Unable to meet demands raised on them by the Delhi Government

Finding themselves unable to fulfil at least five of the 23 demands raised on them by the Delhi Government, the contract bus operators, who ply 4,200 school buses carrying lakhs of children each day, have threatened to withdraw their services from March 1.

Talking to The Hindu, general secretary of Delhi Contract Bus Association Harish Sabharwal said the bus operators were left with no option but to announce the withdrawal of their services as the demands raised on them by the Government through a notice issued on January 25 were almost impossible to fulfil.

“We have been carrying nearly 16 lakh children. The Transport Department has announced the enforcement of new rules from March 1. There are nearly 23 new permit conditions in these of which we are finding five impractical to implement. There have been meetings with Transport Department officials and we have tried to reason with them, but to no avail,’’ he said.

Mr. Sabharwal said “rather than surprising the parents with our decision, we have decided to inform them well in advance so that they may be able to make their own arrangements to take children to school, especially since the examinations would be on in March.’’

He said one of the ticklish conditions imposed by the Transport Department pertains to the educational qualification of the drivers and conductors. “They want the drivers to be Class XII pass and the conductors to be at least matriculates. But even the cluster bus operators found these conditions difficult to meet and therefore had to get most of the drivers from other States. But in our case, there is also a bar on recruiting people from outside Delhi. This is unjustified as the driving licences are valid for plying vehicles across India.’’

Mr Sabharwal said “when no educational qualifications are prescribed for elected representatives like MPs and MLAs then where is the need for such qualifications for drivers and conductors? The Government should be looking at their driving skills and backgrounds rather than raising such demands.’’

He said as such educated drivers are hard to come by, the Association has also urged the Transport Department to take the assistance of the Employment Exchanges for making the recruitments.

The bus operators are also opposing the need to have a licensed bus conductor since this is not mandated under the Motor Vehicle Act and as per the Supreme Court ruling an attendant and a teacher is already present in every bus. Further, the condition for every driver to have a Public Service Vehicle badge was also difficult to meet since for these too the Class XII pass requirement is mandatory.

Mr. Sabharwal said in letters sent to the schools and parents by the Association, all these issues have been explained. He said the services are being withdrawn because the buses would not be able to fulfil the permit conditions by March 1 and would run the risk of being prosecuted. “Plying of buses without meeting permit conditions will obviously entail legal violations thus affecting the safety of students,’’ he said.

The bus operators are now awaiting the outcome of a meeting that has been promised by Delhi Transport Minister Ramakant Goswami to resolve the issue.

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