JOAO SOUSA M | NT
Margao: Private operators, transporting school students, have grown significantly in number in Salcete while guidelines set up by the Supreme Court take a back seat.
Around 3000-odd vehicles are presently operating in Salcete alone of which 90 per cent are yet to register their vehicles with the transport department, while blatantly flouting all safety standards.
As per the Supreme Court guidelines, the body of school cab shall be highway yellow colour with a horizontal strip in green colour, the words ‘SCHOOL CAB’ must be prominently displayed on all four sides of the vehicle, while the transporters are permitted to exceed the number of sitting capacity by one and half times if the children transported are below 12 years while children above aged 12 shall be treated as one person.
That apart, the cabs should have enough space provided to keep school bags inside the vehicle and the bags should not be hung outside the vehicle or placed on roof carriers.
Sources in the transport department, requesting anonymity, said that each year the number of vehicles keeps increasing while as many as 90 per cent of the vehicles operating as transporters are yet to register with the transport department as mandated by the Supreme Court directives.
The things get even more complex as the vehicles used for transporting children are private vehicles.
A highly-placed official in the transport department, requesting not to be named, admitted that there could be around 3000 odd vehicles or even higher number engaged in transporting school children privately in Salcete alone, as the number keeps increasing each academic year.
With parents choosing private pickup and drop services as compared to public transport and despite the schools getting Bal Raths, the number of private operators has kept increasing.
The official said the government had provided buses to schools to dissuade parents from sending their children to schools in vehicles of private operators, however, parents continue to avail of private vehicle services for their children, most of which are operating illegally.
He said the transport department has already written to all the schools to dissuade the children from availing of services of private unregistered operators, adding that, the department will be sending teams randomly at various places to crack down on the illegal transport operators.
He said that major concern remains in case of a mishap as the transport department will be blamed while the parents need to take the matter seriously and avoid these unregistered operators.
A headmaster of a reputed school, requesting anonymity, said the school authorities have no control over the choice of the parents, however, working parents especially choose to engage private operators to drop and pickup their children.
He said there are two possible reasons for not using the Bal Rath as some children have to wait till the end while children are dropped along the route which causes delay, while children now-a-days are engaged in several activities, be it dance and music, martial arts or for that matter even
The concern is the number of children that are squeezed inside the vehicles but “we have no much say as it is up to the authorities to ensure that the rules for safety of children are adhered too.”
Meanwhile, the Navelim civic and consumer forum has decided to write to the transport department to crack down on private operators. Speaking to this daily, the secretary Joseph Vaz said, “We have been studying the matter for some time and there are major safety concerns as far as private operators transporting children are concerned.”
He said that with no monitoring system for the safety of the vehicle, it could be the cause of a major mishap, hence, “We would write to the transport department to look into the matter seriously.”