ANI Photo | “Eradicate caste-based segregation in prison”: MHA urges states, labels practice ‘discriminatory’

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) recently advised all the states and the Union Territories (UTs) against the practice of “segregating prisoners and assigning tasks based on their caste”, urging them to remove such “discriminatory” provisions from their manuals or legislation and to halt the allocation of work in prisons based on caste.
The direction was circulated through an advisory on February 26. The advisory was sent to the Principal Secretary (Home) and Director General/Inspector General of Prisons in all states and UTs.
“It has been the constant endeavor of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to reach out to the Prison authorities of all States and Union Territories and provide them assistance in the form of financial aid for technology-driven projects as well as sharing contemporary best practices and guidelines on varied aspects of efficient prison administration from time to time,” mentions the advisory.
The advisory further pointed out that “it has come to the notice of this Ministry that the jail manuals of some states provide for segregation of prisoners on the basis of their caste and religion and they are being assigned duties in the prisons accordingly.”
The advisory clearly stressed that the Constitution of India prohibits any kind of discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, or place of birth.
Noting that the Model Prison Manual, 2016, prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs and circulated to all states and UTs in May 2016, explicitly prohibits caste and religion-based discrimination against prisoners in the management of the kitchen or cooking of food on a caste or religious basis.
The Ministry further noted, “the manual also provides that any special treatment to a group of prisoners belonging to a particular caste or religion is strictly prohibited”.
The MHA made it clear that “no classification of prisoners shall be allowed on grounds of socio-economic status, caste or class.”
Subsequently, the MHA urged that “states and UTs are requested to take note of the above and ensure that their state prison manual/ prison act should not contain such discriminatory provisions.”
“In case any such provision exists, immediate steps must be taken to amend and remove the discriminatory provision from the manual or Act.”
It is reiterated in the advisory that there should be “no caste-based assignment of duties or work in the prisons.”
The advisory further highlighted that the medical care of prisoners is one of the significant concerns of prison management, pointing out that the MHA has been advising the states and the UTs from time to time to ensure that due importance is given to the physical and mental well-being of prisoners.
“To maintain uniformity in the process of medical check-ups of prisoners, the Model Prison Manual 2016 provides for the procedure to be followed by the states and UTs. There is a dedicated chapter on ‘Medical Care’ in the Model Prison Manual, 2016, which may be carefully perused for guidance by the states and UTs.
In particular, the advisory reads, that states and UTs are requested to ensure periodic health check-ups of prisoners should be conducted on a regular basis, an annual health check-up of prisoners should be conducted, periodic health check-ups of aged prisoners and inmates with disabilities should be conducted, and health check-ups or screenings of prisoners for infectious diseases, including STDs, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, should be done on a periodic basis.
Besides, the advisory suggested that special health checkups of women prisoners and transgender prisoners should be conducted, and periodic checkups or screenings of inmates for their mental well-being should be conducted.
The advisory asked to make these health checks updated on the e-Prisons portal on a regular basis.
The MHA further stated that it has implemented the e-prisons project with the objective of creating end-to-end IT solutions for the automation of prison operations, including digitization and availability of prisoner records at an electronic platform accessible to designated authorities, enabling them to have direct access to information related to the prisoners.
In this regard, the MHA requested all state and UT prison authorities to update the database of the prisoners on the e-prisons platform on a regular basis and also ensure that the information is entered in all columns and no field is left blank.
“For this, the relevant information can be obtained from the prisoners’ records and also from inmates and entered into the system. The e-prisons portal is designed to significantly contribute towards the objective of efficient prison management and therefore state and UT prison authorities are requested to pay serious attention to the regular updation of entries in the e-prisons portal,” added the advisory

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