The future of one of the two open-air agriculture jails of Punjab situated at Nabha in Patiala district is in the dark as it is all set to fall prey to "money-minting formula" of the Punjab government.
With an aim to collect revenue worth crores, the Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) has got transferred 100 acres of land in its name out of total 278 acres from the Punjab jail department and now the PUDA authorities have decided to carve residential and commercial plots on the land.
As per available information, in a fresh development, the PUDA has got possession of the land recently and is now planning demarcation by constructing boundary wall across the possessed area.
Established in 1978, open jail formula has remained a hit when it comes to the rehabilitation of inmates who were shifted to minimum security agriculture jail from main prisons on the basis of their good conduct. Another open jail has been set in Kapurthala district.
Of remaining 178 acres, the Punjab State Industries Export Corporation (PSIEC) has also got possession of around 78 acres of land for the construction of Nabha industrial focal point.
In 2013, the Punjab government has ordered the jail department to transfer the land to PSIEC in exchange for the PSIEC's approval to transfer 83 acres of land in Goindwal Sahib in Taran Tarn district for construction of a district jail.
However, in the remaining 100 acres, the state government has already announced big ultra-modern high security jail, occupying all the agriculture land which was used by open jail inmates for agriculture purposes.
With no land left in near future for agriculture purposes, there is the prospect of the closure of the open jail which is presently having 65 inmates enrolled with it.
One of senior officials in the jail department said the authorities are only waiting for ongoing wheat season to ends as presently wheat has been cultivated in 278 acres of land by jail inmates.
"Though the possession of land has been given officially to PUDA and the PSIEC authorities but both the parties will get physical possession only after harvesting of wheat crop in April", official said.
PUDA's additional chief administrator Preneet Shergill said with no litigations or any other legal entangle over the land, they have recently got possession in their name and have already started making arrangements to construct boundary wall around 100 acres of land.
"The officials concerned have already been instructed to draw lay out for residential and commercials establishments to be carved and the area would be developed in near future before opening for sale", she said.
Interestingly, earlier also, PUDA had developed urban estate in Nabha situated few meters away from the open jail few year ago.
When contacted, Hari Dev, Superintendent of open jail, said that the possession has been recently given to department concerned, while land would be vacated only after the harvesting of wheat.
"We will be hardly left with any land to keep open jail running. We have already asked our department to clear the situation so that in case it would be closed, proper arrangements and formalities can be done to shift open jail inmates to main prisons well in time", he said.
Concept of open jail
Open jail also known as agriculture jails came into being in 1978 with aim of providing better rehabilitation opportunities for the inmates having good conduct in main prison houses. The prisoners on the recommendations of jail superintendents are shifted to open jail. The inmates used to plough fields with seasonal crops mainly wheat and rice and the production after harvesting is sent to other jails across state for human consumption every season. The inmates of open jail are also paid according to the jail manual.