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Hunger strike on, jail staff fall sick

Bhubaneswar/Sambalpur, July 4: The statewide hunger strike by jail employees is taking its toll on their health with around 70 of them being admitted to hospitals today, the second day of their agitation.

Sources said while five employees of the Jharapada special jail in Bhubaneswar were taken sick, the health condition of seven deteriorated in Sambalpur jail. The staff taken sick in Sambalpur jail have been identified as Narayana Prashad Dash, Baidyanath Sahu, Amar Nayak, Devraj Mohapatra, Premanand Khandayat, Premsagar Naik and Phagu Charan Dash.

The jail employees are on strike demanding, among other things, equal pay with their counterparts in the state police department. They had organised silent protests wearing black badges from June 30 to July 2. When the state government had not paid heed to their demands, they launched the hunger strike on July 3.

The All Orissa Jail Employees Association has called for the strike. According to the president of Bhubaneswar sub-committee of the association, Dayamaya Mallick, they had submitted a 12-point charter of demands to the inspector general of prison and the home secretary three months ago.

They have demanded eight hours duty at a stretch unlike the present scheduled which exceeds 10 hours. Moreover, the demands include modern weapons for their safety, as they have to guard hardened criminals. Around 2,000 jail employees of all the 89 jails in the state have been protesting since June 30.

“We staged a three-day protest democratically continuing our daily work. Still they were not bothered about our demands and we sat on hunger strike as per our call. We do our daily duty and also continue with the protest,” said Mallick.

Last night, a woman warder of the Jharapada jail had fallen ill and was admitted to Capital Hospital. This morning, four others, including another woman warder, fell ill and had to be admitted to hospital. Mallick said the prison inspector general met them today and tried to convince the employees. “But, we are not convinced. We will continue our protest till our demands are not fulfilled,” said one of the employees.

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