The accident of a "school van" in Keshav Puram leading to the death of a schoolkid and leaving another two to battle for their life, has once again exposed Delhi government's failure to evolve a policy for these vans.
These vans started operating in the city when the crisis on CNG broke out around eight years ago. When the buses went on a strike, some entrepreneurs started the van service to ferry children to the schools. Since then, these vans have been plying illegally in the city. Ironically, they do not have a commercial license even though they operate for commercial purposes. All these vans have private number plates and according to the Motor vehicles Act and Rules, it is illegal to ply private vehicles for commercial purposes.
A senior Transport official who inspected some of these vans said: "Almost all these vans have retrofitted and unauthorised LPG kits, making them dangerous. They are overloaded most of the time with schoolbags hanging outside the van. In addition, they do not have the insurance cover to ferry children and in case of mishap, there cannot be any compensation for the victims".
Confronted with the inaction of the Transport Department on these "schoolvans", Transport Minister Haroon Yusuf said it was difficult for the government to watch all such vehicles. "We have evolved a policy for these vans which would be sent for the approval of the Cabinet," he said.
Ironically, even the proposed policy for these vans is more than two-year old. Asked why the Transport Department was not pushing for its early implementation, Yusuf said there were some issues which had to be settled with the operators.
According to the schoolvan policy, the number of children per vehicles was to be fixed, a definite colour scheme was to be introduced for the vehicles, speed governor was to be installed in each vehicle and they should have authorised LPG kits. The policy also said that the vehicles would be given commercial license plates and they could ply as taxies after schoolhours.
An official, however, said: "When they can ply with impunity without any restriction in the present system, why would they go for commercial license and abide by the stiff regulations?"
On the government efforts to curb accidents, Yusuf said the enforcement wing has been asked to keep an eye on these vans, the drivers are being trained in the training schools and the parents are being made aware of the safety norms. He said the school principals have also been advised to check the vans which ferry children to the schools.
Email Amitabh Shukla: ashukla @hindustantimes.com