BANGALORE: Cellphone jammer systems worth Rs 5 crore will be installed at Bangalore’s Parappana Agrahara Central Prisons by May-end. But they are making an entry into Karnataka’s biggest prison without being tested at the jail. Its makers at Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) say that the systems have already been cleared by the Special Protection Group (SPG), Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Director (Security) of Cabinet Secretariat.
The Prisons Department, which placed the order says that testing the jammers ahead of installation is an expensive affair. In the last seven years, attempts by Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and a Russian firm to fix jammers at the jail had flopped. The Russian systems did jam the cells, but also blocked mobile networks in a 5-km range outside the jail.
Additional Director General of Police K V Gagandeep says, “The Cabinet Secretariat has given approval only for jammers made by BEL and ECIL. We were not satisfied with BEL’s jammers and were left with no option but to choose ECIL. We are going by the rule book and these jammers are operational in jails across India.”
Experts in jamming technology warn that conventional jammers which work 24x7 are health hazards. Experts say, “They emit electromagnetic radiation all the time posing danger to kidney. The state-of-the-art jammers are activated only when an inmate attempts to make a call or send an SMS.” Gagandeep says he isn’t aware of such hazards.
Regarding a demo not being done in the prison, Gagandeep says, “The jammers are expensive and we could not try them. We have not sanctioned the funds blindly. ECIL officials have done a survey of the prison ahead of installation.”
The Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) say, they have enough expertise in installing jammers across various jails in India. Director (Technical) of ECIL NSS Prasada Rao says that the company has supplied and installed cellphone jammer systems at 10 jails in Chhattisgarh, four jails in Odisha and 18 jails in Jharkhand. Rao explains the process by saying, “Our jammers have state of-the-art employing proprietary techniques to achieve highest jamming efficiency than a conventional jammer. The Director (Security), Cabinet Secretariat, is vested with the powers of approving jammers in India. The SPG and IB evaluates the jammers by conducting NC-NC (no cost no commitment) trials. If found suitable, they would make recommendations of the model number and seek the Director’s (Security) approval.” Rao claims, the jammers underwent long-drawn trials by SPG and IB for over a year. “These have been cleared for induction, hence there is no further need to try these out at prisons. Instead, we did a site survey at the jail premises to see the layout, surroundings and building contours to ascertain the number of jammers that are required,” Rao adds. He says that the jammers are designed for 24x7 operations and the zonal head quarters at Bangalore would be providing the repair service.
When his attention was drawn to failure of jammers at Seraikela prison, which resulted in a recent jailbreak, he says that ECIL has not supplied or installed any jammers there.