The Karnataka United School and Light Motor Vehicle Drivers’ Union, which is spearheading the protest by school vans, has expressed its opposition to the rule asking that they replace their vehicles every 15 years.
One of the 18 guidelines in the Karnataka Motor Vehicles (Conditions for Vehicles Engaged in Transportation of Schoolchildren) Act 2012 is that vehicles used to ferry children to school should not be more than 15 years old.
The Act came into force on May 1, 2013, after the Transport Department issued a notification, following the Supreme Court direction to State governments to take steps to ensure safety of children.
Union president T.S. Shanmugam described the rule as “unscientific”. “Some of these vehicles are in extremely good condition. They should be allowed to run after clearing the fitness test.”
He members of the union were not on strike but were compelled to stay off the as the Regional Transport Office officials were charging hefty fines.
The union said safety and security of children were their concern as well and was in favour of setting up a safety committee. “We are ready to do everything, including keeping a first aid kit and fire extinguisher, to ensure that children are safe. But we just do not have the money to buy cabs every 15 years.”
A van driver said: “We earn around Rs. 15,000 a month and have to pay tax and take care of our families. Buying cabs every 15 years is beyond our reach.”
Mr. Shanmugam was also critical. “School buses have to pay tax close to Rs. 1,600 a year, while private school vehicles have to pay over Rs. 20,000 annually.”