Jamshedpur : Thousands of city�s school children are traveling to and from school in overcrowded auto-rickshaws everyday. Despite district administration�s initiative to crack down on school autorickshaws and vans, the operators continue to flout the directives.
Many autorickshaws plying on the city�s busy thoroughfares could be seen carrying students more than the permitted capacity. In several instances, the number of minors seated inside the three-wheelers exceeds nine or 10.
Incidences of overloading have become quite visible in the mornings and evenings. Due to absence or inadequacy of public transport, parents depend on autorickshaws for to and fro transportation of their children.
The minors travelling in the overloaded vehicles are packed in pitiable conditions. Worse still is that one or two students could be seen sharing the driver�s seat, oblivious to the risks involved.
And school and lunch bags hang on the hooks fitted to the sides of the autorickshaws, causing discomfiture to other road users. Action is being taken through imposition of fines on erring autos.
�Authorities open their eyes only after an accident. So parents must ensure that the auto drivers they hire follow the rules. They must see that the private autos have a side door and other safety measures.
Though it may be fun for the children and may seem cheaper for parents, overcrowding children in autos is dangerous,” said Dr Umesh Kumar, president of Jamshedpur Parent�s Association.
�It is an open secret that more and more auto operators are hiring children in maximum numbers. The administration too has failed to stop it. Children boarding these vans are at a risk. It is high time that serious steps are taken to end this menace,� Akileshwar Prasad, a member of Shikshit Berojgar Tempo Chalak Sangh.
Prasad further said that due to the �popularity� of vans the demand of auto operators has been hit hardly. Van operators on average charge Rs 1000 per child while the tempo owners are charging Rs.500 on average. Despite the difference parents prefer vans.
�I believe that parents are equally responsible for they think that their children are safer in vans but they too are ignorant of misdeeds of the �van walas�,� conceded Prasad.
A joint effort between the police department and the transport department would be ideal. But the transport department claims its hands are full with state transport matters. It’s passing the buck to the traffic police department, which says it is understaffed and overworked.
“If drivers are flouting the rule, let the police department book cases against them and inform us. For repeat offences, the traffic police department must make a specific request to the concerned RTO in the city to cancel the driving license of the drivers and cancel the permits,” said an officer.
�We are trying, with our existing manpower. We are booking cases epsecially near schools. But the transport department must follow it up with proper action,” said a traffic official.
He said that the Department is planning to conduct a special drive against overloading in autorickshaws. Overloading is a crucial issue since it involves the safety of the children. School children are ferried to and fro in autorickshaws in the city everyday.
�We have seen children hanging on to the rod, overloaded as they are in an autorickshaw, as the driver runs the vehicle at full speed.
Our Administration should have strict rules and regulations in place monitor and levy fines etc till such time we replace them with 4 wheelers. Otherwise it may be a repeat of other accidents that we see everyday,� Neeta Dutta, a parent.