After all the brouhaha about the school bus policy, school education and sports minister Rajendra Darda now says that the Government Resolution (GR) issued by the transport department on March 22, 2011, is valid and it is “sufficient” to take care of the safety of schoolchildren in vehicles.
“Though we revoked our November 18, 2013 GR, the original GR dated March 22, 2011, issued by the transport department is valid and sufficient to take care of the safety of school children in vehicles,” Darda told dna on Monday, intending to clear the confusion about the policy.
When asked why his ministry issued the GR in the first place when the transport GR itself was enough, Darda said it was done to ensure the safety of the children. The transport department had issued the Maharashtra Motor Vehicles (Regulations for School Buses) Rules 2011 and the school education department was called in for its implementation.
However, since the policy was in English the school education department translated it into Marathi and subsequently issued a GR on September 14, 2011, intimating the schools about the policy. But this GR in Marathi had several errors. The department notified the corrected version of the Marathi document after more than two years through a GR on November 18, 2013.
Justifying the cancellation of the GR, Darda said: “The November GR carried two points: One, only a school bus can be used for the transport of children, and two, principals would be held accountable for the safety of children from home to school. Only these points have been removed.
The rest remains the same as it has been in the bus policy of March 2011.”
Darda admitted that making school buses mandatory for transportation of students across Maharashtra is a difficult proposition and holding principals responsible for transport of children to and from schools was also not feasible.
“Many children travel by autorickshaws and it would not be practical to stop them. Although autorickshaws won’t have any contract with schools, children would be allowed to use them,” he added.
During the state legislature’s winter session in Nagpur, Darda had announced the revocation of the GR issued on November 18, 2013. This GR had sparked an outrage among school principals but its revocation has angered school the bus owners’ association. The association has approached the Bombay High Court seeking a clarification from the government on the whole issue.
The new school bus policy has over 30 guidelines, including setting up of a transport panel in every school headed by principals. While most points were agreed upon by principals, they had refused to shoulder the responsibility of children, citing practical reasons.