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Tihar?s own health insurance

Sometime last year, 27-year-old Chanda (name changed), a resident of Sagarpur, was charged with liquor smuggling. She got bail, but got it cancelled to return to Tihar Central Jail in the ninth month of pregnancy. The prison bore the cost of delivery and aftercare. Two months down the line, she secured bail again and walked out of jail with her baby daughter in her arms.

india Updated: Jun 04, 2006 10:54 IST

Sometime last year, 27-year-old Chanda (name changed), a resident of Sagarpur, was charged with liquor smuggling. She got bail, but got it cancelled to return to Tihar Central Jail in the ninth month of pregnancy. The prison bore the cost of delivery and aftercare. Two months down the line, she secured bail again and walked out of jail with her baby daughter in her arms.

Chanda is one of the many undertrials at Tihar who have, in recent times, got their bails cancelled to avail of the free medical facility provided by Tihar – that has a Rs 3-crore annual medical budget sanctioned by the state. “Every year, we spend Rs 15-20 lakh only on surgeries,” says Sunil Gupta, law officer at Tihar. The operations, including cardiac and kidney surgeries, are conducted at some of the best facilities in town: AIIMS, Safdarjung, Deen Dayal Upadhyay etc. “A Tihar inmate is treated on a priority basis at these hospitals, which is why many intentionally don’t pay the surety when we seek their bail,” adds Gupta. What’s more, in-house 150-bed facility boasts of 90 doctors and 160 paramedics round the clock.

Tihar director-general RP Singh, in fact, wants the prison to be a “face of the welfare state”. “Inmates are the government’s responsibility, so we do not discourage prisoners from availing of the free medical facility,” he says.

Two years ago, an AIDS patient who was out on bail filed a petition in the High Court pleading that somebody had “mischievously” furnished surety for him. Now that he was out, he had no means of paying for his treatment. For the first time in the prison’s history, the administration was directed to bear the medical expenses of an undertrial on bail. Tihar did so — for the next two years.