| The buses procured under Lalu Prasad’s MP local area development fund parked at Mala Mehiya village in Chhapra. Picture by Rakesh K Singh |
Principals of only four educational institutions have given their consent to the Saran administration for using buses provided by the RJD chief, Lalu Prasad, from his MP local area development fund.
Lalu, the Lok Sabha MP from Saran, had announced in March that he would purchase buses for schools and colleges, enabling students from economically backward families use the service. By April, 70 buses bought for Rs 8.18 crore arrived in Chhapra, the district headquarters. Five months on, the buses are standing idle at the godown of local automobile dealer Saraswati Motors. There are no takers for the vehicles.
On Wednesday, Saran district magistrate (DM) Kundan Kumar called a meeting with principals of schools and colleges to convince them to use the buses. Principals of 50 schools and colleges attended it. But most of them pleaded that taking the buses to transport students to and from the educational institutions would entail a maintenance cost. Only four principals — Pramendra Ranjan of Jagdam College and three schools in and around Chhapra — agreed to run them.
One of the principals, who refused to use the buses, said: “We have spoken to the guardians and students on the issue. They are not ready to pay for the bus service.”
Kundan tried to convince the authorities of ways they could generate the necessary funds, but to no avail. He said the institutions could lend the buses for commercial use after school and college hours.
The secretary of Saran Primary Schools Teachers’ Association, Rajaji Rajesh, speaking on behalf of the principals, told The Telegraph: “The headmasters do not have any interest to take the buses. There is no substitute for cycles, particularly for girl students, in the district. The students are not ready to pay for the bus service. How would the institutions pay the drivers and cleaners? There is no space for parking the buses too. What about the maintenance cost? Security of the girl students is also a big question.”
When Lalu had announced the buses for his constituency, he had also suggested that the guardians could pay a token amount towards the salaries of the drivers and the maintenance of the vehicles.
The RJD blamed the state government for the scheme’s failure. RJD MP Ram Kripal Yadav said: “The principals have been told not to use the buses to ensure that the scheme remains a non-starter because if it succeeds, Laluji’s popularity would increase. The same scheme was started by our Buxar MP Jagadanand Singh. It is running successfully.”
Kundan said: “The remaining buses could be provided to institutions such as JP University and Loknayak Jai Prakash Engineering College, if the authorities ask for the buses. Ten per cent of MP development funds can also be spent in other districts with the consent of the MP concerned. So, the buses could also be provided to the neighbouring districts.”
District planning officer Kameshwar Prasad said JP University, Chhapra, has asked for six of the buses.