Mumbai: Kids packed like sardines, yet parents prefer private school vans

In spite of private vans bundling in more than 10 students per vehicle, more and more parents are opting for them, saying school buses drop children far from home, are late and charge more

According to rules, if children are below 12 years then a van is allowed to ferry nearly 10 students. If the children are above 12 years of age, then only six students are allowed in a private van. Pic/Nimesh Dave
According to rules, if children are below 12 years then a van is allowed to ferry nearly 10 students. If the children are above 12 years of age, then only six students are allowed in a private van. Pic/Nimesh Dave

While the weight of their school bags continues to burden students in the city, they are facing another problem: the vans that ferry them to and from school. Private vans continue to violate norms by packing in students like sardines in their vehicles. But parents are still okay with this arrangement, as they feel more assured of the security of their wards inside these vans rather than the buses authorised by the school.

As for the higher number of children in vans, school authorities have passed the buck to parents, while van operators claim they cannot run services with just a few students. If they do so, they will have to charge higher prices which a majority of parents are unwilling to pay.

'Bus takes too long'
"For two years, my son travelled in the school bus. But, the bus used to take a long time to drop him home. Moreover, the buses don't drop our children at the nearest stop," alleged Dolly Mehta, whose child studies in Ryan International School, Goregaon East.

Another parent, whose child is in the Seth Chunilal Damodar Barfiwala (SCDB) high school, Andheri, said, "Vans charge less. Also, in most of the areas, school bus service is not available. Hence, parents are left with no option but to opt for private vehicles."

Parents must adjust
However, school principals state that the administration is not responsible for private vans. "It's very obvious that a bus cannot enter a small lane. In such cases, parents should adjust," said Vidya Purov, principal of SCDB high school.

In fact, after several complaints to the school transport committee of many educational institutes, the issue has been neglected. "The committee only issues circulars regarding transportation but has hardly done anything to address the problem," said another parent whose children are studying in Ryan International School. Ryan International refused to comment.

Sensitive issue
"As per the law, RTO should detain erring van operators for ferrying excess number of children," said Indirani Malkani, trustee of V Citizen Action Network.

When asked about private school vans, MB Jadhav, chief officer, Andheri RTO, said, "It is a very sensitive issue, most of the schools do not consider these authorised school vans, and if we detain such vehicles while ferrying students, who will be responsible for children present in the vans?"

'We follow all rules'
Siddhiq Shaikh, a private van contractor said, "Schools don't give us recognition. But, we comply with all rules laid down by the RTO. The transport authorities have given recognition to us."

"Parents should think of their children's safety more than money. In terms of money, there is no comparison of bus services with vans; we incur more expenses," said Anil Garg, President of School Bus Owner's Association.

Rs 1,800
Amount schools charge per month for school buses

Rs 1,500
Amount private vans charge per month

They died in a van

On January 29, 2008, 11 children were packed in an Omni van that was driving them home in Jogeshwari from their school. However, the overcrowded van burst into flames and killed three girls after an LPG cylinder explosion. They died instantly, while the driver sustained minor burns when he tried to rescue the children.

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