No one knows when exactly school buses will steer towards implementing the safety measures stipulated in the state's school bus safety policy, but the politics surrounding the issue keeps taking interesting twists and turns.
In Navi Mumbai, the MNS has formed its very own 'flying squad,' pulling up school buses to perform spot inspections of safety provisions, and hauling the RTO officers to the spot if they are found missing. Needless to say, bus owners have not taken kindly to the MNS' backseat driving, and have threatened action if the 'drive' isn't called off soon.
Last month, MNS party workers had stormed into DAV school in Nerul, vandalised the school premises, and roughed up the principal ('School teaches MNS workers a lesson', December 15, 2011).
In retaliation, they had to bear the brunt of the angry teachers, who thrashed the party workers till they beat a hasty retreat.
It now appears that the teachers failed to teach the relentless MNS workers a lesson. The party has now set up its self-proclaimed flying squads, which often halt school buses and inspect the interiors to check whether safety norms are being followed.
Workers have been zealously noting down plate numbers of errant buses, and forcing the Vashi RTO officers to take strict action against them. Bus owners unhappy
Irked school bus owners, who have termed this kind of vigilantism illegal, warned the MNS to call off the squad. Anil Garg, chairman of the School Bus Owners' Association of Maharashtra, said, "The guidelines issued by the state government are complex, and difficult to implement immediately. We have asked the government for some time to implement the policy. In fact, the government is also mulling over the feasibility of some of the complicated rules. Why is the MNS taking the law into its hand? It is the RTO's responsibility to look into the implementation of safety measures. The MNS is doing this for publicity, but their stunt is having an adverse effect on our business. We have asked the RTO not to respond to the illegal drive conducted by the party. We have issued a warning to party to the mend its ways. If they don't comply, they will be responsible for any action taken by the school bus owners."
The RTO tried to downplay the matter. Sandesh Chavan, assistant regional transport officer at the Vashi RTO, said, "We cannot ignore the MNS workers' complaints about school buses, as any individual is free to lodge complaints. Whenever a complaint is lodged, we dispatch an official to the spot to check for violations and take strict action. School bus safety is a very sensitive issue."
Won't back down
Meanwhile, the MNS has refused to call off its campaign. Gajanan Kale, secretary of the Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena, said, "We have started the drive to ensure the safety of schoolchildren in the city, and not to hurt anyone's business. If all school bus owners follow the safety guidelines, there will be no need for the drive. We will not cancel our drive till all school buses in Navi Mumbai implement safety measures that were issued by the state government."