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RTO officials cannot clarify school bus safety norms?

Bus owners claim officials were unable to iron out ambiguities from the safety rules, threaten to go on a strike if they continued penaslising their vehicles without clearing air on the controversy

A meeting between RTO officials, members of school and company bus owners' association and parents teachers' association -- which was supposed to iron out ambiguities from the traffic safety norms for school buses -- came to a naught yesterday.


RTO officials, members of school bus owners' association and parents
teachers' association participate in a meeting at Parsee Colony yesterday


Members of the bus owners' association emerged from the meeting wearing a glum look as the RTO official 'failed to clarify the safety norms' in the absence of Transport Commissioner V N More.

Upset, bus owners threatened to go on a strike if the RTO continues penalising them without clarifying the norms.

According to the association members, RTO officials themselves were not clear about the norms laid down by the transport department for all school bus owners in the state. The questions that were asked by the school bus owners, PTA representatives to RTO were: why the BEST is not asked to follow the norms laid down for school buses? When there is a school why does the RTO allow parking to other vehicles? When will the RTO implement proper norms for the school buses?

Anil Garg, Chairman School Bus Owners' Association, said, "We are really upset as Transport Commissioner V N More didn't attend the meeting instead sent his representatives. The new commissioner has not met us in person to discuss the issue so far. If the commissioner meets us, we can be clear with the right norms to make changes immediately for the safety of the students. There is lot of confusion such as gap between the rods fixed in bus windows. As per the rule, the gap between the two rods should be 5cm. We think the gap should be 5 inches and not 5cm. If we go by the rulebook, a single window will have at least 8 rods, making it too strong to break open during emergency to rescue children. If the RTO continues penalising us without clarifying the norms, we will have no option but to go on a strike."

Darayus Shroff, one of the school bus owners, said, "I have wasted money in making modifications in my bus. Sometimes government says they want grill on the school bus and sometimes they says they want rods and not grills. The government should first be clear about what they  actually want from us and then ask us to make changes accordingly. They shouldn't get into the habit of penalising buses for fun as they themselves don't know the rules."

Rajeshree Natu, Co-ordinator of PTA United Forum, said, "In the first place, this meeting should have been attended by the transport commissioner or the CM. The RTO representatives were not able to comment on the norms for the school bus owners. There was too much ambiguity."

Safety norns established by RTO
In  September 2011 government laid down following safety norms for school buses:
>> No operator shall use or allow use of his vehicle to ferry school children without a permit signed and approved by a Regional Transport Authority.

>> Every school should set up a transport committee, headed by the principal

>> School buses will be painted in yellow and display the words School Bus in front and rear parts of the vehicle. All private transporters' buses will have a 400mm yellow strip below window level.

>> Vehicles in Mumbai should not be over eight years old.

>> Vehicles should carry a complete list of children on board with their names, class, address, contact number,
blood group and stop near his/ her residence.

>> Every school bus should have an attendant; buses carrying girls should have female attendants.

>> If an authorised person does not come to pick up a pre-primary student, that child will be taken back to school and parents will be called to fetch the child.

>> The bus will have a first-aid box and two fire extinguishers.

>> Earlier the school buses were asked the grills to be fixed on windows. But now the rods are asked on windows in 5cm distance between two rods.

>> The staircase has been asked to place on the door of the school bus now, which was not asked earlier.

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