The state prison department has issued guidelines on how to train guards in the usage of self-loading rifles (SLRs). The weapons were acquired by the department to strengthen security in jails across the state, especially the nine central prisons.
The department had started procuring the SLRs after the budgetary provisions, for the 220 rifles of 7.62 mm bore, were sanctioned by the state government. The department also procured new 0.303-inch bore rifles. Before the procurement of new weapons over the last one-and-a-half years, jail guards used to carry the old 0.410-inch bore muskets, but they were few in number and the quality of ammunition was deteriorating.
Now, in a notification dated December 21, jails across the state have been directed to get their guards trained. “Those selected for weapons training should not have any addictions and should be physically fit. All the respective jail superintendents should get in touch with ‘Daulatrao Jadhav Jail Officer Training College’ in Pune for the required training sessions,” it stated.
Process of enhancing security in jails overdue
The murder of alleged IM operative Mohammed Qateel Siddiqui in the high-security ‘Anda’ cell of the Yerawada jail in Pune in 2012 was a trigger for several important upgrades in the security system of prisons in Maharashtra. In the past, items like cell phones and contraband drugs have been recovered from inside the jail premises. Considering the increasing number of hardened criminals lodged inside the jails, as well as the presence of undertrials and convicts from sensitive cases, the security upgrades were long overdue. After the completion of training, authorities will have to continue taking stock of the security preparedness in the jails, including the condition of weapons and security equipment.
The department had started the process of upgrading its security after the murder of alleged Indian Mujahideen operative Mohammed Qateel Siddiqui in the high-security ‘Anda cell’ of Yerawada Central Jail in Pune in 2012. The security upgradation process involved procurement of wireless communication sets (walkie-talkies), SLRs for guards, hand-held and door frame metal detectors, cell phone jammers and closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras.
“The training should incorporate modules on basic introduction, assembly and advanced firing practice. After the completion of the training programmes, the trained personnel should be part of the round-the-clock security deployment. No untrained guard should be deployed with weapons. At any given point, adequate ammunition should be kept in the armoury of the jail in accordance with the number of weapons allotted,” the notification added.
An officer from the Daulatrao Jadhav Jail Officer Training College said, “Every prison guard is given basic weapons handling and firing training. But the notification is about training the guards on the newly-acquired firearms.”
In July this year, Pune Newsline had reported that the prison department had ordered its officers to carry service weapons all the time when on duty, after a jailer at Yerawada central prison was shot at near the jail while he was on his way to work.
Maharashtra has nine central prisons, 31 district jails and 13 open jails spread across the state. These prisons, as per the figures at the end of November this year, house 36,020 inmates, of which 25,326 are lodged in the central prisons. These numbers include both convicts and undertrial prisoners.