THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It seems the capital hasn’t learnt much from the two school van mishaps last year that shocked the consciousness of all. Apart from short-lived vigil, no concerted efforts have been taken to ensure the safety of the children who travel in school buses or private operator services.
‘’The alertness shown by the authorities and the public after a mishap dies down soon. What we need is a constant effort from all stakeholders to prevent such accidents in future,’’ says Federation of Residents’ Associations (FRAT) general secretary N Babu.
Vans crammed with school kids are a common sight now, he adds. ‘’Our members have also raised concern over some instances of drunken drivers transporting school children,’’ he says.
’Besides the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) officials, the police also should take an active role. Inspection of school vehicles should also become a routine for them like helmet-checking,’’ he adds.
’It is a cause of worry for the parents,’’ says Asha Rani, a housewife hailing from Kudappanakkunnu, whose two children travel in a private van to the school.
’Their school bus does not operate on byroads. We have no other option but to avail of the services of private operators,’’ she says.
‘’I feel immense tension if the vehicle is late for even a few minutes in the evening,’’ Asha adds.
The MVD has issued a set of guidelines for transporting school children, says Joint Transport Commissioner Alex Paul. ‘’Recently, we directed all school buses to install speed governors. It is likely to be implemented in two months’ time,’’ he says.
‘’The speed governors would ensure that the vehicles do not cross the 40 km/hour speed limit,’’ Paul points out.
‘’We often conduct drives to see that the rules are followed,’’ he adds.
Ironically, the decision to install speed governors in school buses was taken long ago, well before the Karikkakom and Channankara tragedies. It was numbered fourth in the comprehensive set of guidelines for school buses issued by the State Transport Authority in June 2010. It is surprising that a majority of the guidelines are yet to be followed by the vehicles transporting school students.
‘’It is not the absence of rules, but the absence of officials that affects our functioning,’’ another MVD official told this paper on condition of anonymity.
‘’Acute staff shortage is crippling the department. We lack sufficient NUMBER OF inspectors to conduct routine checking,’’ he adds.