As per government order only a maximum of five children up to the age of 14 years could be accommodated in an autorickshaw, writes R.Rajaram

Though autorickshaws are not permitted to transport more than five children, the rule continues to remain only on paper.

Overloading in autos has become a common sight yet again after the reopening of schools post summer holidays, and little do children in jam-packed autos know that their safety is at stake.

Imposition of fines against erring autorickshaws and conduct of safety-related awareness programmes notwithstanding, brazen violation of the safety rules by many drivers is all too visible.

It was to bring in some form of regulation in transporting school students in autorickshaws that the State government issued an order a few years ago stating that only a maximum of five children up to the age of 14 years or not more than three adult passengers could be accommodated in a vehicle.

Yet, many autos in the city continue to blatantly flout this regulation under the very nose of enforcement authorities.

Several autos have been fitted with improvised plank right in front of the passenger seat to pack in more children.

It is a common sight to see minors jostling for space inside the jam-packed autos while going to their educational institutions and returning home. In many instances, students could also be seen seated precariously at the edges of the auto driver's seat unaware of the dangers that their protruding limbs are exposed to.

Several autorickshaws in the city could be seen transporting even 10 children. Their school bags and lunch bags are hung to the hooks fitted at the sides, causing disturbance to other vehicle users. Non compliance of rules by errant drivers endangers the lives of the innocent children travelling in overloaded autos, say consumer activists.

Though Transport Department officials say that checks were being conducted and fines imposed on erring autos, the problem persists.

The onus is equally on the parents who should ensure that their wards were not sent in autos carrying beyond the permitted capacity, say officials.

The police and Transport Department authorities should treat overloading as a very serious issue as it concerns the safety of children and act firmly against the violators, says R.Panchanathan, a retired professor. There should be absolute consistency when it comes to implementing the rule, he further adds.

Awareness must be created among school authorities and through them to the parents to drive home the message that children should not be sent in autos which transports more than five minors, he says. Echoing the same view, M.Sekaran, member, District Road Safety Council says that the Transport Department and law enforcing authorities should effectively implement the rule to ensure the safety of minors.

The enforcement authorities must position themselves at the institutions' entrance and charge the errant drivers found transporting students beyond the permitted capacity. The role of the police here is crucial as they have more strength than the Transport Department authorities, he adds.