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HT readers' take: Keeping our children safe a collective effort

The onus lies on the school administration to ensure children’s safety from the time of pickup to the time they are dropped back at their residences.

chandigarh Updated: May 25, 2015 10:03 IST
Hindustan Times

Need to ensure both physical, emotional security of children

The onus lies on the school administration to ensure children’s safety from the time of pickup to the time they are dropped back at their residences. Where students are packed like sardines in autorickshaws, parents are equally responsible. The number of students per autorickshaw should be fixed by the administration and monitored by the police. Also, students cycling to and from school should get the “right of way”, wherein any other vehicle has to give precedence to them. In the present era, nothing less than a policy of zero tolerance, wherein both physical and emotional safety of children are ensured, is the need of the hour.
Tejinder Singh Kalra, SAS Nagar

It’s time to stop the blame game and show results

Providing a safe commute to children is a joint responsibility of all stakeholders. Schools should be blamed for their lackadaisical attitude towards sensitive issues, parents should be blamed for making their wards travel in overloaded vehicles and the administration should be blamed for not ensuring that CCTV cameras and GPS system are installed in buses. However, it is time to put an end to this blame game and show some results.

School heads should get a feel of ground realities
CCTV cameras, a female staff member on the bus and thorough counselling of the bus staff are the minimal requirements. Once in a while, the head of an educational institute must travel with the students to get a feel of ground realities.

Parents, teachers must remain vigilant at all times
The administration should ply its own buses with woman conductors. Female attendants adept at martial arts may also be deployed. Girls need to be sensitised to raise the alarm as and when stuck in a spot. Parents and teachers must remain ever-vigilant. Thorough police verification of the crew must be made mandatory and those flouting the rules with impunity must be awarded exemplary punishment.

Give exemplary punishment to perpetrators of such crimes
The perpetrators of such crimes deserve exemplary punishment. By resorting to a strike, the transporters displayed their insensitivity. Stringent action by the administration is the need of the hour. Involvement of parents to provide guidance about impending dangers is a must.
Dr VIJAY KUMAR SOI, Chandigarh

Allow only GPS-enabled buses to ferry kids to and from school
Only GPS-enabled buses should be allowed to ferry children to ensure instant connectivity with parents. Also, male conductors should be gradually replaced by women. Each bus must have a school escort. The bus crew and escort should be shuffled frequently. Cops should be positioned at strategic locations for checking and assistance.
JS JASPAL, Chandigarh

Bus staff should undergo psychological test
There can’t be a single solution; parents, schools, transporters and the police need to coordinate and remain vigilant. Parents must play the role of a guide to sensitise the kids, school authorities must cross-check credentials of the transporter, the transporter must verify the track record of the staff and the police must conduct regular raids to check overloading and other irregularities. There needs to be a statutory psychological test for school bus staff.
RP MALHOTRA, Panchkula

School authorities cannot shirk their responsibility
All responsibility lies on the contractor; the school is in no way responsible for the safety of children while they are commuting — this is one of the rules mentioned in the transport fee books printed and provided by most schools. Just by writing this one clause, schools cannot shirk their responsibility. They must be as vigilant as parents or the police.

DEO should conduct surprise checking of vehicles
How can a transporter or the school management be blamed if a conductor or driver conducts himself in an inappropriate manner? Let the district education officer (DEO) exercise full control over the working of schools including commute of children. The official should conduct surprise checks. Parents and the administration are equally to blame for letting children travel in overloaded autorickshaws.

All adults equally responsible
All adults are equally responsibly for safety of children. School buses should have a certification of authenticity from the government, school staff should accompany students on buses and parents should remain vigilant and raise the alarm when they smell a rat.

We must wake up from our complacency
Our society, unfortunately, has never taken safety of children seriously. Parents and the police turn a blind eye to autos overloaded with children. When an incident of a child’s molestation takes place, either it is hushed up or soon forgotten after the initial uproar. We all must wake up from our complacency and protect our children. It has to be a collective effort by the parents, schools and society.
MADHU RD SINGH, Ambala Cantt

Ensure implementation of guidelines
It is the non-implementation of various guidelines that leads to incidents like molestation on school buses. Vehicles should carry children according to the permitted seating capacity; GPS, speed governors, CCTV cameras, fire extinguisher, first-aid box and drinking water needs to be made available; there must be a female attendant aboard; parents should inform the school administration promptly about any offence; and the police, school and transport authorities need to check the buses frequently and punish defaulters.
SK KHOSLA, Chandigarh

Only parents, teachers can understand value of child’s safety
Only parents and teachers can understand the value of a child’s safety, not the transport or the bus staff. As it is said a school is a second home for a child, it is time the school management pull their socks up and realise their responsibility. I am a Class 9 student of a local school. My mother always accompanies me to the bus stop and delivers me to the safety of the school bus that always has a teacher on board. The teacher is the first to be picked up and last to leave the bus.

Police least bothered
The police are least interested in schoolchildren’s safety. They should be on their toes always. Overloaded autorickshaws ferrying children should be fined. Bus drivers and conductors must undergo a thorough check. Most drivers and conductors don’t behave properly. They must watch their tongue in front of children. The onus lies on the transporter to ensure this.

Employ ex-servicemen as bus staff
CCTV cameras and GPS devices can help keep a tab on such incidents, but these would add to the cost of transportation. Woman conductors may be a viable option; however, they are prone to such ‘misadventures’ as well. Therefore, to prevent such incidents, we all need to chalk out a sustainable employment policy for the bus staff. They should be recruited from amongst ex-servicemen or retired drivers of state transport authorities, who will be more responsible, caring and compassionate in dealing with children. A regular check on their performance by all stakeholders would alleviate the problem to quite an extent.
MAJ RS VIRK (RETD), Chandigarh

Administration should not play into the hands of private bus operators
In the present case, both school administration and bus contractor remained immune to the parents’ complaint. The administration played into the hands of private bus operators by not drafting minimum standard requirements. The administration should have declared it as an essential service and sorted out the issue across the table. Female staff for school buses is the most suitable solution.

Provide sex education to children
A painstaking approach by parents, educational institutes as well as the administration is the need of the hour. Schools and parents should join hands and provide sex education to all children so that they remain vigilant. School authorities should not shirk their duty of keeping a child safe. The guilty must be severely punished. The State Commission for Protection of Children should implement the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, strictly. A hotline number may be provided by the police to report any related incident.

Encourage kids to report misconduct
It is the sole responsibility of parents to look after the interest of their children. School authorities, too, should conduct a background check of people responsible for escorting students. Children must be encouraged to report any kind of misconduct immediately. Female staff may help control the menace. The police should also evolve measures to curb violence against minors.

Set up nakas to check violations
The state transport authority and police are to be blamed for allowing overloaded rickshaws, three-wheelers and buses to ply on city roads. They should set up nakas during the morning and afternoon to check this practice. Schools should follow the court guidelines by appointing woman conductors and deputing woman teachers on buses.

UT admn should set things right
The UT administration is always playing the blame game. Before burdening the schools by asking them to have CCTV cameras in buses, it should have these installed in CTU buses. Or are they waiting for an untoward incident to happen before waking up.

All blame lies on transporter
It is not fair to hold schools responsible for anything that happens to children outside the school premises. In the recent case, the transporter is solely responsible. However, there are numerous instances where parents put their children at enormous risk; for example, sending children to school in overloaded autorickshaws.

Do not send children to school in overloaded vehicles
The recent case had the administration issue certain guidelines to schools. These included installation of the GPS system and CCTV cameras in all school buses. Other modes of transport commuting children to school and coaching centres should be covered under the same rules. Also, parents should avoid sending their wards in overloaded vehicles.
SUKHPAL SINGH, via email

Woman teachers not safe too
I am a parent of a four-year-old girl, always worried about her safety. I am an educator as well. Even I do not feel safe travelling with drivers and conductors alone. In place of teachers, trained female security guards should be deployed on buses.
GAURI, via email

Organise counselling sessions for teachers, parents as well
Safety of children is a joint responsibility. The bus staff must be appointed with the involvement of school authorities and after verification of their antecedents by the administration. The parents have a key role to educate their child regarding ‘unfriendly’ touch. They have to pay heed to the changing behavior and odd responses of their children after school hours. Special counselling sessions and orientation classes are required for both teachers and parents.

Schools must be more vigilant
The safety of children on school buses is the sole responsibility of the school administration. Bus operators are duty-bound to see that such incidents do not take place. CCTV cameras and woman conductors can solve the problem to some extent, but schools have to be more vigilant. The accused should be dealt with strictly.
DP GAUTAM, via email

Schools should engage trained, disciplined staff only
The main responsibility for safe travel of children rests with the school management. Schools have to ensure that they engage safe and comfortable buses with efficient, trained and disciplined staff. Simultaneously, transporters and parents must be watchful. Moreover, today’s children are smarter and capable of looking after themselves. With proper instructions, they can provide better check on the actions of drivers and the conductors.

Educate kids to raise their voice
I am a mother of a seven-year-old girl and it pains me to read about such incidents. The responsibility of the welfare of our kids lies with all of us — parents, school, transporter and the police. Also, aren’t school heads, transporters and police personnel parents too? Strict laws that are adhered to are the need of the hour. A committee should be formed to keep a check on schools and transporters. Parents should educate their children to raise their voice when something bad happens to them. NGOs can help in raising awareness. We must act now!

Don’t let the incident become just an old news
We wake up only when there is such an incident, but after a few days it becomes old news. Parents should take an initiative to commute with children on rotational basis. Teachers, too, must follow the same practice.
RIMA DHILLON, via email

We all responsible for providing kids a healthy environment
Children should be provided a healthy environment to grow up and become responsible citizens of the country. It is a collective responsibility of schools, transporters, parents and the police to ensure this. Parents, schools and police personnel must see to it that school buses follow all instructions properly. There must be zero tolerance.

Deal with arm-twisting by transporters sternly
Any association has the moral obligation to stand united behind its members if they are unduly harassed. But in the given case, bus operators chose to protect a guilty person. Instead of cancelling his membership, they put parents to inconvenience by calling a strike. This is sheer arm-twisting and must be dealt with severely.
SC LUTHRA, Chandigarh

Schools should shun casual approach
Seeing the increase in cases of sexual abuse of children and overloading of vehicles ferrying them, it seems neither parents nor school managements and the UT education department are serious about their safety and security. The casual approach of the school administration encourages bus staff and even teachers to molest children. Parents come into action only when something adverse happens. They must check periodically that their children are commuting in a safe environment.

First Published: May 25, 2015 09:59 IST