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No policy on school bus safety yet

The new academic year is about to begin, but there is still uncertainty over government resolution (GR) on the school bus safety policy. State education minister says the resolution will be finalised by end of this month

While everything else seems to be in place at the start of this academic year, what’s missing is clarity over the implementation of the school bus safety policy.

school managements
After school managements opposed the government resolution, there has been no clarity on the issue of school bus safety. File Pic

Last year in November, the school education department issued a Government Resolution (GR) regarding the policy on November 18, entrusting principals with the responsibility of transporting school children safely and prohibiting autorickshaws and taxis from ferrying children to school. However, the state education minister stayed this GR on November 26 following opposition from school managements. An association of school principals had also threatened to boycott SSC and HSC board examinations. In December 2013, the same GR was announced as cancelled in the state assembly.

Speaking to sunday mid-day, state education minister Rajendra Darda said that the matter is still under debate and a final decision is expected by the end of this month. “The final draft of the policy received flak from many parties involved. Now, a meeting will be held of all related parties (schools, bus owners, parents, transport department, RTO, education officials and activists) on June 25 to come up with a clear decision on this policy,” said Darda.

School principals maintain that while they have nothing against the school bus safety policy and are ready to implement the rules, they were not happy with some clauses. “The policy expects us to include outsiders in the school bus safety committee, which we will never allow. What’s the purpose of having strangers in a committee meant for the safety of children?” asked S C Kedia, honorary secretary of Unaided Schools’ Forum.

While schools were happy with the government’s decision to scrap the final draft of the policy, parents as well as activists seemed unhappy. For many of them, there were a number of questions still left unanswered. Arun Gore’s 14-year-old son was one of the 20 students of a Panvel school who were injured when their van caught fire in 2008. His son succumbed to his injuries six days later. “There have been numerous discussions about the safety policy but the fact that there still isn’t a concrete policy in place, shows that nobody is interested in the safety of children anymore,” said Gore.

Activist Indrani Malkani stated that the education department’s decision to hold back the policy stands as contempt of court. “The policy was finalised in 2011 and that is the only policy that should be implemented. The education department’s role is to simply facilitate the implementation of the policy. I don’t understand why the policy was held back.”

The School Bus Owners’ Association (SBOA) has already decided that they will abide by all rules, provided schools as well as the government extend their help and support. “Time and again we have complained against illegal vehicles ferrying children but till date, no action has been taken against these vehicle owners. We can’t expect children to travel safely unless and until these illegal vehicles are not banned,” said Anil Garg, president of SBOA.

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