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HindustanTimes Wed,27 Aug 2014

Overcrowded Tihar crying out for reform

Abhishek Sharan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, March 14, 2013
First Published: 23:52 IST(14/3/2013) | Last Updated: 23:53 IST(14/3/2013)

In four days, Tihar jail has reported two deaths of under-trial prisoners. Both were allegedly depressed and were found hanging in their cells.

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The latest 'suicide' incident of Reshma, a 29-year-old under-trial prisoner, has thrown the spotlight on the living conditions in Asia's largest jail. Often characterised by lack of space, inadequate surveillance system and a 30% shortage of manpower, life in Tihar is a daily struggle.    

Reshma, who allegedly hanged herself from a ventilator's iron bar with a dupatta, was reportedly suffering from depression and had been on medication for a year, said prison spokesperson Sunil Gupta. Lodged in sub-jail 6, she was an accused in several cases including an abduction case.

Despite being a known case of depression, nobody suspected that she could commit suicide. A matron found her hanging around 3pm on Thursday, when her cell mates were away at work.

Like her, December 16 gang rape accused Ram Singh too had reportedly shown signs of depression at the thought of either a life term or a death sentence awaiting him. He too was found hanging in his cell located in sub-jail 3. His cellmates were sleeping when the incident took place on Monday. 

All the 10 sub-jails of Tihar are facing an acute space crunch. "Till 2012, Tihar housed around 12,113 inmates though the sanctioned capacity is around half of it. The occupancy of sub-jails to sanctioned capacity was around 194%," said a jail source.

The source added, "Sub-jail 6, which is reserved for women, has a sanctioned capacity of 400 inmates but has around 540 occupants. Sub-jail 3 has nearly 1,907 inmates while its capacity is only 740 inmates." 

Then comes the issue of electronic surveillance. The prison requires 250 more CCTV cameras. Currently, there are just 258 such cameras.

Also, the prison's five psychologists offer counselling only to those who seek it. Though the prison has been conducting a mental assessment of its inmates for a year now, its effectiveness can be gauged from the increasing number of suicide cases. It is not known whether Reshma had been assessed under this study.

As far as Singh was concerned, neither did he seek any counselling, nor was he deemed in need of it.


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