Even as school students are still awaiting the free bus passes, the Metropolitan Transport Corporation Limited (MTC) has sent circulars to various schools in the city asking them to have the students ready for taking photographs. Meanwhile, many students are even resorting to bunking classes on days when their parents do not or are unable to give them money for bus fare.

Officials claim that the carelessness on the part of school staff in filling up forms is also a cause for the delay. “When the contract photographers went to the schools to take photographs of students, they were told some students were absent. Some schools and parents have filled the application forms carelessly with some errors. If it was the old card, we could have made the corrections on it. But as laminated cards are being issued this year, it takes time to make corrections,” the officer explained.

A headmaster of a government school, however, denied any negligence on their part. Photographs of the students in his school were taken last week, he said, adding that they have not been informed when the passes would be issued. Heads of other schools, however, say that the delay this year is because the process of applying for the bus pass has changed. “This year, we were asked to send the list of forms we required, following which we received the specified number of forms. Once we were done filling the forms, we informed the authorities and they came to take the photographs. Most of our students just received the bus passes, and the rest will get it soon,” said the headmistress of a government school.

Students say that while last year, they received their bus passes on time, this year it has been a harrowing experience with many still unsure about how much longer they will have to wait.

Though there was an announcement saying that students wearing school uniforms would be allowed to travel without a ticket until they receive their bus pass, not all conductors, students say, adhere to it. “Sometimes they ask us either to buy a ticket or get off the bus,” said one of the students.

Kathija M. who lives in Maduravoyal says that she spends Rs.26 to and fro to reach her school if she catches a deluxe bus and Rs. 16 every day if she catches a non-deluxe bus, which translates to over Rs. 400 per month.

Preeti R., who lives in Arumbakkam, points out that if they wait for a non-deluxe bus, they get late to school.

The situation is worse for those who take more than one bus to reach school.

Noor Jahan whose father works as a watchman, has to take two buses to reach her school in Egmore from her house near Central Station.

“I end up taking a deluxe bus both ways. While I pay Rs. 8 in the first bus, I pay Rs. 9 in the second. And this is only one way,” she rues.

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