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Ray of hope for jail fence

- Solar firm returns after 3 months

Ranchi, Dec. 28: Add the sun as another item on the list of dodgy security ammo at Birsa Munda Central Jail, Hotwar, the largest prison in Jharkhand.

The solar-powered fencing project on the 40-acre prison’s boundary walls started spluttering this week again after three months. The Bangalore firm that the public works department (building construction) had handpicked via tender to put up the Rs 45.41 lakh solar fence, reappeared earlier this week after more than three months of absence.

They had started work in May-June but had disappeared in September.

No one — PWD or Birsa jail authorities — knew why. Now, the prodigals are back and claim to have had some “logistical problems”.

Jail superintendent D.K. Pradhan confirmed “work had started”.

On June 16, The Telegraph had carried a story “Solar fence to scorch jailbreaks”, where the agency’s name, Ibex Engineering Private Limited, was clearly mentioned.

But they have not made their presence felt as jail authorities including Pradhan don’t have the name at the tip of their tongue. Work done till September only included a couple of rounds of surveys, planning and the start of the actual groundwork.

As an idea, the solar-powered fencing is brilliant. Anyone among the 2,800-odd prison inmates attempting to scale the boundary wall will face electric shocks once the fence is in place.

Unlike an electric fence that can prove fatal, a solar fence emits a sharp, short, painful, but safe shock, which causes no physical damage. A siren will also set off, alerting security personnel.

These apart, the wall, 18ft tall, will be 22ft high once the solar fence is installed.

As far as execution goes, it was a jolt to see that the firm’s representatives disappearing less than four months into the job, after completing less than half the work.

Considering the capital central jail has around 2,800 prisoners, the tech vigil of 16 defunct CCTV cameras and eight inefficient jammers do not sound promising.

Now, work on solar fencing has begun, but the question on accountability rears its ugly head.

Pradhan, when earlier contacted by The Telegraph, said the onus of implementing this project lay solely with the PWD (building department).

“Around Rs 45.41 lakh was approved for the project for Birsa jail by the government. As soon as funds arrived in May, we immediately transferred the whole amount to PWD, which later through a tender picked up the agency,” Pradhan said.

PWD employees are not hard taskmasters.

Executive engineer Rashbihari Prasad Singh under whom the project is underway had to be reminded by this correspondent earlier this month that solar fencing work had stopped in September.

Singh had only said: “Bahar ki company hai, kuch problem hua hoga. (It is non-Jharkhand company, there must be a problem).”

He then added that they had paid them part payments of around Rs 8-10 lakh.

Solar fencing was first announced in 2005 for three — Ranchi and Giridih central jails and Seraikela divisional prison — but the project stayed stuck for seven years.

Now, wags can say the solar fencing agency has returned for another term after jailbreak.