The other day, I was talking to the superintendent of the Tihar Hail. "I don't know what to do," he said, "there are so many politicians, businessmen, government officials, managing directors of public corporations, religious heads occupying the prison that there is no place for ordinary criminals."
"How do you manage?" I asked.
"We are trying to push in as many people into the cells as possible, but the common criminals are objecting. They say they do not want to share the cells with the VIP prisoners, as they are bad influence for them."
"Come, come," I said, "it is like the tea-pot calling the kettle black, hardened criminals cannot be spoilt by sharing cells with corporate and political detainees."
"That is what I told them," the superintendent said, "but our regular criminals do not agree. Only yesterday a murderer, who is in the same cell as a senior State Bank of India official, was complaining that the official was teaching him how to siphon off Rs. 133 crores."
"That's bad," I said.
"I know," said the superintendent. "Prison should reform criminals, not make them worse. But I am helpess."
"Why don't you divide the prison into two, in one half you put the robbers, thieves dacoits, murderers, in the other half you put your VIP prisoners," I said.
"I apperciate your advice, but it is not so easy," the superintendent said. "It is difficult to distinguish who is a corporate criminal involved in a multi-million-dollar scam and who is a house-breaker who has stolen Rs. 2 lakhs worth of jewellery. In prison clothes, they all look alike."
"That's possible," I said. "What about the VIP prisoners. How do they feel about sharing cells with ordinary criminals."
"Most of them would like to be in hospital instead of prison," the superintendent said. "But apart from that, and of course all the incovenience of the prison, they do not seem to mind. They dismiss the ordinary criminals as amateurs."
"You can't send them all to hospitals, can you?" I asked. "That would be a solution."
"I would love to send them to hospitals, and even the courts, I understand, have no objection to detaining them in hospitals, but other hospital patients are objection. They are saying that if these people are brought to hospitals, they would rather be treated at the Tihar Jail."
"There seems to be no solution," I said.
"Yes," said the superintendent. "What would Kiran Bedi say if she were to see what state her prison is in now. Some of the habitual criminals have already been influenced by the new prisoners. One of our guards overheard a serial rapist saying. ‘No more rapes for me, I am going to import urea."