Many of the 2,940 inmates who are out on bail are stuck as there are no vehicles to take them home

Sharmeen.Hakim

Several jail inmates, undertrials and convicts, who have been temporarily released from prisons across the state in a bid to decongest the facilities, were scared that they would contract the virus behind the bars. Many of them have had to walk all the way back home as there was no transport.

As per the April 5 figures, 2940 people have been released on bail from 37 prisons on the recommendations of a high-powered committee.

Udaylal Garshari, who was put in prison because of a fire in the factory he worked in, is desperate to go back home in Rajasthan. “There is so much fear among the inmates. Some of them are certain they are going to die in prison and want to be released so that they can meet their families one last time,” said Garshari who doesn’t know how he will reach home as buses and trains are not plying.

Advocate Aftab Qureshi said that despite getting bail in three of the four cases, his client Amir Khan can’t step out of prison as he couldn’t complete the formalities. “I am not pushing for his bail because he has nowhere to go once he is let out as Khan’s home is not in Maharashtra,” said Qureshi who has asked him to sit tight in the prison because he is “safer inside”.

Shamsuddin Khan, 19, stepped out of Arthur Road prison after 11 months. “I had to walk for seven hours to reach my home in Govandi. No one agreed to give me and my friend a ride,” he said. His father was surprised to see him. “We didn’t even know he was released,” he said. In their 150 sq ft hut, social distancing is an impossible task for eight members.

Ajit Shirke, member secretary of the State Legal Services Authority, said that his organisation has directed all district legal services authorities to speak to jail officials and make arrangements for transport. However, officials of an already overworked prison system said they are doing their best by giving release letters to the inmates and informing the local police station or their relative, and that there is only so much they can do.

When Mirror contacted Arthur Road Prison superintendent Nitin Waichal, he said that things are fine but he isn’t authorised to speak without the Inspector General’s permission.

Deepak Pandey, Inspector General, Prisons, did not take calls or respond to queries.

While a few NGOs are willing to ferry inmates, they said that they do not have written permission to do so.

“The problem is not about dropping off the prisoner because he has an exit card; how will the vehicle return? We had almost readied a private vehicle to ferry a prisoner to his home in Yavatmal, but had to cancel at the last minutes due to lack of written permission from the divisional commissioner,” said Rajendra Vaidya, founder of Varhad, who has worked for the welfare of prisoners in Vidarbha for over 18 years.

“You’ll find several instances where jail officials have gone out of their way for prisoners. A constable even dropped off an inmate halfway to his home, but a majority of them are facing probems,” added Vaidya.

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