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‘I am lucky to be still alive’

The NHRC was horrified, the high court took note, the L-G asked for a probe. Naziya Alvi tracked down an undertrial who was in Tihar then, and is now out on bail.

delhi Updated: Jun 19, 2007 04:49 IST
Naziya Alvi

I was lodged in Tihar from mid-February to mid-June as an undertrial in a drug-abuse case. I am lucky that I got out alive with only rashes and skin burn from the heat and conditions inside.

I was in a barrack in Jail No. 3. There were 40 of us packed together, and eight fans. The heat was unbearable.

There was very little water. A daily bath was a luxury. Initially, I could bathe only once a week. Thereafter, I could bathe once in two days. Convicts who had good rapport with the wardens bathed every day.

I did not know any of the inmates who died. But I heard from other prisoners that the condition of those who cleaned the prison garbage was the worst. They were given no equipment, and lifted garbage on to trucks with their bare hands. About 25-30 of them did this from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day, in an open field under the sun. Most of this group were new prisoners. They worked daily, without a break.

These people were assigned other duties too. And they could not bathe for weeks on end. The heat eventually got them. In my barrack, three people took ill due to the heat. Jail authorities once asked me to do this job, but I managed to get away by befriending a warden. After that I got library duty.

When people started dying, things improved. We started getting nimbu paani, but it was actually lukewarm. A crack in the roof of Jail no.3 was repaired.

Some inmates told me that some high-profile prisoners had luxuries like air-conditioners and coolers in the prison. The barracks where Vikas Yadav and Manu Sharma are lodged apparently have coolers.

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