Cab drivers question school managements and parents for not setting up committees

While the recent school cab accidents have turned the spotlight on school vehicles flouting safety norms, private school vehicle operators argue that a majority of school managements are yet to set up school cab safety committees.

They say that setting up of these committees is the mandatory first step in ensuring children’s safety and schools are guilty of not following it.

P.S. Shanmugam, president of the Karnataka United School and Light Motor Vehicle Drivers’ Union, said that majority of the schools had not even initiated a dialogue to set up committees. “Officials have been pressurising us to follow guidelines. Why is nobody questioning the school managements and parents for not setting up the cab safety committee?” he asked.

As per the rules framed by the Transport Department, each school should have a committee to look into safe transportation of children, transportation fee and identification of bus-stops. The panels are responsible for verifying compliance with norms. The committee has to comprise representatives of parents, private cab drivers and school staff.

Several schools that The Hindu spoke to admitted that they had not yet set up a committee. Fr. Shaju Varghese, Principal, Christ School, said that the school would soon set up a committee.

When The Hindu visited some of the schools in the city, several private cab and van drivers were seen openly flouting rules. Overcrowding was common and Mr. Shanmugam said that such violations could be addressed if the committee was set up.

Private school cab operators also argue that some of the guidelines are “unreasonable”.

Mr. Shanmugam said that the government has done little to improve the lives of private cab drivers. “The speed governors alone cost Rs. 3,000 in Karnataka. Tax rates are high and fuel costs are escalating. The government should ensure both the safety of children and the interests of the private school cab drivers,” he added.

Just outside the Bishop Cotton Girls’ School on Friday, there was an autorickshaw in which nine children were being taken while the permissible limit is six. On being questioned, the autorickshaw driver said: “If I take only six children I earn less than Rs. 6,000 a month and out of that I have to spend Rs. 3,000 on fuel alone. With traffic congestion in the city, I cannot make more than one trip a day.”

Praveen Kumar, who runs a maxi cab service for students of Bishop Cotton Girls’ and Boys’ School, said that private vehicles have to pay hefty tax. “I pay the RTO a higher tax than the school that owns vans. Why is there a disparity for the same service?” he questioned.

The traffic police has so far booked 4,282 cases this year against vehicle owners taking excess number of children. Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) B. Dayanand said that the traffic police were imposing a fine of Rs. 100 per child on vehicle owners for carrying passengers beyond the permissible number.

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