Maharashtra jails overcrowded, lack security: CAG

June 12th, 2009 - 8:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, June 12 (IANS) A government watchdog has expressed concern over severe overcrowding of prisons in Maharashtra and castigated jail authorities for not carrying out their duties and routine inspections.
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in its report for the financial year ending March 31, 2008, released here Friday evening, said that the average rate of occupancy in prisons was as high as 147 percent, as per the records during the period of 2003-2007.

The position was particularly severe in 12 prisons - the central jails in Mumbai and Thane, district jails of Chandrapur, Nanded, Wardha, Sholapur, Kalyan, Byculla, Alibaug, Buldhana, Parbhani and Ahmednagar, where the overcrowding ranged from 157 percent to 402 percent, the CAG noted.

However, during the same period, prisons in Akola, Sawantwadi, Visapur and the Special Jail at Ratnagiri, the Sir J.J. Hospital Prison and Borstal Prison School, Nashik, had average occupancy ranging from only 10-54 percent.

The CAG observed: “Overcrowding in prisons resulted in denial of the required ground, air and lateral ventilation spaces to the prisoners, which could affect their physical and mental health. It also put pressure on utilities such as water supply and sewerage systems. The workload of security staff also increased, hampering their ability to control crime and violence in the prisons.”

The CAG has also expressed concern over the number of skyscrapers coming in the vicinity of the Arthur Road Jail in south Mumbai - where Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Amir alias Kasab is lodged and the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks trial is also proceeding.

In this regard, the CAG pointed out that the work on the buildings coming up under the Slum Rehabilitation Authority scheme has yet to be stopped despite a plea made by Arthur Road Jail authorities to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM).

The report pointed out that “a large number of works relating to improvement of prison infrastructure were not completed. Inspection of prisons were not carried out regularly by the inspector-general of prisons, Pune, and the internal audits of 42 prisons has been pending for periods ranging up to 35 years”.

Apart from lacunae in aspects like maintenance of proper cash books, the CAG pointed to the lack of modern security equipments, closed circuit television, hand-held and fixed metal detectors, walkie-talkies and x-ray screening machines.

Drawing attention to the manpower shortage across the state prisons, the CAG said that nearly 16 percent - 587 of the 3,782 sanctioned posts of security personnel - remained vacant till March 31, 2008.

“Scrutiny of records of the IGP’s office revealed that there were 125 cases of recovery of prohibited items in 26 prisons during 2004-2007,” it said. Of these, 46 pertained to narcotics, alcohol and mobile phones.

Pointing to a laxity in the prison security systems, the CAG said there were recurrences of such cases in several prisons like Mumbai (eight), Thane (six), Yerawada (10) and Kalyan (96), and departmental proceedings were under way in these cases.

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