Ready to cage

J&K government’s plans to build more jails can prevent detainees from being lodged outside the Valley. Kashmir Life reports.

Apparently realising that the existing jail network could fall short of requirement, J&K government is adding eight new jails to the existing two central jails, seven district jails and three sub-jails in the state. Right now, there are only two jails in Kashmir, and most of the detainees are being taken out to Jammu.
The upgradation plan goes well with the prevailing situation where there is less of militancy and more of agitational politics. Even Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh recently described attempts by Kashmir separatists “to create an impression of turmoil” as “worrisome”. In case that happens, jails in the state will be overcrowded again.
Home ministry sources in the state said the new eight jails are coming up, one each at Kupwara, Anantnag, Pulwama, Bandipore and Kulgam (all in Kashmir), Doda and Ramban (Jammu) and Kargil. In fact the newly set up jails at Kulgam and Anantnag are ready to house the inmates.
The new jail network will help almost every district to have its own jail. However, Ganderbal and Budgam being very close to Srinagar, will have to rely on the central jail. In Hiranagar jail, officials said a new barrack to accommodate 25 prisoners is already coming up. Director General (Prisons) Dr Ashok Bhan was quoted saying that the expansion in jail network of the state is by debit to the Home Ministry funded jail modernization programme that could cost somewhere between Rs 75 crore to Rs 100 crore. So far they have spent Rs 25 crore in setting up jail buildings in Bandipore, Ramban, Doda and Kulgam districts.
Quite recently, the J&K government was able to set up a juvenile detention centre – the first in the state. Named ‘Reformation Home’, the centre started in R S Pora in a building that social welfare department run Bal Ashram vacated. Officials said five minors aged between 13 to 15 years were shifted from various jails to the newly set up centre. Supposed to have enough of recreational, educational and reforming facilities, the home is yet to get any of these facilities. It was only recently that a team of ICRC visited the home and donated some sports items.
Minors are not supposed to be kept in regular jails under law. Juvenile Justice Act (that replaced the Children Act, 1960) passed by the Parliament in 1986 provides for a special approach towards the prevention and treatment of juvenile delinquency and provides a framework for the protection, treatment and rehabilitation of children. It was extended to the state in 1997 when a similar law was passed by the state legislature. Though the Union government in 2000 refined and amended this law by passing the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, it is yet to be ratified by the J&K government. For all these years, the state government has been at the receiving end of scathing criticism over its jail management especially the minors. The recent instance was that of a minor from Rainawari Srinagar who was booked under Public Safety Act for resorting to brick-batting and detained in a Poonch jail.
Apart from unspecified number of detention centres, transit camps and interrogation centres, there are only 12 jails operating across the state. Right now, they house 2300 prisoners and many barracks are congested and over-crowded.
Under phase-II of the jail modernization plan, the government is intending to introduce various vocational courses in jails, especially the Information Technology. Already it has introduced phenyl and soap manufacturing and various weaving courses in many of the Jammu jails and assembling of electronic items in Srinagar Jail. Now they are embarking on a larger idea. In six years ending March 2008, officials said they have managed a sale turnover of Rs 28.68 lakh by marketing the jail manufactured items.
“We do not want to make jails as concentration camps but places where rehabilitation and reform scheme are put to use,” Bhan was quoted saying.
Besides, the jail authorities are planning connecting three jails – two in Jammu and one in Srinagar, with a designated court with video conferencing. The facility, they believe, is important for trying some high value detainees, ensuring speedy trials without encountering risks by taking detainees out of the jail for longer distances.
Right now, sources said, trial video conferencing is being considered for Jammu’s Kot Bhalwal and Ambhalla jails besides Central Jail Srinagar. If approved, this will be part of the Rs 100 crore modernisation plan of jails that will come from the MHA. In case the plan was approved, the state government will have to amend the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) so that law permits the production of the accused before the court in person as well as through video cameras. Apart from saving costs and the deployment of the constabulary, factors driving the plan include preventing high value detainees from escaping while being brought to the court, quite a rare phenomenon.
Off late, the MHA has made additional investment in upgrading the security of the jails. Apart from installing more door frame metal detectors (DFMD), now the jail force and the paramilitary forces are jointly conducting fortnightly searches to ensure the detainees have not done anything wrong. This followed after prolonged standoff that led to the crackdown of the Central Jail Kotbalwal (Jammu) where some convicts had managed to get SIM cards into the jail.


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