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Madan shares pool car onus with parents, schools

The Mamata Banerjee government will appeal to schools and parents to find out whether vehicles ferrying their children to school and back home are authorised to ply as pool cars.

Transport minister Madan Mitra, who had on Sunday announced a crackdown on illegal pool cars, on Monday said the government was expecting help from schools.

“We will appeal to the schools to see to it that their students are not commuting in illegal pool cars. We know the schools’ primary concern is education but we hope they would help us in our drive as well. We will make the same appeal to parents and guardians because it is difficult to track down a vehicle involved in an accident if it was plying illegally,” Mitra told Metro.

The minister had said he would speak to the police commissioner about the crackdown on Monday but he did not. An officer at Lalbazar said they had not heard from the minister about his plan to meet the top cop.

Deputy commissioner Dilip Adak said he would speak to Mitra soon. “We will do the needful once we get the instructions,” he said.

Official estimates suggest that around 40,000 illegal pool cars and buses ply in the city. Most of them ferry schoolchildren and violate a number of guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court for such vehicles.

Schools, however, feel they can appeal to parents to run a check on the pool cars but cannot make it binding on them.

“If there is a government order we will have to do it, but it is difficult for schools to keep an eye on the pool cars because the owners are answerable not to us but the parents,” said the principal of a south Calcutta school.

Schools feel that since the pool cars “operate as a business” and are hired by parents, their responsibility rests with the families of the students.

A south Calcutta school had a harrowing time tracking down the owner of a pool car that turned turtle on Red Road in April, leaving three students injured.

There are only a few schools whose students have to compulsorily commute in buses run by the institutions.

“The buses stop on main roads as they cannot enter lanes and alleys. Parents prefer their convenience and they would keep sending their children in pool cars till they realise the hazards,” said the principal of a central Calcutta school.

The owners of pool cars and buses operating without the mandatory permit to use their vehicles for commercial purposes had been given a six-month ultimatum on March 8 to get their vehicles registered.

The deadline is September 7 and the government hopes it would be able to ascertain the number of pool cars used for ferrying schoolchildren among the 40,000-odd illegal contract carriages.

The government’s take on enforcement, however, is that they won’t launch an overnight crackdown on illegal vehicles because that would inconvenience parents and their children.

“We are not looking at an overnight conversion of illegal vehicles to legal ones. We have given a September 7 deadline for these vehicles to be registered as commercial vehicles,” said Mitra. “We have spoken to the police. If we start a crackdown on vehicles since morning it will lead to chaos. The police will do it in their way and they know how to do it.”

The transport department has received a few hundred applications seeking permits over the past few days and around 1,000 over the past couple of months.

“But we could not process them as there were almost no officers here in Calcutta because of the panchayat elections. We will now expedite the process,” said Mitra.

The minister has told the public vehicles department director and the regional transport offices in Barasat and Alipore to grant the permits.

There are applications from other areas also but the maximum number of applicants are from these areas.