Two years ago, all the modes of public transport used by school children in the State were brought under the scanner by the government following the death of a schoolgirl.
On July 25, 2012, at Mudichur near Tambaram, Sruthi, a class II student, seated in the sixth row of her school bus, got up in order to alight at her stop. But her little feet slipped through a gaping hole right under the seat and she was run over by the bus.
Immediately, all school buses, autorickshaws and vans were checked for road worthiness. It was announced similar checks would be carried out just before every academic year. The police also issued warnings to autorickshaw drivers and van owners against overcrowding their vehicles.
However, an inspection of all forms of school transport now, barely a month into the new academic year, showed the ‘initiatives and constant monitoring’ by authorities had not yielded much result.
It has become a regular sight to see schoolchildren travelling in large groups in diesel autorickshaws, which are permitted to carry just three passengers. Violations are blatant and happen right under the nose of the traffic police posted near schools.
When asked if it was not a violation that also risked the safety of children, an autorickshaw driver delivered a famous Tamil film dialogue: ‘Naaluperukku nanmai yendraal, yethuvum thavaru illai (nothing wrong in doing an act if it benefits someone)’.
“We carry schoolchildren for a nominal charge of Rs. 5 for travelling up to 5 km. Most of them come from families that are not too financially sound,” said the authorickshaw driver.
On condition of anonymity, a police constable said they could do nothing in this matter since it was up to the parents to ensure the safety of their children was not compromised.