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Transport safety norms: Over 4,500 schools fail to meet deadline

Schools were required to form committees to oversee safe transport for students by July 15; only 2,831 schools have met the deadline

As many as 4,515 schools across Pune district have failed to meet the July 15 deadline to form school bus committees to supervise the safe transportation of students. As part of the sweeping changes being made under the safety policy, the education department had instructed all schools to form committees to organise school transport. While 1,393 schools had complied earlier, after repeated warnings and strict action taken by Pune Regional Transport Office (RTO), only 988 more managed to form their own committees ahead of the deadline.

Pune RTO
The RTO conducts regular checks to ensure that school transport vehicles comply with safety norms. As an added measure, schools are now required to form transport committees as well. Representation pic

“Despite repeated warnings, the schools authorities did not take the matter seriously. Therefore we will be circulating warning letters to the schools, and if they fail to formulate the school bus committee, then strict action will be taken against the principals of the schools,” said Mahavir Mane, director of primary education. The schools will have another month to fulfill the requirements, he added.

Focus on safety
The School bus safety norms had come into effect in March 2011, requiring that schools take stringent measures to ensure the safety of students. However, since cases of schoolgirls being molested by bus drivers and attendants came to light last year, there is now added focus on making school transport safer. Some major new points in the safety norms include the formation of an overseeing committee, as well as placing a female attendant in every school bus, amongst others.

The school bus committees should comprise an RTO officer, the principal of the school, and representatives for the traffic police department, the school transport and the parents. While the safety norms earlier implied that private vehicles would not be allowed to ferry schoolchildren any longer, a notice issued by the RTO last month granted permits to private buses as long as parents are willing to enter agreements with bus owners.

Regional Transport officer, Jitendra Patil said, “Our main objective is to make sure that all school vehicles have a female bus attendant so that any incident of child abuse is prevented. School bus permits will be cancelled for 45 days if there is no female bus attendant on the bus.”

Patil also found encouragement in the response slowly trickling in from schools asking about the safety norms now. “The number of private schools that have formed the bus committee is nearing 1,000, which is a good number. Every day, we are receiving several calls from schools who are inquiring about the process of forming the committee.”

Meanwhile, the RTO is conducting regular checks of all school transport vehicles to see if they comply with the norms. Those that don’t have their permits seized until they fulfill the norms. However, any buses found without female attendants immediately have their permits cancelled. Those falling short of the regulations can also be fined up to Rs 100 per offence.

Action taken by RTO last month

>> Citizens can check http://www.schoolbussafetypune.org for details of school buses and complaints against them
>> 1300: Total number of vehicles checked
>> 126: Total number of permits seized; 60 from vans, 66 from buses
>> 15: Buses that did not have female bus attendants

The safety norms say
1. Number of kids allowed: A private school van is allowed to accommodate only 12 schoolchildren, while auto rickshaws are allowed to accommodate only four.
2. Transport committee: A committee should be formed in all schools using transport for its students. The committee should comprise an RTO officer, principal of the school, representatives for the traffic police department, the school transport and the parents.
3. Bus safety measures: School buses should have fire extinguishers, speed governance, emergency exits, first-aid kits, safety rods on the windows, and the name of the school and emergency numbers printed on the vehicle’s body.
4. Auto-rickshaw safety measure: Auto rickshaws should have hard-surface roofs and fenced doors with locks on both sides.

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