It is a population explosion of a different kind. The largest prison complex in Asia, Tihar Jail in west Delhi, is witnessing an alarming rise in inmate strength, giving rise to frequent indiscipline, affecting prisoners’ health and stretching sanitation infrastructure.
On August 30, 2006, inmate strength was 14,313, a rise by nearly 2,000 in the last seven months from 12,371 on December 31, 2005.
Although only three persons can be lodged in one prison cell, till recently Tihar was lodging five, a figure that has now touched eight.
Prison records accessed by Hindustan Times showed the prison population had been stable around 12,000-12,200 since 2002.
"The rise in the number of prisoners is unprecedented," said Sunil Gupta, spokesperson for the central prison management.
"A sudden rise in number brings with it discipline problems. Medical services for inmates take a toll along with sanitation issues," said B.K. Gupta, director-general, central prison.
The central prison has a capacity to lodge 6,250 inmates in its 10 jails. Nine of these jails are located at the central prison complex itself, while there is a district jail in Rohini.
The population explosion apparently is due partly to an imbalance in inmate turnover. According to Tihar jail records for 2005, 1,03,080 inmates were admitted at the prison, while 1,02,746 inmates were released.
This means, on average, 282 people were admitted daily and 281 people released.
“As a result, we retained just 334 inmates,” said a senior official on condition of anonymity, adding, “but this has not been the case over the past months, when fewer undertrials were given bail.”
The DG, however, discounted such a theory as conjecture, as no official analysis had yet been undertaken.