As many as 126 guards are in the 50-60 age-group at Birsa Munda Central Jail
Ranchi, Sept. 11: Insufficient in number and ageing — the status of guards at Birsa Munda Central Jail in Hotwar presents a grim picture of the security scenario at the high-profile prison in the state capital.
Last week, Monday came as a shock reminder for Birsa jail superintendent D.K. Pradhan of the lack of alertness among the guards, as he spotted two inmates attempting suicide by hanging from the ceiling at a washroom.
Pradhan, who made a surprise visit to the wards raised alarm in the nick of time to prevent the two 40-year-old inmates — Sayad Irfan (lodged on kidnapping charge) and Kaushik Ghosh (loot) — from ending their lives. “We would have been in the soup had they died,” remarked Pradhan.
The superintendent counted the authorities as fortunate that no jailbreak had occurred at the prison so far, though the presence of old guards made it virtually porous.
The jail has around 400 sanctioned posts of guards, but it boasts only 265.
Thirty-four guards are aged between 55 and 60, while 92 are in the 50-55 age group. Besides, 130 guards — all of who are former servicemen working on contractual basis and are therefore not part of the jail’s core security team — are between 45 and 50. Only seven are aged between 35 and 40 and two below 30.
Also, as against eight posts of assistant jailers, four are vacant. Two of the three assistant jailers have been promoted recently and are not well-versed with rules either, according to sources.
Lastly, the prison has one jailer despite sanctioned posts for three.
Pradhan said, “Imagine the condition we are working in to manage security here. Guards who are 50 or above are liabilities for us. Some of them remain on medical leave, while others are so weak and physically unfit that they find it difficult to regularly patrol the jail premises.”
He pointed out that those on yearly contracts earned meagre pay scales, between Rs 10,000 and Rs 12,000. “As a result, many don’t take genuine interest in their tasks. If any untoward incident takes place, they know we can at best only end their contract,” Pradhan said.
The crisis at Birsa jail — which is home to around 3,000 inmates, including around 300 hardcore Naxalites and criminals — is not an exception. Recruitment across the state’s jails has not taken place after the creation of Jharkhand.
Of 1,500 sanctioned posts of warders in the 27 jails, nearly 1,200 posts have been lying vacant. Half the 50 sanctioned posts of jailers and 27 jail superintendents too need to be filled.
Pradhan himself is in charge of four other district jails in Khunti, Simdega, Lohardaga and Gumla.
“We also need better weapons and equipment. Unless fresh blood is infused, our jails will run the risk of being porous,” he cautioned.