The report of an inquiry committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI-ML) has revealed various "irregularities" in Punjab jails.
The committee members included Comrade Gurmit Singh Bakhatpura,Comrade Gulzar Singh and Comrade Gurjant Singh, who were among the farmers who were put behind bars in Gurdaspur, Faridkot and Mansa jails, respectively, for taking part in the 'rail roko' agitation in Punjab on March 6.
The report said that prisoners and undertrials were being meted out inhuman treatment by the jail staff. "The number of prisoners in jails is double the sanctioned capacity. They are given food which is not fit for even the consumption of animals. The inmates are never given information about the jail manual. The jail hospitals do not have enough medicines, and the same medicine is given to patients suffering from different diseases. The hospital barracks are a favourite place for louses. The beds and cots host a large number of louses and bedbugs which do not let the prisoners have any rest," the inquiry revealed.
The report said that many items were being sold at rates which were three times higher than the rates in the open market. Citing the example of exploitation of prisoners, the report pointed out that a match box which was available for Rs. 1 in the market was sold for Rs. 5 in jails.
The inquiry panel said the supply of water in jails was also irregular. "The prisoners have contributed towards installing submersible motors in various jails, including the one in Gurdaspur, to have access to water. Prisoners in Gurdaspur jail have purchased a flour-kneading machine for Rs. 30,000 because in the summer season the sweat of the cook mixed in the flour kneaded by him does not smell and taste good. Generally, around 70% of the jail inmates who have been put behind bars on the charge of possessing narcotic powder or other offences have never committed the crimes for which they have been jailed. Most of them have been framed by the police at the instance of local ruling party leaders," the report pointed out.
The report said the police were sending people to jail in the name of controlling the flow of drugs, but drugs were more readily available in jails than outside. "Jails have become a haven for drug addicts and drug peddlers. In the recent past, a BJP leader from Batala had died of drug overdose in Gurdaspur central jail. The illegal business of drugs has been flourishing in jails because of the connivance of the jail staff. More worrisome is the fact that there is nobody to listen to any complaint against the illegal drug trade in jails of the state," the report pointed out.
It further said that a high court judge had visited the Gurdaspur jail to listen to the grievances of jail inmates, and inquiry committee member Comrade Gurmit Singh Bakhatpura, who was in the jail at that time, brought the issue of illegal trade of drugs in the jail to his notice and demanded a probe into it. Bakhatpura claimed that his demand was ignored by the judge, who termed it as a "malicious allegation by an opposition party leader".
The report pointed out that in 1977, the then Punjab chief minister, Parkash Singh Badal, had changed the names of the jails to sudhar ghars (reformative houses), but in practice these sudhar ghars were a bad influence on the youth.
The inquiry committee has demanded a CBI probe into the working conditions of jails in the state.
Talking to HT on Sunday, Gurdaspur central jail superintendent Surinder Singh Saini rubbished the report, saying that these people were in the habit of levelling false charges against every official and department. He said that when high court judge justice PS Dhinsa visited the Gurdaspur jail, these farmer leaders were allowed to meet him, but they did not bring any issue or problem to his notice except for pleading that they be released from the jail.
Saini said that the jail was functioning strictly according to the jail rules and there was no truth in the report released by the inquiry committee.