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‘Hot’ Sahara boss gets a cold shoulder

- Subrata Roy asks for air cooler in jail but gets only a table fan

New Delhi, May 7: If you are in the cooler, it’s just not cool to ask for a cooler.

That’s the message Subrata Roy, lodged in the cooler (jail) these past nine weeks, has received from Tihar authorities after applying for an air cooler.

“It’s surprising how anybody can even think of making such a request,” a senior prison official said. “We were amused.”

Snubs have been raining on the Sahara chief since he was sent to jail on March 4 for ignoring a Supreme Court directive to refund investors. Yesterday, the court rejected his bail plea for the umpteenth time.

“But we have given Roy a table fan,” the official said. “That should be some relief. He has been bathing four times a day but that seems not to have helped.”

He said Roy had sent his application last week saying the heat was “becoming too much to bear” inside the 5ft by 10ft cell he shares with two Sahara directors.

A single ceiling fan isn’t enough for three men huddled inside a small cell in the peak of summer, the industrialist had pleaded. The cell is meant for two but Tihar, with 14,500 prisoners against a capacity of 6,500, can’t afford to be finicky.

One Tihar superintendent recalled that Suresh Kalmadi, the disgraced sports czar and Pune MP, had gone one up on Roy by demanding an air-conditioner in his cell in the summer of 2011. Kalmadi, who spent 10 months in jail in connection with alleged graft in the organisation of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, is on bail.

Officials, however, said Tihar does provide “concessions” to “high-profile” inmates except those the jail manual expressly forbids. Roy has been provided a TV set as well as a pillow and a mosquito net apart from the standard blanket that everyone sleeps on.

“But ACs and coolers are banned. Jails are not guesthouses,” the official said. Roy is allowed seven newspapers, which he has to pay for in keeping with prison rules.

Tihar director-general Vimla Mehra said Roy had been lodged in a separate cell so that “hardened criminals do not harass him”. He sleeps on the floor and eats jail roti and dal. Roy’s lawyers haven’t applied to court for home food, granted only on health grounds.

Jail norms allow twice-a-week visits by family and friends but Roy meets his son and financial and legal advisers every weekday from 10am till 1pm under court orders so he can plan how to mobilise funds and refund the investors.


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