School buses, vans choke Delhi roads

NEW DELHI: Just around the time schools get over every afternoon, the major arteries of the city turn into choke points, so much so that ‘school time’ has become synonymous with slow traffic just as ‘office time’ once was. School buses, private vehicles and vans, by parking illegally, crowding the streets and often stopping mid-road, create a problem that has now caught the attention of the standing committees of the and its south counterpart.
To rein in the school transport menace, the municipal corporations will begin by send warning notices followed by penalties for failure to use designated parking spaces. “We are preparing a list of major choke points created by illegally parked school vehicles,” a north official said. “Most of the big schools got building layout plans sanctioned by the civic bodies after showing provisions for bus parking lots on their premises. Now we discover that such spaces are being used for other purposes while traffic spills on to public roads.”

Officials warned that failure to comply with and respond to warning notices could lead to sealing of the schools. “Schools cannot keep their buses on roads in residential areas from morning till evening,” said Shikha Rai, standing committee chairman in . She revealed that the civic body was planning to migrate to a system that regulated the provisions and generated revenue.

“A comprehensive policy should be formulated on the space assigned to schools and charges to be paid for such spaces,” said Rai. “Fines can then be imposed on encroachments.” She added that she has broached the topic with a few schools and the response has been positive. “They are willing to pay in return for the service. This will also ensure regulation, and we are moving in that direction,” she said.

A south corporation official disclosed that the schools pay Rs 5,000 annually as parking fees, but this does not legally entitle them to use public land for parking their buses. Under Sections 320 and 321 of the , such vehicles would be defined as “fixed or movable encroachment” and the civic bodies can take action. “The general public’s right of way cannot be violated. Schools must find vacant plots to be used for parking,” the official added.

The officials are not unaware that the problem has been complicated by the involvement of a multiple agencies. As one of them said, “Many schools are legally located on PWD roads, and while acting against erring schools, Delhi government as well as Delhi Police will have to join the effort.” In this regard, Tilak Raj Kataria, leader of the house in north corporation, urged the state government not to hesitate in acting against violators in areas under its jurisdiction.

The school associations feel the focus should on solution, not penalties. SK Bhattacharya, president of the Action Committee for Unaided Recognised Private Schools, argued, “The duration when these buses are parked on the roads is very short. In the Master Plan of Delhi, there each senior secondary school was to have four acres for the purpose, which has been revised to two acres. How can one create parking space on a couple of acres?” Bhattacharya said ways to improve traffic flow and create parking spaces had to be found in conjunction with Delhi Police.

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