The state government’s lackadaisical approach to filling vacant posts was responsible for the major security lapse at the Yerawada Central Jail on Friday that resulted in the murder of terror suspect Quateel Mohammed Zakir Siddiqui, say sources in the prison.
Contradicting them, retired high-ranking police officers strongly objected to the claim that manpower crunch was behind the lapse. They said that manpower crunch in the jail was nothing new and the blunder that took place was a result of the inability of the security in-charge to use the existing strength judiciously.
Siddiqui was strangled with the drawstring of a pair of shorts in the Anda Cell of the jail. Gangsters Sharad Mohol and Ashok Bhalerao, undertrials kept in the jail, claimed responsibility for the act, saying they simply walked into the Anda Cell and killed the suspected Indian Mujahideen man to punish him for his “anti-national activities”.
Disgruntled staff members of the Yerawada Central Jail claimed that despite the manpower crunch, at least two jail guards were being posted at the residence of each of the three high-ranking officers.
One staff member posted at the jail said of the 350 posts sanctioned for Yerawada jail, 92 remained vacant. These posts include those of superintendent, office SP and senior jailor. At present, only 187 guards are deployed instead of 250. As a result, instead of there being one guard for every 20 inmates, one guard has to take the responsibility of at least 30 inmates, sometimes even more.
A retired IG-level officer claimed that even if jails are short-staffed, security at the high-profile Anda Cell should not be compromised in any circumstances. Police Inspector Kishor Jadhav said they had not yet obtained the custody of Mohol and Bhalerao. Jadhav said once they got their custody, both would be produced before a court.
Minister of State for Home Satej Patil said that orders were issued after the Siddiqui incident to keep a tab on the food served in jail to inmates in sensitive cases. Refuting the contention that cases like the one of security lapse on Friday were the result of a manpower crunch, Patil said he wanted the security arrangements for others in the Anda Cell to be loked at again.
“I have asked an officer to conduct a review of the security provided,” Reacting he said. “We have adequate strength for internal security. For outside security, if the need is felt, Home Guards can be deployed.”