The deadlock between the school van and auto operators, whose strike entered its fourth day here on Thursday, is likely to continue with the administration declaring that it was a question of the safety of children and the situation arising out of the strike would be handled with an iron hand.
Deputy commissioner Varun Roojam, while speaking to HT, asserted, “Our stand is very clear this time, the bus and auto owners have to abide by the directions given by the Punjab and Haryana high court and orders of the state government which state that the safe school vahan scheme has to be implemented for the safety of children. If they do not stop taking law and order in their hands, strict action would be taken against them.”
The DC told them clearly that the vehicles, which are more than 15 years old, have to be off the road. The DC said the administration was also seeking information about the background of the drivers by school managements and contractors and verifying their character as well. The DC has also asked the school managements to take the onus of the safety of students and declaring that if they were found violating the norms, their affiliations would be cancelled. It was almost three years ago that the state government, on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court, had issued an order to ensure the safe transportation of schoolchildren and road safety for school buses, but so far these orders have not been implemented seriously at the district level.
No meetings of district committee
A source in the administration, on the condition of anonymity, said, “In an order issued by the state department of transport, it was clearly mentioned that a district-level inter-departmental committee comprising sub-divisional magistrate as chairman and district transport officer (DTO), district education officer (DEO), superintendent of police (traffic), executive officer of municipal corporation, assistant mechanical engineer (Punjab roadways) as members, has to be constituted and this committee has to meet once a month to discuss and decide on all the issues pertaining to the safety of children and draw up an action plan to conduct inspections of school buses and also impound the ones violating the rules but, unfortunately, such meetings are held when Muhawa-like accidents take place.”
School-level panels non-functional
There is also a provision for school-level committees to be headed by the respective principal with a police officer (not below the rank of assistant sub-inspector), motor vehicle inspector, deputy DEO and a representative of the parents and teachers association as members. The committee is supposed to meet once a month to verify the documents relating to the school bus and records of drivers. But even these committees have not been constituted and no meetings are held by school managements.
School managements are equally responsible for the safety of children, the source said.
Drive to continue: DTO
District transport officer (DTO) Lovejeet Kalsi, who is being targeted by the operators, made it clear that she has orders from the DC to check and impound unsafe vehicles and has been asked to continue with the drive and not care about the agitators.
School vans and auto operators have condemned the DTO and accused her of harassing them. She said, “I wonder, how am I harassing them, they are the ones who, instead of converting their unsafe vehicles into safe ones, are busy creating chaos in the city and are harassing the parents and commuters. I am just doing my job and would continue impounding unsafe vehicles.” Police commissioner Amar Singh Chahal has also warned the operators against hindering the movement of traffic in the city.
Meanwhile,hundreds of agitators blocked traffic on the Customs chowk and then they moved to the DC office and blocked the road outside his office for about two hours rasing slogans against the district administration.