The new policy for school buses may be finalised by next week.
“We are ready with detailed guidelines for school buses,” said Transport Minister, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil. “We have forwarded it to the Education department for a final review because we want an approval from all departments concerned before going ahead. The guidelines will then be placed before the cabinet in the coming week.”
Once in force the new policy will override all circulars and notices sent by schools to parents until now, Vikhe-Patil said.
The government has been under pressure to come out with a police for safe school bus travel after a couple of accidents involving school buses in Navi Mumbai. On August
20, 2009, a school bus ferrying 22 students of Changukana Thakur School, New Panvel, went up in flames because of a short circuit. Six children died. Less than four months later, two school buses collided on Palm Beach Road, Navi Mumbai. Nine students and two teachers were injured.
The new policy highlights the need for safety of school children. It says school students cannot be ferried in private vehicles like Sumo, Qualis or an Omni, in groups or in vehicles used for commercial purposes because it then becomes a business. Auto rickshaws can carry only five children at a time, the policy says.
The policy will make it mandatory for school buses to have details like the students’ blood groups and contact numbers in case of emergencies. Buses will have to have compartments under the seats for children to keep their bags and water bottles.
The bus driver, cleaner and a woman attendant will be expected to check the identity of the person authorised to pick the child up at the bus stop.
The policy says a detailed route map should be displayed inside the bus and a copy given to the school.
The driver will have to inform the school if there is any diversion from the route due to traffic or accidents.
The bus should also have an air freshener and should be regularly fumigated.