The Ruling Government is contemplating to make school bus services compulsory for all urban educational institutions and this is a welcomed move. A few months back the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) led by the National People’s Party (NPP) headed by Conrad Kongkal Sangma is taking the services of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to conduct a study to come up with a solution in resolving the problem of traffic congestion in the state’s capital. The parents on the other hand are dealing with the daily trauma of reaching their children to school and back, not to mentioned about waking up the kids early for school. But both the stakeholders had never done any exercise on how to improve the security of the school premises or while commuting. Even for a school, providing secure transportation as the utmost importance and the Traffic Police should regulate specific routes particularly for school transport to ensure they do not deviate from the designed routes.
To achieve such full proof security and safety for the school transportation, the educational institutions in the state should have dedicated school bus or pool vehicles services. If it is impossible to manage a large transportation fleet; the school can hire external agencies with the authorization of the respective school Management. Otherwise, the Shillong Public Transport Service (SPTS) of Meghalaya under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme now known as Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation scheme should extend their services as school buses.
More than solving the traffic congestion in the state capital, particularly during school hours, the authorities concerned should think for the School children first, as most parents who drop and pick up the children are either novice drivers or without even the driving licence. It is the same for four or two wheel driving, then the limited parking places within the vicinity of the educational institutions, where many parents parked their vehicle after dropping till the school gets over have caused the jam in the city, therefore public transportation in this case the school bus is the solution to ease the traffic flow.
In a recent controversy, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was heard asking the family members and relatives of the Kushinagar accident victims to “stop the nautanki”, when he visited the site of the 13 school children who died in the collision between a school van and a passenger train at an unmanned railway crossing in Duddahi village. Four other school kids sustained injuries and are being treated at a medical college in Gorakhpur. This unfortunate incident should be an eye opener for all parents as they send their child to school through the congested lanes and bye-lanes.
Even the Supreme Court has issued guidelines for school buses. Some of the important considerations are: “SCHOOL BUS” tags must be clearly and prominently mentioned on the back and front of the buses. The bus must have a medical first aid box and a fire extinguisher. The speed of the bus is also important — it should not exceed 50 kmph. The windows in the bus should be fitted with horizontal grills for the safety of the children. The driver and conductor should wear proper uniforms for better identification. All vehicles should have a valid annual fitness certificate. The name of the school and contact details must be written on the bus and the bus doors should be fitted with reliable locks.
In the case of Meghalaya, none of the stakeholders had ever initiated the public transportation, except once the NGOs had demanded for the same after the city was paralyzed due to traffic jam caused by the breakdown of a truck on the highway near Jaiaw. However, the issue died a natural death. Now it is a compulsory duty of the parents to drop and pick up their wards from school, where the parents of children in 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 Court had earlier order that all educational institutions should have enough space for parking and enabling the vehicles to drop and pick up the students inside the campus. This 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.
Those from the affluent section who own 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 rising 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. The National Green Tribunal meanwhile had only expressed its concern over the output of waste from the drainage and not the accessibility and inclusive structure for public friendliness.
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 ensuring 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 transport; it will surely reduce the number of vehicles for every individual child as being practiced now. The proposed ‘No vehicle movement’ is just a temporary solution, which will surely cause inconvenience to the public in general, and the school students in particular.
Making it compulsory for the school to have public transport; which the Defence and Police departments are adopting will not only ease the traffic congestion, the safety and security of the students too can be maintained. 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 Easter Hill University on various occasion expressed the loss incurred in the bus services.
The sheer number of vehicles that are seen on the city roads is another reason for the daily traffic snarls in the city. Keeping in mind that Shillong is an unplanned city with narrow roads at best, it is no wonder that the vehicles on the streets have to jostle for position, often causing more traffic problems when they move out of queue.
The ease with which people can buy cars now is also another factor as financing has become the order of the day. Nowadays, people can, with very little trouble, procure a car through financing and later pay a very nominal monthly EMI towards the cost of the car.
All it takes is political will and cooperation of the citizens to solve the problem as expansion of the existing lanes is impossible in the city. Therefore, the said parent circles or groups should move the school authority and the state government to make it compulsory to have a public transport system, which will not only ease the traffic congestion, but most importantly ensure the security of the students who have to rush to the school in time and be back home safe and sound.