The Himachal Pradesh government on Monday approved new guidelines for buses being operated by schools to ensure the safety of the children. Under the new guidelines, drivers above 60 years of age will be debarred from driving school buses, and a drivers should possess a five-year experience of driving school vehicles.
The new guidelines were drawn up by a high-level committee headed by Chief Secretary Vineet Chawdhry. The new guidelines will be applicable to all modes of road transports including private buses, vehicles engaged from the HRTC and other small vehicles like cabs and vans. The government in a bid to stop private schiools from buying government auctioned buses, fixed the lifetime of school buses to five years.
The new developments come in the wake of a major bus accident at Nurpur on April 9, claiming 28 lives, which included 24 school children in the age group of nine to 12 years. The CM had announced to frame strict regulatory mechanism for the schools to avoid any such tragedy in the future.
“The school managements will not be allowed to hire a driver above 60 years of age and having driving experience of less than five years. The management will appoint a dedicated transport officer to oversee the plying of the buses, their condition and fitness of the drivers. There will be a regular check-up of his health and his medical records will be kept in order”, said Additional Chief Secretary (Transport) Ram Subhag Singh.
“It was also decided that transport department would send a letter to all the principals of all the private schools on behalf the Chief Minister informing them about the school transportation safety guidelines,” said a government spokesman. As per guidelines, the buses will have GPS system and CCTV cameras, and a speed limit of 40 km per hour has been fixed by the committee.
There will be committees at district and sub-divisional levels to undertake mandatory checking of buses once every three months.
The government proposes to post the guidelines on the officials website of the transport and education department to allow stake holders including parents to send their comments within next 15 days, the cabinet proposed. The government will also try to develop an app which will be shared with parents to monitor movements of the vehicles being used by their children on way to schools and return. Small children will not be made to take front seats of small vehicles like vans.
To frame guidelines the Chief Secretary’s team followed the Supreme Court guidelines, judgments relating to M C Mehta’s petitions, guidelines by CBSE, National Commission for protection of child rights, National Disaster Management Authority’s school safety guidelines and guidelines framed by four states includuing Kerala, Haryana, Odissa and Andhra Pradesh.