JUST 15 days before the Nabha jailbreak took place, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Punjab, had written to the Punjab jails department asking them to ensure that all jails in the state were equipped with fully functional CCTV cameras and that a central control room to monitor these was set up in Chandigarh.
The Indian Express has learnt that the letter written by the CEO, V K Singh, a copy of which was also sent to the Punjab Home Department, had asked the jails department to upgrade the CCTV facilities in view of the forthcoming Assembly elections and the apprehension that some untoward incident might occur in the run-up to the elections. Meetings with the jail department officials had also been held in this regard and one such meeting was attended by V K Singh along with the now suspended Additional Director General of Police of the jail department, M K Tewari.
V K Singh confirmed that he had written a letter in this regard. “We had been receiving representations from political parties regarding their concerns that gangsters who are in prison may indulge in some illegal activities in the Punjab assembly elections and therefore our aim was to ensure that there is complete CCTV coverage of certain areas in the jails and to keep an eye on those coming in and out,” he said.
Sources in the Home Department say that while there were some CCTV cameras installed in jails not all were functional. The control room to monitor these cameras in jail department headquarters had also been found to be ill-equipped. It is learnt that the jail officials had been told to arrange funds for setting up the control, room and CCTV coverage and that action was being taken on this front when the jail break took place.
Meanwhile, the EC is also keeping a close watch on the situation post the jailbreak in Nabha. According to V K Singh, while the EC cannot intervene directly in the matter of administration as the code of conduct has not been imposed yet, the officials of the commission were watching all developments closely.
Meanwhile, eyebrows are being raised over the suspension of the ADGP Jails, M K Tewari, even as the district police officers of Patiala and other senior officials who could not clamp down after the escape have managed to get away. A senior police officer said it was shocking that the Patiala SSP Gurmeet Singh Chauhan and Zone IG Paramraj Singh Umranangal were busy escorting Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal inside the Nabha prison instead of being on the field coordinating the efforts to nab the escaped prisoners.
“It is inexplicable that the district police failed to nab these prisoners even as they went through the middle of the town of Nabha and then went out of the district after a lapse of considerable time. The government has chosen to wield the axe on a senior officer, ADGP Jails, while the DSP Nabha and SSP Patiala have gone scot free,” said the senior officer.