The Maharashtra government may soon give women drivers permits to drive school buses.
This move aimed at curbing rash driving incidents that endangers lives of children and to prevent cases of sexual abuse and molestation of children in school buses.
A senior regional transport officer, requesting anonymity, said: “This is an initiative to empower women and will also eliminate the need to appoint female attendants in school buses and vans. School bus operators too have been demanding the same.”
At present, there are around 5,000 school buses and vans ferrying school going children in the city. To get a school bus permit, the operator needs to fulfill the guidelines set up by the school bus policy effective from March 22, 2012.
According to the policy, it is mandatory for women attendants to be present on board the buses. Despite this provision, numerous cases of sexual assaults on children in school buses have been reported. In many of these cases, drivers or attendants are the accused.
In March last year, the School Bus Owners Association (SBOA) demanded for giving special licences and permits to women. The body said it was also willing to train women drivers.
RTO officials, however, say there are certain legal issues in giving school bus permits to women drivers. The policy states that a driver has to have at least five years of driving experience to drive a school bus. So , before going ahead with the plan, the government will have to amend or make new rules.
Transport minister Divakar Raote and senior officials of the department are in favour of the proposal giving more permits to women.
The RTO official added that the government is considering adding some provisions in the proposed transport act, relaxing the rules for women drivers.
While sources in the industry welcome this move they say there are issues that need to be addressed. “The state government needs to give women drivers proper driver training before handing over permits,” said an industry source, who doesn’t wish to be named.