Tihar prisoners denied their rights, says report

Inmates do not get minimum wages for their labour

Tihar inmates are denied minumum wages, face disparity, live in poor conditions and encounter mental harassment and torture on a daily basis, says a report released here on Thursday.

Beyond the Prison Gates: ‘A Report on Living Conditions in Tihar Jail’, released by Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), revealed how prisoners'  rights under the Delhi Prisons Act are violated in one of the most populated prisons in South Asia.

The report highlighted that the prisoners were not paid wages as per the minimum wages rules for their labour at the jail - like carpentry, stitching, candle-making or working at the prison bakery and the nursery. 

“Wages paid to prisoners for prison labour have been increased from Rs 10, Rs 12 and Rs 15 to Rs 40, Rs 44 and Rs 52 per day for unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled categories of labour respectively.

These rates in general are much below the standard minimum wages announced by both the Central and the concerned Delhi governments,” it said.  The minimum wages for bakery, confectionary, food preservation, pottery, printing and construction work in Delhi is Rs 247 for unskilled, for semi-skilled it is Rs 273 and for skilled work it is Rs.301.”

The PUDR criticised the different treatment to different groups of inmates – even if that was ‘legal’ under the Delhi Prisons Act and Rules. Those who by “social status, education or habit of life are accustomed to a superior mode of living” are accorded the status of “Class B” prisoners, while those not meeting the  criteria are given the “Class C” status. The report said this lead to discrimination against majority of inmates belonging to the relatively poorer sections who are unable to enjoy the same privileges as those like Suresh Kalmadi, Afzal Guru, Kobad Ghandy and Kanimozhi.

The report suggested that while there had been news reports of prisoners taking courses offered by Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and finding placements with companies, this was more of an exception than the rule.

The report said although the prison manual allowed two interviews per week with three visitors each, the jail authorities were allowing only one visitor per undertrial and three per convict since last March. Women undertrial prisoners constituted 85 per cent of the total number of women in Jail number 6. Of this, about 40 per cent of women undertrials have been in Tihar for over a year.

“To summarise, the right to speedy trial, the right to pursue vocational and educational opportunities, right to recreational facilities, right to receive minimum wages for work undertaken which are considered as important human rights are being violated in this vastly-populated prison,” said a PUDR member.

Figures related to deaths in Tihar show a significant increase from 28 deaths in 2000-01 to 33 deaths in 2007-08.  PUDR is urging Delhi High Court to take suo motu action on the basis of this report.

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