Students walking to schools in Delhi at risk amid maze of cars
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Students walking to schools in Delhi at risk amid maze of cars

There are a few things that schools themselves can do to make the areas outside their campuses walkable such as hiring some traffic marshals to manage traffic and fix a designated spot for parents who come to pick their children.

delhi Updated: Jan 29, 2019 13:52 IST
Fareeha Iftikhar
Fareeha Iftikhar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
road safety,PWD,child friendly smart cities
Students of a government school on Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, near ITO, cross the road, dodging the traffic.(Biplov Bhuyan/HT Photo )

Every day at around 1:30pm, 43-year-old Mohammad Nasir, who owns a car repair workshop, takes a half-hour break from work to reach Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya, Rouse Avenue on central Delhi’s Deen Dyal Upadhyay Marg. He makes sure to be there before the classes get over so that he can assist students to cross the road.

Nasir, a member of school’s School Management Committee (SMC), said that plenty of students, including his 10-year-old son, walk to the school every day. But, crossing the road just opposite the school is a challenge.

“The road is busy with heavy vehicles passing all the time,” he said. “There is no traffic light and no zebra crossing. It’s very risky, especially for the children, to cross the road. It’s in fact an accident-prone road. The SMC has written multiple times to the public works department (PWD) and the traffic police to come up with some solution but to no avail.”

According to the SMC members, a student was injured in an accident just outside the school, while crossing the road in 2017.

“Soon after the incident, we had decided on an initiative under which at least two parent members of the SMC would reach the school, both in the morning and afternoon, and help children cross. We have been doing this for the last two years but the authorities have done nothing to make the road friendly for children,” he said.

Officials at the school said that most of their students come from economically challenged background and cannot afford schools cabs.

“We have around 1,200 students and 80% of them walk to the school. Every day they risk their lives to cross the busy Deen Dyal Upadhyay road,” said an official.

Officials in the PWD confirmed that the matter was raised with them.

“The SMC had requested a foot-over bridge there but since there is another such bridge just a few metres away, the request could not be considered,” said a PWD official. “However, we suggested to the Delhi traffic police to install either a traffic light or speed breaker there. The matter is still pending”

Taj Hassan, special commission police (traffic) said that officials from the traffic police will discuss the matter with the PWD soon. “We will come up with a solution for the school soon,” he said.

Similarly, at the government school in Kirari Suleman Nagar in northwest Delhi, parents say their children have to cross a railway track.

“We have been raising the matter with the local authorities to build a foot-over bridge. Our kids risk their lives every day while walking to the school,” said Seema Kumari, a daily wager.

National Institute of Urban Affairs’ Kanak Tiwari, who heads the project for child friendly smart cities, says that the two cases are representative of the issues that a large number of students face just outside their school campuses in Delhi.

“The area surrounding the schools is as important as the area inside its campus. So when one design the standards on how a school building should be like, there should be guidelines to design the surroundings also,” she said.

Neighbourhood criterion

In 2013, the Delhi government had decided to give greater weight to “neighbourhood” for admission to private schools — those living within a 3-km range of the school would be given priority at such time. The idea was to encourage more students to walk to school instead of using public or private transport.

Despite pushing it multiple times, the criterion could not be implemented because of resistance from some schools that had moved court in 2017 and the matter is still sub-judice.

Although most private schools claim they still give maximum preference distance at time of admission, the move hardly meets the objective as a large number of parents living in the neighbourhood prefers to have their children driven to school rather than walk.

For instance, Supriya Sharma, a resident of Kailash Colony, drops and picks her 11-year-old daughter from school despite living just 600 metres away.

“The roads are absolutely unsafe because of the fast moving vehicles throughout the day. It’s highly unsafe to let the kids walk also because of the rising cases of crime. The school can only protect the kids inside its premises. Who will take the responsibility while walking to and fro from school?,” she said.

Several other parents HT spoke too cited rising cases of road accidents and crimes such as rape, kidnapping and snatching as the major reason behind not letting their children walk to the schools.

Ajay Kumar, father of a class 10 student studying in a Mayur Vihar school said, “We get to know about cases of eve teasing every second day from the children only. It’s very unsafe to let them walk to the school. We pick and drop our daughter. It hardly takes 10 minutes, therefore no point of hiring the school bus.”

DCP (New Delhi) Madhur Verma said that they have deployed several measures to make sure areas around schools are safe. “We deploy PCR vans outside all schools at the time when classes get over. We also take special safety measures in the areas where there are complaints of eve teasing,” he said.

What experts say?

Dr S Velmurugan, senior principal scientist, traffic engineering and safety division, CSIR-CRRI, said that there are a few things that schools themselves can do to make the areas outside their campuses walkable such as hiring some traffic marshals to manage traffic and fix a designated spot for parents who come to pick their children.

“That can prevent congestion outside the school,” he said. “Many schools do not have zebra crossing, speed breakers, speed guides and traffic lights outside their gates. All these things should be fixed by the authorities to make the roads more walkable. Also, there is a need of strict vigilance and security and in the areas around schools to remove the fear from parents’ minds.”

Principals, however, said that it’s not possible for them to hire traffic marshals.

“If we start stopping traffic even for 10 minutes, it will create havoc on the road... When the next development plan of Delhi is prepared, it should focus on these issues and take up some constructive measure,” said Amita Wattal, principal of Springdales School on Pusa Road.

National Institute of Urban Affairs’s Kanak Tiwari said that the areas around the schools should be made “barrier free”. “Open drains, garbage, railway lines, and potholes on the way to the schools ought to be removed. The schools should be surrounded by residential areas because than only they will be more walkable and safer,” she said.

First Published: Jan 29, 2019 13:52 IST