Hyderabad: A Maruti van used to ferry school children caught fire on Wednesday morning due to leakage in its gas cylinder in Moghalpura area of the Old City. Fortunately, the children had already been dropped at school when the vehicle caught fire.
It is mandatory for all buses ferrying schoolchildren to be registered with the RTA. However, vans, i.e. vehicles with less than 25 seats, don’t fall under the purview of the rule. Telangana State Road Transport Authority (RTA) officials said they had no data on the number of such vans in the city or state, as these do not fall under the “school buses” section. “As far as buses are concerned, they should renew their Fitness Certificates every year before the institutes reopen in June,” said joint transport commissioner B. Venkateswarulu.
“There is an app of RTA using which parents can track who is driving the school bus on a particular day and who is the attendant etc.," said T. Raghunath, joint commissioner, RTA. However these rules don’t cover the vans and nothing can be done about it, officials said. An official added, “There are no immediate plans to bring private vans under the ambit of RTA. As of now, the vans are either privately managed or handled by the schools.”
Many of the private vans are used for several purposes apart from transporting children. Also, the drivers change frequently making the system all the more vulnerable, said Ashish Naredi of Hyderabad School Parents’ Association.
Apart from routine checks, there are no specific drives for these private vans by the RTA or any other government department to ascertain safety features like properly fitted CNG systems, fire safety measures etc.
Lack of regulations is worrisome
The lack of regulations governing private vans is worrisome because though they can be dangerous, many parents have no option but to engage these vans to take their children to school.
The problems surrounding these vans should be viewed comprehensively, said parents. The big school buses ply only on the main roads and some educational institutions are reluctant to send buses to the Old City and a few other areas citing traffic congestion and small roads as the problems.
“For instance, some schools of Secunderabad don’t send buses beyond Himayatnagar or Lakdi-ka-Pul.
Parents from other parts of the city have to search for alternatives like autos or mini-vans for pickup and drops,” said Ashish Naredi of Hyderabad School Parents’ Association.
However, schools are not oblivious to the situation, the parents opine. “When I enrolled my girl in a school near Rajendra Nagar, I was told that the bus would come till a place near our home. Once the school started, they said there were fewer kids from the area and gave us the number of a private van. As I can’t risk the security of my girl, I drop and pick her up, which is around three km from my house,” said Ms. Farida Sultana.