COURTESY : TIMES OF INDIA
NEW DELHI: Two recent accidents involving school vans have triggered fresh concern over the safety of children travelling in school vans. While twelve schoolchildren died and 20 were injured in Ambala on Monday as their overloaded van collided with a truck in dense fog, a second accident was reported in Bhopal on Tuesday where three schoolchildren were injured when their bus overturned. In Delhi, at least five fatal accidents involving school-related vehicles took place in 2011. Six persons got killed, none of them students.
But it’s an unsafe ride to school for Delhi’s kids, too. Packed in overcrowded cabs, school-going children are often left to the mercy of reckless drivers. Out of around 2,000 registered private schools in the city, only 707 schools provide vans that have been authorized by the transport department till July 31, 2011.
The authorization process is time-consuming with a long list of applicants seeking permission to run cabs. The result — thousands of illegal cabs are plying on roads, endangering the lives of students.
“We have issued licences to 707 motor cabs and 5,971 maxi cabs (bigger school vans) till July 31, 2011. For vehicle owners to be authorized to carry schoolchildren, they have to first get commercial licences and then get special permits. It is a long-winded process as there are multiple requirements that have to be met,” said a senior transport official.
Though the transport department has laid down stringent guidelines concerning school vehicles, they are rarely followed on ground. Most school vans are crammed with students and driven by people who don’t have valid licences. Delhi government has also mandated educational institutes to keep a check on illegal cabs.
Auto experts feel that these vehicles pose a grave threat of toppling over when overcrowded and driven rashly. “Built with a ‘tall-boy’ construction, these cabs are designed to carry humans in a respectable fashion and not ferry them like cattle. ,” said an expert.
“We issue a circular to parents every three months to ensure that their child is travelling safely to the school and back. We have often noted down van numbers of errant drivers and handed them over to the police,” said Ameeta Mulla Wattal, principal, Springdales School, Pusa Road.