Families will no more be required to go all the way to prisons in Punjab to meet inmates. The video-conferencing or "e-mulaqat" will now bring face-to-face the inmates with their families.
Under its drive to cut various types of corruption by using technology, Punjab's prisons department on Wednesday decided to go online - or launch video-conferencing facility - for the mulaqat, the system already in place in Himachal Pradesh that has become the most sought-after mode for families wanting to meet prisoners. Inquiries reveal that in the Nahan jail of the hill state alone, every day at least eight video-conferencing sessions are held.
All Punjab jails have video-conferencing facility for producing inmates before the courts. But for e-mulaqat a separate system will be installed. The objective is to help the close family members and relatives who stay in places far from the jail.
"We will shortly launch this facility from Ludhiana prison. Later, all the prisons will have the e-mulaqat concept," Rajpal Meena, additional director general of police (ADGP), prisons, informed Hindustan Times.
The e-mulaqat system, Meena says, will work in the same way in which the latest online visitor management system operates. This system was put in place two weeks back in Ludhiana prison having over 3,000 inmates, and about 1,400 prisoners in the past few days met their relatives after their appointments were booked online.
People opting for mulaqat via video-conferencing will enter the required details online. Then One Time Password (OTP) will be sent on mobile and email and the request for video-conferencing will be generated with a unique number. Once the request is approved by the jail authorities, the inmate's family will be informed about the time of video-conferencing.
"The family needs a computer, a camera and an internet connection at home. Also, we will work out the modalities on the lines of Himachal Pradesh where jails have been connected with the government-run Lokmitra Kendras for the video-conferencing of inmates with their families," an official implementing other e-prison projects in Punjab said.
In Punjab, mulaqat with convicts is allowed twice a week, while for undertrials it is on four days a week. This practice will be followed for the e-mulaqat too. There are 26 jails in the state with over 26,000 inmates.
The authorities are keen on e-mulaqat as it will reduce visitors' rush and their harassment and is expected to bring down the burden of jail staff and the current practice of inmates getting drugs from outside. During the normal mulaqat, only two persons are allowed, while inmates will be able to meet their entire family and friends through video-conference.
"This project is not costly. We need a good separate internet line, camera and LCD screen," Meena said.
The technological facilities introduced in Tihar jail to curb corruption are being replicated in Punjab prisons. For example, all the inmates are allotted smart cards or e-purse for every item they purchase inside the prison, the barrack allotment system is online, while all jails are under e-surveillance and monitored by prison authorities at the click of a mouse.
System already in place in Himachal Pradesh
Family needs a computer, camera and internet at home
It will reduce visitors' rush and their harassment
Is expected to bring down the burden of jail staff
Will end current practice of inmates getting drugs from outside
e-mulaqat to follow days of normal meetings