Deported gangster Abu Salem yesterday tested positive for Plasmodium vivax malaria, but refused to get admitted to theprison ward of the state-run JJ Hospital and demanded a separate room. When the treating doctor refused, Salem decided to go back to the jail where he fell sick rather than remain in the care of JJ Hospital.
Lodged in the high-security cell of the Taloja Jail in Navi Mumbai since over two years, Salem was brought to JJ Hospital for tests after he complained of fever and shivering. His case has now raised serious concerns about the hygiene and condition of prisons in and near the city as well as in the rest of the state.
Executed 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Qasab had also tested positive for dengue during his stay in Arthur Road Jail. According to JJ Hospital sources, Salem was brought to the emergency ward of the hospital amid tight security last morning.
He complained of running a temperature — 99 to 100 degrees C — and even said he had been shivering since the previous day. And he informed the treating doctors that he had already taken a paracetamol tablet before coming to the hospital.
Salem was then referred to doctors from the medicine department, who examined him and advised a blood test. He was asked to wait until the test report arrived. A few hours later, the test report confirmed that Salem had P. vivax malaria. He was advised by the treating doctor to get himself admitted to the prison ward.
Interestingly, even his lawyer and acquaintances were spotted with Salem in the hospital along with the police escort when the news was broken to him about his having tested positive for malaria.
Salem then tried to pull strings within the hospital to ensure that instead of the prison ward he was put up in some other ward. But the treating doctor did not budge from his stand of following procedure and Salem’s request could not be met.
Before making his decision to disallow Salem’s demand, the doctor had even approached for guidance a few of his colleagues, who advised him against acting on mere oral instructions from any senior doctors of the hospital in such a sensitive case.
The hospital has already witnessed a case of a convict escaping from its premises this year. MiD DAY was the first to report the incident (‘Policemen watch as prisoner escapes’ on February 21), in which prisoner Altaf Ahmed Shaikh (27) had run away in the second week of February after breaking the window of the first-floor side room next to the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU). Shaikh had been brought to JJ Hospital for treatment from the Kolhapur prison where he had been lodged.
JJ dean says
JJ Hospital dean Dr T P Lahane said Salem preferred going back to jail to staying in the hospital prison ward after he had tested positive for vivax malaria. “Since his report was positive for vivax malaria, we advised him to get admitted in the prison ward, but he refused. Salem gave us in writing that he did not want to get admitted there and insisted on a separate room, which was refused. He preferred going back to the prison where he was lodged,” Lahane said. “Even the escorting police and the doctor who examined him have acknowledged and signed the papers.”
Lahane said in given Salem’s condition, it would have been better if he had stayed in the hospital. “Close monitoring of health is usually advisable in case of vivax malaria testing positive and it is always in the interest of the patient to get admitted,” he said. “Salem was given anti-malarial tablets before he left the hospital.”
Jail officials speak
A senior jail official, who did not wish to be named, said that rampant construction activity in and around Taloja and Khargar had been behind cases of malaria becoming common. The official said that though the local CIDCO staff does conduct fumigation and fogging inside the prison, the effect of the insecticides sprayed is for a limited period. Taloja Jail Superintendent Ramesh Kamble tried to play down the mosquito issue, saying they did take appropriate measures to keep mosquitoes at bay.
On Salem, he said: “On the advise of the jail doctor, Abu Salem was taken to JJ Hospital. A police escort of the Navi Mumbai police was deployed to be with Salem. He left around 10.30 am and returned late in the evening. The jail doctor will examine the JJ Hospital papers and accordingly we will decide on the further course of action. If he has tested positive for malaria, then we will inform CIDCO and accordingly get the fumigation done for the entire prison. We take the utmost care of our prisoners. However, we do not have a single case of malaria patient in our prison hospital.” Taloja Jail currently has around 1,100 undertrials inmates. Of these, 30 are lodged in the high-security barrack, besidesSalem.
CIDCO chief health officer Dr B S Bawaskar said, “This year the number of cases of malaria and dengue is comparatively lower compared to last year and anti-mosquito breeding measures are regular in the entire area, including the jail.”
The doctor said though construction activity was rampant in the area, contractors and builders had also been fined for not following rules meant to check mosquito breeding.
He said that undertrial inmates were often taken outside the jail for court hearings, where mosquitoes bite them and then, on their return, they show symptoms of disease.
“I will ensure that even if a single case of malaria is reported within Taloja I will personally visit the jail and carry out the (anti-mosquito) drive under my supervision,” Bawaskar said.
Asked when he had last visited Taloja Jail, Bawaskar said, “I have never been inside the jail myself, but I would regularly send my team. But since you have informed me about a case of malaria, I will myself visit the jail this time.”
Sting in the tale
A couple of years ago, when he was moved to Taloja Jail after being allegedly attacked by another gangster, Salem had requested that he be moved out of the prison, fearing malaria. The underworld don had filed an application before a special TADA court seeking a transfer from Taloja Jail, which according to him was mosquito-infested.