Habib Ahmed, a former carpenter, waits eagerly to meet his wife Salma, a housewife, but this happens only in four months.
Salma, a mother of two young boys and does odd jobs including sewing to run the family, stays 744 km away in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, and lacks the money to meet him in Delhi more often.
But the distance between Ahmed, convicted in an assault case and lodged at Tihar jail, and Salma has just shrunk— he can get in touch with her once a week over the phone.
In accordance with the Delhi High Court’s directives, the Tihar jail administration will from Thursday let Indian inmates, barring those charged with ‘serious and multiple offenses”, use telephone facilities to make calls to relatives and lawyers staying in the city and outside.
Inmates of foreign origin enjoy such a facility already.
Inmates, other than the first time offenders who comprise around 70 per cent of Tihar’s estimated 11,500 population, would get to use the phone only once a fortnight.
“Serious offenders like those charged under MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act) are barred from using the telephone facility to prevent any potential misuse,” said Gupta.
As a security precaution, again, all telephonic conversations will get recorded. And the inmates can use only two listed numbers given by them to the jail authorities.
“We had tested the telephone booths in a one-week pilot project to make sure the new facility is run smoothly and none can misuse it, the results were positive,” said the jail’s spokesperson Sunil Gupta.
He added, “This new facility for Indian prisoners will be inaugurated by Delhi High Court’s acting Chief Justice Madan B Lokur on
Thursday at 5 pm.”
To avail of the facility, the user will have to shell out Rs. 50 (to make local calls) and Rs. 100 (for outstation calls).
In each jail, one telephone booth will be located inside the ward of first-time offenders for their exclusive usage, to desist them from meeting “habitual, hardened criminals” outside, said Gupta.