The dilapidated office of Jaleshwar prison. | Photo: Suresh Yadav/Republica
JALESHWAR, Aug 25: Jaleshwar prison, one of the oldest structures of the country, is currently in a miserable state. Despite its dilapidated condition, it is currently accommodating prisoners three times its capacity.
This prison, which was established back in 1853, is currently 165 years old. Given its date and time of construction, it is the lowest-lying structure in Jaleshwar even to this day. Rainfall often results in inundation here. It becomes a real trouble for the jailbirds as well as staffers of the prison to get rid of the water each monsoon.
“Despite urging various authorities for help, our pleas have fallen into to deaf ears,” said Shovendra Thakur, chief of the prison administration.
The prison which lies in between the District Police Office (DPO) and the District Court (DC), it spreads over 1 bigha, 10 kattha and two-dhur land. It was originally designed for 135 prisoners. There are 17 rooms for males while only three for female prisoners. However, the prison is sheltering 403 male and 47 female inmates at the moment.
"It is not much of a big deal in winter but it becomes difficult to manage this small space for so many people in summer," said Thakur. It has been 13 years since Thakur has been handling the responsibility of the prison chief. Around 15 Chief District Officers (CDOs) have been changed during his tenure. "I informed every single CDO about the sorry state of the prison seeking help but to no avail," Thakur added.
A separate hut has been constructed in front of the prison for the security personnel. Few feet away from the main gate, there is a decade old weather-beaten house with three rooms for the prison head, accountant, non-gazette officers among others. They have been operating an office inside the same building for 13 staffers.
Waterlogging has resulted in bushy and damp land in front of the prison. The prison lacks even the basic infrastructures and equipment. There are no proper chairs and tables even in the office of the prison chief.
"I don't know whether it's me or the prison which has been undermined," he said, adding," I do not think I will get to see anything changing during my tenure."
Criminals who are already being punished for their crime are tortured more by the poor condition of the prison. Their security is at stake. It is not as if the prison does not have enough land but it has not been utilized properly. Last year, flood badly inundated the prison after which the prisoners were given beaten rice provided by various organizations as relief. This monsoon also did not spare the prison.
Thakur had asked for an ambulance and a small fire engine since long ago but still, nothing has been done. There is no vehicle to rush prisoners to the hospital in case of emergency. There are six prisons in six of the eight districts of Province 2. The prison of Sarlahi is currently under construction after the destruction during the conflict period. That is why the inmates of Sarlahi were transferred to Jaleshwar. After sheltering the inmates of Dhanusha, Mahottrai and Sarlahi, this has been the most occupied prison of the province.