Schoolgirl's death turns spotlight on lacunae in safety norms

Schoolgirl's death turns spotlight on lacunae in safety norms

Safety of human lives seems precious little, with perfunctory lip service paid to put in place a foolproof system till tragedy strikes and an innocent life is needlessly lost in its wake.

Nothing can be more telling to poignantly press home this point than that of eight-year-old bubbly Namitha, whose blooming life was cruelly cut short under the wheels of the very bus she had so joyfully alighted after an eventful day earlier at school. 

That neither the driver, nor the bus attendant, thought it fit to ensure the child was safe and secure before proceeding further, saw not only Namitha pay with her life while trying to pick her lunchbox that had rolled down under the van, but her elder sister a shocking witness to the tragedy unfolding right before her unbelieving eyes. 

That Namitha’s teenage sister Tanuja, along with their parents, would carry and be hounded by the trauma of the horrific incident right through their lifetime, speaks about the abject regard human lives have in the scheme of things of powers that be. As if being cruelly roused from a long winter sleep, the spotlight, needless to say, has once again turned on ensuring safety norms in school buses. 

This, despite, the fact that transport department’s policy was framed May last, but, which, ironically does not deal with the specifics such as duties of an attendant on school bus.

For, the bus has been given a clean chit, having fulfilled all guidelines framed by the department for school buses, including the driver having a valid driving licence, seating capacity, vehicle fitness, insurance et al.

However, despite these steps, there seems to be lot to be desired when it comes to safety of the child, in that, it does not stipulate that the child be dropped by the attendant outside his/her residence. As expected, the transport department officials averred that drivers are provided training on how to drive school buses and ensure children get home safely.Needless to say, they leave it to the better sense of the attendant stating it is obvious for them to drop off children safely till their homes.

Some much for official speak where officials claim cases are booked against erring school buses owned by schools and private vehicles plying as school vehicles to ferry children and are seized. 

Terming Wednesday’s tragic incident “unfortunate”, Bangalore Division Transport Joint Commissioner Narendra Holkar said, “We conducted checks on the bus and it is fit from safety aspects. We have been regularly providing training to school bus drivers and booking cases as well.”

Once again putting the onus on parents to ensure their children’s safety, he said, parents have to own responsibility, as many times, they send their children in private vehicles that do not have mandatory permits and driven by inexperienced drivers, that the norms stipulate. 

Though the transport department had proposed safety committees for all schools, however, the compliance rate has been negligible as many schools are still to form safety committees.

Karnataka United Schools and Light Motors Drivers Union president Shanmugan P S said it was the government’s responsibility to ensure school buses owned by schools have trained drivers and safety norms in place.  

In the past, the transport department had seized 70 school buses and cabs found violating the safety norms.

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