Monday, December 31, 2007

Jail shift to stall Naxal threat


Patna, Dec. 31: Bihar government has been periodically shifting prisoners to high-security jails because of the “growing red threat” inside prison premises.

So far, authorities have shifted 22 prisoners to different jails across Bihar. The prison administration decided for the shift after recent protests by 300-odd prisoners at Beur jail following the suicide of Nagina Manjhi at the Buer jail hospital. The authorities had lost control of the prisoners for eight hours.

The recent Dantewada (Chhattisgarh) jailbreak also forced administration to “de-concentrate” the presence of Maoist prisoners in one jail.

Beur jail superintendent D.K. Singh today said: “We have already shifted 22 prisoners from Beur to Buxar and Bhagalpur jails, the two high security prisons in the state.”

Singh added, as there were security concerns, the shift took place secretly and stressed that he had “no knowledge” of the second or third phases of shifting.

The superintendent also confirmed that Ajay Kanu, the mastermind behind the 2005 Jehanabad jailbreak, continues to be lodged in Beur. He did not say if Kanu would be shifted at all. Beur jail has over 100 Maoist prisoners. The jail has 2,560 prisoners as against its capacity of 2,560 prisoners.

“Shifting Kanu has not been discussed so far,” said Singh without adding more.

But inmates are happy that the “conflict” has made the authorities “behave” with them. The inmates add that the jail superintendent has been behaving well with them and have promised them “special” menu for the year-end.

Inspector-general (prisons) Sandip Poundrik, right after the jailbreak, had conceded that some of the Maoists lodged in several jails would be shifted. Bihar jails have over 700 Maoist prisoners with Bhagalpur central jail alone housing over 400. Poundik had added that hardcore Maoists needed to be shifted to prevent jailbreaks and creation of “liberated” zones in jails.

The inspector-general said close circuit television sets would be soon installed in the jails for monitoring of prisoners’ activities. Though the government has sanctioned Rs 20 crore for the purpose, the process is yet to start. Beur jail superintendent admitted that augmentation of facilities would take some time.

“Beur jail houses most of the convicts with a death sentence. We have over 5,000 prisoners in our two jails. We need to shift at least 500 prisoners to other jails,” he said.

Poundrik said the jail administration would also improve sanitation, drinking water and provide regular health check-up in jails.

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