Parents join school bus owners to drive illegal buses out of Mumbai

While the state’s education and transport departments continue shirking responsibilities, the School Bus Owners’ Association has contacted PTA forums and schools to ensure students don’t travel on illegal school buses or vans

With little or no help coming from the education as well as transport departments in ensuring a complete ban on illegal vans and buses ferrying school children, the School Bus Owners’ Association (SBOA) has taken it upon themselves to set things right.

Representatives of the Unaided Schools’ Forum said that schools are unhappy with vans and autorickshaws, as they do not follow any safety norms. Pic for representation
Representatives of the Unaided Schools’ Forum said that schools are unhappy with vans and autorickshaws, as they do not follow any safety norms. Pic for representation

For starters, the bus owners have contacted schools across the city to ensure that students are only ferried by operators with legal permits. They have also contacted the PTA United Forum to dissuade parents from depending on illegal operators.

Students’ safety
Speaking to mid-day, Anil Garg, president of SBOA said, “The education and transport departments keep pushing the blame on each other and because of that, nothing has changed in the last three years. Ultimately, it is the bus owners who get blamed for not following rules and regulations, while these illegal vans and buses keep getting away.”

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He added that even school principals have agreed to fight against illegal bus/van operators. “We need to think of students’ safety, even though the government doesn’t seem interested,” Garg said.

While there is no official number on how many illegal vans are functioning in the city right now, SBOA alleges that over 8,000 exist in the Mumbai metropolitan region — with every school having at least 10-15 illegal vans/buses ferrying children.

Absolving itself of any other responsibility, the education department has stated how their only task is to ensure that schools have a School Management Committee (SMC) for the implementation of the safety policy. Nand Kumar, principal secretary of state education department said, “We have asked schools to make sure their SMC is in place so that transport operators don’t flout rules, rest of the implementation falls on the transport department.”

On Monday, SBOA members met representatives of the Unaided Schools’ Forum as well as the PTA United Forum. S C Kedia, honorary secretary of Unaided Schools’ Forum said, “Schools are very unhappy with the vans and autorickshaws especially because they don’t follow any safety norms, and neither do they have female attendants.

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We have often requested parents to go for only those buses which have permits, but the parents have a mind of their own.” He added, that since they cannot compel parents to opt for school buses only, they would ensure that parents are repeatedly informed about the problems of not opting for legally plying vehicles.

As of now, the SBOA members have decided against the strike and are planning to take their fight against illegal vans/buses to the government once again. “This is not the first time we have approached the government with this problem, and this will not be the last. But we hope to find a solution soon,” said Deepak Naik, another bus operator.

History of the issue
In November 2013, the state school education department had issued a government resolution (GR), entrusting principals with the responsibility of transporting school children safely and prohibited autorickshaws and taxis from ferrying children to school.

However, Rajendra Darda, the then 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 if the GR was not cancelled.

In December 2013, this GR was announced cancelled on the floor of the state assembly. Till date, there has been no clarity on the policy.

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