Two die of Covid-19 at Tihar jail; prison reports 261 active cases
Two prisoners housed in Tihar jail died of Covid-19 on Tuesday night, even as the infection is spreading rapidly through the country’s most populated prison complex, prison officials said Wednesday. Since April, Tihar has reported 284 cases of Covid-19 among prisoners and 115 among jailers, raising fears of a mass infection spread inside the jail. At over 20,500 prisoners currently, the inmate count at Tihar jail is the highest ever in its history.
Prison officials said on Tuesday night, the officials of GTB hospital informed them that prisoner Mukesh Talwar, 61, had succumbed to the coronavirus infection. Talwar, who was arrested in connection with a rape case last month, was lodged in jail number 7 and had tested positive for Covid-19 on April 22. As his condition worsened, he was admitted to GTB hospital the same day. Hours before Talwar’s death, 43-year-old prisoner Mohammed Anis, who was lodged in jail number 4, too, died of the disease at the DDU hospital. Anis was in prison since December 17, 2019, in a drug-related case.
Director general (prisons) Sandeep Goel also confirmed the two deaths without offering more details.
Currently, there are 261 active Covid-19 cases among prisoners. Experts such as former law officer Sunil Gupta and Ajay Verma have suggested that the government either set up temporary jails outside the prion complex -- such as school buildings -- or release some of the prisoners who are not a threat to society.
Last year, when the pandemic broke out, nearly 6,000 prisoners were released on special parole/bail to ensure social distancing within the jail. However, between February 6 and March 18, 2021, almost all these prisoners surrendered and returned to jail, after spending nearly 10-11 months outside. Their return meant that the prison was once again crowded, leaving little space for isolation of suspected Covid-19 patients and new inmates.
Among the many prisoners, who are currently Covid-19 positive are underworld gangster Chhota Rajan and former politician turned gangster Mohammed Shahabuddin. While Rajan has been admitted to AIIMS, Shahabuddin is being treated at DDU hospital.