The staff deployed to frisk inmates at the Amritsar Central Jail recently got a wake-up call from the Chandigarh office of the additional director general of police (ADGP, prisons). The omnipresent 'Big Boss' asked them why they were not properly frisking inmates who returned after court hearings. Stunned, the staff realised that they were under constant electronic surveillance and couldn't afford to be caught napping.
Most of the central jails of Punjab have closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras which are now sending live images through the internet to the head office.
"The results are positive. The department has sought a clarification from officials about negligence on the basis of live footage, which we receive not only at the headquarters but also at the camp office and on laptops of all officials ranked above jail superintendents," said Rajpal Meena, ADGP (prisons).
He said the central jails of Patiala, Amritsar, the maximum-security jail at Nabha where several dreaded militants are lodged Sangrur, Rupnagar, Ferozepur and Bathinda were already connected via the internet. Other jails will come under electronic surveillance within two to three days. He said no extra cost was incurred, except on internet connections, as CCTV cameras were already installed in all jails.
All crucial locations such as entry and exit gates, frisking points, visitors' area, canteen and the open area are covered by CCTV cameras, Meena said.
He stated that initially, he had directed jail superintendents not to inform the staff about this e-watching. "Now that they know about it, their style of functioning has changed a lot. I recently questioned a DSP at the Ferozepur jail who was not on duty. The next day, the entire staff was on their toes," Meena added.
He said jail superintendents had been asked to keep a laptop or i-pad during travel or off-duty hours so that they have uninterrupted access to what is happening in their jail and can give necessary directions to the staff.
Meena stated that in the next phase, CCTV monitoring would be taken to the barrack level so as to keep tabs on activities of jail inmates and the staff at the warder level and detect any collusion between them for the supply of drugs.
When contacted, Patiala jail superintendent Bhupinderjit Singh Virk said the move was helping jailers keep regular tabs on the jail staff. "The head office has cautioned us twice over some routine matters, which shows how minutely they are observing us. Thus, the entire staff is now vigilant. The online surveillance has increased the efficiency of our staff during frisking, while drug smuggling has decreased in jails," he said.