Schools yet to submit mandatory Transport form

The accident at Channankara on Monday has exposed the laxity on the part of law-enforcing agencies in cracking the whip on vehicles flouting school transport rules and the lack of coordination between the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD), the Education Department and the police.

Four students of Jyothinilayam Higher Secondary School drowned after a minibus carrying them fell into the Parvathy Puthanar.

Continuing the crackdown on erring vehicles that began as part of a series of measures initiated by the District Collector after an accident on February 17 near Karikkakam and strict enforcement of norms would have averted the tragedy on another stretch of the canal.

The crackdown had to be stopped following an agitation by the associations of those running fleets of vehicles and subsequent political intervention, official sources said.

Prima facie findings have revealed that the minibus, which had a seating capacity of 16, was overcrowded and that the driver was inexperienced and did not have a badge to drive a transport vehicle. The van that belonged to BPM Upper Primary School, Vettuthura, was also used to transport the students of Jyothinilayam school.

Official sources said there were schools in the district that were yet to submit the mandatory School Transport form and had failed to nominate a teacher as nodal officer for school transport safety. The fresh guidelines were laid down on the basis of norms issued by the Supreme Court in 1997 for vehicles transporting schoolchildren. The Deputy Director, Education, and the District Educational Officer were asked to ensure that schools filled the mandatory form in duplicate.

The nodal officer was entrusted with the job of monitoring the filing of the form and maintaining their register. The owner/proprietor of the vehicle transporting schoolchildren was to fill the form and submit it to the school. Details such as the make, seating capacity, driving licence of the driver, and permit under the Educational Institution Bus were to be included in the form. On Monday, the school authorities did not have any clue initially on how many students were in the minibus. The list provided by the school finally had the names of 26 students, leading to confusion among the rescuers.

Database of vehicles

The forms collected from the schools were to be compiled by the Regional Transport Officer into a database of vehicles transporting schoolchildren. Official sources said there was still no database of the students being transported in vehicles to the 500-odd private unrecognised schools.

The heads of several educational institutions failed to extend support to the MVD and the nodal officers. The Parent-Teacher Association also did not respond on the expected lines, an MVD official said. The tahsildar and Executive Magistrates were asked to conduct safety audits of dangerous roads, and unprotected roads along canals and ponds in the district, in association with Circle Inspectors, officials of the Public Works Department, the Motor Vehicle Inspector and Federation of Residents Associations, Thiruvananthapuram. However, there has been no follow-up.