DESPITE A tough gesture by Punjab’s Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and the suspension of two officers of Gurdaspur Central Jail after recovery of mobile phones from jail notwithstanding, Punjab jails’ ‘connect’ with mobile phones seems to be far from over.
The recent sequence of events only suggests that jails’ administration faces an uphill task to tackle the use of mobiles by inmates inside the jails.
The mobile phone ‘saga’ in Punjab jails reached a sort of flashpoint Monday when a video clip of an inmate Gobind Singh purportedly shot in the jail in which he ‘threatened’ Chief Minister Amarinder Singh went viral. The inmate also used ‘derogatory language’ against Jails minister and the Punjab DGP.
On May 2, Randhawa ordered the suspension of Gurdaspur Jail superintendent Randhir Singh Uppal and deputy superintendent Arvinder Pal Singh Bhatti after nine mobile phones were recovered from the Gurdaspur jail during a search by Gurdaspur police. Subsequently, six mobile phones were recovered during a search of inmates at the Jail entry. Among the recovered phones, few mobile phones were hidden in footwear soles, said a jail official.
Again in Gurdaspur jail, in the early hours of May 22, a search by jails staff led to recovery of three mobile phones. The irate inmates lodged a protest and jails administration had to seek the help of Gurdaspur police to maintain law and order in the jail. Randhawa had warned that Jail superintendents and other concerned staff will face action in case any mobile phones were recovered from jails. The warning came after Randhawa took over as jails minister. Randhawa had said he received a congratulatory call from an inmate lodged in a Punjab jail after he was inducted as minister. Saying that he was not allotted Jails department portfolio at that time, Randhawa had admitted that problem of use of mobile phones inside the jails was serious and he would take strict action against officials responsible for this. Sources, however, say that recovery of mobile phones from inside the jails and during frisking of the inmates at the jail entry continues.
Recently, the jails staff at Amritsar Central Jail learnt that a prisoner, wearing a nihang style turban and returning from parole was carrying phones in his turban. As many as six phones, including two smart phones, tumbled out one by one as the prisoner unravelled the turban. The jail staff videographed the recovery. Before Randhawa took over as Jails minister, this year till March, 194 mobile phones were recovered from inmates and another 121 as unclaimed, taking the total number to 315. As per figures compiled by Jails department till the end of March, out of these, 124 phones were recovered from barracks, pointing to the blatant use of phones inside the jails. As per the jails data, as many as 1,547 mobile phones were recovered from Punjab jails in 2017.
After taking over as jails minister, Randhawa, in a bid to check any likely connivance of jail staff had ordered that only jail superintendent can carry mobile phones inside the jails and no other jail staff can carry mobile phones. ADGP (Prisons) Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota said action was being taken against the jails officials found to be conniving with the inmates to smuggle mobile phones inside the jails. Sahota said while a probe was on in Faridkot jail incident, a warder was dismissed from service in Gurdaspur jails phones recovery case where jail superintendent and deputy jail superintendent were placed on suspension.