April 9, 2021 12:03:19 am
Seeking to unlock the untapped commercial potential of land lying with the Punjab prison department, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday approved setting up of 12 retail outlets of Indian Oil Corporation on such plots.
Amarinder cleared a proposal to this effect while chairing a meeting of the newly constituted Punjab Prisons Development Board (PPDB). Amarinder was informed by the officials that this project, besides giving employment to 400 released prisoners, would generate an expected revenue of Rs 40 lakh per month. Briefing the CM, the board’s Member Secretary and ADGP Prisons, Praveen Sinha, said prisoners with good conduct would be employed at the retail outlets and preference would be given to women prisoners.
Last month, the CM had given nod for setting up a retail outlet at Patiala Central Jail land. The outlet would come up along the main road near Patiala mini-secretariat, a government functionary said, adding that the prison department land would be provided to IOCL, which would make the investment to set up the retail fuel station.
The fuel station at Patiala would come up on Company Owned Dealer Operated (CODO) model. The IOCL, the functionary said, would pay a commission to the PPDB for every litre of fuel sold.
The functionary added that PPDB would pay the salaries of the prisoners employed out of the revenue it would generate. “35 to 40 prisoners would be employed at the fuel station,” the official said, adding that their salary would be much higher than what they got in the jail on daily wage basis.
The in-principal approval to set up such a fuel station was accorded in 2019, but it came under the purview of PPDB in April last year when the board was set up to carry an array of activities for “financial self sufficiency of jails, to strengthen their infrastructure and to unlock the commercial potential of jails, enhacement of capacity of factories there and to gain new skills with a view to make them employable on release.”
Eleven other retail outlets, for which the CM gave his nod, will come up in Faridkot, Ferozepur, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Sangrur, Hoshiarpur, Fazilka, Ludhiana and Ropar (one each) and Nabha (two).
Sinha said, “These are platforms for skill development and creating employability of the prisoners not only when they are serving the sentence but post their release also. While we are unlocking the hidden potential of the jails department, the focus is on correction and rehabilitation of the prisoners”.
‘Ujala Punjab’ brand for products manufactured by inmates
The CM also granted approval to the brand name, ‘Ujala Punjab’, for all products manufactured by jail inmates. Approval was also accorded to the board for taking over all the factories established in jails, existing projects being run in prisons under PPP mode and commercial activities being done at Open Jail Nabha.
Sinha said products like bedsheets, towels, mops, furniture, stationery, soaps and sanitizers will be manufactured in prison factories under the board. He suggested that these products should be bought directly by various government departments as per existing provisions. He said the board was also planning to set up a corrugated boxes manufacturing unit for meeting the demand of cooperatives Milkfed and Markfed.
Approval was also granted to the board to collaborate with various Punjab government departments for supply of products made in prison factories.
Sinha said to make these projects commercially viable and profitable, many units shall be set up under PPP mode and skill training would be provided to 3,000-4,000 prisoners to make them employable in various ventures upon release.
The CM also approved the board’s proposal for tie-ups with Punjab Technical and School Education departments for setting up of ITIs inside the prison and running National Open School/University courses, respectively, in jails to train prisoners and make them employable, post their release. Sinha suggested that “educated prisoners, who have two or more years of imprisonment left, can be trained by the Education department to become teachers for the other prisoners and help them clear courses from Open School and Universities.”
For ensuring implementation of these projects, the CM also accorded approvals to the “board’s proposals for hiring of consultants (technical instructors/advisors, accountants, etc).”
The chief Minister also approved the proposal of non-official member, S P S Oberoi, Managing Trustee, Sarbat Da Bhala Trust, to set up five medical laboratories in jails for the use of prisoners. The cost of setting up these labs would be borne by the trust.
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