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School buses may get window grills, extra safety exit

Govt asks schools to go for enhanced safety in light of demands by activists and parents

Following demands from activists and parents of schoolchildren, the education department has issued additional instructions to schools across the city to enhance security measures in school buses. The demands include installing grills or rods on windows of vehicles and having an additional safety exit in case of an emergency. 


Safety first: Schools across the city are in the process of upgrading 
safety measures following instructions from the education department . 
Representation pic   

Draft policy
The state government about two years ago had prepared a draft policy Maharashtra Motor Vehicles (Regulations for School Buses), Rules, 2010, and a year ago, had issued a resolution regarding safety guidelines for school bus operations.  

Parents feel despite its implementation more needs to be done. "Though we had earlier received a circular from the school about the safety measures to be implemented in the buses, we were sceptical about its policies; we are not sure if the school management is following the norms," said Dr Soeb Hakimji, parent of a seven-year-old from St Mary's High School.

The guidelines make it mandatory for bus contractors to have trained and experienced drivers, while the buses should be painted yellow and should have first-aid kits, fire extinguishers and senior attendants. The speed limit should not exceed 40 kmph. "Though the education department has sought suggestions from activists, schools, parents and experts about additional safety measures, it is yet to decide on installation of grills and rods outside windows of mandatory," said an education department official. 

Implementation
Schools across the city are not taking any chances and are upgrading the safety measures. "We have received requests from the parents to instal grills in order to prevent children from sticking their heads out. We have already installed it in two or three buses and will instal it in rest of the buses during Christmas vacation," said R Joshi, principal of JSPMS Cygnet High School.

An administrator of Gurukul High School said, "We are in the process of starting our own buses from next month. Though we are not clear about what additional measures should be taken, we are working on it."

RTO short-staffed, inspections a casualty
Officials from the Regional Transport Office said they were not able to conduct timely school bus inspections because of staff shortage. They said about 30 to 35 per cent vacancies were yet to be filled. The inspection takes place once or twice a year, when the RTO renews the fitness certificate of buses plying for educational institutions. There are more than 30,000 registered school buses in the city and if the inspection of each is undertaken, it would take the RTO over six months to check all buses. Last year, the government drafted school bus safety rules by bringing the RTO, education department and school officials together as per the guidelines. Regional Transport Officer Arun Yevla admitted a shortage of staff and said a had been submitted to the government for additional staff and infrastructure. 

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