Thousands of schoolchildren and their parents were left high and dry after members of the School Vans Operators' Association went on strike in the city on Thursday.
The vans owners were protesting against the directions of the district transport officer (DTO) to follow all required safety measures. However, the private van operators refused to fulfill the required conditions and instead took their vehicles off roads.
Consequently, about 1.5 lakh students, who commute to school in around 5,000 private vans daily, were left helpless.
A number of parents had no option but to drop their children school, which led to traffic snarls near almost all schools in the morning. The situation did not improve after school hours.
According to the information, a large number of students could not attend school in absence of any mode of conveyance to reach school.
However, despite facing inconvenience, parents insisted that school van operators should take all safety measures, stating that there should be no compromise when it came to safety of children.
They were of the view that schools concerned should make alternative arrangements so that students did not face any problems while travelling to the schools during the strike.
Shalini Sharma, a student's mother, said, “We faced a lot of harassment due to the strike of school van operators. While driving to the school, we were stuck in traffic jams at various places. Many parents are working and cannot come to drop and pick their children every day. Therefore, the school authorities should make some other arrangements for the students' transportation.”
She said the van operators had informed them that they were going on an indefinite strike. However, she added that the van operators should follow all traffic norms and safety measures.
When contacted, Darshan Sabharwal, president, School Vans Operators Association, said, “We have been asked to pay tax, get permit, insurance, fitness and pollution certificates. The DTO has also issued directions that vans, which are more than 15 years old, cannot run on roads due to safety reasons. But we cannot fulfill all these conditions, as we don't have much income. Majority of the vans were bought on loans and are second hand, as we can't afford new vehicles.”
He said, “We met MLA Manpreet Singh Ayali, who assured us of resolving the matter. We told him that we cannot fulfill the required norms. However, over 50% vans have been painted yellow, and the remaining will be painted by the end of summer vacations in schools.”
Gurmant Kaur Gill, principal, Guru Nanak International Public School, said, “We had informed all parents about the strike on Wednesday. Therefore, many parents came to drop their children to school, which led to traffic jams. I appeal to all van operators to fulfill the required safety measures, as they should not comprise students' safety.”
District transport officer Anil Garg said, “We have directed them to get fitness and insurance certificates of their school vans, as we want to ensure schoolchildren's safety. The van operators met the deputy commissioner on Thursday, but I am not aware of the meeting's proceedings.”
However, some city schools run their own bus service. Therefore, their students faced no inconvenience.
Kirti Sharma, principal, Jesus' Sacred Heart School, said, “We operate our own school buses and vans. Therefore, they were running normally and our students faced no problem.”