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Overloading drive sparks strike threat

- Van owners demand 40% fare hike to ferry children
A van carries schoolchildren in Patna. Picture by Jai Prakash

Thousands of guardians face a curious dilemma of threats — either fare hike or strike — for sending their wards to schools in vans and autorickshaws.

Known as the most popular yet cost-effective modes of transport in the city, owners or drivers of these vehicles usually cram schoolchildren. A recent directive has banned overloading of children in school-going vehicles.

The van unit of the Bihar State Auto Chalak Sangh has proposed a 40 per cent hike in the fare of vans and autorickshaws carrying schoolchildren as the transport department started a crackdown on such vehicles.

However, sources from the State Private Bus Owners’ Association confirmed that they did not have any plan of increasing the monthly fare of the school bus.

Earlier, the State Private Bus Owners’ Association and the Bihar State Auto Chalak Sangh called a strike on November 19 citing that the department should at least give them some time and should not start impose penalties for overloading suddenly.

Rajkumar Jha, general secretary, Bihar State Auto Chalak Sangh, said: “We met R.K. Mahajan, principal secretary, transport department, on Tuesday and proposed the 40 per cent fare hike. Some of the autorickshaw and van owners, who are not even associated with our organisation, have already increased the fare. They have no right to do that. We informed the principal secretary about this practice. We want the fare to be increased but we won’t devise any illegal way for this. The department has assured that they will consider our plea,” said Jha.

Senior officials of the state transport department could be contacted with most of them busy in a meeting.

On the other hand, the parents are not at all happy with the proposed fare hike. Dinesh Choudhary, junior engineer, road construction department, whose daughter studies in Mount Carmel High School, also looked unhappy at the proposed fare hike. “Already, the fare is quite high. How can they increase it further?”