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Convict hits century with short sentences
- Brewer-cum-burglar goes to jail 100 times in 13 years

Hyderabad, Aug. 27: The Shahid Afridis and Virender Sehwags may not agree, but Gopal Singh knows that the fastest way to reach a century in his form of the game is to avoid the big hits.

He just focuses on quick singles and twos.

Which is how, at age 25 and in a criminal career of just 13 years, he has gone to jail for the 100th time.

It was made possible by the terms of the sentences ' a week here, a fortnight there, with the longest being just two months. For this burglar-cum-toughie-cum-hooch brewer avoids bigger crimes.

The century came this week at the Mampally excise court. As the man of the moment waited in the dock, everybody else ' the judge, excise officials and policemen ' seemed at a loss for words, perhaps a bit overwhelmed by the occasion.

Finally, magistrate Chalapathi Rao cleared his throat and said: “You have come back within 10 days. I have to send you in once again. The jailer (at Chanchalguda jail) told me that even last time, he didn’t want you there. He wished you had been put away for a longer time in a bigger jail. You have always been a bad example for other prisoners serving small sentences.”

The judge was under pressure to sentence Singh for a month so that he would be out of harm’s way during the Ganesh festival.

It was left to inspector Shankar Reddy of Banjara hills police station, who had booked Singh more than two dozen times in the past year and a half, to act statistician.

“Gopal Singh has served 99 prison sentences,” he announced. “This is his 100th.”

“My son hardly stays out of jail. He came out on August 15 and is already back. He was picked up by the police on Sunday and given one month for brewing hooch,” his 56-year-old mother Rukmini, a vegetable vendor, said.

In the six days he was outside, Singh was involved in four street brawls, stabbed a trader for refusing an extortion demand and abused a landlord for refusing to let him sleep on his portico.

The Class VI dropout is indebted to many for his milestone: the magistrates who never gave him too long a sentence; exasperated jail authorities who would throw him out early ' as a “bad influence” on others; and his mother and sister who inform the police as soon as they get an inkling of some fresh mischief on his part.

“We have an arrangement with the police; they alert us when he is let out so that we can take precautions. He steals and makes himself a nuisance even at home,” Rukmini said. “Thank God he is back in jail; we can sleep in peace.”

“Whenever he comes out of jail, I just go and live with my friends,” said sister Bharati.

Inspector Reddy had tried to reform Singh by putting him in an open jail where convicts can read, use computers and work for a small income. But he was thrown out within a week after he started brewing hooch there. Even as a juvenile, he was kept in jail because correctional homes would not accept him.

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