A day after he was inducted into the Punjab Cabinet last week, Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa got a congratulatory call. It was from an inmate lodged in one of the state’s jails.
Making the startling disclosure himself Wednesday, Randhawa told The Indian Express: “I received a congratulatory call from an inmate lodged in one of the jails in the state.” After the “first-hand” experience” of the rampant use of mobile phones in Punjab prisons, Singh Wednesday kick-started a state-wide inspection with a surprise visit to the Central Jail in Patiala.
Asked if he knew the caller, Randhawa said, “Yes, he was known to me. Otherwise, why would he call me?” Sworn in as minister on April 21, Randhawa did not disclose the identity of the caller.
“I received the call on the day my name was announced as a minister (in the Punjab cabinet). That day, I did not know I would get the Jails portfolio.”
He also said that he would take up the issue of mobile phones in jail with the Centre. “I am observing the scenario. Mobile phones inside jails is true beyond any doubt. It is a big menace and it will not be addressed till the latest jammers are installed,” he said.
According to him, the matter of upgrading jammers to include 4G mobile phones was pending with the Union government. “By the time the Union government decides on 4G jammers, there will be 5G technology and then we will require 5G jammers. So, I will press upon the Centre to plan 5G jammers in advance,” he said.
The minister also interacted with jail inmates and resolved about 50 complaints on Wednesday. He also announced that he will speed up pending parole cases and the opening of co-operative bank ATMs for salaries of jail employees.
The minister also took stock of the jail canteen and hospital, inspected the food quality and announced Rs 7 lakh from his discretionary quota to purchase two roti-making machines at the Patiala Central Jail.