The death of a five-year-old student who was travelling in a private school cab has brought the issue of safety of school students to the fore yet again.
There are about 15,000 such cabs — Maruti Vans and Maruti Eeco — that ferry children of all age groups to school and back in most inhumane conditions.
Despite specific guidelines from the Supreme Court that allows only six to eight children in a van, these vans accommodate 12-14 children and their schoolbags by altering original seats and putting an additional bench. And the speed limit of 50kmph is rarely followed.
It was following specific directions from the Supreme Court in 2007 that the transport department had formed a school cab policy and started registering vans in 2008. There are 6,868 registered vehicles under the scheme.
But for parents these cabs are a necessary evil.
“There is no way I or my wife can pick up my daughter from the bus stop, which is 2 km away from my house. We both work and are forced to hire a private cab,” said Dhruva Mehta, a resident of Saket, whose 10-year-old daughter is ferried to and from school in a cab.
Most schools, however, discourage the use of private cabs.
“We discourage parents from using such cabs as we can’t vouch for their safety. What we do, however, is take signed consent letters from every parent whose child takes a private cab. We also get photographs of the driver and don’t let the child board the cab if the driver is not the same,” said Usha Ram, principal, Laxman Public School.