From handling prep for Kasab's cell to weathering COVID-19: Byculla Jail Superintendent retires after 3 decades

Byculla Jail Superintendent Sadanand Gaikwad retired on Friday. The 58-year-old had been the security in-charge for Ajmal Amir Kasab at the Arthur road jail, and shared details about the experience and all the preparations that went into it. More recently, he had handled proceedings at the Byculla jail as the COVID-19 pandemic raged.

"It was a great experience in my career. The cell was prepared within a month. All was under my supervision, from meetings to food. I kept my trusted men to monitor the movement and security of the cell. I never used to allow anyone to meet," Gaikwad said, recalling how he went about the task of preparing a highly secure cell at barrack number 12 in Arthur road especially for Kasab.

Gaikwad who joined the prison department on 28 February 1990, had worked in most of the district and central jail in his 31 years service. Starting from Yerwada Central Jail, Mumbai Central Jail, Training centre, Kolhapur, Satara, Alibaug, Taloja and Byculla among others.

Being a superintendent of Byculla jail, the lockdown imposed by the government was also a new experience for him. "Making arrangements for staff to stay inside to counsel the inmates who were panicking after the threat of the virus was a different experience altogether. We counsel them about the dangerous spread of the virus and bring a stable environment inside. Every other inmate wanted to be released on bail," he explained.

Gaikwad further learnt about the inmates problems inside during lockdown and initiated telephonic conversation for them with their family. "The visiting and meeting was closed. So Byculla Jail was the first to arrange the system of telephonic conversation. Later, the money order by post was stopped. So we carried an online money transfer for them. We used to contact the family and give them the bank account number of the jail for money transfer. It helps us calm the inmates...they were relaxed after talking with the family," added Gaikwad.

On Friday evening the staff who were fighting against the virus had a memorable send off for Gaikwad. It started with singing songs and continued on to to reading poems and the experience they shared with Gaikwad. Many were also moved to tears. "I had learnt good things from the superintendent who would have a round in jail every Monday. The woman inmates would wait for him to share their problems. They called him 'Papa' as he never treated them as inmates and always used to help them in their problem," said Tejeshree Wahaval, jailer of Byculla women's jail.

Letters written by inmates from the Byculla women's prison.
Letters written by inmates from the Byculla women's prison.
Letters written by inmates from the Byculla women's prison.
Letters written by inmates from the Byculla women's prison.
Letters written by inmates from the Byculla women's prison.
Letters written by inmates from the Byculla women's prison.
Letters written by inmates from the Byculla women's prison.
Letters written by inmates from the Byculla women's prison.
Letters written by inmates from the Byculla women's prison.
Letters written by inmates from the Byculla women's prison.

Gaikwad appealed to the staff to ensure a better future and asked them to stay polite with the inmates. "Inmates too are human beings and we should treat them in a good manner. The court will decide about the punishment. Our job is to look after them and reform them. If we are polite with them and listen to them. They would respect us and listen to us, as they too have heart," he added.

Explaining about the reforming of inmates inside Maharashtra prison Gaikwad explains, "When I joined in 1991 it was a period of gang wars. The jails were a complete mess. To avoid any gang war, D-company was kept in Byculla jail, Arun Gawli gang in Yerwada and Ram Naik gang in Arthur road jail. But things have changed over the last two decades. Now inmates are reformed inside by giving them jobs in bakery, manufacturing unit, radio club among others," added Gaikwad who also opened up gymnasiums for inmates at Byculla, Taloja and Arthur road jail giving fitness as priority.

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