Students return home in a taxi as pool cars fail to turn up at school on Wednesday. Picture by Amit Datta
More than 25,000 students were stuck in school for hours on Wednesday afternoon as their pool cars did not pick them up.
By then, 4,500 cars that ferry children to and from school had gone off the road after public vehicles department (PVD) officials impounded seven pool cars in the morning.
The crackdown came a day after a pool car carrying eight school students slammed into a stationary bus on VIP Road. Police said the driver was drunk and was talking on the mobile phone at the time of the mishap.
The Car Pool Operators’ Association of West Bengal has decided to continue with the strike, leaving parents in the lurch. “The car pool operators have acted irresponsibly. Instead of mending their ways, they are harassing the parents,” said Arko Chatterjee, who had to rush to Birla High School from office to pick up his son.
“Will seizing a handful of vehicles solve any problem? If the PVD was alert throughout the year, so many mishaps wouldn’t have taken place,” said Paromita Sen, whose seven-year-old son studies in South Point and travels by pool car.
In a knee-jerk reaction after the death of a nine-year-old boy in a mishap in August this year, the PVD had impounded over 50 pool cars in a day. The government had announced a guideline for the pool cars, but no concrete step was taken to regulate the vehicles though they continued to be involved in mishaps.
This time, the traffic police has promised to meet pool car owners in January to impress upon them the need to stick to norms. “Car pool owners will not be let off if they violate norms. We would also like the schools to speak to parents about the things they must check while selecting a pool car for their children,” said deputy commissioner (traffic) Manoj Verma.
Santanu Saha, the secretary of car pool operators’ association, said: “The car that met with an accident on Tuesday does not belong to any member of our association. Why were our cars seized? We have sought an appointment with the transport minister.”
A PVD official stated: “We seized the seven cars as they did not have the necessary permission. Schoolchildren were crammed into them.”
He claimed: “It is not correct to say we are lax throughout the year. We regularly conduct raids and book errant drivers. Once they are let off, they immediately go back to violating rules.”