Productive inmates

Productive in prison

Print edition : August 21, 2015

Inmates of Cuddalore Prison mastering the art of embroidery making. Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy

Indian prisoners are producing goods of considerable value, earning the state handsome revenue, while acquiring vocational skills that will stand them in good stead when they rejoin civil society.

Being behind bars is no reason to stop leading a productive life, or so the Indian prison system believes, given the latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau under the Ministry of Home Affairs for the year 2013. Demolishing the widely held misconception that prison inmates are just a burden on the nation and its resources, the data show that the inmates, who numbered 411,992 at the end of the year (396,259 in States and 15,733 in Union Territories), produced goods worth Rs.144.32 crore. The inmates include convicts, undertrials and detainees.

Delhi topped the list with a total value of Rs.27.93 crore, closely followed by Kerala with Rs.25.09 crore. However, Kerala recorded a much greater value of goods produced per inmate per annum, at Rs.33,938, since the total revenue was generated by 7,395 inmates, compared with Delhi’s 13,552. In fact, Kerala’s inmate productivity was the highest in the country, followed by Delhi (Rs.20,609). Among States that recorded inmate productivity of at least Rs.2,000, Gujarat was next with Rs.9,327, followed by Tamil Nadu (Rs.8,787), Maharashtra (Rs.4,555), Bihar (Rs.4,553), Andhra Pradesh (Rs.4,424) and Chhattisgarh (Rs.2,200). Jharkhand, Karnataka, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh all recorded a productivity below Rs.2,000, while the figure was even worse, below Rs.1,000, for Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and Rajasthan. Significantly, these seven States accounted for more than 50 per cent of all prison inmates in the country.

Delhi and 14 States garnered more than Rs.1 crore each during the year under review, with Bihar (Rs.14.23 crore), Tamil Nadu (Rs.12.93 crore), Maharashtra (Rs.12.48 crore), Gujarat (Rs.11.24 crore) and Uttar Pradesh (Rs.10.57 crore) accounting for the lion’s share of revenue. Figures were available only for undivided Andhra Pradesh, which clocked Rs.6.33 crore during the year, followed by Chhattisgarh (Rs.3.48 crore), Punjab (Rs.3.97 crore), Jharkhand (Rs.3.46 crore), Madhya Pradesh (Rs.2.97 crore), Karnataka (Rs.2.59 crore), Haryana (Rs.1.07 crore), and Rajasthan (Rs.1.03 crore).

West Bengal, which had a significantly high inmate population of 22,778, earned a shockingly low amount of Rs.57 lakh, which shows that there is enormous room for improvement in the state of affairs there.

The inmates, who bring in crores in revenue, are not expected to work for free. They are paid a daily wage according to skill level—skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled—and in 2013, Puducherry paid the highest wages in the country—Rs.170 for skilled work, Rs.160 for semi-skilled inmates and Rs.150 for unskilled labour. Among the top 15 earners, Bihar was the best paying State, with daily wages fixed at Rs.121 for skilled work, Rs.87 for semi-skilled inmates and Rs.80 for unskilled labour. Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala each paid at least Rs.50 for skilled workers. Punjab, Gujarat, and Chhattisgarh were the worst paymasters, paying less than Rs.40 for any kind of work. Low-paying States would do well to redistribute a greater portion of their revenue to the inmates to better equip them financially when they leave the system and return to civil life.

Data on the composition of convicts according to caste, such as Scheduled Caste (S.C.), Scheduled Tribe (S.T.), Other Backward Castes (OBC) and others, show that Uttar Pradesh ranked first in the number of S.C. convicts with 5,845, followed by Punjab (3,612), and Madhya Pradesh (3,314). Haryana, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat each had over 1,000 convicts belonging to S.C. communities.

A religion-wise breakdown of convicts showed that Hindus, not surprisingly, constituted the majority in most of the top earning States, with the exception of Punjab, where they were vastly outnumbered by Sikhs. Muslim convicts accounted for a sizeable percentage of the total in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu.

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