B.V.S. Bhaskar

The number of positive cases has gone up from 45 to 54 in six months

The prison is jam-packed with 1,900-2,000 prisoners

About 20 of them died in the last 3 years due to different ailments

RAJAHMUNDRY: The number of people who are HIV positive is increasing in Rajahmundry Central Jail, which is one of the oldest Central Prisons in the country, built in 1864. The number of positive cases has gone up from 45 to 54 in six months between 2009 August and March. “This number represents only officially tested cases. If we conduct blood test to all the prisoners the number may double or triple.

However the blood test is not binding,” said in-charge DIG and Jail Superintendent A.G. Sainatha Reddy.

When the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) asked a report on the number of HIV patients, psychiatric and other serious diseases, the jail authorities submitted the report and admitted that they failed in giving proper treatment to inmates and they were not in a position to control HIV deaths in prison.

The Right to Information Act throws light on health conditions of prisoners including lifers, non-lifers and under trails in Rajahmundry Central Jail.

The prison, which is having a capacity of accommodating 1,409 prisoners, is filled with 1,900 to 2,000 prisoners. Health screening of every prisoner is a must in accordance with NHRC's direction from many years.

In Rajahmundry prison there are 45 HIV positive cases, in which 25 are lifers, 11 non-lifers, 8 are under-trails. There is no confirmation from officials about how the dreaded disease was spreading in the prison.

From May 2007 to June this year about 20 people died in prison with different ailments including HIV.

Secondly, the number of psychiatric patients is significant. Among the 54 psychiatric patients 32 are lifers, 15 non-lifers and 7 under trails. “We are sending psychiatric patients to Visakhapatnam Psychiatric Hospital for treatment every month and after treatment they are coming back,” said the DIG.

The Rajahmundry Central Jail had violated all norms and directions of NHRC with regard to these patients. NHRC in its direction in the years 1996, 2000 under the chairmanship of Justice Ranganatha Mishra and Justice Varma has clearly instructed jail superintendents through DG's of jails that detention of psychiatric patients amounts to egregious violation of human rights and State governments cannot escape their obligation to provide proper psychiatric treatment to the mentally ill and such people are not to be kept in jail in any circumstance and they should not be treated as unwanted human beings, but put in hospitals.