In the first case of Covid-19 at Byculla women’s jail, a 54-year old has tested positive for the infection. This is the second prison in Mumbai to get affected after 77 inmates and 26 staffers at the Mumbai Central Jail, popularly known as the Arthur Road jail, tested positive for Covid-19 last week.
According to officials, the 54-year old inmate was referred to civic-run JJ Hospital last week after her oxygen saturation level fell below 90 per cent. While she tested negative on May 8, a subsequent test on Saturday showed her to be positive. Officials said she has been admitted to St George Hospital.
Last week, the medical officer at the jail had also tested positive but he had not reported for duty for at least 20 days, an official said.
Byculla women’s jail is the only prison for women inmates in Mumbai. It also has a male wing. It houses high-profile inmates, including Sheena Bora murder accused Indrani Mukerjea and activists Sudha Bharadwaj and Shoma Sen — arrested by the Pune police in 2018 for their alleged connection to the Elgar Parishad case.
In March, the Supreme Court had directed states to take steps towards decongesting jails while observing that the “bitter truth is that our prisons are overcrowded, making it difficult for the prisoners to maintain social distancing”.
While undertrials facing less than seven years in jail are being released on bail, a notification to release convicts on emergency parole was only issued on Friday.
However, more than a month after Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh announced that 11,000 prisoners will be released to decongest prisons and prevent COVID-19 from spreading in the overcrowded jails, only half that number have been released till date.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Deshmukh said, “We have released nearly 5,500 prisoners already. In the next two to three days, those who are eligible for the process will be released.”