Solar fence to scorch jailbreaks

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  • Published 16.06.12

The sun will soon play the supercop at Jharkhand’s largest prison.

Taking security a step ahead of man and machine power, Birsa Munda Central Jail in Hotwar, Ranchi, — which lodges 2,810 prisoners including 300 Maoists and 200 gangsters — is erecting a Rs 46-lakh solar fence to thwart breakouts and trespassing.

Sources said a three-member team from a Bangalore-based agency conducted a survey on the 40-acre prison premises on Wednesday evening and work is expected to start within a week. Fencing will be done on all sides and atop the existing boundary, which is 18ft high. The four-feet-high solar fence will raise the walls to a formidable height 22ft.

Jail superintendent D.K. Pradhan said the initiative was aimed at beefing up the high-security prison’s immunity shield, which currently comprises 16 closed-circuit television cameras, eight jammers and 20 home guard jawans deployed at various points such as the main gate, the jail entrance and the 12 watchtowers.

“Birsa jail will be the first prison in the state to boast solar fencing. The total cost of the project is around Rs 46 lakh. The fence will have continuous power supply from solar panels. As soon as one touches it, the fence will let out a pulsating energy, like a shock. At the same time, a siren will be set off alerting security personnel who can immediately swing into action,” Pradhan said.

Unlike an electric fence, a solar fence emits a sharp, short, painful, but safe shock, which causes no physical damage. The fence is meant to act as a strong psychological barrier to any intruder or inmate planning escape. After a period of conditioning, its mere presence may be an effective hurdle to jailbreaks.

Notably, the solar fencing project was first announced in 2005 for three jails. Besides the Hotwar prison, the others were Seraikela Divisional Jail and Giridih Central Jail. But, delay being second nature with Jharkhand, the project was stuck in limbo for all these years. Reasons vary from lack of co-ordination between prison authorities and the home department and insufficient funds to inability to select a suitable agency.

“The biggest hurdle was paltry funds sanctioned for this project initially. I don’t remember the exact amount, but it was too little for the job. As a result, it remained unused for two years and was later withdrawn,” conceded a senior official of the home department.

However, officials have, finally, handpicked Ibex Engineering Private Limited. Pradhan said necessary payments had already been made to this agency. “Work will begin in a week’s time,” he added.

The question remains whether a jail, where 14 of the 16 CCTV cameras have remained blind for a year, will be able to maintain a solar fence that is prone to easy tampering.