In his letter to Bombay High Court, the inmate alleges that:
Jail officials co-opt old inmates to abuse and intimate newcomers, and earn crores from sorting inmates into barracks
Medical and drinking water facilities are a shambles, with 4 doctors for 3,800 inmates and almost no equipment
An under-trial lodged at Mumbai Central Prison, better known as Arthur Road jail, has written a detailed letter to the Bombay High Court complaining about rampant corruption, extortion, sexual exploitation of inmates, and deplorable medical facilities at the jail. In his letter, written in January, he claims 29 people have died in the jail in the past two years, and begs the court to either grant him bail or permission to commit suicide. The state government, which was asked to respond to the letter in January, is yet to do so.
At a hearing last week, advocate Vishal Kanade, who was appointed from the High Court Legal Services Committee to represent the under-trial, said there was a serious lack of medical facilities and even drinking water at the jail. Following this, a bench of Acting Chief Justice BP Dharmadhikari and Justice Nitin Borkar directed the City Civil Court to submit the last two inspection reports of Arthur Road jail in three weeks.
The under-trial’s letter describes how jail officials get existing inmates to teach newcomers how things work there through abuse and intimidation. “Those who enter are made to sit in a corner. Jail officials summon old inmates and tell them to abuse and intimidate them to teach them the ‘rules and regulations’ of prison.” After that, he writes, the new prisoners are made to sit in ‘sexual positions’ to create fear before an official informs them that they can enjoy the best of facilities by coughing up Rs 6 lakh. Next, a medical check-up is conducted before the inmates’ ‘circle numbers’ (barracks) are decided based on how much they can pay. Those with money are sent to the barracks 3, 8, 10 and 12, while the unlucky ones are dumped in overcrowded barracks such as 6, 7 and 11. The under-trial’s letter calls barrack 11 “unhygienic and inhuman, with no place to even sleep”.
This method of sorting inmates based on their paying power allows prison officials to earn between Rs 5 crore and Rs 6 crore a month, the letter says. It adds, “Special tea, salad, tobacco, food and other facilities are provided to those who can continue paying Rs 15,000 a month.”
As for the jail’s medical facilities, the letter says the jail has 3,800 inmates but only four doctors, and that inmates are either denied medicines or given inferior quality ones. “There is only one small and very dirty hospital, which has a broken ECG machine, barely four or five stethoscopes, four or five thermometers, two blood pressure machines and nothing else.” It says the jail lacks facilities to deal with accidents, heart attacks, fits, cardiac problems, addictions and psychiatric emergencies, and that 29 people have died there in the past two years because of this. Inmates are not given the medicines they need.
On drinking water, the letter says the jail has a 25 sq ft water tank that’s 10 feet deep that hasn’t been cleaned in years and it is “filled with insects”. The inmates use this water for everything from drinking to washing and cleaning, the letter says. Water from an adjacent nullah that carries waste mixes with the drinking water every time the nullah overflows, it adds.
The inmate ends his letter by writing, “Since these atrocities have been committed on us, please grant us bail and kindly direct the government to compensate us and give us an opportunity to prove our innocence. If that is not possible, just like in Hyderabad (where four alleged rapists were gunned down by the police) we all should be killed in a police encounter so that we do not have to die every day in these conditions. Our mental condition is such that we are left with no other option but to commit suicide. Therefore allow all of us to commit mass suicide.”