Mumbai: Ever since news broke of 77 inmates and 26 staff in the city’s Arthur Road jail testing positive for coronavirus, tense families have been trying the phone of the jail to find if their family members are safe but have failed to get a response.
Preeti Sagar (name changed on request) whose son is in Arthur Road jail, “We have been very worried ever since the news. For days after that, I kept calling the jail, but no one answers the call.” Her voice breaking down, she says, “I just want to know how my child is, whether he is among those positive.
I know policemen are doing double duty and many of them too have tested positive, but my husband is a kidney patient and is worried if our son is safe.” Their worry is also because their son suffers from respiratory issues – making him susceptible to the infection.
By Tuesday, in Arthur Road jail the number of cases had grown to around 185, including prison staff. Rahila Mirza, 34, is the sister of Faisal, who has been in custody in a terror case since 2018. The family has not met Faisal for two months she says.
A week before the lockdown was imposed weekly visits to inmates were stopped. There is no telephonic access either. Some days ago, her mother passed away and through a court order, Faisal was able to see his mother through a video call during her last rites.
“He said he was not well during the five-minute call and kept crying all the time,” she says. The family is also worried as a jail inmate of Faisal out on parole told them that Faisal was unwell, and they should try to get him out on bail.
Those facing trial for serious offences though, are not eligible for interim bail. Jamiat Ulama-e-Maharashtra, an NGO that provides legal aid has written on Thursday to the superintendent of Arthur road jail through its legal adviser Adv Shahid Nadeem seeking information on the COVID-19 status of eight inmates who they represent through their lawyers.
Shahu Darade, PRO, Prisons said that he would speak with the superintendent of Arthur Road jail and henceforth any enquiries from families regarding the COVID-19 status of their family members would be answered by jail authorities.