Bhadohi in­ci­dent puts fo­cus on school vans fit­ted with do­mes­tic LPG

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Uttarpradesh - Bra­jen­dra K Parashar [email protected]­dus­tan­times.com ▪

LUCKNOW :The Bhadohi in­ci­dent has brought to the fore not only the grav­ity of the risk that in­no­cent school­child­ren are ex­posed to ev­ery day in Ut­tar Pradesh but also the trans­port depart­ment’s fail­ure in tak­ing ac­tion against thou­sands of Omni vans that op­er­ate on il­le­gally fit­ted do­mes­tic LPG cylin­ders with im­punity.

Six­teen school chil­dren were in­jured, three of them crit­i­cally, after the pri­vate van that was car­ry­ing them caught fire when the do­mes­tic LPG cylin­der it was us­ing as fuel ex­ploded in Bhadohi dis­trict on Satur­day.

This is not an iso­lated case of a school van run­ning on ca­su­ally fit­ted do­mes­tic LPG cylin­der, but thou­sands of such ve­hi­cles are said to be op­er­at­ing in this man­ner in ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas all over the state, pos­ing a grave threat to the life of the chil­dren.

“Not less than 25,000 pri­vate Omni vans are en­gaged in trans­port­ing school­child­ren and half of them are ply­ing on do­mes­tic LPG cylin­ders or man­u­ally fit­ted LPG or CNG kits, all in vi­o­la­tion of rules,” peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter in the trans­port depart­ment said.

Such vans ferry teach­ers or even com­mon pas­sen­gers on a num­ber of routes. Since most of the schools do not pro­vide trans­port fa­cil­ity for chil­dren, par­ents of­ten tie up with pri­vate vans to send their chil­dren to schools, ig­nor­ing the haz­ards their wards may be ex­posed to.

“Par­ents treat Omni vans as a safe mode of trans­port for their tod­dlers and they are not con­cerned with the kind of fuel the ve­hi­cle is op­er­at­ing on. This is ab­so­lutely for the trans­port depart­ment au­thor­i­ties to check if such ve­hi­cles are us­ing do­mes­tic cylin­ders as fuel and pe­nalise them ac­cord­ingly,” they said.

The pri­vate vans are vi­o­lat­ing rules in many ways even as the au­thor­i­ties turn a blind eye to the safety of the chil­dren. They ply over­loaded and their driv­ers are of­ten not ex­pe­ri­enced or have a valid driv­ing li­cence.

They also flout the Supreme Court’s two-decades-old guide­lines on be­ing fit­ted with a first aid box, be­ing painted in yel­low and dis­play­ing the name of the school etc.

“But a ma­jor­ity of these ve­hi­cles are not only il­le­gally and dan­ger­ously run­ning on do­mes­tic cylin­ders and flout­ing many other rules, all re­sult­ing not only in fre­quent ac­ci­dents but also caus­ing rev­enue loss to the ex­che­quer as these (ve­hi­cles) are reg­is­tered as com­mer­cial or school ve­hi­cles,” sources re­vealed.

Since pri­vate ve­hi­cles are not sup­posed to ob­tain a pe­ri­odic fit­ness (road wor­thi­ness) cer­tifi­cate from the RTO, their act of run­ning on do­mes­tic LPG cylin­ders or unau­tho­rised fuel kits is not caught un­less the au­thor­i­ties con­duct check­ing on roads. Ac­cord­ing to sources, check­ing for the RTOs/AROs largely means check­ing of trucks and hel­mets, pay­ing lit­tle at­ten­tion to other im­por­tant is­sues.

“If the pri­vate vans are forced to get reg­is­tered as a com­mer­cial/school ve­hi­cle, it will not only bring in ad­di­tional rev­enue for the gov­ern­ment but more im­por­tantly, it will also make it dif­fi­cult for them to use il­le­gally fit­ted LPG/CNG kits or do­mes­tic cylin­ders since any such act will be caught when they come pe­ri­od­i­cally to the RTO for a fit­ness cer­tifi­cate,” sources pointed out.

Much of the prob­lem in UP, ac­cord­ing to sources, lies in the road safety and the en­force­ment wings of the trans­port de­part­ments not act­ing in tan­dem. “The two wings must be merged for bet­ter re­sults,” they sug­gested.

HT PHOTO

▪ The van that caught fire in Bhadohi on Satur­day .

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