Headmasters say students asked to pay Rs. 25 for processing of applications as transport department delayed procedure
Four months into the academic session, city students are yet to benefit from the much-touted free bus pass.
And worse, many schools are now reportedly charging students for the government freebie. The transport department says it has received several complaints from parents claiming their wards have been asked to pay Rs. 25 to the school for a bus pass.
“It is just the initial fee. It was collected last year too,” says the teacher of a Chetpet school. A large number of students from Chennai Schools in Santhome, Tiruvanmiyur and Perambur areas travel by MTC buses every day.
Last year, students had to pay Rs. 15 for the bus pass. This year, however, the transport department has been directed to bear the expense of issuing passes subsidised by the government.
“Most complaints are about government-aided schools. We are in the process of verifying the claims made by parents,” an official says, adding that schools that have collected such a fee will be asked to refund the students.
Last year, the government announced that children in school uniforms could travel for free in MTC buses. But that is hardly the case. “I spend almost Rs. 15 on bus travel every day,” says D. Raju, a class VIII student who travels from Siruseri to his school in Adyar.
In July, MTC sent circulars to schools asking them to prepare students for a photo shoot. But there has been no follow-through, school heads say. “The process began in July but we are yet to receive the passes,” a headmaster says.
Some schools say they have been regularly reminding transport department officials about the passes.
“There is a form that has to be filled in with names of students who require bus passes. Once this is sent to the transport department, the official concerned must send a photographer to the school,” says the headmaster of a school in Vyasarpadi.
“Since there was no response from transport officials, we decide to take matter into our hands and collected about Rs. 25 from students,” he said.
The work of printing and laminating the passes has been outsourced to a private computer graphics company, an official from the transport department says, adding that the onus of coordinating with schools for students’ names and photographs lies with the outsourcing firm.
“But the contract system doesn’t seem to be working. Often, transport officials are sent to schools to collect photographs or schools are asked to send them directly. This is why the fee has been collected,” the head master of a school in Perambur says.