To discuss about the problems faced by more than 50,000 drivers who transport school children, the Karnataka United School and Light Motor Vehicle Drivers Union organised a state level Convention at Town Hall recently. To represent the interest of the drivers as well as parents, the Union entered into a series of discussions with the government and the transport department, as an outcome of which the government has framed a comprehensive policy named ‘School Cab Scheme’.The draft of the policy was issued on June 16 and the rules will be enforced in a month after objections are over.According to the union some of the important objections to the draft rules are as follows:■ The speed limit, controlled by the speed governor, of the private school vehicles should be increased from 40 kms to 60 kms so that they can save on fuel consumption and earn their living even during holidays by working as hired cabs.■ The school safety committee, which would be formed to look into the transportation fee, safety measures and the verification of the documents pertaining to the driver and the private vehicle, should have a representative from drivers union and parents.■ The union has objected to the rule that the age of the private school vehicle should not exceed more than ten years. The union is of the opinion that a vehicle should be terminated on the basis of the fitness certificate and not the age of the vehicle as many of the drivers are in the profession for more than 15 years and they would be left without a source of income if the rule is passed .■ The taxes for the private school vehicles should be made equivalent to that of school owned vehicles. Presently the school owned vehicles pay roughly `600 for a year whereas private school vehicles pay `5100 on an averageSpeaking to City Express about the tax reduction and speed limit objection, Transport Commissioner, T Shyam Bhat said, “The taxes paid by the private school vehicles will definitely be reduced to give the drivers and parents some concession but the speed limit should not be increased because if that happens the drivers will exempt taxes and run their vehicles on private basis. School vehicles should not be encouraged for private usage.”Speaking on the objections about the school safety committee and the age limit of vehicles, he said, “The drivers could be included in the school safety committee and we would consider their objection on age limit of the vehicle.”Another major rule which was raised by the union was on the seating arrangement of the school vehicle.The draft notifies that if the age of the child being carried is above twelve, the child would be considered as one person whereas if the child is below twelve, then the number of children carried shall not exceed 1.5 times of the original capacity. (That is if a vehicle is carrying five children above 12 years of age, it can carry 7.5 children below twelve years of age). Towards this, Radhakrishna, Vice-President, All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC) said, “Since the matter is about school children and the calculation is difficult to follow, let them make it 1:2 (two children for an adult seat). It will be less burden on the parents who pay the fees.”Talking about the seating arrangement, T Shyam Bhat said, “It is difficult to change the seating arrangement clause but we will try our best to see that it benefits the parents, the children and the drivers.”On the other hand the private school vehicle drivers are happy to move from unrecognised job sector to a government recognised sector. Speaking to City Express, Shanmugan said, “The government should include us into ‘Vajpayee Arogyashree’ Health scheme for the poor, which is currently provided to auto drivers and should establish a Kalyan Mandali or Welfare Board to look into the matters of Pension and Accidental Benefits.”Another group which will be affected by the notification are autorickshaw drivers. The school autos are expected to be phased out slowly since the rules do not cover autos. The present rules only put restriction on the number of children travelling in an auto.The plan of the transport department is to discourage autorickshaws ferrying school children and according to highly placed sources in the Transport Department, no such rules for autos will be framed.