SUKHJINDER SINGH RANDHAWA SPELLS OUT VISION FOR STRENGHTENING OF JAIL INFRASTRUCTURE

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·        PUNJAB JAIL DEVELOPMENT BOARD TO BE MADE FUNCTIONAL

Chandigarh : The Jails Minister S. Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa on Thursday spelled his futuristic vision aimed at the strengthening of jail infrastructure besides ensuring the self-sufficiency of jails. Interacting with the media during a press conference here at Punjab Bhawan to shed light on the achievements of the department during previous four years and the targets set for the next one year, S. Randhawa said that the Punjab Jail Development Board, to be established on the pattern of Telangana, would be made functional this year. The rationale behind the move is to set jail infrastructure on upward trajectory, said the Minister further revealing that Punjab would be the second State after Telangana to set up such a board.

Pointing out further, S. Randhawa said that Telangana has very efficacious jail model and former DGP (Jails) Telangana V.K. Singh and Director, IIM Rohtak Dheeraj Sharma have been entrusted with the responsibility of Advisors to study the Telangana model and replicate the same in Punjab. During the press conference, also attended by V.K. Singh, the Minister said that the products manufactured by jails in Punjab yield an annual turnover of Rs. 1.25 crore to Rs. 1.50 crore whereas despite having one-fourth capacity than Punjab, the jails of Telangana stands at Rs. 600 crore out of which Rs. 550 crore come from petrol pumps only. He also averred that 12 petrol pumps of Indian Oil would be coming up in 12 jails of Punjab.

Coming to the futuristic targets aimed at further improvement in the jail infrastructure in Punjab, S. Randhawa said that efforts would be undertaken to operationalize the functioning of Punjab Prisons Development Board at Prisons level to formulate action plans of respective Jails detailing the varied activities to be covered, To formulate and enact revised Punjab Prisons Manual keeping in view the guidelines of Model Prisons Manual, 2016, published by BPR&D.

Besides, the recruitment of Staff (Total 960 posts) 10 Deputy Superintendent (Jails), 46 posts of Assistant Superintendents, 815 Warders and 32 Matrons and Clerical and Technical staff would also be made. The other out of the box steps in the pipeline in future include implementation of Artificial Intelligence based CCTV surveillance system in Jails, setting up of 105 Video Conferencing studios in various jails with adequate infrastructure and connectivity for the trial of inmates through video conferencing. With the help of Hon’ble High Court, rules for Trial by Video Conferencing will be promulgated which will save resources of the State – estimated to be Rs. 45 lacs per day.

Expressing satisfaction over the fact that Punjab is one of the 6 States/U.T.s chosen for this project by Government of India, S. Randhawa said that the implementation of MHA sponsored Project of Body Worn Cameras in Punjab Jails on Pilot Basis would be undertaken with an aim to ensure Behavioural Therapy of inmates through a psychological approach. The other steps in the offing include the purchase of Staff Vehicles for Superintendent Jails who have not been provided official vehicles in last 20 years, setting up of the Prisons Headquarters, Operationalization of Central Jail, Goindwal Sahib and Women Jail, Bathinda, and Operationalization of 12 Petrol Pumps at 12 Jails of Punjab under the Punjab Prisons Development Board, revealed the Jails Minister.

He said that the Jail Department during the year 2020 has been set on course to modernization in accordance with the demands of changing times both from technological and administrative aspects.

S. Randhawa said that the Punjab Prisons Development Board Act has come into force and Punjab Prisons Development Board Rules have been framed with appointment of two independent members S.P. Singh Oberoi – Director, Sarbat Da Bhalla Trust and Monica Dhawan – Director, India Vision Foundation. Detailing the benefits of the Board, S. Randhawa said that the board aims to unlock commercial potential of jails, enhancement of capacity of factories in them, to ensure the department becoming financially self-sufficient and to enable prisoners gain new skills while doing factory work with a view to make prisoners employable on release.

Pointing out the other achievements of the department, the Minister said that the CRPF has been deployed in Central Jail Ludhiana, Kapurthala, Bathinda and Amritsar in order to strengthen the security of prisons and to curb the supply of contrabands/ prohibited articles inside the jails apart from manning the High Security Zones in Jails and the main entrances.

Listing the steps undertaken for successful handling of COVID 19 pandemic in Punjab Jails, the Minister said that detailed protocol has been implemented to contain COVID which includes Prevention, Testing and Treatment and 7 Jails were converted into special jails for new admission and 6 Jails into COVID Care centres. In accordance with the initiative – ‘chase the virus’, a 3 layer Prevention strategy has been adopted which includes test before admission, Re-test after 14 days of quarantine and shifting to regular Jail and third time testing after 14 days quarantine in regular jails, revealed S. Randhawa adding that enhancement of Parole period to convict prisoners, providing interim bail to identified categories of under-trial prisoners, ensuring availability of essential items like masks, sanitizers, PPE Kits etc. were made sufficiently available in all jails, Suspension of physical mulaqat But at the same time extending the option to communicate with their relatives through video mulaqats and extending the option to transfer money in ePurse account of prisoners by their relatives through online means are also some of the other novel measures undertaken to tackle Covid-19. He further divulged that more than 38000 prisoners and 100% staff tested. Only around 2000 prisoners found infected.

Coming to the security aspect, S. Randhawa disclosed that High Security Zones have been established in 13 Jails namely Central Jail Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, Amritsar, Bathinda, Ludhiana, Patiala, Faridkot, Ferozepur, District Jail Sangrur, District Jail Ropar, District Jail Muktsar, New Jail Nabha and Maximum Security Jail Nabha to keep strict surveillance over the illegal activities of the gangsters and hardcore inmates and to segregate other category of prisoners from them. Besides, 735 Warders and 87 Matrons have also been recruited in past 4 years.

Listing the measures undertaken to strengthen the security of Jails, the Minister said that 20 X-Ray Baggage Machines deployed in High Security Zones of jails to detect contrabands/prohibited articles with 15 such machines again purchased in 2018, 30 Door Frame Metal Detectors and 83 Hand Held Metal Detectors have been purchased to detect prohibited articles at entrance of Jails, 502 CCTVs installed at strategic locations of Jails to effectively monitor activities of prisoners with 170 more such CCTVs purchased in 2019 for 3 new Jails, namely Central Jail Amritsar, Central Jail Bathinda and District Jail Muktsar Sahib apart from procuring 500 Walkie- Talkie sets for ensuring seamless communication of Jail staff.

The Minister further divulged that in a bid to equip the jail staff with modern weaponary to handle any untoward incident, the department has purchased 310 INSAS Rifles and 71 Pistols and the construction of Waiting Halls at 9 Jails namely Central Jail, Ludhiana, Hoshiarpur, Ferozepur, Kapurthala, Patiala, Amritsar, District Jail, Sangrur, New Jail Nabha and Women Jail Ludhiana to provide rest and comfort to relatives of prisoners who comes to meet prisoners.

Outlining the technological aspect, S. Randhawa said that ePrisons onitiative has been implemented in the jails to maintain and update database of prisoners in jails of Punjab, hardware worth Rs. 90 lakhs had been purchased in 2018 with an order to purchase additional computer hardware articles worth Rs.1.47 crores has been placed in 2020. Also, the LAN cabling of 10 Jails has been undertaken to enhance internet speed at Jail offices, to rationalize the data seeding process in ePrisons at a Rs. 1.85 Crores.

Prominent among others who were present on the occasion included Principal Secretary Jails DK Tiwari, ADGP Jails PK Sinha and IG Jails RK Arora.

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