Cops in PPE on guard outside Covid-19 wards as Delhi hospitals turn high-security prisons

The Burari hospital in north Delhi has become a mini temporary jail with at least 21 inmates admitted there.
As cases of Covid-19 continue to spread rapidly inside Delhi’s Tihar jail, prompting the jail administration to shift some prisoners to hospitals outside, many hospitals across the city have turned into high security zones with police personnel in some cases donning PPE kits to guard them inside Covid wards.(Getty Images)
As cases of Covid-19 continue to spread rapidly inside Delhi’s Tihar jail, prompting the jail administration to shift some prisoners to hospitals outside, many hospitals across the city have turned into high security zones with police personnel in some cases donning PPE kits to guard them inside Covid wards.(Getty Images)
Updated on May 10, 2021 01:51 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Outside a room in the Covid wing at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), four police personnel wearing PPE suits stand on guard round-the-clock. Unlike other Covid-19 patients, who are lodged in wards and share space with others, underworld gangster, Chhota Rajan alias Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje,62, is lodged in a single room because of the threat to his life. Since April 24, when he was shifted from Tihar jail number 2 to AIIMS, the police’s quick reaction team (QRT) has also been posted at the AIIMS campus along with many others in plain clothes to keep an eye on suspicious movement in the facility.

In East Delhi’s Guru Teg Bahadur hospital, where at least 14 Covid-19 prisoners are lodged, police and hospital authorities have dedicated one of the building gates only to the entry and exit of those going to the prisoners’ ward. This is where one of Delhi’s top gangster, Gaurav Jhareda was lodged until Thursday along with at least other Covid prisoners. Jhareda died of the infection on Thursday night. The entry to the building where the prisoner-patients are lodged is sealed by police barricades. Private security guards and Delhi police personnel monitor every suspicious movement.

As cases of Covid-19 continue to spread rapidly inside Delhi’s Tihar jail, prompting the jail administration to shift some prisoners to hospitals outside, many hospitals across the city have turned into high security zones with police personnel in some cases donning PPE kits to guard them inside Covid wards. Until last week, when former gangster turned politician Mohammed Shahabuddin was admitted to the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, armed police officers in PPE kits guarded his room. In north Delhi, the Burari hospital has been transformed to a mini-temporary jail with at least 21 prisoners admitted there.

Also read | Covid-19: Metro shut in stricter lockdown across Delhi

A GTB hospital security guard, who wished not to be named said, “On Thursday night, that man(Gaurav Jhareda) died at the hospital. The following day, when his body was being taken for cremation in an ambulance, many of his friends had come and wanted to take photographs. It was very scary. Those men looked tough and insisted on opening the PPE kit to see his face. There were so many people recording the video of the body being transported.”

Explaining the need for tight vigil at the hospitals, an officer from the Delhi police special cell, who wished not to be named, said, “Hospital is the most misused place to escape from custody. On March 25, gangster Kuldeep Fajja, who had come to GTB hospital for a medical check,fled from outside the hospital after a shootout with police. These gangsters are desperate and will try to escape the moment they are out. Because of the killings they have been part of, they are also targeted by rival gangs at the hospitals. The fear of Covid-19 prisoners spreading infection after fleeing the hospital is not so much, in comparison to the danger they possess if they escape.”

In September last year, a convicted criminal named Mehtab Ahmed, involved in over 10 cases of murder, snatching, kidnapping and robbery, who was admitted at the Lok Nayak hospital for Covid-19 escaped after breaking the window grille of the hospital’s bathroom. He was arrested again after a shoot out.

Explaining, the nature of threat to prisoners such as Rajan or Shahabuddin’s outside the jail, the officer quoted above said that even inside Tihar, the two men were lodged in solitary confinement. In Rajan’s case, the Intelligence Bureau had on many occasions alerted Tihar officers to allow only his wife and no other family member to visit him. The IB had also said that Rajan’s rivals could use Delhi’s gangsters behind bars to murder him in prison.

Currently, Tihar has 249 active cases of Covid-19. The spread of the infection inside Tihar has been quicker and far more compared to the last three waves in Delhi.

In February, there was not a single case of Covid-19 among prisoners or jail officials. Even until April 6, the jail had only 19 cases of Covid-19 among prisoners. But in the last one month, Tihar has reported over 300 Covid-19 cases among prisoners. Six prisoners have died of Covid-19 in the last two weeks.

Starting this week, the prison department will release around 5000 prisoners as one of the steps to decongest prison complex. The prison administration is preparing a list of nearly 5,000 undertrials who could be released either on interim bail for 90 days or on eight weeks’ parole following a Supreme Court-appointed high-powered committee recommending that the prison be decongested in view of the “alarming” and “threatening” situation of the pandemic in the Capital.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prawesh Lama covers crime, policing, and issues of security in Delhi. Raised in Darjeeling, educated in Mumbai, he also looks at special features on social welfare in the National Capital.

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