Arthur Road jail: Another disaster waiting to happen

Mumbai: Arthur Road Jail, which houses the most notorious criminals, is in a dilapidated condition with disaster waiting to happen. The inmates have complained that the ceilings of all the 14 cells have developed deep cracks and the slabs are likely to collapse anytime. A senior official of Maharashtra Prisons Authority told the Free Press Journal that the ‘Anda cell,’ which is bomb and bullet-proof barrack constructed to house 26/11 convict Ajmal Kasab has witnessed immense seepage of water during the monsoons.

The prisons authority has written several letters to the state’s Public Works Department (PWD) but it has refused to reply or take any action after which it has raised serious issues in its report. “The onset of monsoon scares us as the 14 barracks inside Arthur Road Jail are in a dilapidated condition. The rooftops leak and there is no arrangement like tarpaulins to prevent water from seeping despite repetitive requests made to the PWD. We fear the slabs may fell down anytime,” a senior official of Maharashtra Prisons Authority told the Free Press Journal.

The official said every year they write several letters to the PWD officials to repair the barracks. “So far this year from January 25, we have written 25 letters requesting PWD for repairs but they have paid no heed to us,” the official said. Many high-profile inmates including Chhagan Bhujbal, Sameer Bhujbal, Peter Mukerjea and accused of bomb blasts among others are imprisoned inside the jail. The jail authorities say it is time the government should take responsibility and in case any incident happens, they do not wish to be held responsible. “Who will take the responsibility if anything happens to these high-profile inmates imprisoned in Arthur Road Jail?” the officer said.

Meanwhile, PWD officials have asked the state prisons authority to use the jail funds to get the barracks repaired. However, the jail funds are much less an amount and the government sanctions only Rs 25 lakh for repairs, as per rules. The actual capacity of the jail is only 800 inmates but currently there are 3,000 prisoners. Eight new barracks are still under construction.

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