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Prisoners in Orissa given a raw deal

Posted by Indian Vanguard on March 4, 2007

Bhubaneswar: A survey conducted by a Nagpur-based voluntary organisation has revealed that prisoners in different jails of Orissa were leading a life full of misery. Many prisoners, including women, had been branded as naxalites and kept behind the bars without being produced before the courts of law, the study said. According to the findings of the survey conducted by visits to jails in Berhampur, Malkangiri and Sambalpur found that overcrowding in all jails was accentuating the problems of medical treatment and hygienic conditions of the prisoners, particularly women.

The details of the survey that has been conducted by Committee against Violence on Women (CAVOW) were released to presspersons in Bhubaneswar on Saturday. According to the release issued to the media, the CAVOW fact-finding team was shocked to see the extreme conditions in which the female inmates were confined in the Malkangiri Sub-jail. A tiny space with a capacity to accommodate four women was housing 21 women.

They were locked in not only all night but also some part of the day since there was no regular female warden appointed. The only latrine and bathing place has neither a door nor a roof, and the women were exposed to the stares of the sentries on duty on the high walls,’ the study revealed. The report further said that `eight of the undertrial females, all of them under 25 years of age, were languishing in the jail for the past two years, having been arrested while returning from giving a cultural programme at a public meeting in Bhubaneswar, which had been granted permission by the district authorities.

Only musical instruments had been seized from them but they have been implicated in naxalite cases. One of the girls, Sariami Dora, was obviously a minor even after two years of jail but had been shown to be of 21 years of age at the time of arrest possibly to avoid the applicability of the Juvenile Justice Act.’ The male barracks of the jail was also overcrowded.

`This jail, with a capacity of 87, is housing around 200 inmates,’ the report said. `The team was shocked to know that the trials of some of the tribal persons were delayed for more than two years only because of non-availability of interpreters knowing the Koya language, and many times the witnesses had to be returned back from the court despite the orders of the High Court to provide interpreter immediately,’ according to the release issued by CAVOW. In Berhampur where the fact-finding team was given permission to enter the jail premises, it was found that many persons booked under the so called `naxalite cases’ had not been produced in the court under the pretext of lack of escort, the release said.

In Sambalpur Circle jail, the team found that a total of 582 undertrials, including 55 psychiatric patients, were lodged as against its capacity of 351 persons. The survey recommended that serious and urgent measures were needed to deal with the problems arising out of overcrowding of the jails. `Health of women prisoners should be prioritised. They should be provided with the necessary facilities for personal hygiene, nutrition and privacy and regularly checked up by women doctors

.’ The study suggested that all prisoners should be regularly produced before the Magistrate on the dates of their hearing so that they cases can be speedily disposed off. `Administrative problems like lack of interpreter and escort should be removed immediately.’ `The camps of the Central Reserve Police Force and Orissa State Armed Police have become an instrument of repression against the local tribal people. These camps should be withdrawn immediately,’ the team recommended. Kalinga Times

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