Indore: More than 10,000 buses—that is, almost 40 per cent—need extensive repairs and maintenance, as they have been stationary for almost two years now. In such a condition, parents may be required to drop off and pick up their children at school. The possibility—and feasibility—of plying buses by schools and bus associations is still to be considered.
The Madhya Pradesh government has issued instructions to open schools for Classes VI to XII with 50% capacity on all days from September 1. Following the announcement, private schools are considering various requirements for reopening their institutions and ensuring the safety of the students. School operators have started preparations, but the biggest problem that is troubling for them, as well as parents, is transportation.
About 25,000 school buses operate in the state. They are used to specifically transport children. Out of these, more than 10,000 buses are not in a working condition. Barely 15,000 buses can be plied after the basic maintenance and repairs are carried out. From September 1, if schools decide to reopen, there is a chance that parents will be required to pick up and drop off their kids at school.
Covid-19 norms for buses
According to government instructions, following social distancing norms in school buses, children can be accommodated in buses only with 50% capacity
If buses are to be operated, about 25,000 buses will be required. The reality is that 40% of the buses—that is, more than 10,000 buses are not in a working condition
They are either damaged or have been frozen as assets by banks due to non-payment of instalments
Pay more for bus or bear traffic in personal drop-offs?
Further, the cost of plying more buses with fewer students is likely to change bus charges. Are parents willing to pay the higher bus fee?
Or will we find parents swarming the streets in the mornings and afternoons to pick up and drop off their children?
If parents take a bus, van, taxi or auto for transport, they are likely to pay the full fare. Half the capacity may lead to further increase in fares
If parents do not take transportation and go along with the children on their own, it might be a hassle for working parents. Further, a large number of private cars and two-wheelers dropping off kids in the morning would mean heavier traffic
The biggest problem in operation of buses
Buses have been parked in garages for almost two years. Being stationary and not maintained as usual, the buses are not in a working condition.
Bus operator Nitin Singh said, ‘Till now, we haven’t received any instructions from the school operators or the government. In such a situation, maintenance work of the buses will be done only after we get the instructions.’
The dispute over fitness and so forth in the RTO also continues. With this increased cost of maintenance and increase in diesel prices over 2 years, the bus fees will be hiked.
‘This will put an excess burden on the parents, who are already trying to recover from the precarious economic conditions,’ Chanchal Gupta, a legal activist heading the parents’ association, said.
Further, schools will be operating at half the capacity. This means that a student will attend school for only 3 days a week. How the fare will be charged in such a situation is another matter of concern for school and bus operators!
School education department to take final calls
Even though the state government has announced the reopening of schools, the SOPs for schools are still to be finalised
Schools are hoping that, at the coming meeting, the department will consider all other operational issues, including transport
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