On June 16, a minivan that usually ferries school children was burnt down at Andheri. This could be an accident, however, it raises a big issue of illegal vehicles plying as school vans and buses. On June 9, the school bus operators association had also written a letter to the authorities about such illegal vans plying without fitness certificates, fire extinguishers etc.
This minivan was allegedly not carrying any school children and was going through Mahakali Caves in Andheri (E). People took to social media stating that this there was heavy traffic observed around Mahakali caves road after a school van caught fire near Holy Family High School. The fire was brought under control though there was no respite to vehicular traffic moving towards Andheri station.
According to sources in Andheri RTO, there was no injuries reported and by the time they reached the spot, the fire was extinguished. “This vehicle was registered as a school van and was empty at the time of the incident. We found that the vehicle did not have fitness certificate. We will now issue notice to the owner of this school van under various relevant sections of Motor Vehicle Act,” said a RTO officer on condition of anonymity.
This issue has revived the whole issue of illegal vans ferrying school children. The School Bus Operators Association (SBOA) has stated that vehicles that are less than 13-seater are not allowed to ply as school bus. In a letter written to different government authorities like Mumbai Police, Transport Department among others; the SBOA claimed that they are facing issues because of these illegal school vans and buses operating.
‘These illegal vans and buses don’t have any agreement with schools and they approach the parents directly for starting services. These vehicles are operating without official permit from RTOs, illegally park their vehicles within the range of 100 meters from school and do not follow any school bus safety norms,’ read the letter written by School and Company Bus Owners Association.
“There was an incident of fire that caught a minivan ferrying school children. There are a lot of issue with the running of illegal vans which ferry school kids. The government should conduct a crackdown against these illegal school vans,” said Anil Garg, president, School Bus Owners Association.
Another school bus owner and operator stated that these illegal vans do not have necessary documents like vehicle insurance, permits and fitness certificates. "There are no CCTVs, fire extinguishers, GPS fitted in the vehicles, lady attendant inside for safeguarding female children," said the school bus operator from western suburbs.
The bus operators claim that many times, the schools do not interfere in these matters and that even the parents; to save cost on bus fees, resort to booking these illegal vehicles for plying their children.