Punjab jail authorities have got an unusual request. Punjab Gau Sewa Commission chairman Keemti Bhagat wants gaushalas or cow shelters to be opened on jail premises.
Bhagat has listed the “benefits” for jails, and for society in general — the dung can be used for biogas plants that will service jail kitchens; it can even be used to generate electricity for jails and free milk supply among others.
In a letter to police on November 17, which was subsequently forwarded to ADG (Jails), Bhagat said “adequate arrangements for the gaushalas could be made in the jails since human resource was available in the jails.
In the letter, Bhagat cited that gaushalas were being run in jails in states like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh with “very good results”.
The jails department is not enthused by the proposal. “Yes, we have received a communication in this regard. But we do not have any land for the gaushalas. There is not enough open space to run gaushalas in jails,” Punjab Jails department DIG L S Jakhar said.
Against the sanctioned capacity of some 19,000, Punjab’s 26 jails housed nearly 26,000 inmates in October 2015.
Bhagat told The Indian Express: “I sent the proposal after weighing all the pros and cons. I had even offered that we can make available land if jails are short of space. If gaushalas are opened in the jails, milk worth thousands of rupees could be obtained for free. The cow dung can generate biogas worth lakhs and small power plants could be set up to get free electricity.”
Another major benefit of having gaushalas in jails is that violence in jails can be prevented, Bhagat said. “There are more gang wars in jails than outside. The inmates do not have many things to do. They use phones and are busy planning the whole day from where to procure the smack and where to send it. If gaushalas are opened in jails, they would have a job to do. They would take care of cows and this would also keep them mentally busy,” Bhagat said.
But the jail department has made it clear that this proposal is not under consideration. “We have written back that we do not have space to have gaushalas in jails,” said Jakhar.