In a bid to unlock the untapped commercial potential of the prison industries and to generate resources, Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday accorded approved the Punjab Prisons Development Board’s (PPDB) proposal to set up 12 retail outlets of Indian Oil Corporation on land owned by the prison department.Chairing the first meeting of the newly constituted PPDB, Captain Amarinder was informed that this project, besides giving employment to 400 released prisoners, would generate an expected revenue of Rs. 40 lakhs per month. Briefing the chief minister, the board’s Member Secretary, ADGP Prisons, Praveen Sinha, said prisoners with good conduct would also be employed at the retail outlets and preference would be given to women prisoners.The chief minister also granted approval to the brand name, Ujala Punjab, for all products manufactured by jail inmates for marketing purposes. Approval was also accorded to the board for taking over all the factories established in jails, existing projects being run in Punjab Prisons under PPP mode and commercial activities being done at Open Jail Nabha.Briefing the chief minister about of some of the commercial activities being undertaken in jails at present, Sinha said products like bedsheets, towels, mops, furniture, stationary, soaps, phenyl and sanitizers will be manufactured in prison factories under the Board. Sinha urged the Chief Minister that these products should be bought directly by various government departments as per existing provisions in financial rules.
He said the Board was also planning to set up a corrugated boxes manufacturing unit for meeting the demands of 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 3000-4000 prisoners to make them employable in various ventures upon release.The Chief Minister 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 implantation of these projects, the chief minister 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.Those who attended the meeting included Cooperation and Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Principal Secretary Jails DK Tiwari, Principal Secretary Industries Alok Shekhar, Pricipal Secretary Technical Education Anurag Verma, Secretary Education Krishan Kumar.