Afreen Zaira/ Sadia Wani/Seerat Nissar
SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir government has failed to reduce the occurrence of overcrowding in private vans used to ferry school children. Crammed into these vans, students from kindergarten to higher secondary classes in Kashmir have no choice but to suffer the daily ride in conditions wholly lacking in comfort, safety and hygiene.
Yawar Iqbal, a 4th standard student, spoke about the overload in school vans. He said there were 17 students in the 10-seater van he takes every day. He said that the window pane he sits next to left a red mark on his face faces as it stuck to the pane all the time. For other students, the congestion is near the point of suffocation, he said.
Another student, Tanzeel of 8th standard, complained that 12 students travelled in his van, all picked up from dispersed locations. He said that he was almost always late to school.
Nazir Ahmad, president of the Private School Vans Association (Sheikh Bagh), said, “We used to pick up around 20 students per van till 2015. In 2016, we reduced the number to 14 after the order given by former Senior Superintendent of Police (Traffic), Maqsood ul Zaman, and keeping in consideration the health and comfort of the students. My association also talked to the presidents of other school van associations, many of whom refused to cooperate and continued transporting more than 14 students per van, ignoring their condition.”
He complained of the traffic division’s lack of response to his complaints sent to their official social media group (on WhatsApp).
SSP Traffic Sargun Shukla draws attention to the need for greater coordination among all concerned. “Before taking any action, it is important to create awareness among the schools, parents and van associations,” she said. “It becomes hectic for us to seize overcrowded vans carrying students, and instead we seize the papers of that particular offending van.”
She pointed to the responsibility of Regional Transport Office that grants permissions to vans fort accommodating certain number of people.
GN VAR, president of the Private Schools Association, said he had forwarded a letter to the transport commissioner three years ago regarding the same issue, but had not got any response. Blaming corruption as the main problem, he said the concerned officials were not applying the law.
The Srinagar Transport Commissioner, Saughat Bishwas, was not available to talk.