To escape being caught, a van drops students near Jusco corporate office, around 250 metres from Loyola School and Church School Beldih on Monday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
If school vans and auto-rickshaws learnt any lesson during a crackdown on overloading in October, it was how to dodge police.
So when traffic monitors, suddenly alert and active after a month-long break, hit steel city streets on a fresh drive on Monday, pool cars and autos, which were obviously not following the rule book, proved to be the smarter in the cat-and-mouse game.
The drivers, alerted by their counterparts on roads near Church School Beldih and Loyola School in Northern Town where the men in uniform were standing guard, dropped students at a distance and fled.
Not a single rogue auto or van could be booked on Day One of the drive. Instead, students bore the entire brunt of the crackdown, as they had to walk to schools after crossing busy thoroughfares.
“We had asked the administration to continue the drive that they had begun with much success on October 23. Although the school van drivers were caught unawares today (Monday), they resorted to different tactics to evade police and left the students in the lurch,” said president of Jamshedpur Abhibhavak Sangh Umesh Kumar.
He added that the East Singhbhum administration stopped the previous drive because of a strike by van operators and also the festive break. “If the crackdown were continued, the drivers would not have dared to violate traffic norms,” Umesh Kumar rued.
District transport officer (DTO) George Kumar admitted that they did not get the expected results on Monday, saying that the absence of traffic DSP R.M. Sinha severely hampered planning in terms of deployment of traffic personnel near the school premises.
“Traffic DSP was unwell. In his absence, the men could not be properly deployed on approach roads to the two schools. The van operators made the most of the loopholes and escaped from our clutches. We will intensify the drive from tomorrow and deploy personnel on distant thoroughfares,” George Kumar vowed.
The East Singhbhum district administration had started the crackdown on overloaded school carriers on October 23 after Jamshedpur Abhibhavak Sangh complained to the deputy commissioner. The van operators hit back by coming together under Jamshedpur School Vahan Association and going on a strike from October 25.
The strike was finally withdrawn on October 29 after the administration managed to convince them that they had to stick to traffic rules that say that autos running on petrol can carry four students, while the limit for diesel-powered three-wheelers is six. Vans can ferry up to eight students.
The van operators, in turn, announced a Rs 100-150 hike in fares. However, most of them could not eventually increase the fares owing to pressure from parents. “We had no option but to carry same number of students as before as parents refused to pay more. If the administration continues to harass us, we might strike work again,” said Gopal Haldar, a member of Jamshedpur School Vahan Association.
Later in the evening, traffic DSP declared that from Tuesday, they would also check underage biking and use of pressure horns by students.
Do you think the fresh drive will discipline rogue drivers? Tell email@example.com