School buses stuck between rods and grills

School bus operators are irked with RTO officials after being fined for not having grills in bus windows; bus owners claim RTO guidelines specify rods

In a knee-jerk reaction to the tragic incident, when a 9-year-old boy Viraj Parmar died in Sion after leaning outside a school bus, transport authorities in the city have woken up from their slumber. Initiating a concentrated effort to punish bus contractors, RTO officials, a few days back, started penalising school buses for not having grills on windows in checks conducted by them.

Get your hand in! Kids will be kids and this child is no different as he
sticks his hand outside a window of a moving school bus. In order to stop
such curious kids, parents have requested school bus operators to install
grills rather than rods. File pic

However, the school bus owners' association claims that the RTO specified guidelines stipulate rods and not grills to be installed on windows to protect and preserve the safety of students. Then why is the RTO penalising them for not having grills?

This confusion over the guidelines whether buses should have grills or rods have got school bus operators in a tangle. Taking a note of this mix-up, Chairman of School Bus owners' association in Mumbai, Anil Garg, said, "After I received several complaints from the bus owners being penalised by RTO officials for not having grills on their windows, we showed the guidelines to RTO seniors that buses were given the guidelines to place rods on windows of the school bus and not grills. The senior RTO officer N Bhalchandra accepted the fact and assured us that he will withdraw cases against buses fined for not having grills."

Meanwhile, cops at Sion police station claimed that the investigating officer handling the case of the school student from Vallabh Ashram School has written to RTO officials requesting the specified guidelines for school buses.

T Advadkar, sub inspector at Sion police station, said, "We have sent the letter to the RTO asking for the guidelines for school buses. Now the case is transferred to another police officer, so I don't know the status of the case."

N Bhalchandra, senior official from RTO, who is in charge from Andheri to Dahisar, remained unavailable for comment.

Owners speak
Arun Pabidri, owner of 40 school buses that ply in Juhu area, said, "We met the RTO officials yesterday and asked them for a clarification. According to RTO rules and guidelines given to us we were asked to place rods in a way that students are not able to stick their heads outside the window or their hands. Inserting grills on windows was not mentioned in the guidelines. But despite that, we were fined for not having grills. Four of my school buses were caught and fined."

Deepak Naik, another school bus owner having 20 buses that operate from Bandra to Malad, said, "We spoke to the RTO officials who have assured us that they will withdraw the cases on the school buses. The rule says that the windows of school buses should have rods installed and not grills."

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