NCRB data shows Muslims, Dalits, Tribal population in prisons disproportionate to their numbers outside

Muslims make up only 14.2 percent of India's population but 16.6 percent convicts, 18.7 percent undertrials and 35.8 percent detenues followed Islam as of 31 December 2019, shows NCRB data

FP Staff September 02, 2020 15:29:59 IST
NCRB data shows Muslims, Dalits, Tribal population in prisons disproportionate to their numbers outside

The state of Indian prisons has only marginally improved over the last five years, and if demographic break up of inmates is any indicator, Muslims, Dalits and the tribal population is disproportionately subjected to the criminal justice system when compared to upper class Hindu population.

Latest prison statistics released by the National Crime Information Bureau shows that the number of Muslims, Dalits, and tribal population incarcerated in jail is disproportionately higher than their numbers outside.

Muslims make up only 14.2 percent of India's population but 16.6 percent convicts, 18.7 percent undertrials and 35.8 percent detenues in Indian prisons are Muslims as of 31 December, 2019.

The statistics for Dalits is equally skewed: Over 21.7 percent of convicted inmates, 21 percent undertrials and 18.15 percent detenues in Indian prisons were Dalits. Their share in population is, however, around 16.6 percent.

In the end of 2019, tribals made up 13.6 percent of convicts in Indian jails, while 10.5 percent of undertrials and 5.68 percent of detenues were from the Scheduled Tribes. Their share in the Indian population is 8.6 percent as per the 2011 census.

State-wise, the maximum number of Dalit undertrials were in Uttar Pradesh (17,995), followed by Bihar (6,843) and Punjab (6,831). Madhya Pradesh has the maximum number of tribal undertrials incarcerated (5,894) followed by Chhattisgarh (3,471) and Jharkhand (3336).

Uttar Pradesh stood out for the number of Muslim undertrial inmates too, with a whopping 21,139 people in jails. West Bengal was a distant second with 6,032 Muslim undertrial prisoners, and Bihar stood third with 4,758 undertrial Muslims in jail.

Five years ago, in 2014, the percentage of Muslim convicts, undertrials and detenues was 15.8 percent, 21.1 percent and 20.3 percent respectively, showing a slight decline in percentage undertrials but a massive jump in the number of detenues. The percentage of convicts has only marginally declined in five years.

The situations, however, has hardly changed for Dalits and the tribal population over the last five years. Dalits comprised 21.3 percent of convicts and 20.2 percent undertrials. However, there was a marked decline in number of Dalit detenues as in 2014, prison statistics reported 38.1 percent of detenues were from the scheduled castes.

For tribals, the percentage share has gone up among convicts (11.9 percent in 2014, 13.6 percent last year), while falling marginally among undertrials (11.2 percent in 2014 to 10.5 percent in 2019). The percentage of people detained from the Scheduled Tribe went slightly up in five years (5.1 percent in 2015 to 5.68 percent last years).

The data also shows that Indian jails are largely overcrowded and understaffed. The sanctioned strength of jail-staff was 87,599 while the actual strength was 60,787 as on 31st December, 2019.

Among the jail-staffs, the sanctioned strength of Officers (DG/Addl. DG/IG, DIG, AIG, Supdt. etc.), Jail-cadre Staff (Head Warder, Head Matron, Warder, etc.) and Correctional Staff (Probation Officer / Welfare Officer, Phychologist / Psychiatrist, etc.) were 7,239, 72,273 and 1,307 respectively while the actual strengths were 4,840, 51,126 and 761 respectively. The sanctioned strength of Medical Staff was 3,320 while the actual strength was 1,962.

Sanctioned Strength Current Strength Vacant posts
Total 87,599 60,787 30.60%
Officers 7,239 4,840 33.13%
Jail-cadre staff 72,273 51,126 29.25%
Correctional staff 1307 761 41.77%

Almost all prisons across states were filled beyond their capacity. According to the NCRB report, Indian prisons had the capacity to hold 4,03,739 prisoners while the population in jail was estimated to be 4,78,600 as on 31 December 2019, which means that the occupancy rate is as high as 118 percent. In 2018, the occupancy rate was 117.6 percent while in 2017 it was 115.1 percent.

Uttar Pradesh has reported the most number of convicts (19.2 percent, 27,612) in the country followed by Madhya Pradesh (14.1 percent, 20,253) and Maharashtra (6.3 percent, 9,096) at the end of 2019.

These statistics stood even as the NCRB report said that the actual capacity of prisons has increased to 4.03 lakh in 2019 from 3.91 lakh in 2017 and 3.96 lakh in 2018 (as on December 31 of these respective years).

Updated Date:

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