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State imposes rules on school buses, forgets private vehicles

Parent-Teacher Association, school authorities to raise issue with CM, will persuade govt to ban erring transporters

Amid much hue and cry over safety measures in school buses that are now prerequisite under the guidelines of the state education board, Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) and school authorities wonder why the government has failed to bring auto-rickshaws and private vehicles, which continue to ferry school children caring little about safety, under the purview of latest norm. 


Risky ride? PTA members say that some auto rickshaws flout rules 
and ferry more than eight children to school at a time. Representation pic 

The association with other educationists and parents have decided to hold a meeting and raise the issue with the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan next year, in order to persuade the government to impose a ban on private vehicles owners who flout rules. 

"After inquiring with several parents about the safety rules, we learnt that most of the parents are not even aware the norms and were allowing children to commute in private vehicles and autos. Despite the Government Resolution regulations, auto rickshaws flout rules and carry more than eight children, which could be dangerous," said Rajshri Natu, secretary of PTA. 

Parents, who cannot afford to send their children in buses, reportedly opt for auto rickshaws that are comparatively cheaper and charge according to the number of students they ferry. "Some parents do not object to how their children are being taken to school as they look for cheaper means. It is known that private vehicles and rickshaws that carry more than eight children do not follow the norms but are still allowed to operate. We can not do anything as it is the parents who decide," said a principal of a school, requesting anonymity. 

In the city most of the 15,000 rickshaws that reportedly ferry students to and from schools, violate norms. According to the rules, a vehicle should be more than 12 ft and should carry not more than five students. "We have been questioning the education department regarding this, but they says that the RTO's are suppose to check. Now that our agitation is gaining momentum we will take it up with the CM as the schools have asked us to get involved," Natu added. 

Earlier, MiD DAY had reported how the RTOs in the city, who are short staffed, are unable to carry out periodic inspections to check whether school buses and private vehicles were following the norms. State education secretary, Sanjay Kumar said, "We have prepared a comprehensive report on the transport system and have no objection on rickshaws carrying students. We had issued guidelines, but which up to the RTO and traffic police department to check if they are followed. People are not objecting to the rickshaws or private vehicles, they only want them to follow the 
guidelines." 

School buses to join statewide strike
School bus operators in the city will also join the statewide strike against 'stringent government safety rules' on Tuesday, towing the line of their fellow associations across the state. Baba Shinde, president of the city Bus Owner's Association say that they have discussed the issue with associations in Mumbai and have decided to support the strike. "The government has imposed impractical safety rules which are technically impossible to implement. Rear right hand side exit doors cannot be incorporated, as it requires modification of the original body of the bus, adding to additional expenses. Big-sized fire extinguishers also cannot be placed above the driver's seat, as they are cumbersome while cleaning the bus," said Shinde. The strike was declared by Harish Kotak and Anil Garg of the School and Company Bus Owners Association (Maharashtra) in Mumbai on Saturday. The members have also decided to compile a detailed report about the difficulties faced by bus owners, which will be submitted to the Motor Vehicle Department and the state Transport Ministry. Operators from other cities such as Thane, Nashik and Nagpur are also expected to join the strike. The city Bus Owner's Association and other transport bodies will also meet tomorrow at Somwar Peth to discuss the future plan of action. "We might also discuss the issue with the Regional Transport Office and relevant officials, if required," added Shinde. 

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