The Bold Voice of J&K

Blatant breach

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The Supreme Court laid down elaborate guidelines in 1997 for school bus operations across the country to minimise risk to the lives of school children, months after a school bus plunged into the Yamuna at Wazirabad in Delhi and left 28 students dead. Thursday’s accident on the Etah-Aliganj Road involving a bus ferrying kindergarten children to Aliganj, is a stark reminder for the authorities about the irreparable loss caused because of non-implementation of the Apex Court order. The driver of the school bus, according to the police, was driving at a high speed despite dense fog severely restricting visibility. The SC had fixed 40 kmph as the speed limit for school buses. The purpose behind the elaborate guidelines, ordered to be implemented across the country to eliminate negligence on the part of school authorities, drivers and conductors, has been ignored as hundreds of young lives have been lost in the last two decades because of rash and negligent driving by drivers of school buses. Police and other authorities have blinked at schools operating buses without following the guidelines. The SC had made it clear that only drivers with five years’ heavy vehicle driving experience would be eligible to ferry schoolchildren, any driver booked twice for traffic-related offences was to be pulled out of duty and school buses could not exceed the 40 kmph speed limit. Besides, the Court had directed a series of preventive measures – first-aid box in buses, doors to be fitted with proper lock, fire extinguisher, horizontal parallel grills on windows, school bag tray under the seat and provision for water in school buses. It had also made it mandatory for a supervisor, deputed by the school, to accompany the children. In addition, the Court on 16th December, 1997, in MC Mehta case had ordered, “On or after 30th April, 1998, no bus used or in the service of an educational institution shall be permitted to operate without a qualified conductor being present at all times.”

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