Tihar jail authorities have shut down all 10 wet canteens for eatables inside the complex following a security audit which notes inmates hatch criminal conspiracies at these places.
The audit and closure of the wet canteens in all 10 jail blocks comes following the killing of two undertrial prisoners, key members of the Neetu Dabodia gang, allegedly by seven gang rivals including the notorious Neeraj Bawana in a moving prison van in August.
“It came to light during investigation that Bawana had hatched the conspiracy with his associates inside a wet canteen,” said sources.
Sources said Bawana created ruckus inside a wet canteen a couple of weeks ago. The prison authorities, however, denied any such incident had happened.
Amid the audit to plug loopholes, South Asia’s largest prison complex witnessed killings on its premises on October 7. A surprise check Wednesday led to a haul of phones and weapons from jail number one.
Mukesh Prasad, Deputy Inspector General of Tihar Jail, confirmed the shutdown of the wet canteens, which had been functioning for more than 20 years. The dry canteens will continue to function.
“Dry canteens provide items such as toothbrush, paste, vests and soap, while wet canteens are for eatables such as pakoras, biscuits, tea, coffee and milk,” said Prasad. The canteens operated by jail authorities initially catered to inmates through coupons and then a debit card system worked out internally.
A Tihar jail source said, “The security audit has revealed the 10 jails are grossly overcrowded, housing 14,209 inmates against a capacity of 6,250. It found the situation becomes worse when all inmates enter the wet canteens.
At such times, officials are not able to monitor their activities properly.”
A few months ago, a Comptroller and Auditor General of India report on Tihar Jail stated the prisoner-population was more than double the sanctioned strength. The report noted the jail was understaffed by 50 per cent.