Kin Allege Negligence as Prisoner in Taloja Jail Dies of COVID-19

Activist Varavara Rao had also previously complained about the healthcare facilities in Taloja jail in an an affidavit submitted to a court.

Mumbai: A 22-year-old undertrial prisoner lodged in Navi Mumbai’s Taloja jail has died of COVID-19 at a hospital, even as his family members alleged that the negligence of prison authorities led to his death.

The prisoner, identified as Vishal Anand Dasari, died at St George Hospital in Mumbai on Wednesday morning, a jail official said.

Dasari was first admitted to Mumbai’s JJ Hospital on April 30 before being shifted to St George Hospital after testing positive for the viral infection, he said.

He was lodged in jail since 2018 in a case under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).

Dasari’s relative Aneesh Bharti said, “Of late, he had been complaining of throat pain and uneasiness whenever his family members called him in jail. However, the jail authorities neglected his condition and did not bother about him. They have no concern for the health of prisoners.”

“We have lost our family member…He wanted to come home, but now he is no more,” he added.

Meanwhile, one more Taloja jail prisoner has tested COVID-19 positive and admitted to St George Hospital, while another inmate, who is asymptomatic, has been quarantined inside the prison, sources in the jail said.

Taloja jail superintendent Kaustubh Kurlekar confirmed that Dasari died of COVID-19 and another prisoner has been hospitalised after testing positive.

Dr. Ranjit Mankeshawar, dean of J J Hospital, said, “The deceased (Dasari) was first admitted to J J Hospital, but was shifted to St George Hospital after testing positive for coronavirus and he died due to the infection on Wednesday morning.”

Earlier, poet-activist Varavara Rao, an accused in Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, had complained against the health facilities at Taloja jail, where he was lodged.

Rao had stated in an affidavit submitted to a court that there were only three Ayurvedic practitioners to address the health issues faced by the inmates and that there are no staff nurses, pharmacists or medical specialists to attend to the prisoners at Taloja prison hospital.

The Bombay High Court has earlier asked the Maharashtra prison authorities to provide details of the availability of qualified medical staff and health workers in jail hospitals after it was informed about the deaths of prisoners and jail staff in the second wave of COVID-19.