Schools across the city were taken by surprise on Saturday by the decision taken by the School Bus Owners' Association (SBOA) to launch an indefinite strike from Tuesday.
"We haven't got any official intimation from the bus owners," said Achama Mathew, chief executive officer, Bombay Cambridge Gurukul, a group of seven schools. The SBOA has called for a strike alleging that the government was targeting them in the absence of clarity on school bus safety norms.
The association is upset with the Regional Transport Organisation's (RTO) recent crackdown on school buses. "In the last two weeks, our buses have got over 100 memos, despite following all norms. The inspection has not stopped," said Anil Garg, chairman, SBOA. "The transport department should give us time till June and we will abide by all the norms laid down by the school bus safety policy. But they should not target us."
"Sometimes the government wants grills on the school bus and sometimes they want rods," said Darayus Shroff, who runs 25 buses in south Mumbai.
The bus owners are also demanding that schools provide a female attendant for each bus and that each student's blood groups and name should be written on their identity card.
"A strike will cause unnecessary chaos. The schools, bus owners, parents and the RTO, all have to be on the same platform," said Rajishri Natu, a member of a parent teacher association (PTA).
RTO officials said if bus owners are unclear about safety norms, they must approach them instead of taking any extreme step. Recently, the Wadala RTO issued over 50 memos to bus owners for not complying to safety norms under Maharashtra Motor Vehicle Act 1988 and Motor Vehicle Rules 1989.