Chandigarh school buses go off road, court rules strike illegal (Lead)

July 10th, 2009 - 9:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, July 10 (IANS) Hundreds of students here were affected as nearly 500 private school buses went off the road Friday against the administration’s decision to fine and impound any buses plying without speed governors. The government approached the consumer panel calling the strike illegal.
The administration had given time till July 10 to bus operators for installation of speed governors.

“This strike is illegal and is causing problems for both students and their parents. Therefore, we have approached the consumer court and it has directed the private bus operators to cancel their strike with immediate effect otherwise a heavy penalty will be slapped on them,” Vandana Disodia, the secretary of the State Transport Authority, told IANS.

“The next hearing is on July 16. If the bus operators do not abide by these instructions, we can also cancel their permits,” she said.

But the bus operators remained adamant.

“The administration is devising ways to harass poor bus operators. Earlier, they increased the permit fees from Rs.650 to Rs.25,000 and now they have instructed us to install speed governors in the buses,” said Manjit Singh, president of the Chandigarh school bus operators’ welfare association.

“We are ready to abide by the administration’s directions but we need some time. Each speed governor costs around Rs.14,000 and this is a big amount to spend for most of us. We have decided to go on an indefinite strike from today and want the administration to extend its deadline,” he said.

Singh said 60 percent of the school buses had already installed speed governors but they would also remain off-road till their demands were accepted by the administration.

However, the Chandigarh administration is in no mood to relax the deadline.

“We have already given enough time to bus operators to install speed governors. The earlier deadline was December 2008 and it had been extended two times before,” Disodia said.

“We will impose fine on the school buses, without speed governors, travelling on the city roads,” she said.

A senior official, who did not want to be named, said: “The bus operators told us to first install speed governors in the CTU (Chandigarh Transport Undertaking) buses. Now all the CTU buses are equipped with it. We cannot give them any more time.”

“To tackle the situation, CTU has decided to start 30 more buses to help the students but their routes have not been decided yet,” he added.

The sudden strike by private school bus operators caught many students, and parents, unawares.

“We were surprised when we came to know about this strike in the morning while we were waiting for the bus at the stop. Neither the school authorities nor the bus operator informed us about it. We thought that school bus was late and our children had to miss school,” said Ashish Sharma, a resident.

Bhavna Mittal, a bank executive and mother of two, said: “I dropped my children to school but nobody is free in the afternoon to pick them. Today, I have requested my neighbours to pick them. If this strike stretches on, it would be a big problem for us.”

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