On January 1, 2010, new rules for school bus safety will be implemented.
State Transport minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil announced this at a meeting on Thursday where he interacted with over 250 school representatives, state transport officials, members of parent-teacher association and bus owners, inviting suggestions on the rules.
Among the 24 rules in the bus safety draft, installation of an emergency exit in all school buses on the opposite side (right side) of the existing door and the presence of a lady attendant were most debated.
Drafted by a 12-member committee that was appointed by the state in June 2008, the new regulations were deliberated upon for over a year. Following the Panvel school bus mishap in August, in which three children died and more than 15 injured when the bus caught fire, transport authorities have accelerated the process.
“We cannot let another Panvel incident to happen,” said Vikhe Patil. “A final policy will be drafted once suggestions from all stakeholders have been taken.”
Private bus owners demanded that they should be given more time before a rule disallowing buses older than eight years to ply as school transport was implemented.
“Only four years ago, we spent Rs. 2 lakh per bus to fit the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) system,” said Anil Garg, president, State Bus Owners Association. “We will have to take these off the road in four years, even though the CNG installation is supposed to increase their life by eight years.”
Over the next two weeks, Vikhe Patil will meet school and transport authorities in Pune and Nagpur to ensure implementation of the rules across the state.