Patil asks states to fully utilise prison reforms funds

April 25th, 2008 - 9:17 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Shivraj Patil

New Delhi, April 25 (IANS) Home Minister Shivraj Patil Friday accused the state governments of not utilising all funds allocated under the prison modernisation scheme, launched in 2002-03 for building, renovating and expanding prisons. “We need more prisons and more barracks to be constructed. I would like to state that there is no point in keeping funds. It should be utilised,” Patil said here at the annual conference of ministers, secretaries, director generals and those in-charge of prisons.

“Prisoners too are human beings and they should be provided with the basic and necessary amenities. I urge the states to take full advantage of the funds provided by the centre under the scheme for modernisation of prisons and focus on implementation on the ground,” he said, making a pointed reference to overcorwded prisons in the country.

The modernisation scheme was launched in 2002-2003 with a budget outlay of Rs.18 billion ($450 billion) covering 27 states (except Arunachal Pradesh and union territories). The scheme was extended till March 31, 2009 after its term expired in 2007.

According to the scheme, an amount of Rs.10.34 billion was allocated for construction of new prisons and Rs.2.5 billion more were sanctioned for expansion and renovation of prisons.

While Rs.4.65 billion was given for staff quarters in prisons, Rs.480 million was granted for sanitation and water supply in prisons.

However, many states like Jharkhand and Punjab have utilised just about 20 percent of the funds made available to them. Goa utilised 31 percent, while Kerala and Bihar have used only 40 percent.

Uttaranchal was the only state that used the entire fund allocation.

According to statistics available with Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), a police think tank, the state governments exploited about 67 percent of the funds.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Shakeel Ahmad addressed the problem of overcrowding in prisons and said Indian prisons were overcrowded largely because of the large number of under-trials.

“The government of India introduced amendments to the Cr.PC resulting in provisions for plea bargaining and addition of Section 436-A to reduce time of stay of under-trials in prisons. Besides this, Fast Track Courts, Lok Adalats and Free Legal Aid also aim at reducing the under-trial numbers in prisons,” he said.

According to BPR&D, over 1,300 jails of all kinds in India are already overcrowded. Around 358,000 people are lodged in jails against the sanctioned capacity of 245,000.

“The overcrowding is not prevalent equally in all states. The problem is acute in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Sikkim,” BPR&D chief Koshy Koshy said.

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