The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jailbirds prevent great escape

It was the night of October 10, Panchami, when four undertrials made an attempt to escape the city’s high-security Presidency jail by sawing through the iron bars of the cell in which they were lodged for over four to five months. But their attempt was foiled by some old convicts, who raised an alarm.

While confirming this, a senior jail officer said on Saturday that showcause notices had been slapped on the nine warders, who were absent from duty at that time without prior approval of the authorities concerned.

According to Writers’ Buildings sources, the government has taken a serious view of the slackness of the jail staff and sought an explanation from jail superintendent S. Hussain.

They wondered how such a thing could happen when a red-alert had been sounded in all the jails across Bengal, after the Central intelligence agencies circulated the information that terrorists might strike during the Pujas. Superintendent Hussain was not available for comment, as he is on leave.

Inspector-general of prisons Anil Kumar said he had already ordered a probe and asked jail officers to fix responsibility. “We have already segregated the undertrials and lodged them in a different cell for interrogation,” he added.

According to jail sources, all four — Akram Khan, Abdullah Khan, Mohammed Aslam and Mohammed Syed — lodged in cell 19 of the jail in connection with murders and dacoities, had chosen the festival to flee as officers would be busy with the Pujas.

They had prepared some tools with the scrap iron stacked inside the jail’s manufacturing unit. It took them more than a month to saw through the iron grills.

Officers wondered how this escaped the notice of the warders, who are supposed to be on round-the-clock duty.

Gopal Sarkar, secretary of the Paschim Banga Kararaksha Samity, an RSP-controlled jail warders’ forum, refused to buy the argument. “There is a severe shortage of warders in all five central jails, including Presidency. Despite its assurance to recruit 500 warders, the prison directorate has done nothing,” he said.

With the closed-circuit TV sets installed in four corners of Presidency jail remaining out of order for several months, security is at its worse there. For years, all eight watch towers have remained unmanned.

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