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Gujrat tragedy stirs panic among parents

Updated May 27, 2013 10:00am


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A woman mourns near a child's casket on the outskirts of Gujrat, 100 miles southeast of Islamabad, May 25, 2013. — Photo by Reuters
A woman mourns near a child's casket on the outskirts of Gujrat, 100 miles southeast of Islamabad, May 25, 2013. — Photo by Reuters

ISLAMABAD, May 26: The incident of Gujrat in which 14 children died has created panic among parents, especially those who send their children through private school vans.

Parents have demanded that there should be a proper system to check on those persons who have been using vans to provide pick-and-drop facility to school going children.

It is pertinent to mention that 14 children and a teacher were burned to death in a village near Gujrat on Saturday when a faulty gas cylinder exploded in the van taking them to school. Seven children were also injured in the explosion as the van caught fire.

Maqbool Ahmed, father of school going children, said the incident highlighted by the media had severely affected him and his family.

“My wife is depressed since Saturday and is not willing to send our children in a private van. Although I also have concerns but I tried to convince her that the standards of vehicles being used for pick-and-drop service in Islamabad are better than those in other areas of country, she is not ready to send children in van,” he said.

“My children study in Islamabad Model School I-8/3, and have been using the van for the last two years. If my wife keeps showing concerns, I will start dropping them in my car but it will increase my expenses because van driver charges Rs2,400 for two children. Besides, it will become difficult to be punctual for my own work,” he said.

Another concerned resident, Uzair Ahmed said some transporters purchased vehicles and others got them on installments from private people. Most of the vehicles were in a bad condition and should not be used for transportation, as 10 to 20 students traveled in each and it could become risky.

Muhammad Yasir, a transporter who provides pick-and-drop service from I-9 to G-10 and G-11 Schools said because of the absence of proper mechanism, most vehicles being used for school going children were in terrible condition.

“I have a 2008 model High Roof which is worth Rs 800,000 and I pick and drop 12 children in one go, but some drivers prefer to buy two vehicles in the same amount to increase their profit. Those old vehicles can be dangerous,” he said.

He added that the administration should have a proper check on vehicles as the lives of children were associated with the quality of those vehicles.

Arshad Khokhar, a transporter who provides the facility from Khayaban-e-Sir-Syed to sector I-8, said he had converted a Shehzore Truck into a school van by fixing a cabin on it.

“I have 56 students and I drop them in two shifts. I regularly maintain my vehicle to avoid any mishap,” he said.

An assistant commissioner of the federal capital, requesting not to be identified, said unfortunately it had become routine to correct mistakes after incidents.

“In September 2011, a bus carrying students of Faisalabad caught fire near Kallar Kahar due to which over 30 students died. In the end it was learnt that bus was allowed to enter on motorway without a fitness certificate,” he said.

He said the same thing happened after the incident of Margalla Towers in 2005; everyone suggested building codes, emergency exits and fire security systems, but after the passage of some time, all authorities forgot it.

“We have a proper system that public transporters should get fitness certificates for vehicles and laboratory tests should be done regarding smoke emission. It was even proposed that a ban on cabs older than 10 years should be placed in order to assure security of citizens, but could not be implemented,” he said.

The assistant commissioner said decision makers sent their children to educational institutions in official cars.

They did not care about private vans providing transport services because only middle and lower-middle class used those vans.

President of Private School Association Malik Ibrar said that it was a tragic incident and the association had decided to ensure that every driver who provided pick-and-drop submitted a fitness certificate to the school.

“We will not allow them to park or pick any student without having a fitness certificate as security and safety of students is our first priority,” he said.

“We have also decided to observe a mourning day on Monday in all schools and hold prayers for the students who died in Gujrat,” he said.


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Comments (22) Closed

muhammad nawaz May 27, 2013 11:06am

The drama of using CNG in vans and cars must stop immediately. We are carrying bombs in our vehecles in order to save few thousand rupees per month. We all are responsible for this kind of episode because we do not speak against using CNG cylinders in our cars and other kind of vehecles

Irfan May 27, 2013 11:09am

All vehicle should be checked by Govt own expense and its facility, this is to make sure of consistency.

Khalid May 27, 2013 11:27am

It is the failure of institute responsible for vehicle fitness certificates. We have never learned lessons what happened after garment factory fire in Karachi. The whole system needs revamp. This was the change required where institute can perform their duties religiously. Those responsible must be punished otherwise such incident keeps on happening. Also media should play responsible role. Just to increase their viewer ship they show such tragic picture which are creating tension and causing damage to the society as whole as well.

Ash Mirza (USA) May 27, 2013 11:36am

First of all, I want to thank Editor Mr. Ikram Junaidi to provide this important article in Dawn News Paper. My recent visit to Pakistan (Karachi) in April, I did notice that students travelling in an old rubbish vans, and most of the vans are over loaded with students. But I was not aware,that those vans run by CNG...Oh my God.. I am in USA for long time, and my Kids went started travelling thru School Bus since elementary school till High School. Provided by the School free of charge. Driver selected by school with clear Driving Record ..and driver follow all rules and regulation. In my opinion government of Pakistan must setup a standard and provide all students safe and solid transportation, and also check the driver driving record and make sure follow the all rules and regulation. I am sure Mr. Nawaz Shariff (PM) must look in to the matter and Provide safe transportation for all student AFTER ALL TODAY'A PAKISTANI CHILDREN ARE FUTURE OF PAKISTAN. God Bless you All....aameen Sincerely, Ashraf Mirza (USA)

shabbir May 27, 2013 12:30pm

What a hypocrisy all around perhaps Presidnet of Private Schools is not aware that so called fitness certificates are stamped / issued to vehciles in seconds while even they are on the roads. Fitness Certification process requires vigours testings and probably 10% if at all, of School vans would pass this test.

Can president of private schools take notice of schools situated on the banks of "Sewerage drains" specially in the area of Town Ship, Wapda Town and adjacent areas. Kids inhale Industrial waste water fumes all the day. Dawn TV pls do a program on it.

Iqbal Mehram May 27, 2013 12:43pm

They all are money makers only, either transporter or educational institute. If you find out more than 90% wagons are running in schools in the terrible condition cross the country.

Tahir Naseer May 27, 2013 12:50pm

In my opinion laws exist for everything. However, they are not followed as they should be. Everyone is responsible. On one hand a few if not many government officials are not performing their duty, taking bribes for wrong deeds such as certifying bad conditioned vehicles fit for use etc. On the other hand, the other stakeholders such as parents, school authorities are not taking any initiatives from their side.

pa1 May 27, 2013 02:23pm

My heart goes for the children who killed in the fire. Its really shocking to imagine the agony the children faced before their death.

NS May 27, 2013 02:45pm

A lot of public vehicles are RTV (Rural Transport Vehicle) which is extremely unstable.. HM should be sued for making such a rollover prone vehicle.

yousaf May 27, 2013 03:07pm

@Irfan: Which Government and what checking and by whom???

abc May 27, 2013 03:07pm

there is no good news ever from pakistan !!

zafar May 27, 2013 03:09pm

Corruption,carelessness and indifference in all aspects of life in this society. Cancer could not be cured with antibiotics and dont say only the rich class is responsible. It involves all segments of society. Very unfortunate and this will be corrected only after a BLOODY revolution. Its all too hopeless.

yousaf May 27, 2013 03:26pm

There is not at all any checking of public transport vehicles.The fitness certificates are issued by accepting bribe.The condition of transport vehicles plying on various roads has to be seen to be believed.No number of accidents over the past few years,'costing several precious lives' have made the agencies responsible budge an inch.So long as there is CORRUPTION,we shall keep paying with the lives of our dear ones.Alas

irfan May 27, 2013 03:59pm

hello this is the responsibilities of our higher authorities for cheking the gas cylinders and other equipment in each n every vehicle of the country now i hope that government may now look into the matters and solve for forthcoming incident like it and irfan van driver may hang for the incident accured in gujrat city i apologies the parents and pray for the jannat ul baqi and they are shaheed n i urged to government pay competation of it to the parents effected by this incident as early as possible they were assets for the our country..thanks indeed.....

ali May 27, 2013 05:59pm

I know certain Vehicle Inspectors. Only thing they look for is the weight of the Methai Box!!

ali May 27, 2013 06:02pm

Punjab Govt. and Federal Govt. Shame on you

Imran Jiwani May 27, 2013 06:07pm

My thoughts are with the people whose kids/relatives have died or have suffered. At the same time I would also like to mention that the condition of the vehicle reflects the amount of money paid for transportation. How can we expect to get top class facility when we cant afford to pay the right price for it? Ask any parents if they would pay Rs 200 to 500 more per child and have peace of mind that their child is travelling in a safe and sound vehicle? which is probably not more then few years old?? Again, my point is not to disrespect any one here and I feel sorry for the deaths/injuries of everyone involved.

Hassan Warraich May 27, 2013 07:34pm

Though nothing could be done to punish the culprits in that brutal system but the punishment for such a heinous crime is hang till death of all the responsible from minister till the right rock bottom employee....and society itself is also not considerate of safety issues and a society where nobody wears seat belts !! We are all responsible in one way or another!!

Caz May 28, 2013 02:30am

Utterly disgraceful and a failed and accursed State

Asma May 28, 2013 05:54am

what i don't understand is why the van driver didn't unload all the passengers before? i mean there is no mention of the driver...just 14 children and a why didn't he make them get off?

waise such vehicles should be checked upon n mostly the hi-roofs n suzuki pick-ups cuz they are in worst van driver used to drive with petrol in a Culligan bottle and pipes running through it leading to the engine n it used to terrify me everytime cuz the van was on CNG and it broke down from time to time and well it was scary cuz honestly it seemed as if i knew more than wut he did abt the engine of his car...but ALHAMDULILLAH

Asma May 28, 2013 05:56am

*ALHAMDULILLAH now he's got his car fixed n itx only running on CNG...

Naseem Altaf May 28, 2013 08:40am

@ali: Do you think the other provinces are any better in checking the fitness of the vehicles plying on the roads. We all are lax in following and obeying the rules & laws : we all need individually to look inside ourselves,too. Perhaps we,the parents, stopped long ago to teach our children to differentiate between right and wrong. All successful nations are marked by the fact that their mothers (and fathers too) teach their babies right from the beginning to do the RIGHT thing. And the result shows in every walk of life.