Vehicles ferrying schoolchildren to go off road from today

Vehicles ferrying schoolchildren to go off road from today

Drivers' union to protest the new rules introduced by State government

Vehicles ferrying schoolchildren to go off road from today

Hundreds of parents and students are likely to be inconvenienced as nearly 16,000 vehicles ferrying schoolchildren in the City will go off the road indefinitely from Wednesday.

Protesting some of the new rules that the State government introduced earlier this year, vehicles registered with the Karnataka United School and Light Motor Vehicle Drivers’ Union will remain unavailable, the Union said.

Citing the last week’s action by Regional Transport Office authorities and police ‘harassment,’ the office-bearers of the Union have said that they were not in a position to take their vehicles out.

“There are roughly 25,000-30,000 vehicles ferrying schoolchildren in the City and we have about 16,000 of them registered with us, who will be off the road until the government comes to an understanding with us,” P S Shanmugam, president of the Union.

The Transport Department through an order in January had made it mandatory for school cabs to follow over 20 rules framed keeping in mind the safety of children.

Shanmugam said that the Union has accepted most of the rules, many of which will see vehicle owners incur new expenditure, like putting in place fire extinguishers, having a first aid kit, painting the vehicle yellow, registering it freshly and so on. However, he said, the Union had sought more time to replace old vehicles (more than 12 years), which is not something “poor”drivers can do immediately.

“We were given three months’ time. But the government must understand that these are not small investments. Hundreds of vehicles have to be replaced and it will take time,” he said.

Further, the Union had also requested the government to consider levying taxes in line with the rates it has set for similar vehicles maintained by educational institutions.
“There is a separate tax pattern for educational institutions. While they pay a meagre Rs 1,600 as tax per year, we end up paying Rs 21,000 per year as we are charged under the commercial category despite providing the same service. In many cases, even parents have told us that our rates are cheaper than that of school vehicles and they prefer sending their children with us,” he said.

He reiterated that there was no question of taking vehicles out until an agreement is reached and the police stop harassing drivers. In the last one week over 600 drivers have been levied a penalty, in some cases up to Rs 3,000, Shanmugam said, claiming that the police, however, maintain that only 264 official raids conducted.

Meeting held

City Police Commissioner B G Jyothiprakash Mirji and Additional Commissioner (Traffic and Security) M A Saleem held a meeting with the various associations of vehicle owners ferrying schoolchildren in the City. However, the meet was a failure and the associations have gone ahead with their intended strike.

Mirji said that there was no police harassment whatsoever and the city traffic police were only implementing the guidelines issued by the highest court of the land. He said that if they have any objections to these guidelines they have to fight it out in the courts and a strike cannot be the answer.

Saleem said:“The notification by the Transport department states that it will come into effect from May 1. However, we gave another month’s time, carried out an awareness campaign for the whole May and started enforcing the rules only from June 1.”
He also added that there was no question of harassment by the traffic cops as the errant drivers were not dealt by the cops at all but instead directed to the courts.

He said that in view of the strike he has personally spoken to BMTC higher ups requesting them to ply more buses till the strike ends. He said that the BMTC management has responded positively and has confirmed that it will ply additional buses wherever schools are located.

‘No effect on schools’

The call for strike by private transport drivers ferrying schoolchildren has caught most of the schools unawares. However, many school principals believe that it would not affect the functioning of the school. “We have our own school buses. Most of the students travel by that. There are a few who have arranged for the transport themselves but we have not got any request from parents yet for travel arrangements,” said principal of Yelahanka’s Cluny Convent, Bala Ganesh. He said they were not aware of the strike.

Parents too might be not aware of it and the school will decide about extra arrangements  in the school buses based on requests by parents, if any, on Wednesday, the principal added.

Principal of Blossom School Ganga Ambika also voiced a similar opinion. “Students take public transport. There are a few who use private transport but it is not going to affect us.”