2nd November 2019
TOPIC: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education and Human Resources. (Paper-II)
Discuss the condition of prisons in India.
With an average occupancy rate of 115% of their capacity, Indian jails continue to remain congested and overcrowded, numbers in the National Crime Records Bureau’s “Prison Statistics India-2017” report have revealed.
- In 16 of the 28 States covered in the report, the occupancy rate was higher than 100% with States and UTs such as UP (165%), Chhattisgarh (157.2%), Delhi (151.2%) and Sikkim (140.7%) faring the worst.
- Despite the Supreme Court and other institutions regularly raising the issue of prison reforms and decongestion in jails, it is evident that the measures taken have been piecemeal in most states.
Facts related to Occupancy rates in prison in India:
- While overall occupancy rates have come down from 140% in 2007 to 115% in 2017, only a few stets have, in this period, gone about building more jails or increasing capacity in prisons in line with the changes in the inmate population.
- Some states such as Tamil Nadu have reduced their prison occupancy rate to 61.3% by increasing the number of jails and their capacity besides reducing assets for actions unless there is a cognizable offense made out.
- Rajasthan and Maharashtra have not managed to augment jail capacity to fit in the increased inmate population in the past decade, while States such as the U.P. continue to have high occupancy rates because of increased inmate population despite a relative increase in prison capacity.
- More than 68% of those incarcerated were undertrials, indicating that a majority were poor and were unable to execute bail bonds or provide sureties.
Recommendations made by the Law Commission:
- There were a series of recommendations made by the Law Commission of India in its 268th report in May 2017 that highlighted the inconsistencies in the bail system as one of the key reasons for overcrowding in prisons.
- Clearly, expediting the trial process for such prisoners is the most important endeavor, but short of this, there are ways to decongest prisons by granting relief to undertrials.
- The commission recommended that those detained for offenses that come with a punishment of up to seven years of imprisonment should be released on completing one-third of that period and for those charged with offenses that attract a longer jail term, after they complete half of that period.
- For those who have spent the whole period as undertrials, the period undergone should be considered for remission.
- It also recommended that the police should avoid needless arrests, while magistrates should refrain from mechanical remand orders.
It is imperative that these recommendations are incorporated into law soonest. A system of holding undertrials for too long without a just trial process in overcrowded prisons that suffer problems of hygiene, management and discipline, is one that is ripe for recidivism. There is a greater chance of prisoners hardening as criminals rather than of them reforming and getting rehabilitated in such jail conditions.
TOPIC: Indian Economy.
Discuss the contraction in core sector output which indicates that recovery is still far away.
Hopes of a quick turnaround in the economy have turned out to be quite premature in light of the latest set of economic data released.
- The Commerce and Industry Ministry reported that core sector output, which is measured by tracking the performance of eight major industries including cement, steel and crude oil, contracted by a sharp 5.2% in September.
- This is its worst fall in 14 years.
- Seven out of the eight core industries witnessed a contraction, with the coal sector being the worst hit, shrinking by over 20%.
- The latest figures are in stark contrast to core sector growth of 4.3% reported during the same month last year.
Trends in the core sector:
- Given that core sector contraction was only 0.5% in August, the trend points towards a worsening of the economic situation.
- At the moment, it seems quite likely that gloomy core sector performance will affect GDP growth in the second quarter as well as the full financial year.
- It is worth noting that while a few high-frequency data points had shown some signs of a nascent revival in the economy, most still remain mired in a slump.
- Plus, the present contraction in the core sector, which represents the capital base of the economy, suggests that the negative effects of the fall in consumption are spreading across the entire production chain.
The slowdown in the economy:
- The data released by the center for monitoring the Indian economy showed that unemployment in October rose to a three-year high of 8.5% in October.
- This marks a sharp jump from 7.2% in September.
- If growth fails to pick up, the unemployment scene could get ugly and further contribute to the demand slowdown.
- What is even more worrying is the fact that the current slowdown comes in the midst of a spree of aggressive rate cuts amounting to 135 Basic points by the Reserve bank of India since February this year.
- Lending in the festival season has picked up with banks extending over Rs 1 lakh crore in the period between mid-September and mid-October.
- Yet, growth in credit this financial year till now is a flat 0.2% only.
- Festival season sales have shown an uptick with an increase in sales of automobiles and also consumer durables.
- But it remains to be seen if this trend sustains.
- The government at the center is clearly in an unenviable position with very little fiscal leeway to boost growth by increasing its spending.
- Some of the reforms announced in the last few months may show some positive results with time.
But without more meaningful structural reforms to address long-term problems such as the private sector’s reluctance to invest, it is unlikely that India will move towards the heady days of 8%-plus growth any time soon.