Pending bills snap govt’s cellphone service for inmates

The funds crunch in West Bengal has had an unlikely fallout — underworld don Aftab Ansari is on hunger strike at Alipore Central Correctional Home because his mobile phone facility has been withdrawn. The government has not cleared dues of Rs 11 lakh, the service provider has claimed.

Sources at the correctional administration department said the state government's much-publicised initiative of providing mobile phone facility for the inmates was withdrawn on October 5 because the dues had not been cleared by the state government.

The facility was introduced in April this year to enable inmates to speak to their relatives over phone.

The failure of the state government to clear the dues has prompted Aftab Ansari and two other convicts to launch an indefinite hunger strike. Ansari, facing death sentence after being convicted in the 2002 American Center attack case, is lodged in a condemned cell of Alipore Central Correctional Home.

On October 8, Ansari and the other two prisoners wrote to inspector-general of prison Ranvir Kumar informing him of their decision to launch an indefinite hunger strike to protest against the withdrawal of mobile phone services.

"We have told the prisoners that the correctional service department has taken the issue seriously and discussions are on to reinstall the facility," a top correctional service department official told The Indian Express.

A similar facility was introduced in Dum Dum and Presidency Correctional Homes.

"The facility at these two correctional homes is working smoothly and we have not yet received any complaints from these two homes. But at Alipore Central Correctional Home, funds could not be raised to meet telephone expenses," the official added.

The decision to install mobile phones in prominent correctional homes was taken during the Left regime to check smuggling of mobile phones inside the homes.

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