Mumbai school forces students to travel on 'unsafe' buses
Arya Vidya Mandir in Bandra tells parents to discontinue services of legitimate private bus operators and opt instead for the two service providers registered with the school, which openly flout safety norms
Behind the cloak of providing safe transport facilities for its students, Arya Vidya Mandir (AVM) in Bandra (East) has banned private vehicles with whom it has no agreement and warned parents against subscribing to their services. The parents would have been happy to oblige, except that a driver with one of the two operators registered with the school recently got into a road accident with a bus full of school kids and was booked for negligence.
Also, the school-approved buses have tinted-glass windows, which were banned after the Delhi gang rape last year, and do not have safety grills. A school circular dated November 22 requests parents not to use unauthorised transport services, citing that the government has made it mandatory for schools to inform parents to use only school buses, public transport or car pools for ferrying kids.
It alleges that bus drivers of the operators not authorised by the school are “very rash and the children are at risk”. It is worth mentioning here that on October 12, a driver with one of the school’s bus services rammed the bus into a divider, and has since been on the run. The circular goes on to list eight licence plate numbers belonging to private vehicles and asked parents to discontinue using their services since “they did not have the requisite permits” from the regional transport office (RTO). “The school management would take action against children using such unauthorised private vehicles”, it states.
Talking to the parents revealed the flip side of the situation. They claimed that it was the school’s operators that were negligent and violated regulations. A parent who did not wish to be named said, “We prefer to choose our own transport because the school’s authorised operators, Arjun Travels and Anusaya Travels, don’t respond to our complaints. When we call the bus driver, they don’t pick up our calls. Their buses are poorly maintained, and moreover, they have tinted glasses on the windows, which is not allowed as per the RTO rules.
“We have written to the school regarding the current school bus service, but the management has not responded to our letters. After the accident by the driver of Anusaya school bus, many parents chose different vehicles like yellow vans, matadors and 30-seater buses. But I guess that didn’t sit well with the school or the travel contractors registered with it.”
Private services say
The travel service owners discredited in the school circular say they are cautious and adhere to all the regulations. The owner of an operator whose name features on the list of the banned operators in the circular, said, “I provide bus services to AVM students, and we have an RTO permit. We legally provide the bus service, adhering to all the rules of the transport department. It is disheartening to know that the school is claiming in their circular that we don’t have the RTO permits to ferry the students.”
The owner of another service provider on the list, Arvind Malwankar, said, “Our name is mentioned in the circular asking parents to discontinue our service. We have a permit from the RTO and we follow all the rules. It is the operators registered with the school, who do not adhere to the RTO guidelines. Their buses do not have grills on the windows, nor are they painted yellow. Moreover, they have tinted-glass windows, which were banned after the Delhi gang rape last year.”
School principal Pramila Kudva was not available to meet or talk to us. A school administration official, one Mr Patel who did not reveal his first name, confirmed that a circular had been issued to parents to discontinue with the private transport agencies not approved by the school. Asked why the services registered with the school were allowed tinted glasses on their buses, he chose to keep mum and asked us to take an appointment to talk to the principal. The chairperson of the Parents Teachers Association Ritu Makhijani, who has signed the circular, also refused to comment and asked us to meet the principal.
A driver with one of the school’s operators rammed the bus into a divider, and has since been on the run