Apropos the recent ‘strike’ by private school transport operators in Karachi. I became one of the victims of this mafia when I received a letter on Thursday from the school van driver informing me that my children will not be picked till their demands were met.
Although their protest is apparently against ‘traffic police excesses’, actually it is against the directives of Sindh Transport Authority (STA).
According to STA bus safety regulations, all school buses must be painted blue and must be run either on petrol or diesel, and not on CNG or LNG because of safety reasons. The drivers cannot refuel while having children on board. They also cannot play music or smoke while children are on board. Furthermore, no pick-up trucks can be used as a school bus and at least one attendant should be on the bus, ensuring child safety.
Under the School Bus Safety Bill 2014, the school buses must have two doors and a fire extinguisher. The owners must also display fitness certificate. The Sindh transport department had last year released safety guidelines for school buses, but the transport owners have not complied.
Considering several incidents in which children died because of CNG/LNG cylinder explosions, these efforts of the provincial government are commendable. We cannot afford to lose more children in explosions. Overcrowded school vans with little children hanging on the footboard are a common sight.
The private school transport mafia has been exploiting parents for a long time. They charge fee on the basis of diesel/petrol price while they run their rickety vehicles on cheap CNG, endangering children’s lives. Charging the fee during two-month vacations is another privilege they enjoy.
Now they are ‘protesting’ against safety guidelines to protect their financial interests. This is nothing but blackmail. The school administrations, which are also responsible for ensuring these safety regulations are mere spectators. The Rangers have done a wonderful job in eliminating several mafias in the city. Would they get rid of this mafia as well?
Being a parent I will never compromise on my children’s safety. I urge all parents to unite against this mafia and send feedback/suggestions on [email protected] so that we may form a platform to deal with such issues.
Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2015
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