After almost two months since the second wave of COVID19 began, its deadliness has not subsided yet. People are still being advised to not attend public and private gatherings, most cities in the country have some variation of a lockdown imposed and healthcare continues to be overburdened.
Meanwhile, there exists a space where physical distancing is nearly impossible and access to basic healthcare including the COVID19 test happens through court orders— Indian jails. These overcrowded jails where both undertrials and convicts reside have seen an outbreak of COVID19 among its prisoners in many places all across India which has led to the Supreme Court ordering the authorities to decongest the prisons.
Prisoners are being released on bail/parole except for those who are charged with UAPA, Sedition, etc irrespective of their undertrial status. Many of the political prisoners have tested positive for the virus but were unable to secure an interim bail on medical grounds.
On Wednesday, three undertrials in the Bhima Koregaon/Elgar Parishad case Mahesh Raut, a former Prime Minister Rural Development Fellow, and members of cultural group Kabir Kala Manch, Sagar Gorkhe, and Ramesh Gaichor, tested positive for COVID19 at the Taloja Central Jail.
Last week 57 intimates including other Bhima Koregaon undertrials, Vernon Gonsalves, Surendra Gadling, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Rona Wilson, and Sudhir Dhawale had undergone RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests but tested negative.
The Indian Express has reported that even though three Bhima Koregaon undertrials have been sent to a quarantine facility, the space given to them is congested. Along with that, they are being provided with medicines or the proper diet required during COVID19.
84 years old Stan Swamy and Hany Babu, an associate professor at the Delhi University, both undertrials in the same case tested positive for the virus and were later hospitalized.
Activists and families of these undertrials political prisoners have condemned the exemption of the UAPA and sedition accused prisoners on bail and demanded that they should be allowed with the relief of interim bail.