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Ride to school big hazard for most city kids

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Ride to school big hazard for most city kids

Government authorities mute as 60 percent of schoolchildren in Capital take illegal private vehicles and face accident risk, reveals survey by parents' body.

On Tuesday, an eight-year-old boy was killed and two other students were injured when a speeding autorickshaw collided with their overcrowded school van in North Delhi. In April this year, a seven-year-old girl died while several other kids were injured after a milk van hit their school van in Kanhaiya Nagar area of Northwest Delhi.

Now here's a shocker: Sixty per cent of children in Delhi risk their lives' while commuting between home and school, revealed a study on the transport facilities of over 150 schools conducted by the Delhi Parents Association.

The study, done over a span of six months starting September 2017, covered the mode of transport taken by schoolchildren across 150 schools in Delhi. Out of the 1,000 children interviewed, it was found that 60 per cent of them used private vehicles to commute to and fro school.

Aprajita Gautam, a member of Delhi Parents Association, said that the issue was escalated to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, but nothing has happened so far.

Mail Today spoke to all stakeholders, including parents, school authorities, traffic department and the police on how -despite having strict laws and guidelines in place - private vehicles continue to ferry students between homes and schools with utter nonchalance.

Avdhesh Jha, Principal of Government Senior Secondary School, Rohini Sector 8, said, The problem lies with the parents and the solution also lies with them. If they start teaching their children to get off the van when the driver breaks a traffic rule, like jumping red light, it will go a long way.

Aprajita Gautam of Delhi Parents Association said, Despite holding awareness programmes for the parents, they inevitably end up opting for private vehicles as these are cheaper and save time.

Parents, on the other hand, put the onus on the schools for keeping bus charges frightfully high, a reality that compels them to opt for private cabs and other vehicles. They also blamed the police for letting go of errant drivers who put the lives of children in danger.

Meenakshi Malik, whose daughter studies in Class 2 of a private school in Shalimar Bagh, told Mail Today: The schools charge such high fees. Apart from that, they also charge a steep bus fee when one applies for the facility. Since we live close to her school, we opted for a private cab.

As per transport authority norms, for a 12-seater cab, children aged 10 years or older have the right to one full seat. Yogesh Pratap, head, private school branch of the directorate of education, said, We have written to the traffic police as well as to all the schools on the use of safe transport system.

Guidelines have been laid down asking the schools to ensure that the buses comply with laid down norms. K K Dahiya, special commissioner with the transport department of the Government of Delhi, told Mail Today: The transport department has been working on this issue along with the traffic police. We are taking three steps. First, in association with Delhi Traffic Police, we have started enforcement action against school cab-drivers who ply illegally. Second, we are going to start a scheme very soon where private cab drivers will be given a window to legalise their vehicle. It is a step towards regulating school cabs where the owners will get an opportunity to obtain legal permit. Third, we will be implementing the 1.5 times policy' -which means that a six-seater cab can only allow maximum nine children to sit on it. In May, we requested the education department to compile a data on requirement of private cabs in Delhi based on number of schools and children enrolled.

However, as per transport department officials, close to 25,000 private vehicles operate in the National Capital without valid permits. As per the data compiled by it, about 40,000 vans are plying in Delhi-NCR without valid permits. Of these, around 25,000 vehicles are being used as vans for schoolchildren.

The figures illustrate how private school vans are brazenly flouting norms mandated under the School Cab Policy, 2007. As per the directions of the Delhi Government's Directorate of Education (DOE), all private unaided and government schools had been advised to follow guidelines pertaining to use of unsafe and illegal school cabs/vans for transporting schoolchildren.' However, the stark reality is that lives of children continue to be endangered by the otherwise ordinary and everyday act of going to school.