The State Transport Department has accepted certain demands made by school bus operators over relaxing some of the new "impractical" school bus safety rules. The decision was taken in a meeting with Transport Commissioner V N More in Mumbai where bus operators from Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Nashik and Kolhapur along with RTO officials from across the state were present.
Some of the relaxed norms are regarding fire extinguishers, bus attendants, stanchions (vertical poles) in the gangway and eligibility of buses to be used for school transport. School buses can now have two fire extinguishers of 2 kg each instead of a large 5 kg extinguisher. This is cumbersome and more dangerous to handle according to bus operators.
The mandatory woman bus attendants will now also have to be provided by the schools and not bus operators. "A Government Resolution to this effect has also been issued by the Education Ministry," said Baba Shinde, Vice-President of the Maharashtra State Private Bus Owners' Mahasangh.
Vertical poles in the gangway beside the seats have also been replaced by holding handles behind every seat. "Poles are dangerous for kids and are more of a hindrance for their free movement," Shinde said. An important altered safety norm is about buses more than 15 years old being ineligible for school transport. This rule has been now been overturned in an order by the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on October 11 in response to a PIL filed by bus owners.
"Buses will have to be checked by the RTO every four months instead of annually, which is sensible than the earlier criteria. Accidents can even happen in brand new buses and the court order will also inculcate discipline among bus operators who will now have to maintain buses well", he said.
The demands which the government is yet to decide on pertain to window grills and height of steps for climbing into the bus. Transporters had demanded the distance between parallel window bars be 5 inches instead of 5 cm and reducing the height of steps from the prescribed 8 inches. "The lesser the distance between bars the dangerous it is for rescue during mishaps. The eight-inch height of the steps will cause them to collide with the road and speed breakers," said Shinde.