Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has given the go-ahead for setting up an Anti-Terror Squad (ATS), as part of the Intelligence Wing, to break the nexus flourishing between militants and gangsters in the state’s prisons.
His government, which has already cracked down on terrorists and gangsters in a big way, is also mulling an effective law, such as the Punjab Control of Organised Criminals Act (PCOCA), to deal effectively with the terror spread by organized criminal gangs, most of which have been operating in the state for the past 5-7 years with strong political patronage.
This was disclosed here on Monday by a spokesperson in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), who said the ATS would have the mandate to act both against terrorist/militant outfits and criminal gangs.
In addition, the Union Home Minister, on a request from the Chief Minister, has already agreed,tentatively, to provide 2 CISF companies in exchange of the same number of IRB companies from Punjab to ensure security at the high-security/sensitive jails where hardcore terrorists and gangsters are lodged. These additional companies will remain at the prisons for at least six months, said the spokesperson.
At his meeting last week with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Captain Amarinder had raised concern about the growing nexus between militants and gangsters, pointing out that jail staff, including Superintendents/Wardens, had been receiving constant threats from such elements. This nexus had led to incidents like the Nabha jail break, the Chief Minister had observed, urging the Home Minister’s intervention to secure the prisons.
Besides, said the spokesperson, the state government is also requesting the judiciary to notify trial courts in jails to avoid frequent movement of members of top criminal gang, who are being targeted to settle inter-gang feuds and rivalries.
The Chief Minister, said the spokesperson, had issued strict directions to the police and intelligence agencies in the state to come down heavily on all criminal gangs in the state. As of March 15, 2017, there were 22 organized criminal gangs operating in Punjab, with 240 gang members, of which 137 gangsters were lodged in various jails of the State, the spokesperson further revealed. As per official data, 12 category ‘A’ gangsters, and 10 category ‘B’ gangsters, are still absconding.
These criminal gangs, many of which are patronised by political leadership, have been involved in inter-gang rivalry killings, contract killings, extortion from real estate developers/builders, drug smugglers/traders, bookies/satta-hawala dealers / liquor contractors/singers etc., land-grabbing, kidnapping for ransom and other serious crimes, including drug/arms smuggling.
With the erstwhile SAD-BJP government led by Parkash Singh Badal failing to carry out any recruitment in the prisons in the past decade (up to 50% vacancies currently exist at cutting-edge level posts), things have gone out of hand, said the spokesperson.
Lack of technological upgradation is another reason for inadequate control over jails, he said, adding that the Captain Amarinder government is expediting the recruitment process of warders and matrons in the Prisons department.