IMPHAL, May 23: Even as the sight of school vans being stuffed beyond capacity with children of various age groups are a common sight in the state with no guidelines in place from any authority, fourteen school children of North Eastern English School, Moirang Kampu Khewa Bazaar under Imphal East district fainted inside their school van on the way to the school at around 9.30 am today as a possible fall out of over seating leading to suffocation. The van bearing registration number MN 1A-2638 and driven by one Lukhoi Thongam (22) S/o Thambou of Sanjenbam Samshabi under Imphal East district carries a total of seventeen children.
Eleven of the fourteen children were brought to Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Science (JNIMS) at Porompat while the remaining three were brought down at their homes as their condition were stable. Those brought to JNIMS were Sapam Bony Singh, a student of Class KG; Telem Priyanka Devi and Laishram Mahesh both of Class I; Huidrom Sushma; Thongam Rejiya; Loitongbam Bikash; Sapam Rabishanker; Arabam Jannat; Laishram Thoi Devi and Thongam Niraj Singh of Class II and Sapam Borish of Class III.
When media persons interacted with the children at JNIMS, all of them said that they sensed a foul smell inside the van, making their eyes water and hurt. The children all said they felt intense dizziness just before they were about to faint.
Three of them who were seated in the front seat along with the driver did not faint as they might be getting some air. It was raining and all the windshields of the rear side of the vehicle were closed, they said.
Arabam Jannat threw up while inside the van and at the hospital for 5-6 times altogether. She was administered anti vomiting medicine added to a glucose drip, her mother told reporters. Jannat said all the students were seated tightly inside the van and they could smell something foul inside the van.
Salam Romen, Member of the Takhen Gram Panchayat under Lamlai AC and father of Bony and Borish told IFP that the incident happened due to the carelessness of the driver.
The children fainted when the van reached about 50 meters near the school and the school authority brought the children to JNIMS. The Headmaster of the school M Surkumar paid the treatment charge of around Rs 2,200 for the children, he added.
The parents of the children have incidentally not filed an FIR in consideration that the driver is from their locality though it was heard that the hospital authority filed a complaint to the Porompat Police Station, he said.
When the Principal was approached about the incident it was told that the van service is not under control of the school, he claimed.
“Today’s incident is the first such incident but there are chances that such instances will repeat further if the number of children exceeds the seat capacity of the school vehicle,” Romen added and went on to say how he had requested the driver to decrease the number of children he was carrying in the van.
We do not like it that school vans are filling their vehicles with children as if they are chicken all the while playing loud music and speeding along the congested roads. When we complain, the drivers say that we can put our wards to other vans,”, he added.
The children cannot speak against the driver but cried to their parents that they do not want to be carried in a crowded and congested vehicle. The school authority is appealed to take measures like conducting driver test, limiting the seat capacity etc, he said.
S Sumati, Secretary All Manipur Students Guardian Organization (AMSGO) told IFP that such an incident would not have occurred if the van was not filled with children exceeding the seat capacity, in a commercial and unsystematic way.
School van drivers should take responsibility by taking the children as their own children. Parents’ association of the schools is appealed to be concerned of such issue and to control it, she added while pointing out that schools and van drivers are not following the directive of Supreme Court of India on seat capacity of school vans. They need to set up specific rules and regulations and follow it. All concerned need to work together with dedication and integrity, she stressed.
Meanwhile, the Manipur Alliance for Child Rights has lamented the incident in a separate press release.
The statement has lamented that the incident was a fall-out of negligence and legal actions should be taken up against all those responsible for the incident.
It has further alleged that the school authorities and school van owners’ and Drivers association have failed to check the irresponsible acts of van drivers to cramp the young students inside their van.
It has also expressed the need for a regulatory guideline for the school van drivers.