Friday, Nov 21, 2014

Kids’ safety: Govt walks the tightrope

Written by Mihika Basu | Mumbai | Posted: November 27, 2013 5:55 am

POLICY AFTER TWO YEARS<\b>

The origin of the latest GR dates back to 2011,when the state government came up with the Maharashtra Motor Vehicles (Regulations for School Buses) Rules,2011. The guidelines mandated a slew of reforms,including a transport committee to be set up by every school in the state to ensure the school bus operator and the bus driver had necessary permissions and licences,district committees to monitor the safety of these buses,special permits to operate school buses,etc. It was also made mandatory for buses to carry fire extinguishers and first-aid kits. As per these rules,a vehicle having a minimum of 12 seats could be designated as the school bus.

“The implementation was the responsibility of two departments – the Regional Transport Office (RTO) and the education department. Accordingly,the policy part,as applicable to schools,was given to the education department to translate it from English into Marathi and circulate the same to schools along with the original English document,” said Indrani Malkani,member of the committee set up by the state government to formulate the new policy.

“The translated Marathi document had several errors,which needed to be corrected. It took the education department two years to come out with the final policy document in Marathi. Hence,this is not a new policy or a revised one,” said Malkani.

GUIDELINES MISUNDERSTOOD?<\b>

The guidelines stipulate that the school principal “shall be responsible for safe transportation of schoolchildren and take appropriate steps for day-to-day supervision of the same. It further says that every school will have a transport committee to ensure safe transportation of schoolchildren,work out transportation fees area-wise,identify bus stops and vehicle fitness. It will have to meet every six months prior to the commencement of each semester. The school will have to enter into a Common Standard Agreement (CSA) with the transporters and administer the school bus service through the bus administrator.

“The committee shall be headed by school principal and shall have one PTA representative as well as the bus administrator of the school,traffic/police inspector of the respective area,inspector of motor vehicle or assistant inspector of motor vehicle of that area,education inspector,representative of bus contractor and representative of local authority,” says the GR issued on November 18.

Several school principals in the city,however,say they cannot be held responsible for the safety of each and every student when it comes to transport and that it is very difficult to ensure students will only use school buses. “The primary role of a principal is that of an academician and they need to focus on academics. How can we be made responsible for something over which we have no control? Once the bus leaves the school premises,how do we keep a check on them?” said the principal of a well-known school in the western suburbs.

The GR also stipulates a declaration for the use of school bus service by students,which has to be signed by the parent or guardian. It states that the school would not incur any liability,legal or financial,in connection with the the bus service and the students and parents and guardians,who continued…

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