In an outrageous bungle-up at the noted Yerawada central prison, a jail guard lost the keys to the prisoners’ cells and barracks for a few hours on Monday. Slapping irony on to the injury, it was a prison inmate who saved face for the hangdog authorities, after happening upon the keys and returning them to the jailor.

Key actor: An inmate approached the jailor with the lost keys, saying he had found them on the jail premises.
pic/Mohan Patil

On Monday evening, as per routine procedure, the prisoners were let out of their barracks and were expected to return at 6 pm after a headcount procedure called bandi. “At this juncture, the jail staff realised that the bunch of keys was lost and that the barracks and gates could not be locked,” a jail official said on the condition of anonymity.

Sources revealed that a jail guard — whose name has not been revealed — who is assigned the duty of locking and unlocking the barracks, cells and gates inside the prison, lost the keys.

Immediately, an intensive search operation was launched for the keys, but with no success. Help came from the most unexpected quarters. An inmate approached the jailor with the lost keys, saying he had found them on the jail premises. Officials expressed a stunned relief.

“After the keys were impounded, we began the bandi procedure and concluded it around 8.30 pm,” the officer added.
According to the prison rules, the jail superintendent is required to take every necessary precaution against jailbreak escape. They are to make examine doors, windows, bars and bolts daily and refrain from using locks whose keys have ever been lost, mislaid or tampered with.

Superintendent Yogesh Desai, however, claimed that the bandi was completed “just as usual”. Asked about the misplaced keys, Desai dodged the question, insisting nothing of the sort had happened on Monday.

“The bandi procedure concluded on time,” he reiterated. Former additional director general of police (prison), Rajendra Sonawane, said, “It is an internal issue of administration and discipline. There is a possibility that the jail staff is overloaded with work and forgot the keys somewhere. But the senior officials should investigate and check the intention of the staffer and reprimand him.”

Given the less-than-ideal record of security at Yerawada jail (see box), insiders said, the keys could have been put to misuse in the prison, led to attacks on prisoners, or even a jailbreak.

The area on the which the jail was built, in 1871

Number of cells, housed in 43 barracks

Number of inmates lodged at Yerawada jail