Pune: School bus safety comes at a hefty price this academic year
With schools reopening next week, it’s a busy time for parents and kids in the city. But to add to the last-minute rush, parents this year have the additional worry about an impending hike in school bus charges. Bus owners say that this is the price they have to pay for better safety in the vehicles.
FOR A SAFER RIDE: Besides installing grilles and rods on windows, school bus owners had to equip the vehicles with GPRS systems and appoint female attendants. representation pic
The city’s school bus owners’ association has announced a 15 per cent hike on bus charges this year — something that is not likely to go down well with parents.
“School bus owners have been experiencing a financial crisis in the past year, as the government has made several things compulsory in school buses. The major requirement is a GPRS system, which costs around Rs 5,000. Every month, we have to pay Rs 500 for the SIM card inserted in it. To add to that, female attendants have to be paid a salary of Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000,” said Rajan Junavane, vice president of the Pune Bus Owners’ Association (PBOA).
“Also, there has been a hike of Rs 10 per litre in diesel prices in the past one year. We cannot suddenly increase the charges in the middle of a year. To bear this cost, we had to take this decision to increase the charges. The approximately hike will be around 10-15 per cent,” he added.
At present, a bus owner charges Rs 700 per month for the first 4 km he ferries each child, and Rs 100 more per km beyond that. Charges this year will go up to Rs 800 to Rs 900. “Already, we are paying thousands of rupees for school fees. To add to that, we have to now pay more for school buses. This is ridiculous. But we have no option other than to pay the hiked charges, since our kids go safely to school in their buses,” said Archana Choudhary, a parent.
Satish Jadhav, another parent, said, “We can understand that the dearness has increased in all segments, so we were expecting this hike. If the bus owners are giving good facilities and installing GPRS systems in the school bus for the safety of children, then we are ready to pay for it.”
School bus safety became a matter of grave concern in the city earlier this year, after a male school bus attendant molested a four-year-old girl student on the way back from school on April 4, leading to protests from furious parents.
The amount that school bus owners will now charge per school kid for the first 4 km of the journey, up from Rs 700