For the first time, Mumbai’s bus operators have taken up the mantle of school bus safety — they will honour policy makers, schools, principals, drivers and female attendants who take steps to ensure children’s safety.
The school bus owners association (SBOA), which runs 300 buses in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane, has commissioned a survey to identify individuals going beyond the call of duty to ensure students’ safety. They will receive Excellence in Child Safety and Caring Principals Award on February 7.
Individuals will be recognised under categories like fitness and maintenance of the buses, drivers with an accident-free record for the last 15 years, among others. Schools that have a large fleet of buses (over 15) will receive a special award, too, as they offered a safe ride for students.“This is the first time that anybody has carried out a survey to check school bus safety and introduced such awards,” said Anil Garg, president, SBOA. In the second phase of the initiative, the bus owners are looking at tracking all school buses through GPS, he added.
The move was motivated by the poor implementation of the school bus policy framed seven years ago by the Maharashtra government. Although the policy introduced measures such as speed governors for drivers and mandatory permits for vehicle operators, but it has been marked with frequent changes and lack of monitoring.
“Even today, the policy has been unable to curb illegal vans from ferrying school children,” said Garg, who is a petitioner in the ongoing case in the Bombay high court against the transport authorities for gaps in the policy.
Schools, too, aren’t scotch-free. The bus operators had complained last year that many schools were refusing to sign agreements which held the management and principals responsible for providing a safe transport to the children. “So we are hoping that recognising best practices will create awareness among all schools and the society on the importance of child safety,” said Garg.
Additionally, the association is working with schools to spread the message of safety among students. They have prepared a short-film for students teaching them to respect the attendants.