The state school bus policy, which was meant to ensure safe transport for students across Maharashtra, is under fire once again. School authorities have now questioned the manner in which the state education department has dealt with the policy for the last two years.
Principals say the fresh GR introduces points which did not exist in the original policy. These are
1) Instead of holding the school transport committee liable, the new GR says head of the committee (principal) will be responsible for safe transport 2) No vehicle, except buses, can transport students and principals must ensure that no vehicle comes around 100 m of schools.
3) Schools were supposed to seek an undertaking from students who reach school on foot that they are responsible for their safety. 4) Every school gate will be manned by a traffic cop and principals must ensure his/her presence.
Prashant Redij, president of a state body of school principals, said it’s impossible to force all children to use school buses. “Doesn’t the government know that most schools in the state’s interiors don’t have bus facilities and many children can’t afford bus fees?. Besides, this encroaches upon a parent’s freedom.” he said.
Redij said principals have no power to ensure presence of a traffic guard at schools besides lack of traffic cops. The GR, he said, is silent about children who use cycles as transport.
Redij said these points were added by the education department at the behest of bus operators.
“Making buses mandatory helps operators get all students on board with onus on principals,” he said.
Activist Indrani Malkani questioned the authority of the education department to amend rules framed by the home department. “The education department only has the mandate to implement the policy,” said Malkani.