Seven of nine students crammed inside an auto-rickshaw were injured on Thursday morning when the overloaded vehicle toppled near Mango bridge in Jamshedpur, the second such accident this week that has spurred the district administration to limit the number of schoolchildren per auto to four.
The accident took place around 7.30am when the auto driver was taking eight girls and a boy to SDSM School for Excellence, Sidhgora. While negotiating a turn, the driver lost balance, causing the vehicle to turn turtle near Mango bridge in Sakchi police station area.
Rushed to MGM Medical College and Hospital, doctors referred two girls — ninth graders Sneha Kumari and Shabnam, both Mango residents in their early teens — who had sustained head injuries to Tata Main Hospital.
The rest of the injured were released from MGM after first aid. The driver escaped unhurt.
One of the injured girls, who didn’t want to be named, said the auto overturned when it took a sharp turn at the roundabout near Sitaramdera bus terminus as a cyclist suddenly came before them.
“Commuters were cooperative,” she said. “They promptly came to our rescue and arranged another auto to rush us to MGM hospital.”
An eyewitness said the auto was not just overloaded, schoolbags hung out from both sides of the vehicle. “Nine children and nine bags, how do you expect the vehicle to maintain balance?” he asked.
On Monday afternoon, an overloaded auto-rickshaw carrying students of DAV Public School, Bistupur, overturned near Diagonal Road crossing on Bistupur Main Road. Kumar Satyam, a student who was seriously injured, is still undergoing treatment at Tata Main Hospital.
The two mishaps in four days spurred a BJP protest and an administrative crackdown.
A group of BJP workers protested before East Singhbhum district transport office, demanding auto-rickshaw operators to be barred from plying overloaded vehicles, especially those carrying schoolchildren. “There is no effective rule to stop auto drivers from cramming their vehicles. Ideally, five adult persons or six children can sit properly inside an auto. Most drivers carry nine or 10 students, drive at break-neck speed to manage more to and fro trips to schools. Lives of schoolchildren are at risk,” said Vikas Singh, a BJP member who led the protest.
District transport officer (DTO) George Kumar, on his part, issued a circular for the management of various schools on “strict measures” to be implemented from Saturday.
“We will start random checks. If autos are found carrying over four schoolchildren, the vehicle will be seized and driver prosecuted. Only five persons, including the driver, should sit in an auto,” Kumar told The Telegraph.
Respective school authorities would have to notify the circular to parents so that they make arrangements with the drivers, he added.
Less students per auto equals more monthly charge per child during a season of unstoppable inflation, but parents must pay the price of safety.