The Central Jail, Kapurthala, has been in the news once again for wrong reasons. The Jalandhar rural police have found that two prisoners had been running a drug racket from the jail through mobile phones. Not only in Kapurthala jail but such lapses have been reported from other jails in the state also. Possession of mobiles by prisoners cannot be possible without the connivance of some unscrupulous jail officials. HT talked to Punjab jails minister Sarwan Singh Phillaur over the issue.
Q: Two prisoners in Kapurthala jail were found having mobiles and running Facebook, uploading pictures and interacting with their friends from the jail. But no action has been taken so far on this. Why?
A: I regret that as this was happening in the prison. But it is a nationwide problem these days. However, it is surprising that how the prisoners were able to get mobile phones. Soon after reading about this news, I ordered the principal secretary (home) and ADGP (jails) to look into the matter and submit a report. Strict action will be taken against the officials responsible for the lapse.
Q: Despite claims of strictness by your department, mobiles and drugs are reaching the prisoners which are recovered during searches. In the past also 10 phones were recovered from the jail. What do you say?
A: It is happening not only in Punjab but all over the country. However, a proper mechanism has been installed at the main gates of jails to keep an eye on all sorts of activities and to prevent the entry of such material into jails.
Even shops for essential commodities have been set up inside jails.
Q: If there is a strong mechanism at the gates, then how mobiles and narcotics were reaching the prisoners lodged in cells. Is any proper security check of shops inside the jails also?
A: Shops inside the jails cannot sell such gadgets and there is proper check on these shops. At the same time, strong action has been taken whenever officials have been found responsible for such lapses. In the past, six jail officials were suspended for conniving with the prisoners. A three-tire security system has been working in jails.
Q: Overcrowding is a general problem in jails. No action has been taken in this respect even after your government has come into power for the second time.
A: Yes, this is a serious issue. But now central jails coming up at Amritsar, Muktsar, Bathinda and sub-divisional jails will definitely solve this problem.
Q: Former DGP (prisons) Shashi Kant had claimed that drug rackets were being run from jails in the state by top politicians and businessmen.
Instead of probing the charges levelled by him, the government just started criticising him for levelling such allegations.
A: Shashi Kant is a history and he was speaking out of political interest.. Jail authorities all over the state have now been asked to take strong measures to check the drug menace in jails.
Q: Despite repeated requests by the health department to jail authorities to send HIV patients for treatment on time, some jails were found to be not following this order seriously.
A: I am also worried on this issue. Jail authorities have been asked to shift serious prisoners immediately to nearby hospitals for their treatment. Medical mobile units have also been deployed in some jails.