Thousands of children miss school as vans stay off the roads

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New Delhi, Dec 3 (UNI) A strike by van owners in Delhi today forced thousands of children to miss school as the owners threatened to go on an indefinite strike against what they described as ''undue harrassment'' by the Transport department.

Owners of school vans were on a two-day strike from today to demand an end to the prosecution of vehicles that were not running according to the norms.

''We have been demanding more time to meet the norms set by the transport department. The governemnt should realise that we are all poor people who barely earn Rs 5000 to 7000. How is it possible for us to shell out a whopping sum of Rs 70000 to convert our vehicle as per the norms. Infact, most of the vans operating in the city are not even worth that amount,''president of the All India School van Operators Association Rajendra Sharma said.

He said the van owners were demanding that the government give them more time for replacing the existing LPG kits with CNG ones as also installing speed governors and meeting other norms.

He alleged that the pleas of the van owners to the state government fell on deaf ears.

''After a long time, when the Transport Minister announced last week to give one more month to the van operators, the trasnport department went on an overdrive to challan our vans. In fact, they have been asking them to pay hefty challans for violating rules,''Mr Sharma said.

Demanding that the transport department extend the time given to the operators to four months and release all the confiscated vans, the van operators threatened to go on an indefinite strike.

He also urged the transport Minister and the Chief Minister to restrain the transport department which had in the recent weeks coming down on operators with a heavy hand.

Mr Sharma said taking the vans off the roads would cause inconvenience to the school children and their parents.

''As many as 1.5 lakh children in Delhi schools travel by these vans. All of them will be without conveyance in case of a strike.

Today's strike led to 50000 children not going to school,'' Mr Sharma said.

He said the operators had been seeking an audience with the Minister to air their grievances but the he had not responded so far.

''We are trying to meet State Transport Minister Haroon Yusuf.

However, till date, he has not given us an audience. If our demands are not met, we will resort to a prolonged agitation and also gherao Vidhan Sabha,'' Mr sharma added.

There are around 20,000 school vans ferrying children in the capital.

With the increasing number of accidents involving these vehicles, the government has launched a drive to prosecute them if they fail to convert to CNG mode and follow the guidelines stipulated by the Supreme Court to ensure safety of school children.

''We are still waiting for the response of the authorities. In case it does not come, we will be forced to resort to a prolonged agitation and also the gherao Vidhan Sabha,'' Mr Sharma said.

UNI

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