Private schools are allegedly fleecing parents for ferrying their children to and from home on Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses, charging amounts that are several times the stipulated rate.
The DTC charges the schools Rs 40 per km for a standard bus and Rs 60 per km for a low-floored one. A resident of east Delhi whose daughter’s school is 2km away says he pays Rs 1,950 per month for morning and afternoon commute. This is the minimum bus fees the private school charges from each student.
However, as per the DTC rate card, the parent needs to pay only Rs 240 per month for a low-floored bus. Assuming the vehicle runs at optimum capacity of 33 students each day, the school makes at least Rs 56,000 per month on this single route.
“Many of my neighbours are victims of such open loot by private schools and there is no solution to it because school bus is a safe mode of transport. I cannot leave office and pick my daughter up from school every day,” he says on condition of anonymity.
And he is not alone. Rekha Rani, councillor from east Delhi’s Bhajanpura, says she has received several complaints from harrowed parents who say schools are charging exorbitant amounts as bus fees. “We have collected the complaints and will meet the city’s transport minister for action against these schools.”
“Why should private organisations fill their coffers when they are getting subsidised facilities from the government,” she says.
The DTC is well aware of the issue. An official, who did not wish to be named, says the contract signed with each school clearly mentions that the children are to be charged according to the distance travelled by them. “We know that several schools pocket a major share (of the bus fees). Why do they have to charge extra from parents when DTC maintains the buses and provide drivers too. Even I end up paying Rs 3950 monthly bus fees for my child,” he said.
But there is little the corporation can do, he says. “As long as we are getting the stated payment, we cannot get into the internal functioning of schools.”
HT put forth the allegations to two school associations who denied the charges and said students were being charged as per guidelines. “The DTC charges us on a per kilometre basis. The charges apply from the time the buses leave depot. In some cases, buses travel a longer distance to reach the school. This fare is divided among students who take those buses,” says RC Jain, president of the Delhi State Public Schools’ Management Association.
A DTC official, however, rubbishes the claims, saying the charges apply from the time the buses report to the school for duty. “The routes are charted in a way that buses are in the vicinity of the school during drops and pick-ups,” the official said.
SK Bhattacharya, chairman of the Action Committee Unaided Private Recognised School, says the bus fees is meant to cover other transport-related expenses as well. “The amount charged from students is used to pay the bus rent. Apart from that, the school also has to take care of their own establishment maintenance like paying the transport clerk, staff and others.”
A resident of south Delhi whose child studies at a private school, however, says no transport staff is present in the bus. “My son has been taking the DTC bus for over five years now and the school has increased the fee every year. I have never seen a dedicated transport staff on the bus. Teachers who share the route manage the children. We cannot see these extra facilities the schools claim to provide,” he says.
At present, 84 private schools across the city have 725 DTC buses in their fleet.