Students will not be denied free travel: Tamil Nadu transport department 

Official sources mentioned that tenders have been released for printing smart card bus passes for students, which will include holograms for enhanced security
Picture for representational purpose only | (Pic: Express)
Picture for representational purpose only | (Pic: Express)

Even as the schools prepare to reopen on June 7 in Tamil Nadu, the state transport department has decided to issue free bus pass smart cards in June or July. Approximately 30.14 lakh students are estimated to benefit from this initiative across the state.

Following the COVID-19 lockdown, students wearing uniforms and carrying college identity cards were allowed to travel for free on government buses without any restrictions on the number of trips per day. The delay in distributing free bus passes to students of schools and colleges has resulted in frequent confrontations on government buses, leading to significant financial losses over the past two years, according to official sources.

Carry bus passes
"Although we issued bus passes in the middle of the academic year for 2022-23, no student was disembarked from buses for not possessing the free pass smart card. This year, we have begun the process to ensure that all students carry a smart card during travel. However, none will be denied free travel for want of a bus pass," said a senior official from the transport department.

The Institute of Road Transport, the technical branch of the transport department, has initiated the process of issuing student bus passes on Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) cards. Approximately 1.5 crore has been allocated for issuing smart cards in June or July.

Official sources mentioned that tenders have been released for printing smart card bus passes for students, which will include holograms for enhanced security.

The process of issuing bus passes
"Apart from frequent clashes, there were also difficulties in identifying routes with high student demand. The final numbers of beneficiaries will be known only after we receive a request for free passes from the educational institutions," added the official. Students enrolled in government schools from Classes I to XII, as well as students attending government arts and science colleges, government polytechnics and Industrial Training Institute (ITIs), are eligible for a free bus pass.

The transport corporations in each district will collect the student data, which is duly approved by the heads of the educational institutions, and the same will be sent for the printing of smart cards.

"Once comprehensive data on student seeking passes is collected from each institution, the bus service schedule will also be revised to prevent students from hanging on the footboard of the buses," explained the official.

Funds, number of bus passes for students
The state government has allocated Rs 1,300 crore for the year 2022-23 to seven transport corporations as compensation for free bus passes and the reimbursement has increased to Rs 1,500 crore for the year 2023-24.

Among the seven corporations, the Kumbakonam transport undertaking leads in providing the highest number of bus passes to students, with a total of 7.29 lakh free passes. It is followed by the Villupuram division of Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) with 5.33 lakh passes. The Tirunelveli and Coimbatore corporations each provide 4 lakh passes, while the MTC issues 4.1 lakh passes. Salem and Madurai issue 3.2 lakh and 2.6 lakh free passes to students, respectively.

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