Parents have a hard time transporting children; bus operators term new rules impractical

The state-wide strike protesting against some of the rules stipulated for school buses received only a partial response. Most matriculation schools operated bus and van services on Monday.

However, parents whose children study in schools that participated in the strike had to face the inconvenience of picking up and dropping their wards. The strike had been called by the Tamil Nadu Nursery, Primary, Matriculation and Higher Secondary Schools Association, which has around 15,000 schools.

The strike was called to draw attention towards the challenges faced by schools in implementing some of the norms under the Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicles (Regulation and Control of School Buses) Special Rules 2012 in August.

K.R. Nandhakumar, General Secretary of the association, said the response to the strike was much weaker as compared to other districts since many schools operated vehicles on a contract basis.

Principals of several prominent matriculation schools in the city said that their vans were running on Monday. A principal, of a matriculation school in Ambattur said that though they had cancelled school van facility on Monday, it was not to support the strike. “Though we agree in principle with the challenges faced by the other schools, we have not joined the strike since we are not part of the association. We have kept the buses off the roads keeping the safety of the students in mind,” she said.

For many parents though, the day was quite hectic. “Though I understand the challenges the school is facing but why should they suspend the facility for a day,” asked a parent of a primary class student who did not want to be named. Several parents had to take permission from their workplace, and many even had to take a day off to drop their child at school. T. Illavarasi, who has a 6-month old baby at home, had to make two trips to the school to pick up one child at 11.30 a.m. and another at 3.00 p.m. leaving the infant at home.

A principal of a school which took part in the strike said that it was difficult not just for the parents, but also the teachers of primary classes who had to make sure all the students were handed over to parents or the appointed guardians.

The school, in total, she said, had 2,200 students who use the school van facility. The correspondent of the same school said that, existing regulations must be implemented stringently instead of introducing new ones. “After the incident [death of S. Sruthi], we checked all our school vans again. It was only then that we installed fire extinguishers,” he said.

“We have objections to eight norms. We also need six months to implement the remaining ones,” said Mr. Nandhakumar. The managements objected to the creation of a separate driver’s cabin saying that it will prevent drivers from helping children. They had also it was impractical to hire only those with conductors’ licences as attendants.

Revathy Bonns, Principal and Correspondent, Madras Christian College Matriculation Higher Secondary School, was concerned about the stipulation regarding sending the buses for inspection once in three months. “Instead, we are open to surprise checks by officials. Sending the buses is tedious, because we have tohire buses for those days,” she said.

The death of S. Sruthi, who fell through a hole in the school bus, led to the High Court taking suo moto cognisance of the incident, and asking the State Government to formulate the draft rules, now mentioned in the Motor Vehicles Rules 2012.

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