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Jailbreak

Editorial |

The security lapse in Kolkata’s supposedly high-security prison strains credulity. The jail authorities of Alipore Central Correctional Home were caught with their pants down early on Sunday during the routine roll-call; but exploratory investigation suggests that the preparation for the intrepid escape by three Bangladeshis, held on charges of abduction, dacoity, illegal migration and murder, was carried out over time. The canal that skirts the prison has once again been used as an escape route to freedom… 40 years after a group of Naxalites scaled the wall and swam along the canal. A not dissimilar strategy was adopted this time around as well.

The wardens and the guards were caught napping and almost literally so. So too may have been the other inmates in the cell who are said to have been treated by the escapees with confectionery laced with sedatives. For, it is difficult to accept that the three could hack the prison bars with a hand-saw, scale the wall, and eventually jump into the canal. The three procedures, daring in itself, went totally unnoticed by the jail staff despite the powerful lights inside the complex. Several wardens have been suspended for alleged dereliction of duty and more heads are likely to roll after the probe is over. For all that, the response is fairly routine in the aftermath of a major administrative lapse; it adds up to too little, too late… indeed only to be wise after the event.

The jaw-dropping has been collective. To attribute the security lapse to the ongoing process of shifting the correctional home to Baruipur in South 24-Parganas is a specious argument. The alibi would have been laughable were it not for the profound implications in terms of jail administration. Indubitable must be the fact that there was a lowering of the guard; the jail authorities have admitted as much, going by a report in this newspaper. Has the relocation to Baruipur denuded security at Alipore? The argument advanced by the jails department is thoroughly unacceptable; the shift ought to have been planned judiciously. How could the prisoners acquire a hand-saw despite the supposedly stringent security-check for visitors? The query can even be posed to unravel the posession of mobile phones in cells to facilitate underworld connectivity.

This is the fundamental question that needs to be asked and answered. The correctional home at Alipore direly needs what they call a course-correction. So too arguably the other jails in West Bengal. The department and its minister must be seen to be functioning. Till Wednesday morning, there was no trace of the escapees. The BSF and the police are reportedly on alert at Basirhat and Bongaon in the periphery of Bangladesh. And thereby hangs a tale.