The death of five-year-old Kasira Yusuf under the wheels of a pool bus near Park Circus on Tuesday stirred the state government to announce a crackdown but not a system overhaul.
Transport minister Madan Mitra on Wednesday said the government would crack down on illegal pool car operators. “The government wouldn’t tolerate their antics any more,” he added.
Officials in his department are sceptical about crackdowns because the enforcement wing rarely targets such vehicles carrying schoolchildren — be it buses or cars.
They say police support is imperative for large-scale action, while officers at Lalbazar claim that the police are overburdened and don’t have the manpower to assign staff for such exercises.
A senior official said: “There are only a handful of motor vehicles inspectors… they can’t focus on raiding school buses and cars.”
“The enforcement wing (of the transport department) carries out raids and sends detailed reports about revenue collection. But raids on pool cars and buses ferrying students are rarely conducted. The thrust is more on lorries and other heavy vehicles,” the official added.
Most of the pool cars and buses in the city aren’t registered commercial vehicles. The government had asked owners of such vehicles to get the registration done by September 7, but only a few applied.
A vehicle registered for private use cannot ferry children since it is a commercial activity.
Officials said there could be 2,000 pool cars illegally operating within the jurisdiction of PVD Beltala.
“There are over 10,000 pool cars in the city and its adjoining areas and only 13 have applied. We have decided to extend the deadline till September-end for pool car operators to switch over to commercial vehicles,” Mitra said.
“These operators often flee during a crackdown, leaving students stranded in the vehicles. They also threaten to go on strike. We will not tolerate such nuisance,” the minister said.
Tough words but no one is convinced — not at least Kasira’s schoolmates at St. John's Diocesan Girls’ Higher Secondary School, which remained closed on Wednesday as mark of respect for the little girl.
“We organised a prayer meeting in memory of the girl,” said Carolyn Lionel, the teacher-in-charge.
Niranjan Roy, the 60-year-old driver of the pool bus, has been arrested from his home on Suresh Sarkar Road in Phoolbagan and charges with causing death by negligent driving.