By Devanik Saha
The prisons of Uttar Pradesh (UP), overcrowded and understaffed, are in no position to house gaushalas (cow shelters) as the state government recently proposed.
The prisons of India’s most populous state have an overcapacity of 69 per cent — compared with the national average of 14 per cent — and have only two-thirds of the staff they need, according to 2015 prison statistics, the latest available with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
The capacity of jails across UP is 49,434, but they hold 88,747 inmates, the data revealed. Nationally, the figures are 366,781 and 419,623, respectively.
The highest occupancy rate was reported in Dadra & Nagar Haveli, 277 per cent, more than any other state and union territory, followed by Chhattisgarh (234 per cent) and Delhi (227 per cent).
“We have manpower and most jails have adequate land to set up gaushalas. Naini Jail in Allahabad already has a gaushala,” Minister of State for Jails Jai Kumar Singh had said of government plans for jail gaushalas. “We are looking at the possibility of starting gaushalas in other jails. Our plan is to run them with a little grant from the government and utilise the assistance from social workers and citizens,” he said.
There is a 33 per cent shortage in jail staff in UP. Of a sanctioned strength of 10,407, only 67 per cent or 6,972 posts have been filled. The national shortage is 34 per cent, according to NCRB 2015 data.
Bihar is most starved of prison staff — it has 2,654 personnel while it needs 7,860, a shortage of 66 per cent, followed by Delhi (47 per cent) and West Bengal (41 per cent).
In absolute numbers, UP had the highest number of undertrials (62,669), followed by Bihar (23,424) and Maharashtra (21,667), according to NCRB. In Bihar, 82 per cent of prisoners were undertrials, the highest among states, the data further revealed.
More than 25 per cent of undertrial prisoners in 16 out of 36 states and union territories have been detained for more than one year in 2014. Jammu and Kashmir leads this list with 54 per cent, followed by Goa (50 per cent) and Gujarat (42 per cent). UP leads in terms of sheer numbers (18,214).
Furthermore, human rights activists have often raised the subject of living conditions of prisoners in jails.
Since 2013, the Supreme Court has been hearing a suo motu case involving inhuman conditions in 1,382 prisons in India.
(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform. Devanik Saha is an MA Gender and Development student at Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)