Prison department's right to recruit sepoys withdrawn

Following incidents of jailbreaks and alleged irregularities inside state prisons, the Home department has withdrawn the Prison department’s right to recruit jail sepoys. Henceforth, the respective heads of the city and district police units will conduct recruitment drives for these all-important jail security personnel.

Currently, prison guards (jail sepoys) and officers are recruited by the Prisons department. A government resolution (GR) to change the recruitment agencies was issued on November 6. The GR says that since the jail sepoy and police sepoy are in the same pay scale and the provisions for their recruitment too are the same, the Home department thought of employing them in a uniform manner.

Need for uniformity
The GR says, “There is a need for uniformity, impartiality and quality in the recruitment process of jail sepoys, and since candidates applying for these posts also need equal opportunities and justice, it is decided to recruit both jail sepoys and police sepoys through the same recruitment process.”

A senior Home department official told mid-day that jail sepoys were crucial manpower in prisons, but were also under the scanner for their dubious roles in supplying arms, mobile phones and other luxury items in exchange for bribes.

“There have been complaints that jail sepoy recruitments were not done properly. There are allegations of corruption against jail sepoys and officers like jailors/superintendents. Many get suspended on disciplinary grounds as well,” the official said.

When asked if the particular reform will effectively check corruption after respective police heads are empowered to recruit sepoys, the official said that streamlining recruitment was just one of the administrative reforms. “We don’t claim it will eradicate corruption completely at all stages. But we need to begin reforms somewhere,” said the officer.

Will it work?
A prison official ridiculed the reform. “It is well within the powers of the government to withdraw our right. But it is demoralising for us to know that we are accused of being partial in recruiting jail sepoys. In fact, it’s a joke to think that the Police department will not indulge in any corrupt practices or irregularities while recruiting jail sepoys,” said the officer.

Sources in the Home department said that the Prison department will continue to recruit other employees, including jailers, instructors and clerical staff. However, they said that the reform will not stop at this stage.

“The method of recruiting jail officers is expected to change soon. The Maharashtra Public Service Commission, which shortlists suitable candidates for the higher posts of superintendents of district prisons and deputy superintendents of central prisons through the civil service examination, will be asked to assist the government in appointing junior level officers such as jailers as well,” said a top home department officer.

The pecking order
State prisons/jails are administered by four regional offices — South Region (Mumbai), Western Region (Pune), Central Region (Aurangabad) and East Region (Nagpur).

Each region is headed by an officer of the rank of deputy inspector general or inspector general (in case of Mumbai), who supervises recruitment drives for jail sepoys, jailers (officers) and other staffers.

Did you know?
Currently, Maharashtra has 9 central prisons, 27 district prisons, 10 open prisons, one open colony and 172 sub-jails

28,000
Total number of people jailed in Maharashtra

800
The capacity of Arthur Road Jail. It houses about three times this number.

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