19 Mar 2023  |   06:18am IST

Rough Ride for School Kids

The State has seen a rampant rise in unregulated transportation of school children due to the lack of clear dereliction of duties to keep a check on the vehicles transporting school students. Several private vehicles are seen transporting school children in vehicles older than 15 years, which is against the law. PRATIK PARAB finds that even after several intimations to the lead agencies and schools, the compliance to abide by the regulations for school buses is not being followed by any of the stakeholders
Rough Ride for School Kids

The transportation of school children is governed by Goa Motor Vehicles (Regulations for School Buses) Rules, 2015 which in fact lays down very strict rules for vehicles and operators who take up the transportation of children to schools. 

The rules very clearly prohibit any vehicles which do not have a valid Contract Carriage Permit. In addition to other rules, the use of vehicles which have exceeded the age of 15 years since registration shall not be permitted to take up the transportation. The rules also mandate the vehicle to be fitted with a speed governor.

A major chunk of the total number of students in Goa studying mostly in primary and middle school are currently being ferried from school to home and vice versa in Balrath buses and private vehicles. However, caution is thrown to the winds by all the operators. Today vehicles older than 15 years, which neigher have safety apparatus, nor contract carriage permits are being operated without any fear of the law.

Consequent to the above violations, in a meeting with the Director General of Police (DGP) Jaspal Singh, the Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (GSCPCR) had demanded for sustained crackdown on juvenile riders through special drives near prominent schools and also on private vehicles ferrying children without permits, as well as overloading of children. The Commission was of the opinion that these acts put children at risk.

There were a total 2,77,063 students in the year 2020-21, which included students from Government, aided and unaided schools. From total students, the total primary students are 95,762 middle schools are 70,426 high schools are 72,739 and higher secondary schools are 38,136.

The total number of schools in Goa is 1727 for the year 2020-21 which includes Government, aided and unaided schools. Out of the 1727 schools, 1139 are primary schools. There are 54 middle schools and 425 high schools, in addition to 109 higher secondary schools.

It may be recalled that after a news report showing that students were cramped inside a ‘Balrath’ mini bus, the Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights had then reminded that section 13, 1 (c) and Section 13, 1 (j) of CPCR Act, 2005 empowered the GSCPCR to investigate complaints and violation of child rights and take suo- motu notice of such matters. Later the Commission had realised that 60 out of the 419 Balrath buses had no fitness certificates which put the students in danger.

The report showed that the children are being transported to schools in a very hazardous manner, without taking into consideration the Goa Motor Vehicles (Regulations for School Buses) Rules, 2015). It also poses a serious health risk as crowded vehicles not only flout the Covid-19 related precautionary measures but can also lead to suffocation of children. 

The Director of Education and the Police were requested to disclose on affidavit the immediate as well as permanent measures taken to ensure the safety of children going to schools. The responsible departments were also requested to look into vehicles illegally operating as school transport and also report the status regarding implementation of the rules governing the transport system. 

The GSCPCR had also asked the departments to establish the Children Safety Committee and Children Transport Committee. It was envisaged that the Children Safety Committee would discuss, decide and recommend the issues pertaining to safety of children and their transportation under the Chairmanship of District Magistrate.

In addition to Every school was also expected to constitute a Children Transport Committee to look into the matters pertaining to safe transportation of school children, transportation fees and identification of bus stops among other related issues. 

But, nearly a year has passed, but there is no sign of any compliance from any of the authorities. The GSCPCR Chairman Peter Borges said that he has himself seen many private vehicles ferrying school students without following rules of safe transportation. 

“I have sent at least three reminders to the departments and enforcement agencies to take necessary steps in upholding the set rules. However, the Commission hasn’t received any information regarding their compliance,” he said.

“Are we going to wake up after incidents happen? I have reminded the authorities again. When there was a student kidnapping scare, the Commission had raised the issue. There needs to be a sustained effort to crackdown on these issues that are making children vulnerable due to violations of law,” he said.

It may be recalled that the Deputy Superintendent of Police Traffic, Siddhant Shirodkar had also written to the Director of Education to constitute the committees to monitor the transportation. He had also requested for a quarterly meeting of the said committee.

Director of Education Shailesh Zingde said that the department has already drawn a circular and asked for compliance of the formation of committees enshrined in the rules.

It is also noticed that the schools have no role to play as far as the private vehicles ferrying children are concerned. The Education Director informed that as far as Balrath buses are concerned, their department can intervene and resolve issues. 

“There are some transporters who have official tie-ups with the schools, can be questioned by the Education Department. But, there are many private transporters who ferry children of multiple schools and institutions. They are usually roped in by parents. We cannot question them,” he said.

Parents, while accepting the fact that security and safety of their kids is paramount, also said that for working parents who are sizable in numbers, it is highly impossible to personally pick and drop. 

Divesh Naik from Kharebandh, Margao said, “After my father passed away, the responsibility of managing our shop came wholly on me. I may be able to drop my son to school but for picking up, I have hired a car which picks my son in the afternoon along with other students,” he said.

Expressing concern over the safety of children, Naik added that there are no alternate arrangements for their kids to reach school. 

Nilkanth Gawas from Santa Cruz said, “I have two daughters but their school timings don’t match. Hence, I have no option rather than hiring a separate vehicle for my younger daughter,” he said.

Uday Parab from Bicholim said that he has different problems as far as taking his daughter to school and getting her back. 

“My daughter's school is far from my residence. After the regular classes, she attends remedial classes. Due this, my daughter reaches late from school. In such a situation, it is very difficult to personally pick her up from school and we have to rely upon private vehicles,” he said. 

Pranit Vaingankar from Margao, however, was not ready to compromise on his 

son’s safety. 

“I do not know about other parents, but I am not comfortable letting my son travel with any person except me or my immediate family members. This is because there is no assurance that the private transporters can pick and drop kids home safely,” Vaigankar said.

Suraj Kanekar from Ponda said, “The number of Balrath buses for each school should be increased in the first place. Being less in numbers, these Balraths are always overloaded.”

“Parents and schools are not at fault as modes of public transportation are very poor. Because of this, some parents have to opt for private vehicles,” he said.

“As parents, we sincerely hope that by constituting the committees, we get concrete solutions to this long pending problem. I think the only solution to this is 

to increase Balraths and their maintenance allowance given by the government,” he added. 

Derrick Remedios from Orlim, Salctete said, “The RTO should go to the schools and also check how many old private vehicles are used to ferry children. These vehicles are always overloaded. They are also outdated and absolutely unsafe, thereby compromising the safety of children,” he said.

Mandar Sawardekar, President of the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of a Margao based school said, “The PTAs of schools are always consulted in these kinds of matters. If discussions are held, I am sure all the PTAs will come to a workable solution, because at the moment the parents are facing too many logistical problems.”

The Road Transport Office (RTO) however has a different take on this issue. 

B A Samant, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of RTO said, “There are various factors involved in the student transportation system. Indeed there are some who are without permits, but they are fixed by parents themselves. I am sure the parents take precautions while assigning this job to these transport operators,” he said. 

When asked whether the unauthorised vehicles are taken to task, Samant said, “When we try to enforce the laws strictly, it causes a lot of inconvenience to the students and also the parents. Incidents in the past have created chaos. Hence we try not to enforce the laws on them,” he added. 


Iddhar Udhar