'First hand experience' to help UP jail minister

'First hand experience' to help UP jail minister

Having spent a considerable time in jail, the new Uttar Pradesh minister for prisons, Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya, feels that the experience will help him make sure that the jail manual is followed in letter and spirit.

Prisoners must get their rightful due, he said.

Singh, whose induction in the Akhilesh Yadav cabinet drew criticism, had spent 26 months in jail during the two regimes of BSP chief Mayawati. He had faced several charges, including criminal cases such as attempt to murder and kidnapping. He said the charges were politically motivated.
“I am familiar with all that goes inside jails. I have seen them myself. It will be impossible for prisoners and officials to ignore the jail manual,” Singh said.

“Inmates must get everything they are entitled to under applicable rules. We have found that influential prisoners live a lavish life in jails with the help of prison officials,” he added.

Singh said hundreds of people have been sent to jail just because they did not have enough money to pay fines in court. “I met an inmate from Odisha, who had to spend years in jail as he could not pay  thefine,” added Singh.

He said he plans to raise a dedicated fund to help poor inmates. “We will take help from voluntary organisations also in this regard,” he said.

According to him, jails should be reform centres, but in UP they have turned into torture centres. He said he will give priority to juvenile homes. Singh made it clear that he had not asked for the jail ministry from the Samajwadi Party leadership.

Age row

Singh is also embroiled in a controversy over his age.

According to the affidavit submitted by him along with his nomination papers in the recent UP Assembly polls, his age was 38. Singh, who is a five-time MLA from Kunda Assembly seat in Pratapgarh district, had made his political debut in 1993. “Going by the affidavit, his age must have been 19 when he contested the polls in 1993, which is impossible as the minimum age for contesting elections is 25 years,” a government source said.

Singh blamed discrepancies in the electoral rolls for the controversy. “According to the electoral rolls, my age is 38. Had I mentioned any other age, my nomination would have been cancelled, so I had to mention the same,” he said.

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