Punjab minister says every 2nd inmate in state jails is a drug convict
Aam Aadmi Party in Chandigarh accused the on chair party Congress of not maintaining law in Punjab prisons.
The Opposition Aam Aadmi Party on Tuesday in Chandigarh tried to corner the Congress government on recent incident of arson in Ludhiana jail and murder of sacrilege accused Mohinder Singh Bittu in the Nabha jail. Moving a call attention notice, AAP MLAs Saravjit Kaur, Manuke and Aman Arora alleged that there was complete lawlessness in Punjab prisons.
Jails minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa used the opportunity to make a case for a separate intelligence wing for the department, saying the jails department is still treated like a part of the police department. "I have written to the chief minister to allow us a separate intelligence wing. It will help us know what's happening among inmates. Nearly 51% of inmates in Punjab jails are drug convicts," he said.
Claiming collusion between jail authorities and inmates, he said, "We have taken strict action against officials after recovery of mobile phones and drugs. We found some high-end criminals having a separate kitchen. We have made them eat with other inmates. But reforms take time."
He went on to add that there had been instances of banned items being sneaked in through paint boxes. "Some Amritdhari Sikhs were found bringing contraband items in kacchas (underpants)," he added. The comment evoked strong protest from Ludhiana South MLA Balwinder Bains who said the minister was trying to tarnish the image of Amritdhari Sikhs by saying so. "I am also an Amritdhari Sikh. And I find the accusation outrageous," Bains said.
Randhawa countered by saying he too is an Amritdhari Sikh. "I am speaking on basis of a video that went viral. It happened in my own district, Gurdaspur. I am only trying to highlight the extent to which people can go to sneak in a contraband," the minister said.
He listed as many as 14 steps being taken by his department to check arson. "There is now a three-tier security in jails for frisking. So far, 700 CCTV cameras have been installed and 3,000 are in the pipeline. Mobile phone jammers have been installed in central and district jails, more warders are being recruited and 18 sniffer dogs have been deployed. Soon, the CRPF too will be deployed," Randhawa said.
But he claimed jails should reform a criminal and not harden him. "We are ensuring they have better food, clean bathrooms and employment. They are being given yoga and spiritual classes. A committee under IG Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh has been set up to recommend prison reforms," he added.