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Too many prisoners, not enough space: CAG on Tihar

South Asia’s largest prison complex, from where two prisoners escaped recently, is reeling under a prisoner-population more than double its sanctioned strength and understaffed by 50 per cent of its required workforce, according to a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on Tihar Jail released this month. The CAG report on […]

Written by Sarah Hafeez | New Delhi |
July 5, 2015 3:00:17 am
prison, tihar prison complex, Comptroller and Auditor General, CAG, Tihar Jail, Delhi news, india news, nation news, news The prison shows a 217 per cent occupancy, the reports says. (Source: Express photo by Cheena Kapoor)

South Asia’s largest prison complex, from where two prisoners escaped recently, is reeling under a prisoner-population more than double its sanctioned strength and understaffed by 50 per cent of its required workforce, according to a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on Tihar Jail released this month.

The CAG report on social, general and economic sectors for the financial year ending March 2014 audited the performance (from 2009 to 2014) of the country’s central jail. The key findings of the report expose the dismal conditions at the country’s central prison complex.

The 10 jails under Tihar, as of March 2014, were grossly overcrowded with 14,209 prisoners against a capacity of 6,250. The prison showed 217 per cent occupancy. Moreover, against government rules, 51 undertrial prisoners were found serving sentences more than half the maximum term of punishment for the offences they were booked under, the report says. Also, prisoner welfare takes a backseat in Tihar, the report suggests, because it did not find prisoners with their history sheets or an account of the legal status of their case and the time of their jail term spent and the time pending.

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Moreover, of the little effort made to build new jail premises, some pending for the last 33 years, new jail complexes in Narela, Baprola and Ghitorni “could not materialise due to delay in or non-acquisition of land”, the report says. And, the construction of the jail at Mandoli “could not be completed due to frequent changes in concept, design and requirements”.

Also, the ratio between guarding staff and prisoners was between 1:11 and 1:14 against the ideal ratio of 1:6. The report observed that vacancies for the posts of Welfare Officer, Assistant Superintendent, Warder and Matron ranged from 31 to 44 per cent. There was a shortage of doctors, paramedical, ministerial, factory and Class IV staff by 18 to 63 per cent and all the posts of teaching and wireless staff were vacant.

Moreover, medical facilities were found to be at a gross low in the prison, which has an in-house 150-bed hospital and additional dispensaries in each of the 10 jails. The CAG found that “the hospital was not equipped to face any emergency situation as there was shortage of doctors and other medical staff ranging from 18 to 62 per cent. The hospital was lacking in facilities like ultrasound machines, endoscopy, echocardiogram, 24-hour pathology laboratory and an well-equipped operation theatre. As a result, the hospital was forced to refer inmates to outside hospitals even for OPD. During 2009-14, prisoners were referred to outside hospitals on 93,224 occasions”.

Control over entry of prohibited items was inadequate, despite huge expenditure on security items such as CCTVs, it says.

The CAG report also cites gross irregularities in the way funds are used in Tihar. The report found excess payment of Rs 1.30 crore for water charges because the Prison department did not claim rebate from Delhi Jal Board during 2010 to 2014. Also, over Rs 3 lakh was put into the Prisoners’ Welfare Fund (PWF) instead of going to the government. Also, the prison incurred an otherwise avoidable amount of Rs 13.73 crore on penalty to the Delhi Jal Board due to delays, the report says.

The purpose of the audit of the jail, which comes under the Home department of the government of NCT-Delhi, as per the CAG report, was to ascertain if “financial management was efficient, custody and detention of the prisoners was safe and secure, facilities and privileges as envisaged in Delhi Prisons Rules were being provided to the prisoners, reformative and rehabilitative activities were consistent with the objectives of the Act and the rules, and schemes and projects were implemented with economy, efficiency and effectiveness”.

At the end of the audit report, the CAG recommended that the Prison department may consider “speed(ing) up pending proposals for construction of new jails as well as ongoing works in close coordination with PWD and DDA, sanctioned strength of staff in Delhi prisons may be reviewed considering the actual population of inmates, proper maintenance of records/accounts relating to factory units and welfare funds, and facilities and infrastructure in the jail hospital may be upgraded and adequate medical staff and doctors may be posted.”

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