Thursday, December 20, 2007

How safe is Sambalpur jail?

Thursday December 20 2007 12:20 IST
Express News Service

SAMBALPUR: The recent Dantewada jailbreak in Chhattisgarh in which 105 Naxals fled has put the spotlight on safety of Sambalpur Circle Jail here.

The jail houses 29 Maoists, 13 of whom have either surrendered or were arrested recently.

A closer look at the jail reveals it could be a soft target if the Maoists plan to strike to get their colleagues freed.

Built in 1852, the jail was planned to house 300 prisoners but today it is overcrowded with 702 inmates of which 267 are undergoing rigorous imprisonment.

And for all these convicts and Maoists lodged here, there are only 29 cells, which allow them to plan a jailbreak or regroup with hardcore Maoist and explosive expert like James who is among them.

The jail is badly in need of a second line of defence like a wire mesh or a second wall to prevent inmates from scaling the high boundary wall which has become weak over the years.

There is an urgent need to erect watchtowers to step up vigil and so also periphery lighting, CCTV and metal detectors.

Ironically, the jail does not have even an electric back-up, a VHF and as small things as searchlights.
Shortage of staff is another problem. Against sanctioned strength of 62 warders, it has just half that number - 31 warders and a few are always on leave.

Moreover, the old muskets are yet to be replaced with sophisticated weaponry and nor any orientation imparted to warders to face new challenges.

Contacted, Jail Superintendent B B Dharua admitted that there was need to strengthen the security in the jail in the changed circumstances.

He informed that SP Sanjay Kumar had been apprised of the needed measures.

However, Kumar said he had taken up the issue with the IG (Prisons) and the needful would be done

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