School bus staff demand public toilets from Govt

Mumbai Mirror
News Dated: 

Sporting black ribbons and displaying black flags, school bus owners across Maharashtra and school managements, jointly observed a black day to protest various policies and regulations of the government. While bus owners raised concerns over lack of basic facilities for bus staff at schools, private school managements opposed what they saw as excessive interference from the government in their functioning.

"I have to walk for nearly 10 to 15 minutes to reach the nearest public toilet. It takes half an hour to attend a nature's call. I leave home early in the morning and make eight to nine trips to three different schools, ferrying children. We want toilet facilities just like the other staff. It is even more difficult during menstruation," said Sejal Jaywant Shijwan, a female bus attendant.

Schools always had restricted entry for bus staff, but after the gruesome murder of a seven-year-old boy by the school bus conductor at Ryan International School in Gurugram, stricter restrictions have been imposed.

"If one person does it, does that mean everyone else is guilty? We too have children. We are toiling for our families. I have to walk for five minutes to the nearest public toilet. A bathroom would save us a lot of time and trouble," a driver from Wadala said. Vilas Pingle of Track Transport Aid Ltd., which runs schools buses in the Opera House area, said many of his staff was planning to stop working for school buses altogether, because of the difficulties involved.

Bus owners raised the issue with their respective schools, but realised that schools were under pressure to restrict bus staff, owing to demands from parents' groups and government authorities.

"It is a blame game. School principals say they have circulars from the police department to restrict entry of bus staff. The traffic department wants us to park outside the schools. In the name of safety norms, we don't have basic facilities," Anil Garg, president of the School Bus Owners' Association said.The National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA), which spearheaded the black day protest, demanded autonomy for schools, ease of establishing schools, funding students under Right to Education and appointing an independent regulator for schools.

Over 6,000 schools participated in the protest across the state, including those from Thane and Kalyan. Mumbai schools stayed away because of Diwali holidays.