The school bus operators may be responsible for the inconvenience that lakhs of parents and school children are likely to face from Friday onwards, but the state government is not entirely blameless.
It has been more than one month since the technical committee appointed by the state government submitted its recommendations after reviewing the school bus policy. Had the state acted on the solutions offered, the deadlock between the school bus operators and the transport authorities over the implementation of the policy would have ended as the operators are willing to go by the panel report.
The five-member panel, formed under the chairmanship of joint transport commissioner Satish Sahastrabuddhe, reviewed the objections raised by the School Bus Owners’ Association (SBOA), schools and other organisations. Its report, submitted on January 31, relaxes some of the conditions in the policy.
The operators object to diktats such as the height of the lowest step in the bus, the fixing of a grab pole and speed governor, appointment of a lady attendant, racks for school bags under the seats, a 15-year age limit for buses, bars on windows and the number of fire extinguishers, among other things.
The committee has suggested the relaxation of some of the stipulations in the policy such as the need for grab poles in the bus if there are hand rests, it has reduced the weight of fire extinguishers in smaller vehicles, backed operators about its placement and given a one-year reprieve to buses that are older than 15 years.
“The committee has suggested that the state government relax the 15-year age limit for buses for a year till next April. It has also upheld our demand for fixing bars on windows at five-inch gaps instead of five cm as recommended in the original policy,” said Harsh Kotak, conveyor of SBOA.
The state transport department is unnecessarily delaying taking a decision, alleged Anil Garg, president of SBOA. “It is forcing school bus owners to stop services as the Regional Transport Office officials have stopped issuing permits and fitness certificates,” he said.
The state government drew up the school bus policy, which came into effect on January 3, 2011, to ensure the safety of students after several mishaps – some fatal – involving school buses and children were reported.