Prisoners revolt over hygiene

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cleanliness drive under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and chief minister Nitish Kumar's Lohia Swachh Bihar Abhiyan do not include the criminal justice system, apparently. Hundreds of inmates of Sasaram District Jail boycotted their appearance in the local court on Wednesday - in protest against the insufficient number of toilets and drinking water for the prisoners in the court hazat (lock-up) and inside the jail.

By Ramashankar in Patna
  • Published 24.05.18
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One of the undertrial prisoners in Sasaram district jail who had fainted on Wednesday. Picture by Sanjay Choudhary

Patna: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cleanliness drive under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and chief minister Nitish Kumar's Lohia Swachh Bihar Abhiyan do not include the criminal justice system, apparently. Hundreds of inmates of Sasaram District Jail boycotted their appearance in the local court on Wednesday - in protest against the insufficient number of toilets and drinking water for the prisoners in the court hazat (lock-up) and inside the jail.

Rohtas district, of which Sasaram is the headquarters, has been declared open-defecation free.

The jail officials were surprised over the sudden outburst of the undertrial prisoners, who refused to board the prisoners' van in the morning to go to the civil court at Sasaram and the sub-divisional court at Dehri-on-Sone for production in cases lodged against them. They shouted slogans against the district administration and said they would go to the courts only when their demands were met.

"At least half a dozen prisoners have fainted in the court lock-up in the last one week. Foul smell emitting from the filth, dirty toilets, and lack of drinking water has made life of the prisoners a hell. We are forced to live in sub-human conditions," alleged a prisoner, Pradeep Kumar Chandrawanshi.

Other prisoners like Chhote Lal Rai, Ashok Rai and Ajit Kumar Rai echoed Chandrawanshi's views. "We are being treated by the authorities as if we are not human beings," alleged Chhote Lal.

A prisoner fell conscious near the jail gate due to the blistering heat when he was asked to board the prisoners' van on Wednesday.

The in-charge of the court lock-up, K.D. Ram, said that he would take up the demand of the prisoners with chief judicial magistrate Neeraj Bihari Lal in a day or two.

"Their demands are genuine. The basic amenities should be provided to the prisoners. Moreover, both the Centre and the state government have special emphasis on cleanliness," he added.

Contacted, Sasaram jail superintendent Sanjeev Kumar said the prison has 897 inmates against the sanctioned capacity to accommodate 970 prisoners. "The jail is not facing problem of overcrowding these days," he told The Telegraph over phone.

He, however, promised that he would consider the genuine demands of the jail inmates. Some of the prisoners are activists of left-wing organisations and some are also facing sedition charges.

"They are trying to paint a wrong picture outside," the jail superintendent said.

He revealed that the prisoners were taken to court from jail at 6am and they returned after 12.30pm. For nearly six hours they had to stay either in court hazat or on the court premises.

"It's the district administration's responsibility to ensure basic amenities in the court lock-up for the prisoners," said Awadhesh Kumar, senior advocate at Sasaram civil court.