It has hardly been a year since the construction of the new Dhaka Central Jail buildings but the plaster has already started to crumble from the walls.
The walls inside become damp at the slightest of rain and several of the doors and windows are falling apart. Many of the power poles are broken, too.
The prison authorities are concerned at the state of the new buildings meant for 7,000 inmates.
Inspector general of prisons brigadier general Syed Iftekhar Uddin told Prothom Alo, now that the prison is in use, it is evident that the quality of construction work has been extremely poor. “Structural weaknesses are a security risk for the inmates,” he added.
During a visit on 15 July, the officials took this correspondent on a tour of the jail, other than to the sensitive areas. A new layer of cement had been applied to the walls of the administration building where the plaster had crumbled off the walls. Cracks on the walls had also been filled.
The inside walls become damp during the rain. Broken windows of the prison guard barracks have been repaired. Three iron gates of the three residential buildings for the officers and employees had broken about two months ago. The public works department had repaired these gates. Two buildings for the prisoners have not been used as yet due to use of poor quality construction material.
The prison officials said, the doors and windows of two of the buildings for the prisoners cannot even be shut properly. Some doors have bent out of shape. The steps leading up to the platform for hanging are excessively narrow and steep.
The visiting room for the prisoners is too narrow. It is impossible to hear anyone speak properly if several people talk in the room.
There are 260 power poles within the prison grounds for security. At the slightly gusty wind in April, seven of these fell. Three had fallen before this. The poles which have replaced these are of poor quality and have rusted already. Some of the poles have been propped up with iron pipes.
Additional inspector general of prisons colonel Iqbal Hasan sent a letter on 5 April to the home ministry and the planning ministry asking for better quality power poles. The letter stated that these present poles were a security risk and could also cause death. However, nothing has been done.
According to sources in the public works ministry, it was the responsibility of the public works department to construct this building at a cost of Tk 406 crore (Tk 4.06 billion).
Allegations for shoddy construction work led to the removal of the project’s executive engineer Utpal Kumar from the project. The housing and public works ministry formed a five-member committee to look into the irregularities and faults. The members of the committee visited the jail on 19 July.
A senior official of the prisons directorate told Prothom Alo, during the visit the inquiry committee members tapped on one of the walls of the buildings meant for prisoners. The plaster simply crumbled off the wall. The committee suspected that low grade cement and sand had been used.
Head of the inquiry committee, housing and public works additional secretary Mohammed Afzal Hossain told Prothom Alo, “We are investigating the matter. We will be able to say what irregularities took place once the investigation is over.” As to when the investigation will be complete, he said, “We have held a meeting and will carry out a visit of the site again, then we will submit a report.”
The project to construct the new buildings of Dhaka central jail was taken up in 2006 in Teghria of Rajendrapur. It was to have been completed in June 2011. The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, finally inaugurated it on 10 April last year. On 29 July last year, inmates were transferred there from the old jail at Nazimuddin Road in Dhaka. There are about 7,000 inmates in the new jail at present.
Officials of the prison directorate said that 20 construction firms had been appointed for the construction of 30 buildings. Nine buildings were still under construction.
Managing director of construction firm Khan and Shams, Abul Kasem, told Prothom Alo, the buildings were constructed two years before the jail was inaugurated. Then the buildings were lying unused. “That is why perhaps the plaster has crumbled,” he argued.
Director of the prisons project, joint secretary of the public works and housing ministry Shamsul Alam had admitted to minor faults. He told Prothom Alo, “There is no major fault in the construction. The public works department will fix any of the faults pointed out to them.” Then why did the pow