The bone of contention, according to SBOA, is the government’s lack of action towards private operators, who continue to ply teenagers in Sumo vans, Maruti vans and auto rickshaws, despite the state’s policy that considers it illegal to ferry children who are over 12 in these vehicles. Also, the rule that not more than six students can travel in one van is not adhered to by these vans. SBOA members feel that the government, instead of cracking down on these operators, is unfairly targeting private bus operators.
“We are always caught by traffic and RTO officials for not following rules, and our new school buses are not passed, if speed governors are not installed in them. But, these rules don’t apply to private van owners, who often breach RTO regulations,” said Anil Garg, Chairman of SBOA.
“Hence we decided to file a case against the government. Many schools and parents’ associations are also backing us. We will also drag the BEST, which ferries school students. The BEST doesn’t follow any rules, and are also excluded from the government policy on school bus safety,” said Garg.
Echoing the sentiments of Garg, Santosh Shetty, said, “It is very unfair that we are apprehended and pressurised to follow safety rules. But, the same is not applicable to private vans.”
Disagreeing with the views of the school bus owners’, Jayant Jain, President of All India Federation of PTA, said, “I don’t support the SBOA because school buses will have complete monopoly to ferry school students. What about the poor students who cannot afford school bus fees? Even if there are three students in one particular area, the school bus refuses to ferry those students. At that time, private vehicles like autos and sumos are the only available means for them.”
The Bombay HC will hear the case tomorrow, and government officials will be called to give their version. The case is filed with the support of all school bus owners’ from Thane to Navi Mumbai and Colaba.