20 children injured as speeding school bus overturns in Mohali
About 20 children of the Akal Academy in Chunni, Fatehgarh Sahib, escaped with minor injuries after their school bus hit an electricity pole and overturned in a field near Machhli Kalan village of Kharar on Monday. Bus driver Amar Pal Singh, aged 24, was arrested.
Eyewitnesses said the speeding bus was on its way to the academy at 8.30am when it hit the 1,000kV electricity pole and went off road into the field before overturning.
The mishap comes on the heels of tragic deaths of four children in a school van fire in Sangrur. To guarantee safe transportation to students, police had then led a statewide crackdown on vehicle operators for violating norms.
A case was registered under Sections 279 (rash driving) and 337 (causing hurt by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code against the driver, who belongs to Patiala. His driver’s licence was meant only for light motor vehicles and not a transport vehicle. The bus also did not have registration documents, a field report stated.
Local authorities have also asked officials concerned to take action against the school. “I am writing to the DCs of Mohali and Fatehgarh Sahib to take action against the school management for violating safety norms on transportation of children,” said Himanshu Jain, sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), Kharar.
Previous complaints to the school against the driver for rash driving had gone unheeded, alleged Fateh Singh. His grandchildren, Navdeep Singh, aged 10, a student of Class 5, Navdeep Kaur, aged eight, a student of Class 3, Satwinder Kaur, aged 5, in kindergarten and Bahadur Singh, aged three, in nursery, had just boarded the bus when the accident took place.
“Luckily, the pole that the driver hit was not extensively damaged or the children would have been electrocuted,” added Satwinder Singh, who witnessed the crash.
Even as the district administration challaned 450 school buses and vans in the last one week and impounded 82 vehicles, educational institutes continue to violate the state’s Safe School Vahan Scheme.
The field report by Pardeep Dhillon, assistant transport officer, stated that there were about 27 children in the 32- seater bus, which did not have registration documents. “They had a temporary registration number but that too had expired,” said Jain.
Amar Pal Singh also did not have the mandatory driving experience of five years before he was hired to drive the school bus. There was no lady attendant or a rear CCTV camera or first aid box in the bus. “The vehicle has been impounded. The management is also held responsible for violating Section 180 ( allowing unauthorised persons to drive the vehicle). A detailed inquiry is being done,” said Jain.
Officials inspecting the accident site also discovered encroachment of road berms by farmers, which had narrowed the carriageways.
“I have directed the block development and panchayat officer to submit a report on the condition of roads between Badali to Machhli Kalan. We have received complaints about encroachments,” Jain said.
Meanwhile, Harkesh Chand Sharma of Machhli Kalan, who is also political secretary to Punjab cabinet minister Balbir Singh Sidhu, urged the district administration to fix berms across district to prevent such accidents.