Skip to main content

Haryana govt plan to confine migrants in makeshift prisons 'brutalises' poor: JSA

Counterview Desk 
The Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA), backed by the All India People’s Science Network (AIPSN), has taken strong exception to the plan to confine of migrants in “makeshift prisons” by a Haryana government, insisting, would not help control the dreaded coronavirus disease but would be counterproductive.
In a statement, JSA has said, this suggests the mindset of those in power seeking to “further brutalise the poor with coercive action”, adding, "Overcrowding in a confined space is a major health risk as it compromises hygiene and facilitates the spread of infectious diseases – and is a context in which COVID 19 could rapidly spread.”
Further pointing towards overcrowding of Indian prisons, JSA said, the Indian prisons’ occupancy rate is 116%, hence several sections of the undertrials could be temporarily released on bail. Also those could be released on bail should include prisoners and detainees who have existing health conditions, women prisoners with children below 6, and so on.

Text:

The Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA) expresses its shock and condemn a recent circular issued by the Haryana government which calls for the imprisonment of the distressed migrant communities in ‘temporary/make shift prisons’.
The confinement of large number of people in temporary prisons aids neither in the control of the disease nor the welfare of the people. Why doesn’t Haryana government use stadiums as temporary resting places and physical distancing camp for those displaced due to the outbreak? Why further brutalise the poor with coercive action?
JSA also expressed its deep concern regarding the preparedness of Indian prisons to meet the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. According, to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics for 2018, prisons in India have an occupancy rate across the country of 117.6%. Further, majority of the prison population (69.4% ) are undertrials.
Overcrowding in a confined space is a major health risk as it compromises hygiene and facilitates the spread of infectious diseases – and is a context in which COVID 19 could rapidly spread. Reports have already filtered in about rioting due to panic in some of the prisons.
JSA acknowledges and appreciates the steps taken by the Supreme Court of India and certain states to prevent the spread of the disease in prisons. But much more urgent action is needed. To combat the spread of Covid-19, it is imperative, noted by the Supreme Court, to focus on decongestion of prisons as well as improving the living condition in prisons. There need to be clear and cogent guidelines for prisons across the country to tackle the pandemic.

JSA makes the following recommendation:

Decongestion of prisons:
We believe that given the various vulnerabilities, priority should be given to the following actions , irrespective of the offences they are charged with:
  1. Release of category of undertrial prisoners in accordance to the standing order passed by the Apex Court on bail.
  2. Release on bail of prisoners and/or detained in other settings above 60 years of age, keeping in mind the age factor and their increased susceptibility to the virus. 
  3. Prisoners and/or detained who have existing health conditions including mental illness and disabilities must be given priority in releasing on bail. 
  4. Court camps to be held in every prison to ensure early release without exposure to external public spaces. 
  5. Release of women prisoners, especially release of women prisoners with children below 6 Years living with them in prison on provisional bail. This is to ensure that the health of the children is not jeopardized and is in line with the intent behind Section 437 CrPC. 
  6. Release of convicts on parole should be initiated immediately for a period of two months. 
  7. An immediate and proper evaluation of the implementation of Section 435A of CrPC and release of undertrials, who have completed more than half of the maximum penalty they may be convicted under. 
  8. Medical checkup of every prisoner for relevant symptoms before the release. 
  9. Provision of transport facilities to all the released prisoners so as to ensure they have the means to reach their respective houses during the lockdown. 
  10. Speedy and proper functioning of the Undertrial Review Committee (UTRC) to ensure identification and release of the same. 
For those prisoners who cannot be released, the prison should immediately allow for COVID Related changes and set up a detailed contingency plan for the same:
  1. Since the inmates will not be able to meet families the prisons must set up a prison for a biweekly or weekly phone call to the family like is already being done in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Apart from this they should also be allowed to contact their lawyer via phone and must be allowed to do so free of cost.
  2. They should be immediately informed about the COVID 19 pandemic , how to prevent themselves getting the infection and the possible symptoms. 
  3. The health and hygiene systems must be improved to include more: (a) Spaces for bathing and more mobile toilets, (b) Soap, sufficient water and sanitiser given to each prisoner regularly; (c) Set up prompt and efficient channels of reporting to ensure that both the prisoners and the prison staff can immediately inform the medical facility of any possible case. (d) Regular visits by doctors and health workers during this period to ensure good health and continuous checkup of the staff and inmates (e)The medical facility must be ready in each prison to deal with cases of COVID primary checkups as necessary. 
  4. Prisons must also set up isolation centres to be used in case of any infected person. This is being done in some States but must be replicated across the country. 
  5. Set up a monitoring committee or activate the existing Visitor committee to ensure the above health measures are in place. and give a report to the Under trial Review committee already in place. This committee should include a doctor, public health professional and a social worker apart from prison and District Legal Services Authority officials during the time of Coronavirus pandameic and be empowered to take decisions for the prison well being. 
  6. As clearly stated in United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) there should not be any inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the prohibition of prolonged solitary confinement. The non-medical prison staff should not at any point of time take any medical or clinical decisions and such decisions should only be taken by health-care professionals. The decisions of health-care professionals should not be ignored or overruled by non-medical prison staff. 
As a health group we call for a moratorium on new arrests and prosecutions of all non-violent offenses. Non-custodial measures for administration of justice must be exercised, especially for juveniles in conflict with law and all other vulnerable groups including women and old age people.
Exposing non-violent offenders, low-level offenders, and others to grave danger contravenes public health guidance and violates notions of due process and the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
We urge governments of states to not summon witnesses or do further arrests and subsequent custody as it is a crucial means of decongesting the institution and preventing disease from external environments.
We demand that those who violate lockdown norms must not be criminalized, especially the homeless and the poor; and find other ways of administration to ensure they are not adding to the burden of the prisons.
We urge all States to come up with guidelines for not only decongestion but also improving the living condition of prisons and other detention centres like observation homes etc.

Comments

TRENDING

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

Gross 'injustice' to children: Rs 5000 cr cut in education budget; 15 lakh schools shut down

Counterview Desk  More than 100 dignitaries, including educationists, academia, social activists, teachers’ union, civil society organisations (CSOs), various networks and people working on child rights, in a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman have sought reversal of reduction in allocation for education in the Union Budget 2021-22, even as demanding substantial increase in it.

India sees 62 journo deaths, 4th highest, amidst pandemic: Swiss media rights body

By Our Representative The Switzerland-based media rights body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) has noted that India is the fourth most affected country as far as mediapersons’ death on account of Covid-19 is concerned. According to Blaise Lempen, secretary-general of PEC, the global tally of casualties among media persons in the Covid-19 pandemic has reached 1,036 journalists in 73 countries till date.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

RSS love for 'killer' Myanmar junta behind Indian military presence at Tatmadaw Day?

By Shamsul Islam*  If a shameful act means an action which is criminal and nauseating, it would be an understatement to describe the attitude of the present RSS-BJP rulers of India towards the demolition of democracy and large-scale killing of the people of Myanmar by the military ( tatmadaw ) junta which took power through a coup on February 1, 2021 after renegading the election results in which the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy, was a clear winner.

Chhattisgarh’s Apra riverfront imitates Sabarmati: 'Devaluing' water, environment

Sabarmati riverfront By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  This year’s #WorldWaterDay (March 22) focus was on ‘Valuing Water’. My school friend, Pragati Tiwari from Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, called that day knowing my interest in water matters. We were remembering our childhood days as how we used to play on the banks and the bed of the Arpa Nadi (River) during the summer holidays and as how the river would swell like Anaconda to flow happily during the monsoon.

Bihar massacre on Holi day: Brahminical, casteist mindset behind 'uneasy' silence

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Several people were killed in Bihar amidst Holi festivities, but not much response has come in from the media. The silence of the government and the society as a whole is also appalling. We seek to romanticise these festivals, yet we forget that every year they take so many lives. This despite the fact that Holi appears to be the best time for 'avenging things'.

India's draft migrants policy: Whither concern on job restrictions imposed by states?

By Anil Kumar*  India’s Niti Aayog has prepared a Draft Migration Policy. The draft policy acknowledges migration as an integral part of development, and it calls for positive government interventions that facilitate internal migration. With a rights-based solution to migration, the draft states that the policy should “enhance the agency and capability of the community and thereby remove aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive”.

Recalling Jallianwala martyrs' communal amity as BJP 'warns' of Sitalkuchi everywhere

By Shamsul Islam*  The RSS-BJP rulers declare India to be a battle-ground between Hinduism and Islam. Muslims have been declared as ‘internal threat’ by RSS ideologue MS Golwalkar (“Bunch of Thought”, Chapter xvi). Behaviour of many of their leading cadres, including those who hold high constitutional posts, is such that they seem to be conspiring over-time to ignite a civil war between the two communities. They are under the impression that this would help divert attention from failures of the Hindutva rulers on developmental front.