With safety of children on school buses a major concern, an avenue to raise the issue with the authorities — the emergency number painted on these vehicles — has not been functioning since May 13 at least, making it difficult for citizens to raise concerns if they spot a rashly-driven school bus.
The number, 0172-2700159, is the State Transport Authority (STA) emergency number that all school buses registered with the UT administration have painted on their rear. The purpose of the number is to give a chance to parents to report a bus being driven rashly, breaking traffic rules and so on.
How the issue came to light
The fact of the non-functioning number came to light when a local resident Sumit Jaitley saw a school bus of Little Flower School, Panchkula, being driven rashly in Sector 15 of the town on May 13. “I was on my way to drop my child to his school in Chandigarh, when I saw the school bus driver ahead of me driving rashly. He almost ran over a cyclist. I dialled the emergency number only to find that it was not working,” said Jaitley.
Most people would have let the matter rest there.
However, Jaitley got the bus to stop and confronted the driver. “The driver told me that he was talking to a parent who was curious to know where the bus had reached. Well, what is the attendant for in that case? Even my child could have been in that bus and hence I was perturbed by the driver’s attitude,” said Jaitley, who even contacted the school authorities.
The school authorities, taken aback to be contacted by a parent whose own ward did not study in the school, listened to him and promised to look into the matter.
However, HT could not contact the principal in spite of repeated attempts.
When this HT correspondent tried to dial the emergency number for three consecutive working days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, it was not found to be working. The downside of this is that people wanting to complain have to make a trip to the STA office in Sector 17, Chandigarh.
Sakshi Sinha, whose child studies at a local school in Chandigarh, said, “What is the point of having a number and paint it on the rear of all buses if it isn’t going to work?”
STA joint secretary Rajiv Tewari said since the number was not working, the transport department would start a new helpline number for speedy resolution of such complaints.
Sources claimed that the number was deliberately switched off as they were unable to redress complaints that poured in.
HC had ordered a helpline last year
Last year, the Punjab and Haryana high court had directed the Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child Rights to start a helpline for school buses, when the transportation policy for safety of school students was formulated.
Commission chairperson Devi Sirohi said, “While the HC had directed that a helpline be launched, it is for the state/UT to do that and we can monitor the same. The helpline was to be under the CCPCR, but for that it has to be launched by the government. Besides, we should be provided additional staff.”