PUCL Bulletin, Feb., 2001

PUCL - Dhanbad (Jharkhand):

Inhuman conditions in Dhanbad District Jail

Recently Prabhat Kumar, General Secretary, PUCL along with a member, Dilip Kumar Tiwari were jailed in connection with the peaceful movement of Munidih. This report is based on their first hand experience in the jail.

There is total human rights violation of the prisoners in this jail. It appears that it is not a jail but an institution for torturing the weaker sections. It will not be an exaggeration to say that it is a veritable hell for the have not's and a Royal Hostel for the haves.

Overcrowding

The capacity of Dhanbad District Jail is for 311 men and 9 women. In fact between 1325 and 1450 prisoners were kept there during the year 2000. Due to the special operations by the police during the religious festivals the numbers exceeds so much that the prisoners have to sleep at the doors of the latrines. During the summer season, weak prisoners faint due to heat. The exhaust fan is never in order. The fan does not work for want of electric supply and the lives of the prisoners become pitiable.

The prisoners deprived of their money by the warders

As soon as a prisoner enters into the gate of the jail the constables take whatever money he/she has and do not make any entry in the jail record. Rupees fifty-five of the PUCL General Secretary, Prabhat Kumar, were taken, while entering the jail, by the constable on duty. While coming out of the jail he demanded the amount. To his utter surprise there was no entry in the records at the gate. When reported to the jailer, he expressed his helplessness.

Bidding of the under trial prisoners

As soon as an under trial prisoners enters the jail and reaches the gate (Gumti), the Jamaadaar starts the bidding according to the appearance and status of the under trial prisoners. This is the financial worth of the prisoner during the stay. All illegal facilities (and also legal) are provided on payments based on the bids.

The head of the ward (I/C, Mate) calls a higher bid and takes the prisoner to his own ward

First of all the accused are taken to ward no. 8 (Entry ward). Next day they are transferred to another word. In the entry ward one has to pay Rs. 100/- for stay of one day, else all sorts of torture and humiliation start from this point. They are tortured to keep them awake. All sorts of humiliation take place. They are subjected to sexual torture by the bad elements. In the morning they have to fill the empty pitchers of the different wards. They have to sweep the latrines and bathrooms. On refusal they are pushed to the ground and beaten.

At 11 a. m. the prisoners introduced to the superintendent of the jail. The people are asked to utter only as much as is asked, else the consequences have to be faced.

After the inspection one is sent to the highest bidder. From here the extortion starts. In order to demoralize, an under trial prisoner is subjected to all sorts of threats and insulting words. The demand of money start from Rs. 5000/- (Rupees five thousand) and finalized at Rs. 2000/- per head. It is all right if one accepts, otherwise night torture starts as follows.

a) To get sleep on the naked floor- First of all, the prisoners are forced to sleep on the cool floor at the centre of the hall without any bed sheet or blankets. Bedrolls with blankets and bed sheets are kept in sets near the wall. These are for those who offer money in exchange. The winter is already in but the jail authorities have not given any blankets for the bed or to cover their bodies.

b) To make one sleep in the posture of a scissor (A novel way of torture): the prisoners are asked to fold their knees to accommodate two in one man's space.

Sexual harassment:

Those who do not surrender even after the aforesaid torture are sexually harassed. They are engaged in work from the morning. With the fall of night they are asked to sleep in the (Scissor-type) aforesaid manner. Some rascal type of prisoner (especially prepared for torture by the jail authority) is asked to sleep beside the prisoner. The rascal inserts his finger in the prisoner's rectum. Some times he hurts, presses, and pulls prisoner's penis. They are pinched on the thighs and cheeks. This goes on all the night. The meek and gentle tolerate. Even the courageous prisoners lose their heart and ask their family members for money. Half of the money goes to the higher authorities. Generally people purchases the bed facilities at Rs. 500/- and take their meal with the common prisoners. Facility of better meals is also available on payment.

The price of availing these facilities can be upto Rs 5000/-

Thus the jail authorities extort money according to the means and status of the prisoner. If the truth were to be enquired the sleeping arrangement alone would reveal the story.

Punishment for complaining: If some body complains to the head warder a drama of fighting and quarreling is arranged to put chains, rings, and a bamboo on the legs. One is rescued only after payment.

Arrangement of Meals: Meal is never provided as per the rules of the jail manual. The following data will explain-

As per rule Made available
Gram 87 gms 20 gm
Gur 58gm Nil
Rice 583 gm (Prisoners w/ manual labour 500 gm
Rice 467 gm (Undertrials) 350 gm
Pulse 117 gm Mixture of water and veshan
Potato 117 gm 10 gm
Vegetable 175 gm Radish
Tea 2 cups a day Less than 4 sips
Bread (not known) 6 bread
Curd, fish, meal, oil, from Nov. to Mar. Nil

This way every prisoner is under fed and remains hungry. To faint is the order of the day.

Bamboo packs as instrument for beating- In front of the gate of the jail two half pieces of bamboo are pitched. The so-called offenders of rioting are tied with to the bamboo and are beaten. This leads us to barbarous age.

Jail Hospital- The jail hospital is small, where is the number of patients is large. Three patients sleep on a bed. Another three sleep under the bed. The well to do prisoner who obliges the doctor gets a single bed. The fees of the upper bed and the under bed are different. Those prisoners who are really ill do not get a place in the hospital. They have to live in a different ward.

Assault by the doctor- The jail doctor never examines the food. The patients do not get the prescribed food. The doctor keeps a bamboo stick behind his chair in the chamber. Whoever complains of ill treatment and negligence, the doctor never hesitates to misbehave with and assault him severely with his bamboo stick.

Illness in the jail- Due to polluted water and in-sanitary conditions, cooking food in dirty iron utensils, 80% of the patients are ill, most of them suffering from skin diseases. There are many cases of piles too.

Lepers in the Jail- There are as many as a dozen of lepers. Their lives are measurable beyond imagination. They are compelled to sleep below the stairs of the old prisoner's ward and on the floor beside the stairs.

Insanity as a result of extreme torture- Due to rampant corruption and extreme torture prisoners go mad. I was extremely shocked to when I talked with the prisoners on the matter. The rural poor had lost all the hope of their future and had literally lost their senses. The jail authorities are not inclined to send them to Ranchi Mental Hospital for fear of being caught. The lists of such mad prisoners is as follows -

(1) Sanjeev, (2) Ram Singh, (3) Paras, (4) Shusheel, (5) Ashok Gope, (6) Surendra Mishra.
A few of them have been sent to Ranchi

Suicide in the jail- Three prisoners committed suicide either in the Jail campus, in the Hazat when sent there for trial court. Their names are- Arjun Bawari, Ritesh Vishwakarma, and Naresh Tanti

Earlier the PUCL had formed a three-member committee to probe into the matter of Arjun Bawari's suicide. But due to denial of entry by the jail authorities, the report could not be completed. After we were brought here we learnt that they committed suicide due to physical and mental torture. They were unable to endure the torture unleashed on them. Even today the situation is the same.

Gambling and selling of narcotics: -

Gambling is rampant inside the jail near the Gumti of Jamaadaar, behind the hospital, and the javelin ward. They make bets openly. There is no restriction on smack, ganja, and bhang. Liquor is readily available on payment. It is taken publicly.

Payment of fee from visitors:
· Rs. 5 for entry in the campus.
· Rs. 10 for making requisition.
· Rs. 10-20 for getting meals sent.
· Rs. 60 for wakaalatnaamaa for bail bond
· Rs. 100-500 for release in the evening.
The poor and weak are deprived of their money by constables of the prison for keeping the accounts of extra income (oopari kamaayee as they name it) They use tokens of plastics as money.

No money, no release:

On 28-11-2000 when we were informed of the release list we went to the gate to complete the formalities. At the very moment a ward in charge came and demanded Rs.200 from a released accused (Anil Kumar Singh.). On refusal he was detained the jail in spite of the release of order of the Honourable court. Anil Kumar's brother, yet another accused, who came out the jail with us in the same case, gave his brother's case number as Anil Kumar Singh, Jharia, P. S. Case no. 2734/89.

No action on Hunger strike:
A prisoner, Shri Arbind Kumar, went on fast recently against the malpractices of the jail authorities. His grievances were met, but as punishment he was transferred to another ward.

The drama to earn money:

1. All the latrines have water taps but no water supply.
2. There are water tanks and taps in every ward but no water supply.
3. Blankets or utensils are not available; the prisoners have to buy utensils and necessary commodities from outside the jail.
4. In spite of severe cold they have to sleep on the floor. This is a man made scarcity to extort money. The chief Jamaadaar organizes a weekly meeting where the account of income is discussed and the amount distributed among them.

The old under trial prisoners:

There are under trial prisoner from 1986. One of Arun Gupta, case number is S. T 267/86.
Another under trial prisoners is Shri Rameshwar Pandey, a member of the communist party of India. He has been wrongfully implicated in a dacoity case no. S.T. 499/94. His GR Number is 1049. His name is not in the FIR. He has not been recognized in the Parade. Nothing has been exhibited on search, all the main accused have been released but he is still detained for dearth of resources. There are about 2000 prisoners who are detained only because the necessary formalities are not being done. There are other prisoners, if they are brought to court and they accept their guilt, they would be released because they have already been detained for periods longer then the provision of the punishment. They are detained for long period for trifling charges.

Ill effects on the families of prisoners:

The families of the prisoners suffer economically because of long periods in jail of the head of the family. Many have lost wife and children. Many orphans of the families have become criminals. Wives of many prisoners have surrendered to other males to save their own lives and that of the children. The families are compelled to sell of their land, animals, and house. Who is responsible for this degradation of the families of the prisoners?

The Dhanbad prison is like a hostel for the well to do prisoners. They enjoy many a freedom. There is no bar on their visits outsides. They can be seen socializing with the jailor or other jail officials. They are provided with anything and everything from outside. Anything that they receive from outside is never checked. Their attendance is taken in the evening after that of all others.

The formality of inquiry by the district judge:

The honourable district judge inspects the jail now and then. This si just a formality and it has no effect on the jail administration.

Recommendations for better coordination outside the jail and improvements inside the jail:

We make the following corrective recommendations to tone up and the administration of the jail.
(1) The male administration of the jail and the role of its officials should be enquired into either by the CID or by an independent organisation like the PUCL. Those found guilty of corruption and braking of rules should be punished.
(2) Officials on duty who exploited the prisoners and violated their rights to such and extend that they were forced to commit suicide should be identified and they should be suspended and tried. Absence of any action has led to increased torture and operation.
(3) It is necessary in the interest of better and humane jail administration to transfer immediately all the officials from Jamaadaar upwards. All those in charge wards should also be changed.
(4) Every now and then the food served for lunch and dinner should be checked.
(5) Over crowding is a problem in itself. To solve this problem (a) the new building lying the unused should be incorporated immediately. (b)All eligible prisoners should be bailed out. The practice of granting bail to the bailable prisoners should be developed. (c) State administration, police, Panchayat structure should co ordinate to solve problems of the people.(d) Jail officials who do not maintain diaries should be punished. (e) Steps should be taken to put an immediate and to the practice of rounding up innocent adivasis. (17-year-old Vaski and 13-year-old Silechandra were rounded up in the Dhanbad market where they had gone to purchase cloth. The innocent youth do not even know why they were sent to jail) (f) Government should not blindly use the power to punish. It should be try to solve the problems of the people. (People agitating for the lack of water in the area under Munidih police station were fired upon. People agitating for a road in Baliyapur were rounded up and sent to jail).
(6) Medical facilities in the jail should be improved. The doctors on duty are meant for providing treatment and medicines and not for beating up the sick.
(7) The library inside the jail should remain open throughout the day, not for just half an hour as is the present practice.
(8) Proper arrangement should be made for games, exercise, yoga, and work. So that the prisoners can spend their time usefully
29/11/2000

Dilip Kumar Tiwary, Secretary, Dhanbad; Prabhat Kumar, General Secretary, State PUCL

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