A policeman stops an overloaded auto-rickshaw near Sacred Heart Convent School on Thursday. (Bhola Prasad)
If traffic guardians cracking the whip on packed school vans thought they were smart, drivers of the rogue vehicles proved they were smarter on Thursday.
Day Two of the drive against overloading left scores of students of Bistupur’s Sacred Heart Convent School hapless, as autos and vans offloaded them midway on busy roads after getting inkling that traffic teams were seizing rogue vehicles ahead. More harassment is in store for students of various city schools as van operators have decided to go on an indefinite strike from Friday in protest against the action.
District officials and traffic policemen, who jointly started the drive near Loyola School on Wednesday, were back on the roads around 7am on Thursday, conducting surprise checks near Sacred Heart Convent School in Bistupur.
Till 8am, they seized one auto and four vans that were taken away to Bistupur police station. Thereafter, they did not have much success.
The carriers, alert after Wednesday’s crackdown, sensed trouble after spotting police deployment near Sacred Heart and fled after leaving the students around 100 metres away on Office Road and Straight Mile Road. The children had to negotiate through the sea of vehicles on the twin stretches, which witness heavy traffic between 7am and 8am.
Krishna Kant, a resident of Sonari, shuddered to think what would have happened if her daughter, a fifth grader, had been hit by a vehicle. “My daughter called me up from school around 9am and asked me to pick her up once classes were over. She said she was scared to cross the road as the van driver had left her near Centre for Excellence on Office Road, nearly 150 metres away from her school. I will pull up the driver,” she said.
Vinita Singh, a Kadma-based homemaker whose son studies in Class III, was equally alarmed. “I will penalise the driver and cut a day’s pay,” she fumed.
Traffic DSP R.M. Sinha regretted the inconvenience caused to children due to “insensitivity” of van operators.
“We (transport department and traffic police) will sit together and chalk out a more foolproof crackdown plan so that overloaded vans don’t have escape routes. But we will also request parents to take such unscrupulous drivers to task when they come to pick up their children,” he said, vowing to continue the crackdown.
But the van operators were remorseless. In fact, they hastily formed an association called Jamshedpur School Vahan Association and agitated in front of the district collectorate. They announced a strike from Friday that will go on until a tripartite meeting is called among district officials, parents and van operators to settle the issue. A petition was also submitted to deputy commissioner Amitabh Kaushal.
Jitender Pandey, a member of the association, said: “The administration should fix the fares and release vans apprehended during the drive.”
Sonari’s Carmel Junior College started feeling the heat from Thursday, as its van operators went on a sudden strike.