Nearly 65 per cent of the 554,034 prisoners across India are either illiterate or have education below Class 10, showed a report tabled on Thursday by the parliamentary standing committee on home affairs.
According to the report of the committee, chaired by the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP’s) Brij Lal, a former Indian Police Service officer, 10.59 per cent of the prisoners hold a graduate degree or higher qualification, 25.21 per cent are illiterate, and 40.16 per cent have education levels below Class 10.
"The higher the educational level, the lower the chance of committing a crime," suggested the report. Lamenting that only 89,761 prisoners, or 16.2 per cent, had been provided with any form of educational opportunity, the committee urged states to allocate more resources towards enhancing the prisoners’ educational levels. The report also revealed that a mere 0.6 per cent of the total prison budget was spent on vocational and educational training, and only 7.09 per cent of prisoners in the country were receiving any skill training.
In addition, the committee said that 70 per cent of prisoners in Indian jails were undertrials who had not been released due to their inability to pay fines. It proposed that a fund be created in all states to aid these indigent prisoners in paying their surety amounts. The committee also recommended the use of bracelet or ankle trackers for those who secured bail, a practice already adopted by the Odisha government. According to the committee, this measure could not only address concerns about undertrials influencing witnesses, leaving the country, or committing another crime, but also ease the burden on overcrowded prisons and the resources required to maintain them.
The report highlighted that 51.2 per cent of convicted prisoners were in the age group of 30 to 50 years, followed by 28.4 per cent in the range of 18 to 30 years. Among undertrial prisoners, the majority (47.9 per cent) are in the age group of 18 to 30 years, and 41 per cent between 30 and 50 years. The percentage of convicts and undertrials above the age of 50 stands at 20.4 per cent and 11.1 per cent, respectively.
Despite various initiatives to reduce the inmate population, India currently houses over half a million prisoners, exceeding its total prison capacity of 425,000. The report identified that Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Haryana together accounted for more than 50 per cent of the country's total prisoner population.
According to the Prison Statistics India 2021, the total Budget allocation for all prisons in the country for 2021-22 stood at Rs 7,619.2 crore. The actual expenditure amounted to Rs 6,727.3 crore, which was 88.3 per cent of the total. A sum of Rs 2,106.86 crore — 31.3 per cent of the total annual expenditure for the financial year — was spent on inmates’ food, clothing, medical care, vocational training, and welfare activities.