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Escape backlash on jail NGO

Calcutta, Oct. 1: The government has asked Prison Fellowship India, a city-based NGO, to wind up its welfare activities in all five central jails in Bengal following the preposterous escape of five criminals from Dum Dum jail last Thursday.

“We have barred the entry of members of the NGO concerned into the jails and also imposed certain restrictions on the welfare activities of other NGOs,” said inspector-general of prisons Joydeb Chakraborty.

Clarifying that NGOs are welcome to work for the rehabilitation of prisoners, he said: “We have information that the ex-convict, Chaitanya Pal, whom the NGO concerned wanted to rehabilitate, had helped the five inmates escape by providing a ladder. After such a mess, we have to be more strict with the NGOs working in the jails.”

However, Ramapada Bhattacharya, superintendent of Alipore central jail, said he had banned NGO activities in the prison for security reasons. “At least for a temporary period, I have stopped activities of all NGOs in the jail,” he said.

Extortionist Sheikh Binod and Myanmarese national Baitha Kima, captured during the city’s biggest drug bust, had fled from the Dum Dum jail by scaling a wall with a ladder allegedly left behind by Pal.

Monoj Chowdhury, the jail superintendent suspended after the escape, tonight said he was being made a “scapegoat”. “It is true I had assigned the NGO concerned to carry out some plumbing work in the jail. But Chaitanya was offered the job by the NGO as part of its statewide jail programme to rehabilitate ex-convicts. How would I know that he would join hands with the criminals to help them escape'” he said.

But jail sources said Chowdhury was aware of Chaitanya’s hobnobbing with some jail inmates, particularly Binod. “As head of the institution, Chowdhury should have been more cautious about handling ex-convicts,” they said.

The spokesman for Prison Fellowship India was not available for comment.

Minister for jails and social welfare Biswanath Chowdhury, who visited the Dum Dum, Presidency, Alipore and the Howrah jails on Monday, is said to have pulled up the officials for “lop-sided” security arrangements. He also ticked off the jail superintendents for not taking up the repair of damaged buildings on a war footing.

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