Start of my JUDICIAL journey to combat the drug menace in Punjab. Hon’ble Punjab and Haryana High Court orders me to ‘assist the court in a case regarding smuggling of drugs into the prison houses of our beloved Punjab.
Start of my JUDICIAL journey to combat the drug menace in Punjab. Hon’ble Punjab and Haryana High Court orders me to ‘assist the court in a case regarding smuggling of drugs into the prison houses of our beloved Punjab.
Reference CWP-2011 (O&M)
Tarlochan Singh vs. State of Punjab and others
I, Shashi Kant, I.P.S. (retd.) have been informed by learned counsel Mr. Navkiran Singh, Advocate, that this honourable court has directed my to submit some points for consideration in the above said petition on the following;
1- That drugs and narcotics are being made available in jails;
2- Endeavour towards de-addiction to be made by the jail authorities;
3- Medical treatment to be made available to inmates of the jail;
4- Whether there is any misuse of availing of medical treatment outside the jail.
I, Shashi Kant, a 1977 batch (RR), officer borne on the strength of the Punjab cadre was posted as the Director General of Police, Prisons, Punjab, by the Punjab Government some times in the month of September 2011 and I remained on this post till I retired towards the end of June 1012. During my service, I had remained posted in the state of Punjab, in various capacities and in various wings including the field as also the head quarter postings, including that if deputy inspector general, inspector general and additional director general of police, intelligence, security and operations. I had also served in the government of India for a long time and served in the intelligence agencies and ministry of external affairs. I am a decorated officer who has been considered as a core intelligence officer as well, besides being known as an ‘activist’ officer.
My submissions below are based on my experience in the field, more notably as director general of police (prisons), as also as an intelligence officer. During the former tenure, I realized that prisons were no less than the dens of drug addicts besides the ticking time bomb of AIDS on account of rampant pervert sexual practices there in. I also became aware of the rampant and blatant corruption and serious drug menace prevailing in the jails and I started taking steps to control the same as also to create an awareness on the subject both within and outside in the civil society, which is equally plagued with the menace. Besides trying to identify and transferring the black sheep amongst the jail staff and taking action against them; we also took a number of measures to influence the addicts in the prisons. These included, holding regular meetings with them to create awareness, opening gyms and providing facilities for games, holding the first ever,’ Prison Olympics’..inter-jail sports meets, opening libraries, holding de-addiction awareness drives, providing better education facilities including opening and encouraging basic computer literacy, cultural fests, trying to improve on whatever facilities in the prison houses. I started regular de-addiction drives, the most important being at Kapurthala prison house. I also persuaded the government to open de-addiction centers in all of the eight central prison houses and got requisite funds allocated with great difficulty. I am not sure of the present state of affairs with regard there to. I tried expanding the ‘open prison’ facility but that fell flat on account of the reluctance of the government.
And all this was further aggravated on account of rampant political interference.
Thus the submissions that I am making in the succeeding paragraphs are true to my knowledge and belief.
Point wise reply is as follows;
1- Yes, drugs and narcotics are almost freely available in jails. THEY ARE NOT LIKELY TO BE ERADICATED EASILY TILL SUCH TIME THERE IS A THOROUGH CRACKDOWN ON THE DRUG SMUGGLERS AND THEIR HENCH MEN / ACCOMPLICES / PROTECTORS, OUT IN THE CIVIL SOCIETY AND THIS EVIL ERADICATED OR CONTROLLED. Availability of drugs in jails is on account of the nexus and connivance of the jail staff, drug addict prisoners, smugglers and even some politicians. In fact the drug trade is flourishing in Punjab on account of the nexus between the smugglers, some politicians and black sheep in the police force. I request this honourble and leaned court to take my submissions as a PIL on the entire gamut of the smuggling of drugs in Punjab or I shall submit a separate submission which may kindly be treated as a P.I.L. since this is a core issue in Punjab affecting the lives of more than 70 percent (percentages vary from report to report) odd youth who are on the drugs and consequently on the verge of their deaths. The state of affairs in Punjab is no less than that an ongoing genocide of the youth by the drug smugglers and their henchmen / protectors, with the State and Central governments and their agencies being a mute spectators there to.
A very large number of these youth generally take to petty crime like chain and mobile phones snatching, petty thefts and in certain cases, even more heinous of the crimes like robbery and murder etc. to have access to money, which is then spent on drugs by them. Consequently more than half of the under trials in Punjab jails are estimated to be hard core drug addicts. And they need drugs, the cost and means, notwithstanding.
When I had taken over the charge of the Director General of Police, Prisons, Punjab, approx. 50 – 55% of prison inmates were estimated to be taking drugs in Punjab jails. Intact one prison inmate had told me in confidence that in each of the bigger jail of Punjab, daily consumption of heroin and smack etc. was about 1 kg. per day. Then Punjab had approx. 27-29 prison houses. Even if by the most ‘loose and relaxed’ estimates were applied, even then one could safely assume the daily consumption of narcotics to be about 10 kgs. a day, which, as per the prevailing international price would have been about 50 crores rupees a day. The situation, out there in the open society, is much worse. Shocking reports, on the issue have been appearing in the national and international print and electronic media. Shocked by this report, we had started encouraging sports, education and other cultural activities in the jails besides adopting stringent measures to control availability of drugs besides starting de-addiction measures. There were reasons to believe that we had achieved commendable success. However a recent report appearing in a prominent daily indicates that about 80% of prison inmates in Faridkot prison are addicts. This is a all time high estimate which indicates that the problem has become all the more serious. A photocopy of this new report is enclosed.
Not only drugs are smuggled in to the jails with impunity but latest smart phones are available on which some of the prisoners keep on ‘updating’ their status.
Drugs go into the jails by the following ways;
a- Tossing over the prison walls. Most of the jails in Punjab are old. Their vicinity now, has a number of buildings and they are ideal locations for the tossing over the walls. Tossed drugs are collected either by the addicts themselves during the day since they are informed about the location there of through the mobile phones which are, unfortunately, generally available with the inmates. Alternately these drugs are collected by the jail staff, generally warders, themselves and then ‘sold’. These ‘drugs’ normally are a mixture of psychotropic drugs and they are named differently. They are called GOLI NUMBER 10 AND 20 or with signs of CHAND OR SITARA etc. They are known by these names because of the code signs made or engraved on these tablets. These tablets are illegally manufactured almost all over the state and are almost a despicable ‘COTTAGE INDUSTRY’. They are also available freely over the medical counters all over the state. Thousand of unregistered chemists are alleged to be operating in each of the districts, right under the nose of the district administration.
Some new jails have since been constructed by the Punjab government and they are, as on date, well outside the city limits. Kapurthala and the Faridkot jails are the examples there of. But with the ever expanding population, even these jails will also get surrounded by residential and other buildings. All prison houses need to be shifted outside the cities, with higher periphery walls and a law stipulating that there will be a ‘no construction zone’ of a reasonable length, all around the prison periphery. It also needs to be ensured that the buildings of the jail houses are of good quality. Some of the newly constructed prisons houses in Punjab are of sub standard quality because of whatever reasons that be. Security posts, barbed wire fencing and adequate lighting also need to be provided in these corridors both inside and outside the outer periphery walls of the prison houses, as also over the prison walls and watch towers.
b- Smuggling of drugs inside the jails is done in the following ways;
I- By the jail staff themselves directly or with their connivance.
II- Smuggled by the inmates returning from ‘peshi’. Though all ingenuity is used but the more popular ways are hiding them in the soles of the shoes and seams of the clothes they wear, hiding them in the hollow metallic ‘karas’ / bangles / ear rings etc that they wear. The popular drugs brought this way are smack and heroin.
III- Hiding them in their ‘body cavities’. Condoms filled with smack or heroin and hidden in the rear body cavity is one of the very common way.
IV- Hidden in foods and other items being brought by the ‘relatives’ and ‘friends’. Potatoes have a sealed back cavity, cabbage and other veggies have either drug hidden or dipped in a solution of drugs. Milk powder and the fresh milk sometimes have drugs mixed in them. Handles of the carry bags are often hollow and drugs put in there.
V- In short, it is difficult to enumerate all possible ways here. All sorts of ingenuity are employed. It is imagination run wild.
VI- Shockingly, the malpractice by some of the doctors posted in the ‘prison hospitals’ is yet another open and rampant source of drug supply to the jail inmates.
Some of the ways to combat it all are;
i- Strict vigilance during the ‘transportation’ of under trials to and fro to the court houses and at the ‘bakshikhana’. It is when the under trials ‘change shoes and clothes and acquire drugs which they hide all over. There is police connivance. More emphasis thus needs to be paid towards the provisions of the ‘video conferencing’ or peshi within the fore walls of the prison houses. All routine stuff can be done that way and only important cases need to be tried in the ‘court room’. Proper vigilance needs to be ensured even in such cases during the ‘transportation’ and at ‘bakshi khana’. The security there is loose and corruption rampant.
ii- Jail staff needs to be rotated / transferred often as a matter of rule. There should be refresher courses for them, better accommodation, better service conditions and better salary and ‘welfare measures’. It is so required because they are badly ignored and discriminated against. The satisfaction level among them is woefully low. They are ‘readymade material’ for any type of ‘wooing’. Just any one can purchase them at a throw away price. Their morale needs to be uplifted and dignity in self, restored.
iii- Multilayered security needs to be put in place. The outer periphery needs to be patrolled by one type of force, may be Punjab police itself, incase C.R.P.F. is not available. The watch towers, flood lighting and inner patrolling needs to be the responsibility of the second type of force, may be any wing of the Armed Battalions, in case outside force is not available. The outer and the inner periphery need to have a corridor which needs to be patrolled. Frisking of under trials returning from ‘peshi needs to be done by a force from outside the state, like it is in Tihar Jail Delhi. They have a three layered security system manned by different forces, which has proved quite effective.
All the prison houses need to have trained dog squads to sniff narcotics as also explosives. X-ray baggage scanner, vapour sniffers and approved ‘body scanners should be used besides through manual frisking and ‘squatting’ for a few minutes as well.
All items , including the food items and other eatables meant either for the canteen or the prison kitchens, coming in the jail or even being taken outside should pass through these tests.
IN SHORT, FOR THE SECURITY PURPOSES, THE TIHAR JAIL IN DELHI CAN BE THE IDEAL ROLE MODEL WITH SUITABLE UPGRADING THERE OF.
iv- No outside stuff should be permitted. No food items or clothing or any other thing at all. All prisoners need to be given a unique identity number and smart cards which will have all information about them and their cases and also have their picture, thumb impression etc, giving all personal information issued to them. Their relatives can deposit the money with the jail department and obtain the receipt there for. The money will be debited to the account of the inmate and his smart card can also act like a debit card. The inmate can purchase anything from the prison canteen with the help of this debit cum smart card. These careens shall be run by inmates themselves on ‘no profit, no loss basis’. May be marginal profit can be earned which can be given to the inmates running such canteens or other welfare sets ups like bakery, furniture shops, knitting of blankets, ‘Khes’ and other such items which can have readymade demand in the market. This incentive will be good for inmates to show good behavior.
v- Though the under trials ideally need to be kept in separate in separate prison houses, but since it may not be possible immediately, they need to be kept in separate from the prisoners since it is basically they who smuggle the drugs inside the jails. One of the common modes operandi for the smugglers is to send persons inside the jails houses in cases under 107/151 Cr.P.C. they carry drugs inside and encourage under trials to hook on to the drugs to ‘escape depression’. The money for the drugs sole insides the jails is recovered from the relatives outside.
vi- All prison houses should have proper ‘frequency jamming devices’ to ensure that no mobiles work in jail. The prison should have its own walkie talkie system (wireless communication system) which should work on a special frequency which is not allotted to any of the mobile phone companies.
vii- The doctors and staff of unblemished integrity should be posted in the prison hospitals and there should be proper accounting of the medicines, particularly psychotropic drugs. The practice to post only unwanted doctors in the prison houses, by the government, should be done away with. The hospitals remain one of the ‘problem zones’ inside the jails since they become the centers of the ‘over the counter’ sale and supply of psychotropic drugs in the jails.
viii- Lastly and most importantly, the jail superintendent, the commandants of the forces deployed and also the higher officials of the jail department should be held personally responsible in case any narcotics reach the prison houses. ACCOUNTABILITY IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE DETERRENCE.
2- Hardly any de-addiction facility, worth its name exists in any of the jails in Punjab. I doubt if any serious thought has ever been given to it.
At the outset I will admit that de-addiction is a complicated word as also a process and I am not an expert on it. Ideally it some prominent psychiatrist or other medical person can better explain it all. However, based on my experience, discussions with the leading psychiatrists as also officials of the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) and other experts, I will submit as follows in simple language;
De-addiction is a complicated process. When any fresh inmate enters the prison house, he needs to be examined by a board of doctors, instead of giving symptomatic treatment to the inmate. The board ideally should have an expert on internal medicine, a psychologist, a psychiatrist and a radiologist to assist them. The board can correctly determine the gravity of the problem and record and study the magnitude of the problem with which the inmate is suffering. Based on their estimate, they prescribe suitable medication as also decide the mode of de-addiction. Normally they prescribe BUPRENORPHINE, an OST. The experts decide the dosage and the frequency there of. This medicine is normally in the shape of a tablet. During my tenure as the D.G.P., Prisons, I had extensively interacted with the UNODC, which along with N.A.C.O. had come to our rescue in the aftermath of the Kapurthala Jail violence of October 2012.
In fact this was the incident which had shaken my conscience very badly when I had seen the rampage by the drug addicts in the said jail, playing with live and burning gas cylinders after having consumed all sorts of drugs looted from the ten bedded de-addiction center set up in the prison itself. That had also rampaged and burnt down the prison as such and including the ‘general’ thirty odd bedded hospital located there in. they had looted this general hospital as well and consumed whatever drugs they could lay their hands on. As a consequence, the next morning, about three hundred inmates had fallen gravely ill because of ‘withdrawal symptoms’. They could have died, but for the timely intervention of the UNODC, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, South East Asia chapter, the NACO (National Aids Control Organization) and the personal good offices of the then Principal Secretary Health, Govt. of Punjab. Buprenorphine, the OST, which is used for de-addiction, is also used by N.A.C.O. for its anti AIDS operations. They made available about several thousand of doses and the lives of these three hundred inmates suffering from withdrawal symptoms, could be saved.
The other prescribed OST is the Methadone. With the help of the UNODC and the NACO, this therapy was got started in the Bhatinda and the Kapurthala civil hospitals.
Thus, in short, the steps involved in the de-addiction, are;
a- Initial examination of the fresh inmate by a board of doctors including specialists, at least in internal medicines, a psychologist and a psychiatrist. They estimate and prescribe correct OST or other medication, as deemed fit.
b- Regular dispensing of each and every dose under their own supervision and ensuring that it is consumed. Often inmates are known to have got medicines of higher dose sanctioned and then sharing it with others for exchange of money or other gratification. Doctors are supposed to ensure that the in addict gulps down the medicine in his presence. Often the cases of some addicts putting this on thin pieces of cellophane placed on their tongue have come to notice. They get the medicine put on that and then the medicine is known to have been shared from tongue to tongue and from mouth to mouth, one addict to the other.
c- The addicts are to be monitored and observed very closely and the doses of the medicines regulated accordingly.
d- Along with the medication, counseling has to be started and it has to increase and become stronger with the reduction in the medicinal doses. The family of the addict has also to be involved and they have also to be counseled.
e- When the addict inmate is released or acquitted, then the counseling and the treatment has to be taken over by the notified center located out there in the open society.
f- Thus it is a long, ongoing and complicated process. No such scientific centers exist in any of the Punjab jails or even in the civil society.
g- At least thirteen de addiction centers being operated by the Punjab Aids Control Society exist in Punjab. Though they do not really deal with de-addiction, as such, but my study indicates that not even one of them is been running properly. There is a need for close monitoring and ensuring that opioid substitutes do not get pilfered out and sold off in the open society.
h- If it is not possible for the Punjab government to open de-addiction centers in each and every jail, then at least some of the bigger jail houses can be notified as de addiction centers with corresponding de- addiction and counseling centers operating in these districts. Proper liaison and contact needs to be ensured between them all.
i- The state of affairs in the Punjab prisons, both on the issue of ‘drug supply’ and de-addiction both in the prison houses and out there in the open society needs to be monitored by the HIGHER JUDICARY’ very closely.
j- Lastly a word about the need for a vigilant criminal justice system. People convicted of minor drug crimes need to be sentenced to rehabilitation centers instead of the prisons. There should be ways to address an alternative sentence in a drug possession or drug user’s case. Criminal justice system should be willing to explore out of the box methods primarily because of the reason that very often THE N.D.P.S. cases are planted. They are rarely genuine. Either these cases are planted to “fix” some political opponent or to ensure that the “BIGGER FISH” go scot free and minor couriers are implicated. IT IS SURPRISING THAT THOUGH A LARGE NUMBER OF PEDDELARS AND COURRIERS HAVE BEEN ARRESTED FROM TIME TO TIME BUT THE “BIG FISH” REMAIN FREE AND THE DRUG SNUGGLINGA ASL ALSO THE DRUG ABUSE GOES ON UNABATED.
3- Medical treatment being made available to the inmates needs to be improved upon. Though most of the prison houses have their own set ups which are called ‘prison hospitals’, but hardly any one of them is worth its name. At some of the places, the buildings are not only ramshackle but probably also ‘unsafe’ for human dwelling. Hardly any good and competent doctor is posted there. Those who are posted are on account of political or ‘financial’ considerations. They are frustrated and not willing. Most of the hospitals do not have all the required medicines either. Condition of hospital equipment is deplorable.
One example which can be mentioned here is that of the Central Prison at Ludhiana. One of the prison inmates, a prominent doctor, in his own right, had literally been running the hospital for years and even conduction minor surgeries. No doubt this doctor prisoner, a lifer, need to be commended upon and shown some mercy by this Honourable Court, but at the same time the reflection that it has on the doctors and paramedics, also needs to be taken notice of.
I am told that at Ropar as well. The doctor rarely visits the prison hospital and the paramedic posted there, runs the hospital with the help of some of the ‘dedicated’ inmates. This deplorable condition exists at a number of places.
It needs to be ensured that the hospitals are located in healthy, well ventilated buildings, that they have required strengthen of willing, dedicated and competent staff, that they have all required medicines and other equipment and lastly, and most importantly, that they are prescribing correct medicines to the correct patient instead of selling the same, particularly psychotropic medicines, over the counter.
4- Yes, there is rampant misuse of the facility of availing of medical treatment outside the jails. It is a well oiled mechanism for corruption and nepotism at the behest of the politicians, doctors and the prison officials, and in that order.
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