The purpose to enthuse young blood in gangsters-torn Punjab jails was sort of defeated after a number of candidates who have attained the age of more than 50 years made their way to the list of shortlisted candidates announced by the Punjab government to fill 527 posts of jail warders.
Three ex-servicemen candidates selected for the jail warder posts have already attained the age of 55 years, while four others are 54-year-old, meaning thereby that they will serve only for three years and four years, respectively till they retire at the age of 58. Six other candidates, also ex-servicemen as only ex-servicemen could have made it to the post at such an age due to relaxations to them, are between 50 to 52 years of age. Nearly 30 per cent of the selected candidates are aged 38 or more. Remaining are between the age group of 25 to 37.
The list of shortlisted candidates was uploaded in Punjab police recruitments website on Wednesday. The recruitment process had started in 2011 after the government issued advertisements in October 2011 to fill the posts, but was scrapped by government in June 2014 after a long delay as it wanted to amend the age bracket from 18 to 37 years to 18 to 25 years to recruit younger candidates for the posts.
A number of applicants for the post challenged the decision of Punjab government in the Punjab and Haryana High Court with the plea that recruitment be held as per 2011 advertisements and as per the age bracket mentioned in that advertisement. Acting on the bunch of petitions, in December 2016, High Court quashed the 2014 Punjab government decision to scrap the recruitment, paving the way for recruitment of 527 jail warders and 36 matrons. More than one lakh applicants had submitted application against the 2011 advertisement.
The fresh recruitment process started for nearly 28,000 candidates who were found to be eligible earlier and their physical mesaurement tests and other recruitment procedure was undertaken afresh after the December 2016 High Court order. The last direct recruitment of jail warders was done way back in 1992 and jail authorities have often lamented that understaffed and elderly jail warders were too good to take on dreaded gangsters.
Against the sanctioned strength of 2068 jail warders, 26 jails in Punjab have 964 jail warders and there were 1124 vacancies. The latest recruitment will take the number of vacancies down to 597. Jails department also plans to recruit another 210 jail warders in near future, this time with amended rules as per which the age bracket would be 18 to 25 years and minimum educational qualification would be 10+2, as compared to middle (8th pass) in applications called for recruitment in 2011.
Officials in the jail department say that from 2011 to till date, about 500 jail warders had retired and among the 964 serving warders many were nearing retirement age. Punjab jails have often remained in spotlight for wrong reasons with reports of gangsters operating freely from jails and inmates even beaming Facebook live from the jails and remaining active on social media from inside the jails, besides incidents of clashes inside the jails.
“We only complied with the court order. The 2011 advertisement was given in accordance with old rules under which the upper age limit was 37. The government amended the rules reducing the upper age limit to 25 and enhancing the minimum qualification to 10+2. The court ruled in favour of petitioners who had moved court to seek recruitment on the basis of 2011 advertisement only,” said a senior jails department official, wishing not to be named.
ADGP Jails Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota said, “Those who are over 50 and selected are ex-servicemen who are given age relaxation. They would have got to serve six more years only had the recruitment taken place in 2011. In future, we are conducting recruitments as per amended rules. We will be recruiting 210 jail warders and the upper age limit for the candidates will be 25 years.”