SRINAGAR: Family members of jail inmates in Kashmir valley are in distress as the authorities have banned meetings of jail inmates with family members due to the risk of Covid-19 spread. While several other prisons in the country are equipped with video calling facilities, here in J&K no such facility is available, except a phone call.
The distressed family members have expressed concern over the health of prisoners in this time of pandemic. They demand that the prisoners be released on parole or their meetings with the prisoners be facilitated so that they can check on their health.
The wife of a jail inmate in Srinagar said, “Either my husband should be released on parole or we should be allowed to see him. My children are very worried about their father.”
Several family members of jail inmates have requested the authorities to release the prisoners on parole or grant them bail for a period of time.
Thousands of prisoners are languishing in different jails across Jammu & Kashmir and also in jails in other states.
Jail authorities in J&K sometimes facilitate video calling with family members on the directions of the judiciary in some cases, said a jail official.
Recently, a central prison in Tiruchy in Tamil Nadu established video calling facility for jail inmates due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so that prisoners could check on the health of their family members and ease their worries.
Similar demands have been raised by family members of jail inmates in Kashmir after meetings with family members were banned 20 days ago.
According to jail officials in Kashmir, the jails are equipped with intranet facility but not internet, which only facilitates connectivity with other jails. Only a landline facility is available for jail inmates to talk to their family members for a limited time.
The daughter of a prisoner in Anantnag said, “I miss my dad very much. I used to see him after every ten days but now it has been a month. I don’t know in what circumstances he’s in, whether he is taking proper precautions against this virus. I have been talking to him on phone but I wish to see him, somehow. I hope that the government and jail authorities will have mercy on us and arrange for video calling facilities.”
The elderly father of another jail inmate said, “I want to see my son. One month has gone by and I haven’t seen him. We are not allowed to step out of home, so how can we reach the jail to have his glimpse?”
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Prisons Mohd Sultan Lone told Kashmir Reader, “All jails in J&K are equipped with intranet facilities but they lack internet facility which enables video calling. The inmates talk to their family members on phone. There are sufficient numbers of telephones in all jails.”
“Following the COVID-19 pandemic, we have banned the meeting of family members with prisoners for some time to prevent them from any infections. Besides this, we are taking all necessary precautions to keep the prisoners safe, so their families need not to worry,” Lone said.
On the issue of video calling facility, he said, “In many states there are such facilities but here in J&K, there is not yet any sort of facility which allows prisoners to interact with their family members face to face.”