Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Centre caught in red jail jolt dilemma


New Delhi, Dec. 17: Housing Naxalites in jails is proving to be a huge headache for the home ministry.

The Dantewada jailbreak has once again brought the tricky issue of imprisoning Naxalites to the forefront. The task force on Naxalites has failed to resolve the dilemma of whether to put the Maoists, who are in custody, together in one jail or spread them over in different jails.

"It has been noticed that if they are put together in one jail, they conspire and organise en masse escape. And if they are put separately in different jails, they tend to motivate other prisoners, converting them to their way of thinking. It may seem like a trivial issue but it is not," disclosed a senior home ministry official.

Yesterday's was the biggest jailbreak by Maoists after the Jehanabad jail storming in November 2005. The issue has figured in all the meetings of the task force, including the last one held on December 13 in Bhubaneswar. The issue of security and surveillance in and around the prisons was also discussed. It was also observed that though most states, affected by Naxalism, had managed to control the violence somewhat, it was Chhattisgarh which had failed to stem the incidents.

The home ministry today sought a detailed report from the state government about the major breach of security at the jail, which is supposed to be the most sensitive and the most-protected in the area.

"It is a well known fact that Dantewada is in the heart of Naxalism. The security of the area has been the highest priority. It is discussed at all coordination meetings of the affected states and the Centre. Yet the jailbreak happened. The administration of the area is extremely poor," said the officer.

In fact, this observation was also made by cabinet secretary K.M. Chandrashekhar when he visited Chhattisgarh for a review in October-end. He had also noted that the "Salwa Judum", the civil militia in the state, needed to be reoriented.

Home secretary Madhukar Gupta spoke to senior officers in Chhattisgarh administration, and also to the director general of police about the incident.

Sources said security in and around the jails had been an issue of great concern for the Centre and the ministry of home affairs had been writing to the affected states to beef it up. "In fact, a detailed action plan had been worked out about the steps to be taken to improve security of the prisons. The states had asked for additional companies of CRPF but the Centre told them to strengthen their policing instead by filling up the vacant posts," the official added.

The states, specially Chhattisgarh, were advised on how to man their prisons better and also on how to train, equip and orient the jail staff, sources said.

Moreover, the state authorities had been asked to increase manpower in jails and install latest gadgets to keep a tab on the activities of jail inmates.

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