Parents are outraged by the increase in school vehicle fees and demand regulation | Bangalore News
The increase varies from school to school and, in some cases, it can reach 60%. “While I was paying Rs 19,000 before Covid, it’s Rs 36,000 now. I understand the inflation aspect, but it’s almost double what I used to pay. Transport costs now account for almost a third of school fees,” said a parent from South Bengaluru.
“My child’s school has increased bus fares by 62% from what they were before the pandemic. This is unacceptable. How do they expect parents to pay, especially when most of us are facing job loss or zero wage growth. It is high time the government set guidelines for schools regarding these fees and ensure that the rules are followed. Parents can’t afford to run to court every time,” another parent said.
Not many choices: Parents
“As far as transport costs are concerned, no basic rules are followed. In households where both parents work, the family relies heavily on school buses and has no choice but to spit out whatever the school says. Even if concerns are raised, most schools do not respond. Schools must adhere to Department of Education guidelines and form an APE. The PTA, with sufficient representation from all stakeholders, should see the expenses involved and decide on the fee structure,” said PE Chidanandmember of Voice of Parents.
Manoj Padikkal, Chairman (School Transport Wing South Zone), Confederation of Bus and Car Operators of India, said that there were no rules governing school van fees and that many depended on the arrangement between institutions and operators.
“There are several reasons for the increase in fees. There is a difference of Rs 12-13 per liter of diesel before and after Covid. A new bus will cost Rs 5 lakh more than it used to cost. Also, due to severe shortage, the monthly salary of drivers has dropped from 16,500 before to Rs 20,500-Rs 21,000 now,” he said.
“Furthermore, even though the vehicles did not run, their maintenance cost (during the school closure period) was high. And there was also no tax benefit from the Karnataka government. As parents failed to pay transportation costs during the two years of the pandemic, school bus operators now have to pay criminal interest (on loans taken) to finance companies,” Padikkal said.
Experts recommend using more BMTC buses
Campaigners say schools should explore the services offered by BMTC as it could prove much cheaper.
According to them, more schools can take the hired BMTC buses to pick up and drop off children in the morning and evening. These buses may have routes, stops and schedules like any other private school bus, and no other passengers should be allowed during this time. For non-school hours, these buses can run on their regular routes.
Currently, around 200 BMTC buses are in use by 70 schools across Bengaluru.
“Our rates are cheaper than those of private operators, but we are not able to do marketing campaigns to promote our chartered services. We are ready to provide buses for more schools,” a BMTC official said.
“We cannot paint our buses yellow like private buses. But our buses are safe compared to private operators as we have trained staff. In fact, we provide BS-VI buses with CCTV cameras for most schools, especially in CBD areas,” he said.