The country’s most-populated and largest prison, which has witnessed many incidents of violence and murders in the recent past, has been managing with just a little over 50% of the total sanctioned strength of guards.
Currently, as opposed to the 1,917 officials sanctioned, which include head wardens, wardens, matrons and other security personnel, there are only 973 officials deputed. The remaining 944 posts remain vacant to date.
The 1,917 posts were upgraded in 2010 for an “ideal” prison strength of 6,250. In the last five years, the prison population has increased more than two fold and stands at 14,800 now. However, the posts have not been increased.
The prisoner-guard ratio currently is 1 guard for 15 prisoners while the ideal ratio, as was proposed by the government in 2010 was 1 for every 3 prisoners. Jail officials believe that the shortage of guards gives the prisoners the opportunity to hoodwink the guards and indulge in violence.
Every time, an incident of violence breaks out in prison, a departmental inquiry is ordered and the guards (mostly wardens) are usually suspended. On suspension the wardens are put off duty and the others have to work in double shifts, in an already understaffed prison monitoring over 14,000 prisoners.
Over 32 guards are currently under suspension but there are no additional personnel to guard the areas where they were originally posted. Many have over the last few years been promoted or transferred, adding to the number of vacancies.
“The guards, matrons and wardens are working in double shifts because we are already facing a staff crunch. Each guard is expected to keep a watch on a number of cells housing over 7 to 10 prisoners. It becomes difficult for them to keep a constant check because of staff crunch. Most of them are even scared of countering these convicts as they fear their own security. In many instances even the security staff is attacked by these prisoners,” a jail official said.
In 2015, there have been six cases in which prison officials sustained serious injuries after they were attacked by prisoners.
Mandoli Jail Trouble
While the government has proposed to start the Mandoli jail complex in the next few months by shifting around 4,000 prisoners to the 68-acre jail complex, the move spells more trouble for the jail administration. With 944 posts still vacant in Tihar, the authorities will have to transfer the remaining officers to Mandoli jail.
The jail authorities have requested the government to urgently increase the sanctioned strength at all ranks, which includes 3 superintendents, 81 deputy superintendents, and over 1300 wardens and head wardens.