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Five scale jail ladder to freedom

It was a plot straight out of a Bollywood rib-tickler. And it would have been funny, had it not been for the identity of those involved.

Five Dum Dum jail undertrials, including one of the city’s most dreaded extortionists and a Myanmarese national arrested during the city’s biggest drug-bust, used a ladder to get away after a leisurely bath and a free lunch on Thursday.

The five scaled the 15-ft-high wall with a ladder, left behind by a clean-up contractor, who had served a stint in the same prison. Then, they jumped off on to the road, deserted due to blinding rain. The fugitives are among the “most wanted” of Dum Dum jail’s 1,400-odd inmates.

Extortionist Sheikh Binod’s area of operation extended from the Lakes to Sonarpur and included the sprawling Alipore-Behala belt. Siu Kumar Rajak, one of his most trusted lieutenants, arrested in 2000 along with Binod, followed his leader out of the prison. So did Baitha Kima, arrested from the rented ground-floor flat of former CBI additional director Upen Biswas’ Salt Lake residence earlier this year. Making up the rear were two extortionists, operating in central Calcutta (Rajesh Khan and Rambabu Naskar).

The prison authorities first discovered that they were short of five inmates during the post-lunch prisoner count that ended at 1.35 pm. A search revealed the ladder, brought into the prison a few days ago by men working for Chaitanya Pal, a former inmate of the jail. Pal had bagged the prison’s pipe and drain-cleaning contract after getting out on bail six months ago.

A reconstruction of the jailbreak showed how meticulously things had been planned. The five, who stayed in separate cells in the same block, lined up with the others at 10.30 am for a headcount before their bath and lunch. Then the five made their way to a spot near the prison’s south-eastern corner, where the ladder waited for them. This spot, authorities later admitted, was chosen with care. The jailer’s bungalow and a cluster of trees hide it from the nearest watch-tower.

The ladder was left back by Pal’s men after work on Wednesday. Thursday being Mahalaya, and because of the rain, the few who turned up decided to work inside the prison.

The Dum Dum police station was alerted around 2 pm. Calcutta Police officials, supported by their South 24-Parganas counterparts, were livid over the escape, as it wipes out all the hard work done to net Binod in a north Calcutta nursing home.

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