In a bid to make sure that school buses and vans followed guidelines to ensure safe transport of students, the Navi Mumbai regional transport office (RTO) conducted a safety drive last week.
During the weeklong drive that began October 7, transport officials paid surprise visits to schools in Vashi and checked more than 40 vehicles to see if they met the RTO’s requirements. The list of safety norms (see box) was first forwarded to schools and bus contractors in 2011, after which the RTO visited the institutes to check if their transport facilities adhered to the norms.
An officer associated with the drive said, “All schools and bus contractors are provided with a list of safety checks that the vehicle must undergo. Hence, the question of not knowing what the checklist consists of does not arise.”
Officials found out that 21 buses did not meet the checklist requirements, and the respective schools or bus contractors were given memos regarding the discrepancies, and were granted a week’s time to comply with the norms.
A total of Rs 7,500 was recovered in fines, and by the end of the week, four memos were cleared. While checking, officials also came across a vehicle that had payment of taxes pending to the tune of Rs 4,160, and this was cleared immediately.
After a week, if the errant vehicles still breach guidelines, they would be blacklisted or fined again, officials said. Fr Abraham Joseph, principal of St Mary’s High School, Vashi, said, “It is necessary that the vehicles meet the safety requirements laid down by the RTO. Only after checks by officials can we know the students are safe while travelling.”
Sanjay Dhaygude, deputy regional transport officer, said, “The surprise checks let us know what the general problems in school vehicles are. The last such drive was undertaken in August, where we randomly checked 23-25 buses over a week’s time. The objective is to ensure that students are safe while commuting to and from schools and that there are no faults in the vehicle that may endanger lives.”
>> Buses should be yellow
>> A list of children’s names and class must be displayed in the vehicle
>> At least one female attendant should be present if girl students use the bus facility
>> Steps on the footboard shouldn’t be more than 300 mm apart
>> There should be cross-view mirror on both sides
>> There should be a large parabolic rearview mirror inside
>> Hand rails
>> First-aid box, fire extinguishers
>> Driver must have 5 years of experience and a badge number
>> Speed governor should be set to 40 kmph
>> Vehicles must not exceed seating capacity, that is, the buses should not be overcrowded