40,000 illegal school vans plying across Delhi: Government
At least 40,000 vans are plying without valid permits in Delhi, of which around 25,000 are engaged as school cabs, according to data available with the Delhi government’s transport department. However, only 9,600 school vans are registered with the department.
The death of an eight-year-old student after his school cab was hit by a goods vehicle on Tuesday has once again spotlighted illegally plying school transport in the national capital.
At least 40,000 vans are plying without valid permits in the capital, of which around 25,000 are engaged as school cabs, according to data available with the Delhi government’s transport department. However, only 9,600 school vans are registered with the department.
Despite several crackdowns against these cabs and unverified drivers, private vehicles plying as school vans continue to flout the guidelines mandated under the School Cab Policy, 2007.
The guidelines say that vehicle owners should have a commercial school cab licence. They fix a cap on the number of children to be ferried, list out safety precautions and mandate adequate and comfortable seating space, plus adequate ventilation in the van. The guidelines also mandate that van drivers wear Public Service Vehicle (PSV) badges and that their antecedents are verified and approved by the regional transport authority (RTO).
According to the Delhi Police, the eco cab ferrying the children that met with an accident on Tuesday did not have a permit to carry school children.
In April, a school van met with accident in which a seven-year-old was killed. The Delhi government had then said it would introduce changes in the 2007 policy by the end of the year in order to make rules more stringent, but nothing has been done so far.
The new rules were meant to fix accountability of both transporters as well as the school authorities for the safety of children while being ferried to and from schools.
Tuesday’s incident has alarmed parents across the city. “There are no school transport facilities available in interior localities, and we have to opt for private vehicles. The government should make it mandatory for all schools to provide vehicles in each and every locality,” Nupur Sharma, a parent from east Delhi’s Trilokpuri, said.
Officials of several schools, however, said that parents themselves preferred private vehicles over school buses because of the “low cost” and “doorstep pick up and drop”.
“We keep requesting parents to not put the lives of their children at stake by hiring private vehicles,” Jyoti Arora, principal at Mount Abu School, said.
Meanwhile, Delhi traffic police prosecuted drivers and owners of 6,532 school vans for various offences between January and November 15 this year. In 2017, 2,183 owners and drivers of such vans were prosecuted.
However, the city’s school cab association said the city government had promised them a notification regarding the waiver of road tax and parking charges for school vans, which has not been released yet.
“Registering their vehicles as school vans costs drivers much more than plying them as private vehicles, as parking charges and road tax are higher. In a meeting last year, the transport minister had agreed to waive off these charges. But no notification in this regard has been released so far,” Jai Singh Chaudhry, vice-president, Delhi School Cabs Association, said.