The death of Sruthi, six-year-old Class II student of Zion Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Indira Nagar, Selaiyur, has once again thrown open serious allegations of safety taking the back seat when it comes to transport of school students.
The episode is considered as the culmination of many serious issues starting from , poor attention to safety, scant attention from the Government agencies and many more. There are also issues relating to parents insisting on sending their children across the city for the sake of quality education, transport fee charged by school managements and also the absence of skilled staff to handle children and make sure that they reach home safely.
Moments after Sruthi slipped through a gaping hole on the floor of the bus under her seat on Mudichur Road on Wednesday last, an angry mob damaged the bus before setting it on fire.
As news about the incident spread, people from faraway places, who simply could not come to terms with the manner in which the little girl died, were aghast, upset and expressed their condolences to the family.
The Transport Department, which for long has been under criticism for going soft while issuing certificates to applicants, especially private vehicles, has once again come under the scanner. The Fitness Certificate for the bus (TN 23 S 9952) was issued from the office of the Regional Transport Officer in Tambaram only on July 9.
Ramesh Rao, a long-time resident of West Tambaram, recalled an incident which occurred many years ago when a lorry driver knocked down a girl student. The victim was the daughter of an officer in the Transport Department and he had issued the licence to the lorry driver only a few days earlier.
Calling for stringent measures while issuing licences and other documents, residents like Mr. Rao are of the opinion soft-pedalling by the Transport Department should come to an end. Police sources told Downtown that ever since the accident, mediators had disappeared from the offices of Transport Department, preferring to stay away from the glare of investigators and the ire of angry parents.
Investigators involved in the case said that soon after the accident took place, they were under immense pressure from the public, revealing their anger and reflecting the mood of all parents. Staff working in private schools said that they received a number of calls from anxious parents who were worried about the safety of their children travelling in vans and engaged by the school management.
The plight of students travelling in government buses is even worse. The sight of students standing on the footboard, hanging on to windows and even the rear windowpanes is common not just in the suburbs or city, but all over Tamil Nadu.
As most Government schools are located in one common corridor, for instance along Velachery Main Road between Medavakkam and East Tambaram or Grand Southern Trunk between Perungalathur and Pallavaram, the Government could consider operating ‘students only’ services, suggested Lakshmana Raj, a Government servant and who was present when the accident took place.
After all the State Government was providing so many freebies and it should be feasible for them to operate a few services to ensure the safety of young lives.