Bhubaneswar, Sept. 10: Only a fortnight ago, the city police had decided to crack the whip on school buses that did not adhere to the 12-point guidelines of the Supreme Court.
“School buses flouting the rules will face action,” a senior police officer had told scribes but several parents of schoolchildren have been found to be bartering safety for the convenience of their children.
The are withdrawing their children from school bus services to avail pool cars as they pull up nearer home, often into lanes and bylanes where bigger vehicles do not get in.
In using alternative transports, parents are violating apex court guidelines and often putting the safety of their children at risk.
A large number of vehicles — Sumos, autos and rickshaws — are being used to ferry kids to schools.
Three months ago, 11-year-old Sonali Pradhan had joined her new school at Patia. Initially, she used the school bus but now she is ferried in a privately-owned vehicle.
Although Sonali’s parents pay Rs 100 more than they used to for the school, the reason is convenience.
“When my daughter used the bus service, I had to walk all the way to the main road. The driver refused to drive into the lane even though a number of students availed the service from out locality,” Sonali’s mother Snehasudha.
“Walking 2km diseveryday was stressful,” she said.
“Worse still, the buses would not come on time and my daughter and I would have to wait on the road,” she said.
Unable to stand the system for long, Sonali’s parents and several others decided to hire Tata Magic for ferrying the kids to school and back at their doorstep.
“This system is not only convenient but also more safe. The vehicle drops the children in front of the house and we don’t have to worry as to whether they cross the roads safely or befriend strangers,” said Sanjay Rout, another parent.
Parents also complained that bus timings were very irregular. The students were picked up too early and dropped late.
“My son used to be picked up at 10am although the school begins at 11am. He was also dropped home very late. The school closed at 5pm but by the time my son reached home it was 6.15pm,” said Binati Mishra, a mother.
Her son Sonu now leaves home at 10.20am and returns by 5.15pm.
“Now, we have at least some time to play and watch TV,” said Dhana, a Class V student.
The vans, the most favoured alternative to regular buses, can carry 10-12 children while autorickshaws manage 4-5.
While a school bus normally charges around Rs 450 per month, students who take the alternative vehicles are charged between Rs 500 to Rs 600 for the same period.
However, not everyone favours the alternative.
“A large number of students still use the school bus. Full-sized passenger vans and mini-vans do not offer the same level of safety to students as a full-sized school bus does. For me, my son’s safety is of the utmost importance. It does not matter if he has to walk some distance or wait for a few extra minutes,” said Prakash Jena, a parent.
“If there is an accident, the risk of a serious injury is significantly higher for the occupants of a van,” he added.
“Autos cannot carry more than four students at a time. They also need to grill the open spaces on either side,” said a senior police officer.