From September 1, all school buses transporting students will need to follow the school bus policy, a notification that was released by the transport department on Thursday.
It will be compulsory for yellow buses to have the words ‘School Bus’ painted on them in black, to have bars on widows, and details of routes pasted at the front of the bus. There will be amber flashing lights on bus roofs that will light up at all stops. Children will have separate space to keep their bags. Information on each student, including his blood group, will have to be present on the bus.
The school bus policy is applicable to school buses owned by schools or hired contractors or parents’ groups. The policy does not make it mandatory for all students to take the school bus. Parents or guardians can drop the students to school in their own vehicles or hired vehicles.
The school bus policy drafted in 2011 faced roadblocks after contractors raised issues related to modifications including speed governors and bars to be laid on windows, attendants inside buses and fire safety equipment, which has now been sorted out.
The transport department has given a 2-month breather to school buses to implement changes, as they need to make physical modifications. “Till the modifications are made, school buses will get temporary permits,” transport secretary Shailesh Sharma said.
The state has decided not to ban autorickshaws and matadors being used for school transport, and requires them to do the necessary retrofitting. “In many areas students only travel by autos, so we cannot disallow them. The new policy will need rickshaws to be completely covered. It also limits the number of students that can be carried at one time,” Sharma said.
Although the policy calls for the age of buses to be under eight years in Mumbai, and 15 years in the rest of the state, school buses that have completed 20 years will be allowed to ply on roads up to March 2013. Similar concessions have been extended to contractor-run buses functioning for 18 years. These buses will need to go off the roads after that.
Anil Garg, president of the school bus owners association, said, “The government should first apply these rules to their own buses and then thrust them on us”.
‘Other rules fine, but won’t install speed governors’
mumbai: Members of the School Bus Owners Association (SBOA) said that they were prepared to adhere to all safety norms issued by the state transport department and the education department by September 1, but said they were opposed to installing speed governors inside buses.
The safety norms that the association had no objection to include painting all school buses yellow, having an attendant inside the bus, installing a fire extinguisher in every bus, among other things.
Members of SBOA said that the installation of speed governors costs Rs 12,000 and bus owners would have to pay for these. “We do not have any problem and will follow all other safety norms, but putting speed governors in the bus will not help us in any way. Till date, no school bus accident has taken place because of speeding and the department should listen to our pleas as well,” said Anil Grag, president, SBOA.
Members of SBOA said parents should also be held responsible for the safety of their children. “Parents should be aware of the safety measures and instil basic safety sense and discipline among children. The blame cannot be put entirely on the school bus drivers or contractors. We are targeted every time a school bus is involved in an accident,” Garg said.
SBOA members also said the lady attendant to be present inside the bus should be provided by the school, and illegal and private vehicles that ferried students should not be allowed to do so.
Earlier this month, SBOA had filed a plea in the Bombay high court seeking a stay on the notification that laid down new safety conditions for school buses. SBOA had asked the court to direct the transport department to grant permits and fitness certificates to school buses which had been registered before March last year. The court allowed the plea to grant temporary permits till August 31.