before Thursday’s move, and that it was part of a city-wide drive to discourage parking in no-parking zones. Rajendra Salunke, assistant commissioner of police (traffic), zone II, said, “We had received several complaints from citizens, due to which we had sent a notice to the school bus owners on Wednesday. As there was still no change, we took action and then gave a verbal warning to the bus owners.

We had removed the locks before the school got over but the bus owners refused to take the children back to their homes.”
In yet another contradiction, Rupe said, “There is not a single board that displays a No Parking zone sign there, therefore the traffic department could not take any action. We want to get the issue resolved in the school bus committee meeting on Friday.”

Personal vendetta?
Sources said that last week, ACP Salunke had gone to meet the principal of St Mary’s for the admission of one of his close relatives. However when the principal did not meet him after repeated attempts, Salunke took action on Wednesday.
He denied the rumours and said, “My children study in Kolkata, and I have not approached the school principal for anyone’s admission or any kind of favour. The action was a part of our drive.”

Citywide drive
He added, “In order to educate citizens, we are holding continuous drives, which is why we have caught over 4,000 erring vehicles in the past week. The reason we have no parking zones is to ensure smooth vehicular movement in the area. However some people have the habit of parking their vehicles illegally in those areas. We are going to continue the drive unless people refrain from parking their vehicles in no parking zones.” According to the traffic department, between August 12 and 20, action was taken against 4,116 vehicles parked in no parking zones, while a total of R2.25 lakh had been collected in fines.

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