Jolted by the untimely death of former home minister RR Patil to oral cancer, Mumbai’s school bus owners have initiated an anti-tobacco campaign.
To be implemented after three months, the initiative is aimed at keeping school buses and drivers away from tobacco and smoking, so that the health of children is not affected.
The school bus owners association has decided to suspend drivers and bus attendants if they do not give up the habit of chewing tobacco or smoking.
The association runs more than 7,000 buses in the city and has 14,000 drivers and attendants employed with them.
Anil Garg, president of the association, said nearly 85% of their staff has a habit of chewing tobacco or smoking. The association has also received complaints by parents and students about bus staff chewing tobacco or smoking while on duty.
Worried this might have a negative effect on the health of children riding the bus, the association members have arranged for them to receive treatment to help them give up smoking and tobacco chewing. Weekly camps will be held in different parts of the city over the next three months.
“We have appointed doctors to counsel the drivers and attendants to help them get rid of their tobacco addiction,” said Garg. “Lions Club of Vile Parle (East) has agreed to incur all the expenditures so that the drivers will not have to pay any money to avail the treatment.” He added they will also hold similar camps across the state.
Drivers will also be educated on the harmful effects of chewing tobacco or smoking on their health, their family and other children. “Children come in contact with them every day, long term users of tobacco have bad breath and they might be suffering from communicable diseases,” said Garg. “Moreover, children may pick the habit by watching them.”
Schools said they have put in place checks to ensure that bus drivers do not chew tobacco on duty. “We make our drivers aware that we will not tolerate tobacco usgae when they are on duty,” said Girija Mohan, principal, Chatrabhuj Narsee Memorial School, Vile Parle. “We have weekly checks and so far, no one has been caught.”
Even parents are helping in keeping drivers in check, said Anjali Bowen, principal, Ryan International School, Kandivli. “Often parents directly talk to the bus staff if they find that they have been smoking or chewing tobacco. This can be effective too.”