Rohit Tyagi’s (name changed on request) life turned upside down in May 2013, when he was detained by the police for fraud. He was to get married in 10 days.
Tyagi’s ordeal, which took him to police lockups and crowded, stinking barracks of Arthur Road jail, started when he was remanded in police custody. For the next nine days, he was kept in a lockup — and all he could hear there was the other accused being beaten up. He was given a cup of tea in the morning and a bag of dal and roti for meals. “The experience rips you of your dignity,” he said.
The management graduate languished in jail for nearly two years though he got bail within two months of his arrest, all because he did not have proof of a permanent address in Mumbai. “All that matters inside jail is hard cash,” he said.
“I was sent to judicial custody the day I was to get married,” said Tyagi. “While checking my belongings, the guard took a Rs-50 note from the amount of Rs 500 I had. The amount he noted in the file was Rs 450,” he said.
What left him baffled was the 80x20 foot barrack that accommodated 152 inmates. “On the first night, I used an empty water bottle as a headrest while sleeping on the bare floor,” said the former inmate.
If the night was tough, the morning was disastrous. “There was just one tap in the bathroom for 350 inmates,” he said, adding, “There are two kinds of people in jails. Some who want to stay in as it is safer, the others just want to get out.”
“Almost everything is made available in prison – from marijuana to beedis. But, it comes at a huge price,” he said, adding that he started smoking while in prison.
“A good night’s sleep in a separate cell on a bed costs Rs 25,000 to Rs 75,000. Jail officials told me that if I pay Rs 2 lakh I could sleep on a bed in the jail clinic. After bargaining, the amount was reduced to Rs 25,000 for a month. Two other accused in the case and I paid Rs 75,000 to sleep in a bed. The money was exchanged in a hotel near the jail,” said Tyagi. After a month, when he could not arrange for more money, he was again moved back to the barracks.
Despite an order from the court to get home-cooked food, the prison staff did not allow it. “They charged Rs 60,000 for the food to be delivered from home,” he said.
Tyagi walked out of prison in March after a former inmate, who was acquitted, assured the court he would not leave the city. “Nothing in my life is the same. My former fiancée is marrying someone else. My family does not contact me anymore. I have no job; even if I try to get another one, my past comes in the way,” he said.