June 7, 2009 4:21:00 am
On June 3,the high-security Arthur Road Jail saw a new superintendent taking charge. No stranger to media glare,jail superintendent Rajendra Dhamne (49) was in charge of Yerwada Prison when actor Sanjay Dutt was imprisoned there after being convicted by the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act Court. Now responsible for guarding 26/11 gunman Ajmal Kasab,one of the most important prisoners in India in decades,Dhamre spoke to Mustafa Plumber on his new assignment.
This is the second time that you have been posted at Arthur Road Jail. Do you find any changes?
I was posted as jailor group II here from 1992 to 1995. Since this is a transit prison,there were around 2,000 prisoners then,and its almost the same number now. One of my priorities this time though will be to try and decongest the jail. With a huge prison functional at Taloja,which is close by,prisoners can be shifted there.
Do you find a change in the kind of prisoners now and then?
It was mostly gangsters then. Now there are alleged terrorists and bomb blast accused who are highly qualified,well-trained and acquainted with the law. But for us,all of them are equal and we perform our duties as per the prison manual.
What are the immediate changes that you plan to introduce at the prison?
I am still going through the arrangements in place. The first thing that I have taken up is the proper maintenance of the jail kitchen,which is in a bad shape.
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Are you happy with the security in place for Ajmal Kasab or will you be introducing some changes?
Things are going smoothly as of now. Besides the jail officials,the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) is also guarding him.
Ajmal Kasab is a special undertrial and the government has taken several security steps to safeguard him. Being the superintendent of Arthur Road Jail,you will always be in the hot seat. How do you feel about it?
When I was the superintendent of Yerwada prison,Sanjay Dutt had been lodged there,and then too,the jail was under the constant focus of media who wanted to get the minutest details about him. I had interviewed Dutt,and accordingly assigned him a carpentry job. Similarly Kasab is also an accused and he will be treated like any other. But yes,extra precautions will be taken and are being taken in Kasabs case,which I would not like to reveal.
Many highrises have cropped up close to the prison. Isnt that a threat to the security?
Yes,surely it is. But in a city like Mumbai,we cannot do much about it. Having a prison so centrally located is always a problem. However,the state government is also aware of the issue and is working with builders to ensure that all buildings that have come up nearby have a window-less wall facing the prison.
Do you have any reformative plans for undertrials?
Yoga is one of the best ways for relaxing the mind and body,and I plan to call the NGOs and other institutions to teach yoga to them. When I was in Yerwada,during my tenure 110 convicts became full-time yoga teachers. I plan to do the same here also.
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