Get 5-star facilities inside Thane jail, at just Rs 5 lakh!

This allegation is just one among several in an explosive letter by a whistleblower sent to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis claiming to expose Jail Superintendent Hiralal Jadhav

The prison system is a joke. The dust of controversy over lapses by Arthur Road Jail Superintendent Bharat Bhonsale, under whose nose former Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and Ponzi scheme operator Shekhar Chandrashekhar illegally moved out of prison, is yet to settle, and another alleged bad egg has been called out.

Rich inmates of Thane Central Jail are allegedly encouraged to lead lavish lifestyles. Pic/Sameer Markande
Rich inmates of Thane Central Jail are allegedly encouraged to lead lavish lifestyles. Pic/Sameer Markande

A detailed letter, sent to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis by anonymous policemen on April 30, has blown the lid off alleged massive corruption by Thane Central Jail Superintendent Hiralal Jadhav. Rich inmates are allegedly encouraged to lead lavish lifestyles, provided there is ample money flowing in and out.

Thane jail superintendent Hiralal Jadhav
Thane jail superintendent Hiralal Jadhav

The letter said within 10 days of taking charge this February, the Thane prison superintendent began allowing inmates to make calls through his mobile phone, and smuggled in hashish, marijuana and alcohol with the connivance of jailers Madane Kadam, Ingale, Suryanvanshi and constable Suryakant Patil. He also allegedly tampered with prison records.

Superintendent Hiralal Jadhav allegedly allows inmates a free run of the Thane Central Jail. Picture for representation
Superintendent Hiralal Jadhav allegedly allows inmates a free run of the Thane Central Jail. Picture for representation

Bribery charges
The letter claimed that Jadhav used to brag to the prison staff that despite having a tainted record — he was suspended as the principal of police training centre in 2010 for misbehaving with women trainees — he was given charge as the prison superintendent because he greased the palms of higher-ups in jail and Mantralaya with R25 lakh. He allegedly claimed that he could recover this money as bribes from prison inmates.

Tight security a sham
The complainants also claimed that Jadhav visits the ‘anda’ cell barracks of builder Suresh Bijlani, accused of murdering Navi Mumbai realtor Sunil Lahoria, and underworld gangster Vishwanath Maranna Shetty, arrested for the killing of notorious criminal Farid Tanasha in 2010. Anda barracks are high-security cells for hardened criminals, but Jadhav allegedly spends over half an hour in their cells regularly and allows them to make calls through his personal phone. At the end of the tête-à-tête, he would jot down in the prison register that he met the two only for two minutes each.

Both Bijlani and Shetty allegedly pay a monthly bribe to him and are treated to five-star hotel food, liquor and branded cigarettes on their return from court hearings.

Browbeating inmates
The letter reiterates repeatedly that money alone talks in the jail. Want a fan in the cell? Pay the jailer. Want to be assigned to a ‘good barrack’? Cough up Rs 1 lakh.

The letter cites the case of 30 prisoners working in the small factory unit of the Thane jail, who were asked to pay Rs 10,000 each to Jadhav. When the bribe amount didn’t turn up, they were allegedly transferred to the Nashik jail some time ago, forcing the Thane factory unit to shutter down.

Even jail staff kowtow
Even the jail staff has allegedly not been spared by Jadhav. The jailer assigned to the meeting room, where inmates are allowed to meet their families for a specified time, has to allegedly pay R25,000 a week to the superintendent.

Ideally, a police constable interested in taking on the prized canteen duty has to talk it out with the superintendent, but at the Thane prison, only Rs 50,000 a month would allegedly get the job done. The letter names constables Mahesh Gaikwad, Tejas Thete and Sahil for buckling under pressure and paying up.

The price for canteen duty for a jailer is a steep R1 lakh. A jailer, identified only as Chikne in the letter, allegedly refused to pay up and was soon transferred to the Alibaug jail. His successor, Nagesh Patil, allegedly had no qualms about paying a bribe and was instantly given charge of the canteen and the jail factory.

Jadhav also sends rationed food items from prison to his residence in Pune.

He also brought in Ashwini Mandape as the women’s officer in prison. On her date of joining, Mandape was allegedly driven to the jail by Jadhav himself in his car and constables were directed categorically to pick up her bags. The letter also alleged that despite joining on March 30, Mandape began reporting for work only from April 3.

On the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti on April 14, a tribute was arranged on the jail premises. But Jadhav allegedly belted out the Mohammad Rafi classic, ‘Chaudvi ka chand ho…’, for Ashwini Mandape. To add insult to injury, this was followed by a group discussion on the song.

After Mandape was disqualified from service by the DIG’s office on April 11, Jadhav sent a favourable report to the office, commending her service in prison.

IG (Prisons) Bhushan Kumar Upadhyay told mid-day that he has not seen such a letter as yet. “Usually, according to government resolutions, we don’t look into anonymous letters. Still, if there is something to it, we will look into the allegations made in the letter.”

The other side
Hiralal Jadhav told mid-day that the allegations against him are baseless. “If any one has filed a complaint, I am ready for an inquiry. If they really did have complaints, then they would have given their names. I believe that the complainants have not been given desirable duties or posts.”

He said sensors have been installed in the jail to detect phone signals. “The CP of Thane, and the DCP, crime branch, are keeping tabs on such activities. If they had suspected foul play, they would have raised it with the higher authorities. We don’t allow home- cooked or five-star hotel food. Higher officials had conducted a surprise check last Saturday, and everything was fine.”

Writing on the wall
Recently, the state prison department recommended, based on an inquiry, that Arthur Road Jail Superintendent Bharat Bhonsale be transferred to another prison as punishment for not being able to stop former PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and Ponzi scheme operator Shekhar Chandrashekhar’s illegal movement out of prison. The top brass of the department found Bhonsale responsible for a spate of such cases and accused him of “loose administration”.

You scratch my back...
>> The jail staff allegedly have a set-up in place to identify inmates from whom they can wheedle bribes. The letter names constable Suryakant Patil from the prison showroom who allegedly digs up the financials of yet-to-arrive inmates. Those who are deemed to be able to pay well are identified and mollycoddled.

>> The letter alleges that Hiralal Jadhav took a bribe of Rs 10 lakh from Suresh Bijlani, accused of murdering Navi Mumbai realtor Sunil Lahoria, when he was out on bail, for his son’s wedding. When Bijlani returned behind bars, he allegedly began paying a monthly bribe of Rs 5 lakh. Underworld gangster Vishwanath Maranna Shetty shelled out Rs 3 lakh. Anurag Garg, another accused in the Loharia murder case, allegedly pays Rs 25 lakh to Jadhav. When these prized inmates return from their court hearings, a lavish spread of food, alcohol and branded cigarettes are laid out. The inmates enjoy these luxuries on other days too, when the items are left in their cells post-2 pm.

Tainted past
Hiralal Jadhav was suspended from the post of the principal of a police training centre by the state home department in March 2013 for misbehaving with women officers and trainees, abusing them and making crude gestures at them. Around 17 women officers and trainees had complained about him then.

He allegedly still hasn’t mended his ways. At the Thane prison, women constables have alleged that he stays right above the women’s guard and summons them to his room under one pretext or another.

Before joining the Thane jail, Jadhav ran the training centre at the Taloja jail. He was allegedly made the superintendent after he demanded that he be given the post and threatened to commit suicide if it was not done.

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