During a survey, it was found that most of the private vehicles were at least 20-years-old and without fitness certificates. Most drivers gave wary looks when they were asked to show their vehicles’ fitness certificates, or even their driving licences.
The parents of some students who have hired services of these private vehicles said that they have no choice but to engage them to pick and drop their children.
On the other hand, many private schools, despite charging fees under the head of transport charges, provide no transportation service either, compelling parents to hire services of private vehicles.
“I cannot afford a cab, otherwise, who would have put lives of their children at risk by sending them in such dilapidated vehicles,” commented Faraz, a resident of Moti Mahal in Rawalpindi, who said sending his children to a private school was already burning a big hole in his pocket.
He demanded that the government should bind all public and private educational institutions to have their own pick-drop facilities.
“I wonder how they pass the emissions test,” said Saleema, while expressing utter dissatisfaction with the fitness and condition of the van which ferries her children to a private school.
Most of the parents suggested that the traffic police should go to places where school vans are parked to check their fitness and to scrutinise drivers’ licences, as some drivers have fake driving licences.
Besides fitness issues, CNG kits are fitted under the passenger compartments, which put students’ lives at constant risk, as illustrated by the incident in Gujrat in May, when 17 students and a teacher perish after the CNG cylinder of a school van exploded.
The government’s one-week deadline to remove CNG kits from school and college vans also led to a protest by owners and drivers of private vehicles on Murre Road last week.
“So far no cylinder has exploded. The government wants to destroy CNG sector and deprive us of our source of income,” claimed Sajjad, a driver.
Overloading is another issue the students have to face on a daily basis. Every van and bus carries more students than the capacity. Last year, 37 students were killed in Kalar Kahar when an overloaded bus skidded off the road and overturned.
Regional Transport Authority (RTA) Secretary Awais Tarar said that the deadline for removal of CNG kits is nearing to expire and strict action would be taken against those who did not comply with the ultimatum. “School and college vehicles’ fitness, drivers’ competency and CNG kits would be checked after the deadline expires,” he said.
“The Gujrat cylinder blast incident is still fresh in our minds, which is why we are forcing them remove CNG kits,” he said.
Parents complained that drivers and owners of vehicles were fleecing them by charging hefty amounts by claiming their vehicles were run on petrol and not on gas.
“They run their vehicles on CNG, but charge petrol prices,” said Muhammad Azhar, adding that almost all vans carry two to three cylinders fitted in the passenger compartment.
Sajjad Shah, a teacher, said that the government should strictly implement its policy by removing CNG kits from public as well as private vehicles school and college vans.
“These drivers should no longer be allowed to put the lives of schoolchildren at constant risk,” he said.
Referring to the protest staged by van drivers and owners against the ultimatum to remove CNG kits from vehicles, parents and students termed it a pressure tactics on their part to browbeat government to give in.