Government Indifferent attitude plague school Bus Policy
Following incidents of school Bus Fire in and around Navi Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra, the Government in its eagerness to solve the issue, decided to regulate plying of school buses by unscrupulous bus contractors by framing suitable rules. The process to achieve this however tells the Government's utter indifferent attitude in solving this issue affecting thousands of children throughout the State as they continue to travel to school in unsafe conditions.
The State Cabinet which had cleared the Policy in June was issued through a draft notification entitled "Maharashtra Motor Vehicles (Regulations for School Buses), Rules, 2010, was released only on September 28 to public for their feed back by October 30, 2010 before issuing the final government resolution (GR.) The draft notification received no response from any quarters, inspite of the subject being a highly sensitive issue, due to the poor publicity given. A Committee which was formed to study the subject and prepare rules was also not taken taken into confidence and the Government unilaterally modified the rules An activist, who was on the Committee, Indrani Malkani, has come down heavily on the state government for this. It further goes that she could not access the draft notification. It was only after a leading daily, DNA "managed to get one and referred it to her that she realised the government had not printed the rules that were deliberated upon and finalised in the meetings." It was further reported that her letter to
Sangeetrao, former principal secretary, transport did not elicit any response as yet.
The changed descriptive meaning of a school bus in the draft notification reads "School bus shall include four-wheeled light motor vehicle having registered seating capacity up to 12." Malkani said what was decided was not 'up to' but 'at least'. She said: "In order to make a school bus operation economical, the minimum number of children in a bus has to be 12. Other features, like safety rods and provisions for keeping school bags, will not be possible unless the vehicle has a seating capacity of 12-plus. A car cannot be called a school bus. The vehicle has to be structured like a bus."
One more area which deserve attention is the number of children allowed in a bus. The draft says that the number "shall be determined as per provisions of rule 106 of the Maharashtra Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989." Malkani said by what stretch of imagination one can expect a school principal to know rule 106 of the MMVR. This was why the committee had decided upon a clearer description.
The most serious discrepancy in the draft rules is rule number 12, which empowers the government to grant exemption from any of the conditions. According to Malkani, "such exemptions will compromise the safety and security of children." From the Bus operators point of view, bus operators will require at least half a year to upgrade their fleets of buses to suit the new draft rules, president of the School Bus Owners' Association (SBOA) Anil Garg told DNA.
Courtesy : DNA 11-2-2010