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It's blame game after tragedy

Staff Reporter

Economy, convenience force many parents to opt for autorickshaws



DEATH TRAPS: The front portion of the overloaded autorickshaw, which overturned killing a schoolboy in Hyderabad on Thursday. Photo: P.V.Sivakumar

HYDERABAD: One more young life is extinguished, and the familiar blame game is already on.

The death of a 13-year-old Suchith Bhargav, an eighth class student of St. Joseph's Public School at King Koti in the city on Thursday has once again raised the issue of who is responsible for young lives on the city's streets.

Is it the school management's responsibility to ensure that its students reach the school safely, or is it parents, or should both join hands? Is it the City Traffic Police and the Road Transport Authority (RTA), responsible on paper for implementation of the AP Motor Vehicle Act stipulating the number of students in an auto-rickshaw? Or is it autorickshaw drivers, who in spite of repeated accidents, still clamour for permission to carry ten children? The questions are many, the answers a few and confusing.

School's contention

The St. Joseph school management maintained that parents should prevail upon autorickshaw drivers not to carry more than six children. "We do not have a school bus. The parents arrange autorickshaws. Our request for a bus to the RTC has been ignored for the last one year," Una Morris, principal of St. Joseph's, says.

However, RTC city regional manager C. Panduranga Murthy denies this. "I have not received any such request from this school. In fact, even after offering our services to schools, with the option of them choosing routes and not having to pay anything, none have responded."

Parents cite various excuses. Convenience is one, with autorickshaws coming to their doorstep. Economy is another, with three wheelers working out cheaper than school buses. Overloading has not bothered many, because an autorickshaw that carries only six children charges at least Rs. 800 per child a month, while those carrying more charge lesser.

Autorickshaw drivers still want to carry more than 10 children. Most of them, despite knowing that the AP Motor Vehicle Act bans ferrying more than six children, already pack 10 to 12 students into the rickety machines. The authorities that have to check this -- the Traffic Police and the RTA -- have conducted several drives to book autorickshaws carrying excess children. Not a single drive continued for more than three weeks.

The police now say the rule will be strictly implemented. The Central MV Act says not more than three passengers, adult or children. But for Andhra Pradesh, one adult is equal to two kids. So, the A.P. M.V. Act, Section 389 (A) says:

Four-passenger autorickshaws may carry eight schoolchildren below the age of 12, excluding driver

Three-passenger autorickshaws may carry six schoolchildren below 12 years, excluding driver

Temporary seating arrangements behind driver's seat should be provided. Both sides of autorickshaw should be closed up to arm level with planks of suitable material. A board, `School Trip' should be prominently displayed in the front and rear of the vehicle in red colour.

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