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In 'lawless' Maharashtra, let kids use school bus at your risk

Friday, 20 December 2013 - 7:07am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Bus operators go to court, saying minister has effectively revoked new policy.

Two days after a government resolution (GR) on school bus rules was scrapped, bus owners have gone to court, saying that with this the school bus policy of 2011 would also stand revoked.

State school education minister Rajendra Darda announced the scrapping of the GR which  held principals responsible for safe transportation of children. The announcement makes children using school buses no one’s responsibility.

Anil Garg, president of the state school bus owners’ association, said, “The GR doesn’t only define the role of principals, it also seeks to implement the bus policy. So, the policy would not be effective in the state now... If the government doesn’t clarify its stand, the move will take us back to square one.

This means that you can send your child to school by bus paying hefty fees but “at your own risk”.

Over the past few years, several children have died in school bus accidents and there have been several cases of sexual assault by bus staff.

The policy has over 30 guidelines, which include setting up of a transport panel in every school headed by principals for matters on safe transportation of students, presence of a lady attendant on a busamong others.

While most points were agreed upon by principals, they have refused to shoulder the responsibility of children, citing practical reasons. A body of school principals in the state had threatened to boycott board exams to force the government to revoke the onus from principals. 

A senior RTO official too said it is not possible for them to keep track of 15,000 school buses in Mumbai. A parent said the government has unnecessarily hyped the issue.

Scrapping of GR adds to confusion
The scrapping of the government resolution (GR) has added to confusion over the status of the original policy. While Darda said that the guidelines would stand, only a principal’s onus has been revoked. Principals say the decision ambiguous. “The GR contained 95% of original and 5% of new rules. If the GR is scrapped, the whole policy is revoked. It’s unclear which part is to be scrapped,” says Redij who says Principals will await a GR in this regard.

Back and forth in making the rules
In 2008, the state home department had appointed a committee to frame the school bus policy.

Based on this committee’s report, the department came up with the rules in 2011 and subsequently roped in the state education department for implementation of the new rules. The same year, the education department issued a government resolution (GR), seeking implementation of rules. However, while the original policy document was in English, the GR was its Marathi version. The translated document had several errors and so the department took two years to come out with the corrected version in Marathi. A GR to this effect was issued last month.

School education minister Rajendra Darda announced in the state legislature the scrapping of the the latest GR.

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