Bengaluru: Bus operators struggle as schools remain shut | Bengaluru News – Times of India

BENGALURU: With educational institutions closed and lack of financial assistance from government agencies and schools, many private school bus operators are reeling under the crisis.
Though most sectors resumed after Unlock 4.0, educational institutions are yet to reopen. Transport department records show Karnataka has 29,492 educational institutional buses, including 13,951 in Bengaluru.
“It’s difficult for us to survive since there has been no business for nearly six months. Most schools don’t own buses so they hire them from private transporters. Schools with their own buses are collecting transportation charges from parents but those who hired buses are turning a blind eye citing online classes,” said Manoj Padikkal, chairman (school transport wing south zone), Bus & Car Operators Confederation of India.
Padikkal, who runs 250 school buses in Bengaluru, says they are burdened with employee salaries, taxes, loan installments and insurance. “Our main demand is that the government should instruct private school management to inform parents to pay us 50% transportation fees in two installments. We employ trained and certified staff for school buses and many parents know them personally,” he said. Other demands include waiving off taxes, deferment of insurance and extension of loan moratorium. Some operators say they may even have to shut down the business. This could create a shortage of buses once schools reopen. The number of buses needed will be higher as buses may be allowed to carry only half the capacity due to social distancing norms.
“There is no clarity when schools will reopen but most operators won’t survive for long if the government doesn’t extend loan moratorium. We need help from school managements and government. We’re struggling to pay EMIs,” said Naveen Sam of Sam Travels, which operates over 1,000 school buses.
Delhi Public Schools, that runs some of the biggest schools in the city in terms of enrolment, has 650 buses on contract and around 2,400 employees in the transport department. “It has been a nightmare for the company that had leased out buses. Around 150 new buses were purchased for this academic year, which have not been utilised at all. There has been zero revenue. As a school, we’re trying to help them. We extended the contract period so that they can negotiate with banks for loans. We’re also providing rations for drivers and other staff who were paid 40-50% of salary by the company. Some drivers have been asked to go on leave and come back when the school reopens,” said Mansoor Ali Khan, member, board of management.
Some parents are reluctant to send children in school buses due to the Covid scare. “I send my child by a private van operator and haven’t paid money yet. I don’t intend to send her by it if the school reopens before the pandemic dies down. Even while the government issues safety standards for many things, they are not properly implemented. If I have the option of online classes, I’d prefer it. Else, I’ll only drop her at school,” said a parent of a student of Baldwin’s School.

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Sagar Biswas

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