Overloaded vehicles a threat to students, no solution in sight | dehradun | Hindustan Times
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Overloaded vehicles a threat to students, no solution in sight

Two types of vehicles with 7+1 and 4+1 seating capacity transport school children in Dehradun. According to the school van association, the Regional Transport Office gave permission to ferry twice the number of kids as against the seating capacity. This means the two category of vehicles can carry a maximum of 14 students and 8 kids each. But the permission is more often broken than observed in reality.

dehradun Updated: Sep 07, 2017 19:44 IST
Nihi Sharma
A van packed with school children in Doon.
A van packed with school children in Doon.(Vinay Santosh Kumar/HT)

DEHRADUN: It’s a tragedy waiting to happen. Vans and autos with school kids packed like sardines brazenly run on city roads. Worse, neither the district administration nor the government seems to be intent on curbing the overloaded vehicles.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 15,633 children died in road accidents across the country in 2015. On Tuesday, the police sent notices to 18 schools in Patel Nagar area directing them to improve transportation facility after they found overloaded vehicles with kids.

The problem

Two types of vehicles with 7+1 and 4+1 seating capacity transport school children in Dehradun. According to the school van association, the Regional Transport Office gave permission to ferry twice the number of kids as against the seating capacity. This means the two category of vehicles can carry a maximum of 14 students and 8 kids each. But the permission is more often broken than observed in reality.

“We don’t have an option. The school vans have to give Rs 20,000 annually for insurance which is followed by road tax, fitness tax and other taxes. How are we going to cope up with the expenses, if we don’t overload our vehicles?” school van association president Rajeev Bajaj admitted to Hindustan Times.

The vans charge Rs 1,500-Rs 2,000 from parents to ferry children. If one follows the seven and four seating rule, the transportation charges go up for each student. “It means a burden on the pockets of parents. No parent will give us double the fare if we decide to carry kids as per seating capacity,” Bajaj said.

The situation

Dehradun has over 200 schools of which 50% are senior secondary schools. The schools are unable to provide transportation to all students due to the limited number of buses. The bus reservation for students is done annually on ‘first come-first serve’ basis.

Such a situation has led to proliferation of private school vans whose numbers are around 400 in the capital. Despite availability of registered school vans, over 200 illegal vans are ferrying kids. Both registered and unregistered vehicles carry school children beyond their capacity.

“It’s a serious problem that needs immediate attention. Unless the government comes out with an order disallowing private vehicles and fixing the burden of transportation on schools, this issue won’t be resolved,” Doon Resident Welfare Front president Mahesh Bhandari said.

In July, the Regional Transport Office held a meeting with private school urging them to provide transportation to school children. But the schools claimed they do not have enough buses. The RTO officers suggested outsourcing transportation to private parties. “Schools should make buses mandatory. We suggested outsourcing and charging the requisite fare from parents. But, school managements claimed parents won’t agree to it,” Dehradun assistant regional transport officer Arvind Pandey said.

The problem with the police

On the ground, the police face the heat battling with traffic jams and checking traffic violations. The city roads are choc-a-bloc with thousands of vehicles in afternoon. The police had sat with school managements, and they blame the parents who were putting the lives of children at stake.

“At the end of the day, it’s the school management and the parents who need to sit together and discuss how to resolve this problem,” circle officer, traffic, Jaya Baluni said.

But Teena Mohan, mother of a school kid, said parents alone cannot be blamed. “We are ready to pay. But, there’s no arrangement either by the schools or the district administration. We are then forced to look for alternatives,” she said.