May 26, 2021 3:17:25 am
AMID THE increase in cases of Covid-19 infections in state prisons, at least 167 prisoners between the age group of 70 and 90 continue to remain lodged in jails across Maharashtra. Most of them did not fall under the category of prisoners recommended for temporary bail or emergency parole as per the high-power committee (HPC) appointed last year in a move to decongest prisons during the pandemic. With fresh increase in the cases inside prisons due to the second wave of the pandemic, the committee met again earlier this month.
“Applications by the prisoners who fall in the category as determined by the HPC and who are 65-and-above and have co-morbidities shall be considered more sympathetically notwithstanding the rejection of their earlier application, if any,” the committee’s recommendations issued earlier this month stated.
According to data made available by the prison department, there are 152 prisoners in the age group of 70-80 years in jail, while 15 are above 80 years of age.
Last week, the Bombay High Court took note of the age-related complications faced by 84-year old Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist who has been in jail since October 2020 after his arrest in the Elgaar Parishad case. Booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Swamy was denied interim bail last year. In a video-conference call from Taloja central jail where he is lodged, Swamy told the High Court that his condition had deteriorated in the past eight months and he was unable to complete even daily chores such as eating, bathing, walking and writing anymore. Swamy suffers from Parkinson’s disease along with other ailments.
Officials said that those with advanced age like Swamy face difficulties in prison, requiring constant help from co-inmates to complete basic activities. “The maximum time of their day and the entire night is spent in confinement. Staffers are on continuous vigil but those with advanced age and health complications have to depend on co-inmates who work as their attendants even if they are admitted to the prison hospitals. During the pandemic, there is added fear of risk,” said an official.
After vaccination was initiated for 60 plus population and those of 45 years and above with co-morbidities, some inoculation camps were set up in select jails across the state. The number of inmates who have been vaccinated from among a total of 35,000 is around 3,000. Swamy is among the few who have been administered the first dose of the vaccine at Taloja jail. Many central prisons, especially in rural areas, are yet to be allotted vaccines to administer to the inmates. Currently, there are 244 active cases of Covid-19 among inmates.
An issue that was raised during another hearing before the HC was the lack of medical staff or nursing attendants in jails as the vacancies have not been filled. The state government has assured the court that the process to fill the vacancies has been initiated and should be completed by mid-July.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.