| BASIC NECESSITY: Schoolgirls arrive in a taxi that their pool car owner commandeered for them after the crackdown continued on Tuesday. Picture by Amit Datta
The government announced the laying down of road rules for pool cars ferrying schoolchildren, even as the crackdown on the vehicles continued on Tuesday.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said the transport department would soon issue directives to ensure the pool cars abide by rules.
“I’ve had a word with the chief secretary. The transport department is initiating action,” Bhattacharjee said.
The move follows last Thursday’s mishap, in which a pool car rammed into a stationary bus on VIP Road, killing nine-year-old Kaustav Bhattacharya.
Transport secretary Sumantra Chowdhury has convened a meeting with the members of the pool car association on Wednesday. The government is likely to announce the norms at the meeting.
The public vehicles department (PVD) on Tuesday hauled up 22 pool cars plying without the necessary permit. On Monday, 25 such vehicles were penalised.
“We’ve asked the motor vehicles inspectors to look out for overloaded pool cars and impound those that are being run illegally with domestic LPG cylinders,” said Chowdhury.
The worst sufferers in the crackdown on illegal pool cars are, perhaps, the schoolchildren and their parents. With pool car drivers staying off the road on Tuesday to avoid action by PVD inspectors, several children were left stranded at home and could not attend school.
“My husband and I leave for office by 10am. We could have managed to drop our daughter to school in the morning, but who would have brought her home at 11.30' She did not go to school today, but what will happen tomorrow or the day after if the crisis is not resolved'” asked Sonali Mukherjee, whose daughter studies in Prep I at Calcutta Girls’ School.
Several other parents faced Sonali’s situation. “When the car that carries my child did not turn up today, I had to rush her to school in a cab. My son missed his Montessori classes, as I could not drop both,” said Kanika Pan, whose daughter is in Prep II at Calcutta Girls.
“We prefer the pool car to the school bus, which does not drop children at the doorstep,” said S. Mukherjee, whose son studies at South Point School.
“Besides, the school bus does not go to suburban areas and there is no guarantee that every child will get a seat on it. For these reasons, parents are heavily dependent on pool cars. A solution has to be worked out soon,” he added.
The situation was the same in Howrah. While most pool cars were off the road, some reportedly forced students to get off midway.
Sanjay Das, a pool car driver, said: “We have been told that the PVD personnel in Calcutta are charging huge amounts as fine. So, we have decided not to cross Vivekananda Setu.”
Amidst the chaos, a few pool car owners ferried children to school and back home in taxis. “I spent Rs 220 to pick up six children from Salt Lake and bring them to Calcutta Girls’ School. A similar amount, perhaps more, will have to be coughed up on the way back. This cannot go on,” said Biswanath Chakravarty, who operates three cars, all of which were locked in the garage on Tuesday.