Only 60 per cent out of the total 5,000 school buses and vans in the city have fitness certificates while the rest still operate without these certificates, according to the Pune Regional Transport Office (RTO) officials. Last year, only 40 per cent of school transport vehicles had fitness certificates.
According to RTO officials, it is mandatory for all school buses and vans plying on city roads to conduct an authorised fitness test before the schools reopen.
However, 40 per cent of these vans operators have still not conducted a fitness test on their vehicles, said Vinod Sagare, deputy RTO officer for the Pune region.
He added, “It is mandatory for all the operators to voluntarily conduct fitness test of their school buses and vans before the schools reopen in the city. We have a fitness centre located in Diveagar ghat where these tests are conducted. We have often appealed to the management of all schools to get the fitness tests of school buses done, however, not many are keen on getting these tests done.”
Dhananjay Damle, general secretary of Maharashtra Mandal educational institutions, said, “These fitness tests are indispensable. As far as our schools are concerned, we don’t let the operators run vans and buses until they are thoroughly checked by us. All our buses have fitness certificates and we completely support the RTO in their drive.”
The decision of conducting fitness test before the reopening of the schools was taken following the directives of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court in 2012 regarding safety of children travelling in school buses, vans and autorickshaws.
The school bus transport rules, which came into effect in March 2011, stipulate various regulations on school buses, operators, transport department and school authorities.
The rules apply to all vehicles with a seating capacity of more than 12, but do not apply to autorickshaws engaged in ferrying schoolchildren.
According to Sagare, Pune RTO has prepared three flying squads for the city which will act against those who does not have fitness certificates.
In the action taken by the flying squads, if the vehicles are found running without the fitness certificates, they will be detained immediately until all the tests are conducted.
He said, “Because people are not willingly coming ahead to conduct such tests, our flying squads will keep a check on such violators. While this year, 60 per cent of the school vehicles have done fitness test, the percentage last year was only 40 per cent.”
A transport operator with school buses and vans requesting anonymity, said, “Although the move was an unnecessary hassle as the vehicles have to renew fitness certificates every year, the association will not oppose the move as it involves the safety of children. The directives have come from the high court. So, let them (RTO) do it, though we feel it’s unnecessary. We are not opposing it since it’s for the safety of children.”
Preetha Kadir, a parent, said, “It is a good initiative. This will ensure that school buses adhere to norms. It is an important safety measure.”
What is checked in the fitness test:
1) Brake tests
2) Steering tests
3) Speed governing meters
4) Fire extinguisher
5) Colour of the buses
6) Electrical accessories
7) Paper documents such as insurance, PUC’s etc