Thousands of students studying in private schools in Panvel taluka will have to walk to their institutions or opt for an alternate mode of transport as around 700 vans and other vehicles ferrying them will be stop plying from Friday. The vehicle operators will be going on an indefinite hunger strike to press their demand to alter the process for license renewal for vehicles to ferry students to and from schools.
The operators claim that currently, a large number of vans are running without licenses as they were unable to renew them due to changes in procedures. They decided to go on a hunger strike after talks with the district education department did not bring any positive outcome. The Raigad District Education Department clarified that only the state government can make any changes.
A consent letter from the schools concerned has been made mandatory for vans operators to obtain a new license or renew the old one. Vans have been extensively used as school buses to ferry students since the state government in 2011 allowed light motor vehicles to transport students in them.
Panvel Rickshaw Vidyarthi Vahak Sanstha (PRVVS) president Mr Pandurang Humane said that around 700 vans from (12-seaters to 17-seaters) ferry students studying at over 120 private schools in Panvel taluka that comprises Kharghar, Panvel, Kamothe, Kalamboli, Rasayani and adjoining areas. “As vans will be off the road, around 8,000-10,000 students will face trouble in going to their respective schools,” Mr Humane said, adding that they have no option but to adopt the peaceful protest.
“Since many vans are operating without a license, if something happens, who will be responsible,” Mr Humane pointed out, adding that the consent letter clause is holding up the renewal process. The private van association is alleging that schools in the Panvel are reluctant to enter into an agreement with and give consent letters to the van owners as they already have their own school bus system in place.
Last month, the Raigad District Education Department sent a letter to schools asking all the principals to send in their report regarding the agreement clause within three days. However, according to PRVVS, when they approached the schools, they showed ignorance regarding any such letters.
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