NIBIR DEKA | SEPTEMBER 17, 2020
Assam has been ranked among the top states in India where COVID-19 protocols have been violated by jail authorities helping the virus to spread faster among jail inmates, a report by The National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT) pointed out.
According to the report, the maximum number of COVID-19 infections in prisons were reported from Uttar Pradesh (35 jails), followed by Madhya Pradesh (34), Maharashtra (32), Odisha (31), Andhra Pradesh (28), Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu (21 each), Assam (19).
In Assam, the 19 jails include: (1) Guwahati Central Jail, (2) Tezpur Central Jail, (3) Silchar Central Jail, (4) Dibrugarh Central Jail, (5) Jorhat Central Jail, (6) Nagaon Central Jail, (7) Nalbari District Jail, (8) Barpeta District Jail, (9) Kokrajhar District Jail, (10) Dhubri District Jail, (11) Goalpara District Jail, (12) Mangaldoi District Jail, (13) Hailakandi District Jail, (14) Lakhimpur District Jail, (15) Golaghat District Jail, (16) Diphu District Jail, (17) Tinsukia District Jail, (18) Udalguri District Jail and (19) Nagaon Special Jail
This has raised eyebrows regarding the COVID-19 preparedness of the jails in the state.
G Plus spoke to Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) Joint Secretary, Dharjya Konwar, who was lodged in Guwahati Central Jail during the early days of the pandemic for close to 200 days.
The peasant leader recalled the days spent inside the prison and alleged irregularities inside the jail. “The COVID-19 protocols were not followed. There was no social distancing and masks were not provided. We even protested regarding the issue,” said Konwar. He also raised the issue of lack of isolation and claimed that there was no separation of the new prison inmates with the old ones. “Initially separation was done but later isolation was made where a 14-day isolated inmate would be kept with the first day isolated inmate. This nullified the entire logic of isolation”.
Earlier, the Gauhati High Court had ordered the Assam government to provide the best treatment to COVID-19 positive prisoners after suo motu cognizance of the rising number of cases inside the prisons. The issue garnered traction after activist Akhil Gogoi had tested positive inside the Guwahati jail.
G Plus spoke to Suhas Chakma, National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT). “There is no way they maintain Covid-19 norms. The prisoners are living on their own and as such there should have been no infection. It only spread from the outsiders entering the prison,” said Chakma. He further raised lapses on the part of the administration that has led to such fallout.
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police (Prisons), Barnali Sharma, responded to this report. “Every country has a different protocol as it is a world pandemic. We have to see that not everyone has the same infrastructure to act,” said Barnali Sharma to G Plus. She also highlighted the over capacity of the jails as a contributing factor to the situation. “We now have started taking positive steps in that regard with new jails coming up to reduce the load and working towards giving proper facilities to maintain health and hygiene,” said the official.
As of now there are 25 jails in which 222 are active cases. A total of 10,980 sample tests have been done after which around 3,100 have been found positive.