The state government has asked bus operators in the city to send all school buses to their respective RTOs to have them checked for compliance with the new safety norms.
The move is line with the government's attempts to save face after 9-year-old Viraj Parmar lost his life in a mishap that could have been averted had the school bus policy been enforced strictly. Following the accident on November 23, the Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) stepped up what is otherwise routine inspection of school buses. This was evident from the increase in number of buses, school buses included, that were inspected in November.
“We are conducting routine school bus checks as mentioned in the Motor Vehicular Act and Central Motor Vehicles Rules. But as per government orders, all bus operators in our region have been asked to bring their buses at RTO office on Wednesday or Thursday,” informed Tanaji Chavan, assistant RTO, Wadala.
On Monday, two school buses from the eastern suburbs were booked for minor offences such as broken glass, absence of an emergency exit, and absence of board saying 'school bus'.
“Both buses were booked for minor offences and their permits were confiscated, which they can reclaim by rectifying the flaws within a week. Till then, they can operate on the road, but without a permit,” Chavan informed.
Like the Wadala RTO, the other RTOs will be calling in school buses from their jurisdictions for the mandatory inspection starting Wednesday. School bus operators had threatened to go on a strike from Monday if the inspections were started. They had claimed that there wasn't sufficient clarity in the rules.
However, the bus operators did not act upon their threat despite a marked rise in the number of inspections. “There is 75% increase in the RTO inspections on school buses, but they are checking routine parameters like insurance, fitness certificate and so on. Therefore, we did not object,” said Anil Garg, president of the School and Company Bus Owner Association.
Garg also said that the association had informed its our members to take their buses for inspection.