The State Water Transport Department is yet to provide student concession on the Ernakulam—Varapuzha route, even a month after the boat service resumed. Students now pay between Rs.4 and Rs.12 for a one-way trip on the boat, which stops at 21 jetties on the route.
The boat is a lifeline for the Holy Infant Boys’ High School and St. Joseph’s Girls’ High School at Edampadom in Varapuzha. Close to 200 students from both schools take the boat every day.
“Parents of some of our students went to the office of the Water Transport Department here and the school also wrote to their offices at Alappuzha. There has been no response,” said Jessy Varghese, principal of the Holy Infant Boys’ High School.
Children from Moolampilly, Pizhala, Chennur, Kothad and other islands from Class I onwards depend on the ferry service, which runs at a time convenient for them. “Many of our children come from very poor families and cannot afford to pay up to Rs.24 each day to come to school,” said Ms. Varghese.
An official of the Water Transport Department in Kochi said the department had decided to delay giving out concession cards on the route for a while as the service had been resumed only recently.
“When we give out student concession cards, we collect four months of travel fare. So if we cannot operate the boat for some reason even for a single day, we have to schedule a different boat to run on the route,” said the official. The department did not have a spare boat yet to back up the vessel running the Ernakulam-Varapuzha route and that is why concession cards were not being supplied. “This is a practical problem and the decision has to be taken at higher levels,” he said.
Parents of school students were a relieved lot when the department decided to resume the ferry service, which had been abandoned by private operators since June as they did not find it viable. The service was resumed on August 2 with much fanfare and has been operating regularly since then, running even on rainy days and hartals.
While parents and school officials are all praise for the department for reopening the service, student concessions, parents said, would greatly reduce the burden on them.