Posters of models pasted on the walls, bowls of fresh fruit, mineral water and dumbbells. This is not the room of a spoilt 18 year old but the cells of gangsters Abu Salem and Mustafa Dossa in Arthur Road jail, according to Minister of State for Home Ramesh Bagwe. Bagwe visited the jail a day after Salem was injured in a scuffle with Dossa.
“In Abu Salem’s barrack, I saw posters of models on the walls, cleaned utensils on a table and a very clean toilet. Mustafa Dossa’s barrack had fresh fruits and ironed clothes,” Bagwe told journalists in Pune on Monday. “Salem simply laughed when I asked him about the posters.”
The minister indicated that this would not have been possible without help from jail staff. “I have told the jail authorities that an inquiry will be conducted. Whoever is found violating the jail manual will be punished,” Bagwe said.
Bagwe’s comments came as an embarrassment to his boss, Home Minister R R Patil, who said the state would request the High Court to discontinue the privileges granted by the special TADA court to Salem and Dossa.
“We will request the court to discontinue the privileges because the accused are misusing them,” Patil said in the Legislature on Monday. He said he would visit the prison with a team of legislators after the Opposition demanded it.
“The upkeep of this man costs us more money than we spend on a single person under the Employment Guarantee Scheme,” Patil said, referring to Salem. Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse slammed the government over Bagwe’s statements. “This is a shame and the Home department should announce an investigation in to this matter," Khadse said. Patil said if there were irregularities action will be taken against the guilty.
This is the second time that Bagwe has indirectly commented on the Patil’s working. He recently criticized Pune Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh, who is close to Patil, for his failure to control Pune’s crime rate. Patil said he had spoken to Bagwe about his comments on the alleged nexus between jail staff and gangsters and sought more details from him.
Salem and Dossa have been convicted in the 1993 serial bomb blasts. About the scuffle, Patil said there was suspicion that the fight was staged so that both could move out of Arthur Road jail.
“Officials told me both were friendly before this incident,” Patil said.