Vijayawada

‘Unsafe’ ride to school?

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The transport Department has launched a merciless crackdown on school/college buses that do not have Fitness Certificates across the State

Getting a Fitness Certificate of a school/college bus renewed is a process that gets stricter every year.

"Even if one of the 32 conditions in the Fitness Certificate Renewal criteria is not met, we give them a chance to come back with repairs within two days. If they fail to do so, we immediately seize the buses," said V. Srinivas, Transport Department Inspector, as he revoked the certificate of a school bus that failed to get repairs done on time.

In February, a bus belonging to Sri Chaitanya School was in the news when its driver rammed into multiple vehicles. Although there were no casualties, there were calls for action against the school management.

"At the heart of this stringent verification drive is our focus on the safety of the child. It is the duty of the school management to prioritise the children’s safety when they are being transported on these buses," Mr. Srinivas said.

E. Meera Prasad, Deputy Transport Commissioner, said regular surpise checks are being conducted in various pockets of the city to ensure that buses are not violating rules.

"The moment we find a transgression, we immediately book a case against the bus and inform the school it belongs to. Failure to attend to the complaint will soon lead to seizure of the bus," Mr. Meera Prasad said.

Problem areas

Overcrowding, expired first-aid kits, unusable fire extinguishers, and tattered seat covers are common features in most school buses although they are a violation of the Motor Vehicles Rules. However, these buses seem to ply on roads despite flouting the norms. While the seat covers are ignored, the first-aid boxes with dusty cotton doles and expired medicines pose a serious threat to the students in the event of an injury. Before the bus is taken for certification, the drivers replace the old first-aid box with a new one, giving the impression that they follow the rule.

The performance of the buses is also not up to the mark. Most of them emit a significant amount of pollution and the gears develop friction over time. On one of the buses, it was discovered that the handbrake was not working at all. Another bus had an engine that rattled severely and had a coolant pipe that caught a significant amount of rust and had to be removed. Failure to attend to these problems could impact the performance of the vehicle and therefore, the safety of the students.

Recently, a case was booked against Ravindra Bharathi School because one of its drivers was found to be over-age. As per the Motor Vehicles Rules Act, fitness certificate of the bus can be revoked if the bus driver is found to be over 60 years of age. However, this was only possible in the presence of the DTC.

Mrs. Swarna, principal, Ravindra Bharathi School, however, denied having any knowledge about this. She said that the school had hired only middle-aged drivers and said that she would look into the matter.

Brother Jacob Gervasis, Principal of St. John’s School, said that the buses belonging to his school were in no violation of any rules despite the fact that two of their buses were reportedly foud being driven by over-age drivers and were overcrowded.

"We do not approve of drivers over the age of 60 but the schools argue that aged employees are more experienced and are relatively better behaved with the students than their younger counterparts," said Venkateswara Rao, Motor Vehicle Inspector.

Parents of these wards, who travel on these school buses, also seem to be casual about the issue. To them, the presence of an attendant is the only important parameter. Lack of an ‘Emergency Exit’ sign and fire extinguishers are not something they are bothered about.

Others who are aware of the rules have approached the school, only to see their efforts go in vain. "We did approach the school authorities to complain about the reckless driving of the school bus driver but ho action has been taken," said Poorna, a parent whose child studies at Sri Chaitanya School.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 12:26:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Vijayawada/unsafe-ride-to-school/article28111173.ece

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