After ‘threats’ from radicals, plan for bulletproof SUV for Punjab jail minister Randhawa

Randhawa has also demanded Gypsies for jail superintendents whom he has tasked with checking use of drugs and mobile phones inside jails.

punjab Updated: Jul 18, 2018 09:23 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab jail minister,punjab,punjab news
Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa(HT File )

After Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Punjab’s minister for jails, alleged threats from Khalistani radicals through calls and videos, the state home department has moved a proposal to provide him with a bulletproof SUV. The minister had accused police chief Suresh Arora of “not taking any action” after he forwarded the videos to him and director general of police (DGP), intelligence, Dinkar Gupta. Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar is also on the list of those for whom bulletproof SUV has been sought by the state police in view of threat perception.

Randhawa will be the first member of the Punjab cabinet other than chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh to have an armoured vehicle. As threats from gangsters and radicals go viral, including from those sitting in jails, the state police also wants to revamp its fleet of pilot and escort vehicles.

In a proposal sent to the finance department, the department has sought approval to purchase 118 Maruti Suzuki Gypsies, including for Z-plus protectees such as former CM Parkash Singh Badal, his son and Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and former Akali minister Bikram Singh Majithia. It also wants new escort and pilot Gypsies for Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu and some leaders of right-wing outfits such as Shiv Sena.

Randhawa has also demanded Gypsies for jail superintendents whom he has tasked with checking use of drugs and mobile phones inside jails. A Gypsy costs around Rs 6.5 lakh each.

Though the proposal is from the home department helmed by the CM , the finance department has yet to give its nod. After requests from some ministers and MLAs that their old SUVs be replaced, the transport and finance departments have recently moved a joint proposal to rule out purchase of new SUVs and reimburse only fuel and driver salary.

“The old cars will be phased out, but no new ones will be bought. A Toyota Fortuner (for ministers) costs Rs 30 lakh and Innova (for MLAs) Rs 15 lakh. These vehicles are condemned after being used for some years,” said finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, adding, “All ministers and MLAs have their own SUVs. They can use those and claim reimbursement for fuel as per set limits, and driver salary as per the DC rate. It will help us make big savings on capital expenditure and ensure regular funds for our social welfare schemes.”

Since multiple departments provide the cars and drivers, the new policy will also help end the confusion on claims. “Some vehicles come from transport department, others from general administration and the police department. At times, the fuel bills remain pending due to the confusion,” he added.

An administrative decision, the policy will not need the sanction of the state cabinet. But it may face resistance from ministers and MLAs. Some Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators have dumped the “junk” vehicles provided by the government, alleging discrimination. Bittu too had returned an old bulletproof Mitsubishi Montero given to him by CM Amarinder last year after he received threats from Khalistani groups.

In 2016, the previous SAD-BJP government led by Badal had sanctioned Rs 10 crore for 150 new Maruti Ertiga vehicles for Punjab Police for patrolling in four major cities. For rural areas, 220 Mahindra Boleros and 400 Honda Unicorn motorcycles were bought under the Rapid Rural Response Scheme.

First Published: Jul 18, 2018 09:23 IST