4 heads in 9 months, reforms in prisons dept put on the backburner | punjab$chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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4 heads in 9 months, reforms in prisons dept put on the backburner

Since Nabha jail break in 2016, no officer has got a tenure of more than six months; pursuing the matter of deploying CISF outside cells of terrorists with the Centre has been left in the lurch due to the constant shift

punjab Updated: Oct 01, 2017 11:58 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
IPS Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota took charge on August 11.
IPS Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota took charge on August 11.(HT Photo)

With the state’s prisons department getting its fourth head in nine months on August 11 this year, critical reforms in jail administration like the deployment of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) outside cells of dreaded gangsters or terrorists and getting a new Punjab Prisons Act has been put on the back burner. The bill was drafted two years ago and some of the officers over the past year had tried to push for its clearance.

These reforms were put into motion after last year’s Nabha jail break in the high-security facility. This had been a major embarrassment for the state police as least 10 armed men broke into the premises of the jail and freed six gangsters, including Khalistan Liberation Force chief Mintoo on November 27.

The incident started the revolving-door procession at the top chair of the department, with the then Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) MK Tiwari being suspended and Rohit Chaudhary given charge.

After the new Congress government took over, Chaudhary was transferred on April 10 and Gaurav Yadav posted in his place. Yadav lasted only four months with IPS Sahota taking his place on August 11.

Significantly, the prisons department maintains its own cadre which is different from Punjab Police cadre, but the ADGP, who heads the department, is an IPS officer. The IGs and DIGs are from the jail department’s own cadre.

CCTV installation, deployment of staff hit

With no stability at the top post, reforms, that had been pending for approval, have been neglected. The real hit has been pushing for a new Punjab Prisons Act that emphasises rehabilitation of inmates. Under the draft, jail authorities must provide education and recreational activities to children as well as monitor needs for development. It also makes de-addiction centres at all prisons mandatory.

Even steps like installation of CCTVs and jammers or sanctioning additional security are pending.

“The bill for the new law is pending for approval with the home department. Over the past year, each of the ADGPs started pursuing the matter with the state government. However, they were transferred after short periods, meaning the matter is pending due to no follow-ups,” said a senior department official. 

“Any IPS officer that joins as the prisons department head here needs time to understand his role. Before the incumbent could settle, he is shifted,” said an officer, who has worked on the post.

A senior researcher at Institute of Correctional Administration at Chandigarh, who did not wish to be named, said the continuous change in chain of command has hit the functioning of the jails department. 

“At least in the prisons department, the tenure of ADGP should be fixed so that the desired reforms can take place. Punjab needs to take lessons from Nabha jail break but sadly no effort has been made to improve conditions in jails?” the questioned the researcher who has done many studies on Punjab jails.