The Supreme Court of India on September 9, 2017 issued notice to the Centre, CBI and Haryana government on the plea by Varun Chandra Thakur, the father of Pradhuman, a class two boy who was found dead in school. A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud also issued notice to the Union Human Resource Development Ministry and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on Thakur’s plea seeking framing of guidelines for the safety of students in schools.
It may be mentioned that on September 8, Pradhuman, a Class 2 student, was found dead by a school staffer in the washroom with his throat slit. The boy had reached the school in the morning, and within an hour was found dead. The boy’s family resides in Maruti Kunj Society in the same area. His sister is a Class 5 student in the same school. Pradhuman’s father is a senior executive with an export house in the Kherki Daula area.
But in the case of Meghalaya, more than the securities in the premises of the educational education, the students are being exposed to much more threats outside. Every day during school hours in the state capital of Meghalaya, one will not fail to witness a mad rush of parents rushing the kids to school in time and the district administration in maintaining the vehicular flow. Both, during school hour and after hours, are considered as Peak Hours for the Shillong Traffic Police (STP), unlike in other states where this is during office or trading hours. In the course of easing out the traffic, school authorities in Shillong have spaced out the school timings, but with the recent rise of missing school children in the city it is evident that the school managements and the government have failed the student community in providing secure movement between home and school and vice versa.
As mentioned, the STP has a special group of Police personnel dedicated for the School duties. The department has turned the busiest routes either to one way traffic or no vehicle zones only during school hours where even the other emergency services are deprived of entry toward hospitals if they are on the same route during these peak hours.
While most of the schools and hospitals are situated around Laitumkhrah area of Shillong, other choke points like Jaiaw, Barik towards Civil Hospital Point, Polo area and Jingking are facing the same menace of traffic congestion. The mentioned stretch of roads too have a number of government offices, private enterprises and ever increasing residential complexes like any other locality with educational institutions.
In the past, the plying of trucks and tourist taxis were held responsible for the traffic congestions. Now, even with the absence of trucks in the city and shifting out the tourist taxi stands from the heart of the city, yet there is no improvement in traffic flow. The traffic congestions are not caused only by the educational institutions alone; the government offices are the same, where the officials haphazardly park their respective vehicles right on the main road near the office. There is no demarcation of parking space for any of the employees, except for a few heads of the departments.
It has now become the compulsory duty of the parents to drop and pick their wards from school. At the same time, parents of respective schools have their own groups or circles which, besides discussing issues like homework, should now extend their services to the district administration to find a solution not only to ease the traffic congestion, but to protect the school students from various threats in the society.
The parents and some concerned citizen had once proposed the introduction of public transport like school bus, after they experienced day long traffic jam. But after the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) bus operators refused to serve as school buses, the demand had its natural death.
The Apex Court in the past had ordered that all educational institutions should have enough space for parking and enabling the vehicles to drop and pick the students inside the campus. But such action was never adhered to by any of the schools and colleges, including the government schools while almost all the schools expect the parents to own a vehicle such that the students will reach the school in time.
Also, eateries, hotels and hospitals are openly flouting the traffic rules by not providing the compulsory parking spaces within their respective complexes. Also within Laitumkhrah area, many high rise buildings have mushroomed in the last five years, but none of them have the provision for parking. Yet the authority concerned has allowed them to function as commercial complexes. While the National Green Tribunal has only expressed its concern over the output of waste from the drainages, and not look into making buildings public friendly by making them accessible and inclusive.
More than confining to the educational institutions to regulate traffic flow, the district administration should regulate parking space for Government offices; execute the Supreme Court Order on hotels, eateries, commercial complexes and hospitals to have the provision of ‘enough’ parking space within the premises, which will ease more than fifty percent of traffic congestions in the city, and ensure safety not only to the school children but every individual citizen in the city.
The authority should make it compulsory for educational institutions to own school buses then encourage public transports; it will surely reduce the number of vehicles for every individual child as being practiced now.
The bus driver and conductor, if needed, with a security personnel can pick up the students from their respective locality and drop them back after school and this has been proven as the safest means of transportation worldwide for school students. In other states even the college students have their public transport system, while here in the state capital the North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) on various occasion expressed the loss incurred in the bus services.
The one-ways and no entries are just a temporary solution, which will surely cause inconvenient to the public in general, and the school students in particular.
At the same time, the parents who had moved for school buses to ease the traffic congestion have simply given up the fight as the STPS refuse to serve as school buses. The same committee should now press on educational institutions to acquire the buses for the same as done in other states and countries.
All it takes is political will and cooperation of the citizens to solve the problem.