Sanjeev Singh arrives at Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi in a bulletproof SUV on Thursday.
Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ranchi/Dhanbad, April 20: Amid heightened security, murder accused Jharia MLA Sanjeev Singh was today shifted from Dhanbad Divisional Jail to the better fortified Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi, overriding the original plan to move him to the porous prison in Dumka.
Sanjeev, a BJP legislator who was arrested on April 11 for the murder of his cousin and Congress leader Niraj Singh in Saraidhela, Dhanbad, was escorted to the Hotwar prison, 165km away, by top administrative and police officers.
A motorcade of seven, led by an armoured van meant to buffer landmine explosions, left the coal town around 9am. The van was followed by the MLA and prison guards in a bulletproof SUV brought from Ranchi. The third vehicle was a minibus carrying 28 armed policemen.
SDO Rakesh Kumar and DSP Dhirendra Narayan Banka followed in their official SUVs, as did acting Dhanbad jail superintendent Pankaj Kumar Sao in his car and around a dozen more cops in another SUV.
Brother and co-accused Siddharth Gautam, besides more than 100 supporters saw Sanjeev off from Court More in Dhanbad where the divisional jail is located.
Sanjeev, who reached Ranchi at 12.15pm, has been lodged in one of the four upper division cells (VIP section), two of the others being occupied by former Congress MLA and murder convict Sawna Lakra and former MLA minister Harinarayan Rai, who is convicted in a disproportionate assets case.
The Telegraph had reported on Wednesday how the original plan to shift Sanjeev to Dumka jail was fallacious given its below par security apparatus.
Of the 18 CCTV cameras at the central prison, only six are operational. There are four jammers, which are outdated and cannot block 3G/4G phone signals. Also, for over 1,300 prisoners in Dumka, including two dozen rebels, the manpower is abysmally low. The sanctioned posts are 70, but the regular strength is barely 22. Ex-servicemen are hired on and off to guard the prison premises.
In contrast, Birsa jail is far superior by the power of 40 CCTV cameras (at least 34 functional), doorframe metal detectors, body scanners and six jammers. The prison also boasts a 4ft solar fencing atop an 18ft boundary wall.
On the manpower front, however, it is starved of permanent staff. Of the 300 sanctioned posts, more than 50 per cent are filled up by ex-servicemen. The jail has over 2,500 inmates, including over two dozen Maoists.
Dhanbad jail superintendent Sao said they had received the fresh communiqué from IG (prisons) Suman Gupta last night, asking that the MLA be moved to Birsa jail in the capital instead of the central prison in Dumka (as was ordered earlier on April 18).
Deputy commissioner A. Dodde reiterated that the objective was to move the MLA to a jail with "comparatively higher security (than Dhanbad) as a precautionary measure" and that the Hotwar prison was better fortified. What Dodde was perhaps hesitant to say is that the initial plan was porous given the arrangements at Dumka jail.
IG (prisons) Suman Gupta, who had refused to comment on the order on Tuesday, was not available on Thursday either.
But, if a Birsa jail source is to be believed, the MLA's family members wanted him transferred to either Ranchi or Hazaribagh central prisons instead of Dumka. "There was hectic lobbying at government level," the source said.
Former deputy mayor Niraj was gunned down barely 2km from home on March 21 along with his personal assistant, a bodyguard and driver. Seven other persons - including three of the Jharia MLA's close aides - have been arrested in the murder case so far and all are lodged at the Dhanbad jail.