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Jailbreakers ‘rock’

Editorial |

On the ground it might be too much to see links between the
jailbreaks at Bhopal and Nabha, yet looking “up in the air” a dangerous
connection can be perceived. Terrorist outfits are no longer “terrified” when
their leaders are put behind bars, for arranging their escape is becoming
comparatively easy.

There are even more ominous pointers. It is still being
investigated whether Khalistani activists engineered the Nabha jailbreak, or if
they rode piggy-back on a criminal gang: either way the tie-up between
terrorists and gangsters raises scary prospects, the “foundations” of the
corrective or penal system are under threat. For countering a combination of
terrorist funds and weaponry (not to mention “ideological” underpinning) with
local knowledge and assistance might be beyond the capabilities of most
creaking police forces. They are presently just about managing to cope with
either menace, their adversaries operating in tandem could prove the “double
whammy”.

Who knows, the access that terrorists have been able to get
to military installations  —  Pathankot. Uri, Nagrota…  —  might be another dimension to a grim
situation. The alleged assistance of “locals” in terrorist raids is not to be
under-estimated, else how did terrorists acquire detailed knowledge of the
layout of military camps, when troops were “rolling over”, or even procure
vehicles in which to escape?

Back to jails, probably the most neglected section of the
system by which criminal justice is administered, and where horror stories are
regularly scripted. Most prisons are grossly under-staffed, ill-equipped in
terms of CCTVs, internal communications and even the weapons issued to the
staff are outmoded  —  not to mention the need for thermal-imaging
devices and other sensors to monitor their perimeters: barbed wire remains
their main “security” apparatus.

In terms of personnel it is an open secret that  —  with
occasional exceptions, to be fair  —  the least competent police officers are
deployed in jails so the management or supervision is poor. The officers, at
least in Bhopal it has been established, misused the jail staff to provide
personal security or work as domestic aides. Deprived of “lucrative”
opportunities elsewhere, the cops in jails bring to bear their expertise in getting
“additional” income.

That includes helping prisoners acquire “goodies” that
extend beyond creature-comforts to drugs, cell-phones  —  as
well as maintain links with other members of the gang or terror outfit. Was it
to cover up that kind of collusion that the eight SIMI escapees from Bhopal
were gunned down?

A thorough reform of the management of jails is clearly
imperative, special selection and training of staff necessary, it must be a
nationwide exercise. Yet the possibility of that remains remote when successive
governments have backed-off from initiating even more critical police
modernisation and reform.