Central forces to man porous state jails

Ranchi/Jamshedpur, Jan. 18: Police today raided several prisons and the state government decided to depute central paramilitary forces in as many as eight district jails harbouring Maoist leaders in a panic reaction to yesterday’s daring escape by three hardcore rebel leaders from the Chaibasa Divisional Jail.

The jails, labelled sensitive for their vulnerability to rebel strikes in view of faulty construction and the number of Maoist prisoners lodged in each, are in district headquarters of Gumla, Simdega, Latehar, Garhwa, Palamau, Ghatshila (East Singhbhum), Chaibasa and Chatra, almost all of which are Maoist strongholds.

“We are going to have extra security in these jails. We have asked the administration of the respective districts to ensure deputation of central paramilitary forces outside the jails in barracks,” inspector-general (prison) Vijay Kumar Singh told The Telegraph.

Singh said they were also contemplating shifting hardcore rebels from less fortified jails to better ones. Moreover, there is a plan to build more cells and additional infrastructure to house more prisoners in almost every jail.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Singh said despite upgrading three divisional jails to central jails to create more space, most of the prisons in Jharkhand remained over-crowded. “Except for the five central jails, the rest of the jails are overcrowded. What is worse is we do not have adequate staff to handle all the inmates. As a result, jail administrations are forced to take help of prisoners, which is dangerous,” he said.

Singh said in most jails, convicts serving life tended to become the unofficial in-charge of the cell or even the wards. “As these unofficial heads are not accountable to the jail administration, they sometimes take undue advantage of the privilege,” said the senior prison officer. He pointed out that in the Chaibasa jailbreak too, some lifers were on the list of suspects.

He said the administration of various jails had been asked to ensure that the jail manual was followed strictly. Highlighting some of the lacunae in jail security, he said the move to engage former army men had not borne fruit.

Meanwhile, acting on tip-offs, the police today raided several jails. In Garhwa jail, the police seized 13 mobile phones, 17 chargers, a knife and other banned material. “Two SIM cards, a knife, a pair of scissors and a baton were also seized from inmates,” a senior police officer said.

During a raid in Gumla jail, authorities discovered eight cell phones, 10 SIM cards and two knives.

The IG (prison) said directives had been issued to district administrations and police to carry out raids in jails at regular intervals.

The state has 26 jails, five of them central, 19 divisional and two sub-jails at Tenughat and Ghatshila. Central jails are located in Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Palamau, Jamshepdur and Dumka.

Among the sensitive jails, the one at Garhwa lodges 150 rebels, 24 of them hardcore, while Ghatshila has 24, two of them hardcore. Chatra and Palamau jails have one hardcore extremist each, but that they are well-established rebel hubs make it all the more difficult for jail authorities.

In Ghatshila for example, the jail is situated in the outskirts, and houses Naxalite leaders like Ujjwal Sarkar and a few other hardcore rebels.

Birsa Munda Central Jail in Hotwar, Ranchi, is well fortified but the presence of hardcore leaders like Nathuni Mishtri, Uday Shrivastava and Amitabh Bagchi is always a concern for the authorities.

Chaibasa jail, built in the British era, has several structural lacunae. It has one main wall as against the present norms of two. Also, the height of the main wall is about 12-14 feet instead of at least 18 feet, the norm for new jails proposed by the home department.

Concerned over the Chaibasa incident, state home department is now contemplating to ensure all security measures line cellphone jammers, CCTV cameras, baggage scanning apparatus, metal detectors among other things for a foolproof security apparatus.

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