Mangalore: School Children Put at Risk by Overcrowded Autos
Brijesh Garodi Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore
Mangalore, Jul 9: Everybody wants to make money, whether by honest means or crooked ways. Nothing wrong in the former, but when it is done by putting other people, especially children's lives at risk, then the matter definitely needs attention and intervention.
Before proceeding, there's another aspect to dwell on - the busy lifestyle of parents that makes them often negligent or oblivious to the risks their children are put in every day, twice a day. It is the harsh reality of today's society that parents seldom have time to ensure their children's safety and well-being.
Put these two aspects together, and what we have is the daily scenario right in front of us - a concern that most of us choose to turn away our eyes from. When we see scores of children bundled into little autos, we look at them with amusement and smiles at their cuteness, but seldom are we shocked at the precarious ways they hang on precious life.
The way children reach their schools is an adventure in itself for them. Balancing on sidebars, hanging on to each other, sitting on the corner of the driver's seat, sitting on laps, or just standing all the way - the kids do not realize the danger they are put in, especially on roads that are anything but smooth. Most of the autos do not even have protective bars, thus increasing their risk many times over.
Most parents of middle class rung of the society cannot afford to send their children to schools in private or separate vehicles, and many fear to trust them to public transport like buses. When such is the case, they are forced to put the safety of their children's lives in the hands of auto rickshaw drivers, who in their turn are too happy to stuff in as many kids as possible in as little space.
It is quite an irony that during day time if one were to hire an auto, the driver does not allow more than four people at a time (five if you negotiate really well with extra fare), but the same driver stuffs in 10-15 children in the same auto in the mornings and evenings!
The danger posed by these autos struck me recently when recently, at Valencia, the driver of an auto rickshaw brimming with school children applied brakes suddenly, throwing a child right out of the auto! Luckily there were no vehicles nearby, and the child escape with minor injuries. It is quite horrific to imagine the serious implications the incident may have had.
Ultimately, who is to be blamed? The auto driver who wants to earn more, the parents who have little choice, or the system itself which allows it? In the blame game, it is the young life that is at risk.
The authorities are not bothered about the issue. On the other hand, they say what can one do if parents do not mind. It is a vicious circle, indeed, where the discomfort of the child has no priority.
In comparison, bigger vehicles like Omni, tempos and school buses are far safer, but are not sufficient in numbers for the large student population.
As is the usual case, perhaps the administration needs a major incident to wake up from its slumber. We donít understand the sense behind 'Prevention is better than cure'.
Need of the hour is strong action against such overstuffing of children in autos, and awareness among parents and auto drivers, and perhaps schools too which should be encouraged to arrange their own transport for their children and make it mandatory at a nominal fee.