Punjab chief minister captain Amarinder Singh on Monday approved the setting up an Anti-Terror Squad (ATS), as part of the intelligence wing, to break the nexus flourishing between militants and gangsters in the state’s prisons.
The government is mulling an effective law such as the Punjab Control of Organised Criminals Act (PCOCA) to deal with the terror spread by organised criminal gangs, an official spokesman said. The move comes in the backdrop of many gangsters being active in the state, including Vicky Gounder, who is giving sleepless nights to the police by striking at his rivals at will.
He said most of these have been operating in the state for the past five-seven years with strong political patronage. The ATS will have the mandate to act against both terrorist/militant outfits and criminal gangs.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh, on a request from the CM, has already agreed tentatively to provide two Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) companies in exchange of the same number of Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) companies from Punjab to ensure security at the high-security and sensitive jails where hardcore terrorists and gangsters are lodged. These additional companies will remain at the prisons for at least six months, said the spokesperson.
At his meeting with Rajnath last week, Amarinder had raised concern about the growing nexus between militants and gangsters, pointing out that jail staff, including superintendents and wardens, had been receiving constant threats from such elements. “This nexus had led to incidents like the Nabha jailbreak,” he said, quoting the CM.
Besides, the state government has decided to request the judiciary to notify trial courts in jails to avoid frequent movement of members of top criminal gang, who are being targeted to settle inter-gang feuds and rivalries. On the police crackdown on terrorists and gangsters, the spokesperson said since March 16, when the Amarinder government took over, 16 dreaded gangsters had been arrested. The crackdown has also led to busting of two terrorist modules, leading to the arrest of four militants.
As of March 15, there were 22 organised criminal gangs operating in Punjab with 240 gang members, of which 137 gangsters were lodged in various jails of the state, he said. As per the official data, 22 gangsters are still absconding. These criminal gangs, many of which are patronised by political leadership, have been involved in inter-gang rivalry killings, contract killings, extortion from real estate developers, drug smugglers, liquor contractors, singers, landgrabbing, kidnapping for ransom and other serious crimes, including drug and arms smuggling.