KARACHI: Sindh Transport Minister Awais Shah on Wednesday said the provincial government was committed to ensuring safety of schoolchildren on roads for which a province-wide campaign for removal of CNG cylinders from school vans would be launched next week.
“Our government is committed to ensure that children are safe and secure in school vans as we have planned to launch a campaign against the vans fitted with gas cylinders next week,” said the minister while speaking to reporters after presiding over a meeting on the issue at his office.
He said the campaign would cover the entire province during which “no pressure” from any quarters would be entertained.
“This campaign has a single objective: to make the journey of our school-going children safe. No pressures from anyone will be tolerated,” he said.
Originally, the provincial government had banned the fitting of LPG and CNG cylinders in school vans in August 2015. However, it failed to get the ban implemented since then. Van drivers have been plying their vehicles with impunity.
The traffic police along with transport, education and excise officials will lead the campaign
The minister has already appealed to parents that they should not send their children in school vans having CNG or LPG cylinders.
Accepting the government’s failure, he had said the transport department did not have a force of its own so parents should look into the matter themselves.
On Wednesday, he said the transport department would spearhead the campaign against errant school vans with the help of traffic police.
He said district committees comprising representatives from transport, education and excise departments and traffic police would survey the private schools vans.
“We are dispatching letters to those departments asking them to furnish nominations for such committees. All these committees will be monitored by the transport secretary,” Mr Shah said.
He said the official in charge of a committee concerned would be responsible for any incident in one’s district.
Mr Shah said the ban on use of gas cylinders in school vans was imposed on a court order and the drive could be launched even before next week’s deadline. “Parents, school owners and all other stakeholders should help us in the government’s endeavour to save our children from tragedies.”
The minister said the traffic police would remove gas cylinders from school vans along with officials of other relevant departments. “We will never compromise on this grave issue.”
He said he had also got a proposal from the officials suggesting action against gas stations that refilled school vans with gas.
Last month, six children were hurt after their school van caught fire near Qatar Hospital in Orangi Town. They were shifted to a hospital with burn wounds. Two of them were admitted to the burns ward at the Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi. There were 14 children in the van at the time of the fire. The driver was not injured.
Officials said presence of a gas cylinder was a violation of the charter issued by the transport department which prohibited installation of LPG cylinders in school vans.
The ban was originally slapped on gas cylinders in school vans in 2015, but owners and drivers remained indifferent to it. The order also restricts owners to paint their vans yellow.
With the government’s renewed order to enforce the ban, drivers of school vans went on a strike last month that affected attendance in schools as a number of students could not reach their institutions.
The protest ended when the drivers were assured that CNG cylinders, seized during a crackdown, would be returned.
In the 2015 notification, the provincial government had said: “A college or school vehicle or contract carriage shall adopt the yellow colour coding scheme to distinguish from other vehicles plying the road; ensure the availability of an attendant for the facilitation and safety of students; have an emergency exit, in case of a bus or van; install therein a fire extinguisher; not be overloaded by students; not use LPG as fuel or an oxygen cylinder.”
The education minister had recently said the provincial government would not allow school vans to run on “CNG bombs”.
The government’s notification was in response to a tragic incident in Benazirabad in January 2014 in which 21 children were killed when a school van collided with a truck.
Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2019