After several schools cancelled agreements with bus contractors, the School Bus Owners’ Association (SBOA) has decided to pass on the monetary burden to the parents by hiking the bus fares by 25%.
“School principals do not want to take responsibility of the children’s safety and so are refusing to enter into agreements with the contractors. If we are not in contract with the schools, the buses will not be treated as school buses and we will not be given the tax concession,” said Anil Garg, president, SBOA.
As school buses the contractors have to pay a tax of Rs100 per seat but as transport buses the tax is Rs1,900 per seat. “If the bus operator is not in contract with a school, then they will not get the concession and will have to apply to the Regional Transport Office (RTO) for a separate permit to ferry the children,” said an RTO official.
The SBOA has contracts with 160 schools in Mumbai and Thane of which, Garg said 16 schools have cancelled the agreements over the past month. “The government scrapped the policy document which put the onus of children’s safety on the principals. However, schools were not sent any notification in this regard so the schools are terminating contracts in fear of being held responsible in case of a problem,” said Garg.
The association has decided to hike the fees with the schools do not enter into a contract by January 26 and will also not be painted yellow, as required for a school bus.
The announcement has left parents concerned. “Because of the confusion in the government and school bus owners the parents have to bear the burden,” said Thane resident, Rajni Ambardekar.