Earthquake and after

Print edition : January 08, 2016

Bihar witnessed a powerful earthquake of a magnitude of 5.8 on the Richter scale during my inspection of the Purnea Central Prison on April 25, 2015. I felt the earth twist and turn and the ground shift beneath my feet. I was at the district court nearby. The sound of hurried feet was heard as people ran out of the court. Within moments, the court building was empty, and not a single soul remained inside the building barring the handful of prisoners who were trapped in the court hazat, or lock-up. When everyone ran for safety towards open ground, the hapless prisoners remained standing behind bars staring with disdain at the commotion caused by people fleeing to safety. Thus, I also witnessed the pain and fear of confinement during the earthquake.

The Model Prison Manual, 2003, lays down the evacuation procedure to be followed after a quake but it does not say what is to be done during a quake and its aftershocks. Rules need to be drafted enabling the Prison Department to take uniform steps to prevent loss of life and injuries among prisoners as well as non-prisoners in such eventualities.

Smita Chakraburtty