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Prison peeve over campus cowshed

Employees and inmates of Presidency jail, in Alipore, are up in arms over an unauthorised khatal (cowshed) on the premises, being run by a retired warder. Though the jail authorities have lodged a complaint with the civic body, action has not been taken.

“We are fed up with the civic inaction. How can a khatal flourish in a jail, especially with the bungalow of the district magistrate of South 24-Parganas almost bang opposite'” asked jail superintendent S.R. Hussain.

Hussain said on Tuesday he had urged the district administration to remove the cowshed, but it appeared least bothered about the problem. “Some of my prisoners also resent the khatal in the jail. They fear an outbreak of viral fever,” he said.

Displaying a copy of the letter he had written to Javed Ahmed Khan, mayor-in-council member in charge of bustee development and environment, Hussain feared the situation would worsen if the civic authorities remained inert

However, Khan said the Calcutta Municipal Corporation had nothing to do in getting the khatal removed. “The area falls under the jurisdiction of the Public Works Department (PWD),” he pointed out.

State minister for jails and social welfare Biswanath Chowdhury admitted that some retired jail employees in the city and its vicinity have been plying unauthorised trade from the jails, despite the government’s efforts to remove them. “The problem is that in some places, these employees hold the title deeds of the land they have encroached. So, legal complications have cropped up in evicting them,” he added.

A doctor attached to the jail warned that prisoners and jail staff might contract tuberculosis. “Prisoners are more prone to the virus, as a majority of them suffer from various ailments,” he said. “Some of the inmates have already developed the symptoms but a shift to other jails on health grounds is not possible, since they are all high-risk prisoners,” he added.

However, unconcerned about the health hazards, the RSP-controlled Paschimbanga Kararakshi Samity, an association of warders, said it will oppose any attempt to remove the khatal. “We don’t feel that an existence of a small cowshed is polluting the jail. Why should you disturb a person running a small business to earn two square meals a day after retirement'” asked a spokesperson for the association.

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