In a startling revelation it comes out now that as per Punjab government records the Bathinda high security jail that houses gangsters and dreaded criminals is not fitted with any signal jammer to block internet and mobile phone services as was claimed by former minister for jails Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa.
Highly placed sources told indianarrative.com that the Punjab government neither knows nor has paid a single penny for installing a jammer at the Bathinda jail. The cost of a jammer could begin from Rs 18 crore onwards.
In March, gangster Lawrence Bishnoi gave two interviews to a TV channel while he was lodged in the Bathinda jail, creating a flutter. A video prepared by 13 ordinary prisoners also went viral in the first week of April.
The government ordered an inquiry but long before the completion of the inquiry, a special investigation team (SIT) was formed to look into the security lapse at the state's only high-security jail. There is also a second jail at Nabha in Punjab which is categorised as a high-security zone jail. Unlike the Bathinda jail in Nabha only a limited portion of the total area is secured with high-tech gadgets.
As the government did not act against the jail officials and the inquiry report was not forthcoming, this correspondent decided to independently probe the issue that caused a major embarrassment to Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann.
A list of seven questions was sent to the present Additional Director General Police (ADGP) Jails, Arunpal Singh, the ex-ADGP Parveen K Sinha, Special Chief Secretary Ravneet Kaur, former Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa of the Congress government and lastly the Intelligence Bureau officers. The first 3 officers offered "no comments".
Ex-minister Randhawa, replying to our questions, spoke to Indianarrative.com from Rajasthan saying: "The jammer was installed at the jail by the IB when IG Manmohan Singh was posted in Chandigarh as its north India chief. It was first installed on a trial basis and later gifted to us.
Normally, a jammer costs Rs 18 crore, but we saved Punjab's money. I do not remember the name of the company that installed the jammer. It is an assembled (Jugaad) product The IB must be knowing about it if the required permission was taken from the Union Cabinet Secretary."
When told, no company can legally manufacture signal jammers in India except ECIL and BEL, moreover, the official record does not show its existence at the jail, Randhawa said, "I have no knowledge about this, IB must be knowing. The responsibility of bringing the jammer on record lay with the officers, not with me, as I was a minister tasked with issuing directions and drawing up policies."
In light of Randhawa's claims, indianarrative.com cross-checked with the Chandigarh office of IB and, they denied having to do anything with the installation of the jammer. "IB does not install or fund such projects anywhere in India. Our records do not have any mention of any jammer or the company claimed to have assembled it".
Evidently, the jammer's legality, quality, functioning, technology and maintenance are doubtful. it is a "Jugaad" of sorts, entrusted with the onerous duty to make security arrangements at Bathinda jail fool-proof but, in reality, it does not fulfil its mission. Coupled with the connivance of jail officials and dereliction of duty, the inmates succeed in preparing videos and uploading them too. The responsibility of the jail portfolio is with the Chief Minister.