Jail sentries on leave was not the only reason behind lax security in Bhopal Central Jail on Diwali night when eight SIMI operatives allegedly escaped by reportedly killing a warder before police shot them down on the city outskirts.
A list available with Hindustan Times shows no less than 71 sentries, who should be guarding Bhopal jail, are working for bureaucrats, senior police officials or in government offices — and, even, former jail ministers.
The principal secretary (jail) has nine sentries at service. It was not clear if they work in the PS’ office or his bungalow or both.
Besides, six sentries work for a deputy IG, while it is five each for an additional IG, a deputy IG of jails and central jail superintendent. Three sentries work for another DIG (jail).
The chief minister’s office, too, has a sentry from the jail. So has the office of a deputy secretary to the CM. The jail minister has two sentries, while the director general (jail) has one.
The list has names of animal husbandry minister Antar Singh Arya, who once held the portfolio of jail, and former jail minister Jagdish Devda. Another sentry-served name is that of former chief secretary Anthony de Sa. The list mentions other authorities — by designations, not names.
Overall, the list features 80 jail department personnel, out of whom 71 are sentries. The rest are safaikarmi (cleaners) and drivers. The sentries, as per the list, are engaged in work outside jail.
National crime record bureau said Madhya Pradesh last year had 4,111 jail staff against the sanctioned posts of 5744. It meant that only 71% of the posts were filled up.
HT could not contact former jail minister Antar Singh Arya.
Retired additional inspector general Jail GK Agrawal said more than half of the jail sentries are engaged in duties not related to security; instead in offices and officers’ bungalows.
“This phenomenon is not confined to Bhopal Central Jail, but almost every prison in the state. Why this, when there is huge shortage of sentries in jails?” he asked.
RTI activist Ajay Dubey agreed with Agrawal. Giving sentry non-jail job was compromising jail security, he said. The phenomenon is more glaring in Bhopal as it has a number of high-ranking officials, he added.
Director-general (jail) Sanjay Chaudhary said the department’s high-ranking officers were entitled to have facilities of orderlies. They did not need to have additional staff for personal reasons, he added.
Devda said he was touring and would respond “after some time”.
Jail minister Kusum Mehadele could not be contacted. Principal secretary Jail Vinod Semwal said he would not like to comment on the matter.