From palace to prison for India’s high and mighty

NEW DELHI, May 16, 2011 (AFP) – India’s notorious Tihar Jail in New Delhi is currently home to a clutch of VIP inmates suspected of corruption as police win rare permission to go after the “big fish” in recent cases. The forbidding complex, home to militants and murderers, offers little in terms of comfort for its new white-collar guests, who are forced to share tiny cells with basic toilets in sweltering heat.

Prison chief Neeraj Kumar told AFP that the powerful connections of his new charges, which include the country’s former telecom minister and the head of the Indian Olympic Association, have won them no special treatment.

“It’s just a speculation in the media that we have a VIP jail,” Kumar said from his office at Tihar where 11,700 inmates, including 470 women and 500 foreigners, are squeezed into facilities designed to hold half this figure.

“We have not provided any special privileges to them and nor have they asked for any,” he said, before clarifying that they have been segregated from hardened criminals for their own safety.

The biggest name in custody is former minister A. Raja, who is awaiting trial over his role in what police and the national auditor believe to be one of India