Published: 01st October 2021
As reopening looms in Kerala, schools who sold off buses during lockdown scramble to buy them back
Ernakulam District School Trip Drivers Association are getting back its lost members, the majority of them are now in other jobs after their livelihood took a downturn by prolonged school closure
Even as they are set to reopen within a month, Kerala schools are caught in an odd conundrum — many of them had sold their ageing school buses during the lockdown and are now scrambling to provide transportation for their children. Why did they sell their existing buses? Several schools in the state sold off their buses as maintenance costs throughout the pandemic were a burden they just couldn’t carry any longer, according to a news report.
In any other year, maintenance costs of school buses would be included in the overall fees — under the ‘bus fee’ head. But schools in the state and several parts of the country have been shut for more than a year now. "Nearly 200 school and college buses sold in such a manner, mostly by unaided schools, are now available in the second-hand vehicle market in Muvattupuzha and surrounding areas. Though the business in used buses is usual during the start of every academic year, this time the number of such vehicles is many folds more," Muhammad Kunju, a used vehicle dealer in Muvattupuzha told The Hindu.
TPM Ibrahim Khan, President, Kerala CBSE School Management Association, told the daily that the sale of school buses was one of the many problems related to the transportation of students. "Operating school buses with only one student in a seat is just not feasible especially since most of the services operate through the interiors. This leaves the reopening of primary classes uncertain since students of higher classes can either avail other means or their parents will drop them considering the significance of public exams their wards have to take," Khan told The Hindu.
Khan added that the government waiver of tax till the end of this month was redundant since schools were anyway entitled to that by law. What needs to be done is a waiver for the rest of the academic period, he said. "Also, the discriminatory vehicle tax between government and aided schools and unaided schools should also be done away with for which we have submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister," he told The Hindu. While the former needs to pay only an annual tax of Rs 4,000, the latter has to pay Rs 100 per seat.
Meanwhile, the Ernakulam District School Trip Drivers Association, which reportedly has 879 members, has started getting back its drivers — the majority of whom had gone for other jobs after their livelihood was hit by lockdowns and school closures. “We have already intimated the members. They remain hopeful of resuming services in compliance with the guidelines to be issued by schools in consultation with the parent teacher associations for the safety of students," VV Praveen, district general secretary of the association, reportedly said.