Scope for improvement in security in Punjab jails: CAG
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report tabled in the Punjab Assembly by the Congress government on Thursday said security in the state's jails left much scope for improvement.
In three years till 2018, a total of 31 prisoners escaped since the majority of Punjab jails were facing shortage of staff ranging from 30 to 45 per cent, besides modern security equipment.
The CAG has also picked holes in the utilisation of funds in all 26 jails, including nine central and one maximum security prison.
Ranging from 31 and 100 per cent, the funds meant for modernisation of jails could not be utilized between 2015 and 2018.
On November 27, 2016, a jailbreak in Nabha jail led to the escape of four gangsters and two hard-core terrorists.
Quoting a government report, the CAG said the jailbreak in Nabha re-emphasised the need for upgradation of prison jammers from 3G to 4G technology, installation of X-ray baggage-checking machines and other security equipment like CCTVs and metal detectors etc.
The auditor said that out of 26 jails, 2G or 3G mobile jammers were installed only in four jails between October 2012 and December 2016.
In the seven test-checked jails, door-frame metal detectors, hand-held metal detectors and CCTVs were not functional till February 2018.
Nine test-checked jails were not equipped with modern security equipment like binoculars, breath analyzers (alcometers) and flash or search lights.
The audit report said 2,151 mobiles, 907 mobile SIMs, 34 mobile accessories were seized from the inmates from 2015-18.
Thirty one prisoners, including four gangsters and two hardcore militants, escaped from 13 jails during this period.
"Overcrowding, poor jail management and understaffing are mainly responsible for the mess in the state prisons. They are responsible for violence too," Upneet Lalli, Deputy Director, Institute of Correctional Administration, Chandigarh, told IANS.
She said drugs, public health and corruption are the ills prevailing in most prisons.
"Overcrowded and understaffed prisons are more difficult to manage, leading to violence like the one witnessed in Ludhiana Central Jail," she said.
Lalli said it is only when a jailbreak or violence occurs that the issue of prison reforms comes to the fore. "It needs to be tackled at all levels as 67 per cent of the jail inmates in Punjab are undertrials."
The recent disturbances in Ludhiana and Nabha jails have again brought the focus on the need for jail reforms.
To engage the prisoners in gainful economic activity for reformatory impact, the Cabinet a day earlier had decided to establish the Punjab Prisons Development Board on the lines of Telangana.
A spokesperson for the Chief Minister's Office told IANS that this step was aimed at reduction in crime in prisons and generation of revenue, by keeping the prisoners busy in productive activities undertaken by the board.
The board would be chaired by the Chief Minister, with the Jails Minister as Senior Vice Chairperson and Principal Secretary/Secretary in the Department of Prisons as its Vice Chairperson.
After bifurcation, Telangana had adopted the Andhra Pradesh Prison Development Board, which was established in 2001.
The Telangana Board has undertaken numerous economic activities to bring about real transformation in criminals and undertrials lodged in the state's jails, even leading to a decrease in prison crimes and also generating revenue.IANS