Mumbai : A public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court has sought to highlight the plight of children from tribal families in suburban Goregaon, who have to walk through forest every day risking leopard attacks to reach their municipal school.

Civic authorities have refused to provide buses on the route saying the road is not motorable, the petition said.

The PIL filed by journalist Ketan Tirodkar came up for hearing Thursday before a bench headed by Justice P V Hardas, which asked him to convert it into a criminal PIL and posted it for further hearing next week.

“Time has come to introduce right to travel by public transport as a fundamental right in order to enforce right to education…right to have travelable roads should be made an integral part of the right to education,” the PIL said.

The school is located in Aarey Milk Colony. A part of the area falls in National Park, and there have been instances of leopards attacking children in the recent past.

However, the PIL alleges that civic bus service BEST has refused to provide buses because the road is in a bad shape.

Also, the forest department has refused to fence the school, and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, responsible for making the road, has kept mum, it said.

About 2,500 children study at this school. Though a longer, safer route between Aarey Municipal School to Adarsh Nagar is available, children tend to take the mud track through the forest which is shorter, the PIL said.

Parents of children from Adarsh Nagar, Khambacha Pada and Moroshi Pada have been long petitioning the BMC and the forest

department demanding a bus service and a fence for the school,

the petition said.

The PIL demanded criminal cases against the officers of BMC and BEST for neglecting the issue.

“It is very shameful for an institution like BEST to express such helplessness when its patron body BMC is having an autonomous budget of its own, which is the largest in Asia,” it said.

In the last three years, BMC has spent over Rs 100 crore to fill potholes on city roads and another Rs 3,000 crore on repairing the roads, it said.

“The Adivasi (tribal) residents of Aarey Colony have taken it upon themselves to build this road at their own expense. The ones who are completely penniless will contribute manual labour…Then the largest municipal corporation in Asia (BMC) shall run its esteemed buses on the roads built by the community which have been subjected to exploitation, through times immemorial,” the PIL added.          -PTI

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