Instead of protecting the children from unsafe school vans, the onus is passed on to parents for inspecting vehicles before hiring them to ferry children from home to school and back. The blame game should stop and a serious thought about schoolkids safety should be given utmost importance. RTO must ensure that school buses must obtain fitness certificate before carrying students.
The bus drivers should possess at least five years of driving experience and must not have any criminal background. Under Section 17 of the Motor Vehicles Act, another experienced driver must be present at all times in the bus. The students are to be accompanied with an escort and if possible a teacher should accompany them.
Apart from the above, the bus operators have also been directed to fix an iron grill on the window panes. The speed limit for school buses has been fixed at 40km/per hour. Further, it is mandatory for all the school buses carrying students to display a board in block letters “School Bus” both in the front side and rear of the vehicle. However, if any school hires or engages any private bus for student’s transportation then it should mention “On school duty”. The driver and the cleaner should carry an ID card and uniform as well. First Aid box with necessary medicines and equipment shall be kept in the vehicle and the same shall be checked by the Principal/Authorized person every month. The attendants should be provided with a mobile phone by the transport contractor. Every school bus shall carry information of students indicating his/her blood group and contact numbers in case of emergency as well as the bus route paper. Just by accepting token amount and issuing clearance certificate should not be the case at any cost. Even though Kamal Hassan’s film Hindustani highlighted this aspect, the RTO authorities are very liberal and that is the root cause for drivers failing to follow rules and regulations for students’ safety.
The vital factor including driver’s licence and fitness certificate of the bus and other factors relating to vehicles’s age should be ascertained and erring transport providers should be punished. Even vehicles which are more than 15 years of life are plying on the road risking lives of school children.
Human life is precious and students are the future of our country. I was an eye-witness to the fire that erupted in Panvel school bus. Moreover, media played a prominent role in highlighting the incident and creating awareness about safety measures to be adopted while hiring school buses. The traffic department must frame strict rules to avert school bus tragedy.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)