It all began in a bathroom in Block One of Dum Dum Central jail about three months ago. It was a secret meeting between ex-convict-turned-plumber Chaitanya Pal, out on bail with a murder case still pending against him, and criminal Sheikh Binod. The only point on the agenda: jailbreak.
The idea, according to jail officials investigating the audacious escape of five convicts on Thursday, had first occurred to Binod when Pal got bail and then returned to prison as a contractor. The two had got on well while Pal was a convict and his return to the jail in his new avatar as a plumber, with free access to the entire premises, presented the ganglord with a golden opportunity.
And the bathroom provided the cover Binod was looking for. Eventually, by the time the escape took place, many more persons, both convicts and warders, had been roped into the conspiracy, and a lot of money had changed hands.
In the investigation launched on Friday by deputy inspector-general (prisons) Anup Tripathi, murky details have emerged. “There is a lot of corruption and the liaison between a section of warders and convicts is so blatant that it made the escape a cakewalk,” said a senior member of the investigating team.
Having arrived at a pact on the escape, Binod needed to sort out two other things: who else would join him and how much money would have to be paid for a “free” passage. Initially, it was decided that Binod would flee with two henchmen, Siu Kumar Rajak and Rambabu Naskar, along with fellow-extortionist Rajesh Khan, all lodged in Block One cells of the jail.
It was decided that Binod, who ran a flourishing “business” from the jail, would make the bulk payment, while the other three would chip in with the rest. But even with the pooled-in resources, they were not being able to meet the demands of Pal.
Then, Binod decided to rope in Myanmarese convict Baitha Kima, also in the same block. “Binod had struck up a friendship with Kima in jail,” Tripathi said. “He was also aware that being a drug dealer, Kima had access to huge sums of money.”
The money was accessed in two ways: for Binod, investigators said, warders made trips to various persons and collected the money on his behalf, obviously for a fee. Kima received his pay-off from his visitors.
After this, Pal got in the ladder — investigators claim with the connivance of jail officials — and the five fled. “We are checking the role of the warders,” Tripathi said. “There was no need to bring in a 14-ft ladder for work on repairing faulty pipes.”