Bhadohi incident puts focus on school vans fitted with domestic LPG
The Bhadohi incident has brought to the fore not only the gravity of the risk that innocent schoolchildren are exposed to every day in Uttar Pradesh but also the transport department’s failure in taking action against thousands of Omni vans that operate on illegally fitted domestic LPG cylinders with impunity.Updated: Jan 14, 2019 15:51 IST
The Bhadohi incident has brought to the fore not only the gravity of the risk that innocent schoolchildren are exposed to every day in Uttar Pradesh but also the transport department’s failure in taking action against thousands of Omni vans that operate on illegally fitted domestic LPG cylinders with impunity.
Sixteen school children were injured, three of them critically, after the private van that was carrying them caught fire when the domestic LPG cylinder it was using as fuel exploded in Bhadohi district on Saturday.
This is not an isolated case of a school van running on casually fitted domestic LPG cylinder, but thousands of such vehicles are said to be operating in this manner in urban and rural areas all over the state, posing a grave threat to the life of the children.
“Not less than 25,000 private Omni vans are engaged in transporting schoolchildren and half of them are plying on domestic LPG cylinders or manually fitted LPG or CNG kits, all in violation of rules,” people familiar with the matter in the transport department said.
Such vans ferry teachers or even common passengers on a number of routes. Since most of the schools do not provide transport facility for children, parents often tie up with private vans to send their children to schools, ignoring the hazards their wards may be exposed to.
“Parents treat Omni vans as a safe mode of transport for their toddlers and they are not concerned with the kind of fuel the vehicle is operating on. This is absolutely for the transport department authorities to check if such vehicles are using domestic cylinders as fuel and penalise them accordingly,” they said.
The private vans are violating rules in many ways even as the authorities turn a blind eye to the safety of the children. They ply overloaded and their drivers are often not experienced or have a valid driving licence.
They also flout the Supreme Court’s two-decades-old guidelines on being fitted with a first aid box, being painted in yellow and displaying the name of the school etc.
“But a majority of these vehicles are not only illegally and dangerously running on domestic cylinders and flouting many other rules, all resulting not only in frequent accidents but also causing revenue loss to the exchequer as these (vehicles) are registered as commercial or school vehicles,” sources revealed.
Since private vehicles are not supposed to obtain a periodic fitness (road worthiness) certificate from the RTO, their act of running on domestic LPG cylinders or unauthorised fuel kits is not caught unless the authorities conduct checking on roads. According to sources, checking for the RTOs/AROs largely means checking of trucks and helmets, paying little attention to other important issues.
“If the private vans are forced to get registered as a commercial/school vehicle, it will not only bring in additional revenue for the government but more importantly, it will also make it difficult for them to use illegally fitted LPG/CNG kits or domestic cylinders since any such act will be caught when they come periodically to the RTO for a fitness certificate,” sources pointed out.
Much of the problem in UP, according to sources, lies in the road safety and the enforcement wings of the transport departments not acting in tandem. “The two wings must be merged for better results,” they suggested.