1.Protecting prisoners (The Hindu)
2.Railways’ new ‘Give it Up’ campaign (The Business standard)
1.Protecting prisoners (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of need of securing the rights of prisoners. (GS paper II)
- The existence of prisons in our society is an ancient phenomenon since Vedic period where the anti-social elements were kept in a place identified by the rulers to protect the society against crime. Prisons’ were considered as a ‘house of captives’ where prisoners were kept for retributory and deterrent punishment.
- The real purpose of sending criminals to prison is to transform them into honest and law abiding citizens by inculcating in them distaste for crime and criminality. But in actual practice, the prison authorities try to bring out reformation of inmates by use of force and compulsive methods.
- Consequently, the change in the inmates is temporary and lasts only till they are in the prison and as soon as they are released they again get attracted towards criminality. It is for this reason that the modern trend is to lay down greater emphasis on the prisoners so that they can be rehabilitated to normal life in the community.
- In the recent times the focus of public and judicial concern over the situation prevailing in India’s prisons has been related to overcrowding and long spells of incarceration faced by indigent inmates too poor to obtain bail. With the rising incidence of vulnerability of inmates inside the prisons, prison reforms must be directed at securing the rights of inmates.
- Prisons are State subject under State List of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. The management and administration of Prisons falls exclusively in the domain of the State Governments, and is governed by the Prisons Act, 1894 and the Prison Manuals of the respective State Governments.
Need for prison reforms
“Hate the Crime and Not the Criminal”– Mahatma Gandhi
- John Locke, the great English political theorist of seventeenth century expressed that men were basically good but laws were still needed to keep down ’the few desperate men in society’.
- The contemporary prison administration in India is a legacy of the British Rule. Lord Macaulay in 1835, for the first time, pointed out the terrible inhumane conditions prevalent in Indian prisons and termed it as a shocking to humanity.
- The situation of the prisons in our country came into focus in the early 1980s, when as part of the National Police Commission K.F. Rustomji highlighted prison conditions and the plight of under trial prisoners.
- The government has set up working groups, committees and commissions to investigate the issue and offer solutions. The more important among them were the Justice Mulla Committee Report on Prison Reforms (1982-83) and the Justice Krishna Iyer Committee on Women Prisoners (1986-87).
- These reports have, by far, given the most comprehensive accounts of what ails our prisons, and suggested a slew of measures. The Draft National Policy on Prison Reforms and Correctional Administration, 2007, prepared by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), is old wine in a new bottle.
- The main reform issues range from prisoners’ rights, health, hygiene and access to legal aid, to the condition of women inmates and their children. The judiciary’s approach has been anchored in the belief that fundamental rights “do not part company with the prisoner at the gates”. Prison reforms are not only about amenities and conditions; they must also address the prisoner’s right to life.
- Recent the problem of overcrowding in the prisons is mainly due to reason that the size of the pre-trial prisoners is higher than that of the convicted prisoner. Pre-trial detention period is the most open period for the abuse of criminal justice process. Although pre-trial detainees should be presumed innocent until found guilty by a court of law, and treated as such, conditions in pre-trial detention are often much worse than those of prisons for convicted prisoners.
- It is a known fact that prisons in India are overcrowded. As a result of this there is no separation of offenders of serious offences and minor offences. Hence hardened criminals may spread their influence over minor criminals.
- Persons who have committed offences for the first time come into contact with hardened criminals and hence are likely to become professional criminals. The methods to reduce the burden of overcrowding of jail are release on bail; impose fine, release on probation or parole. The system of remission, leave and premature release may also be useful in tackling the problem of overcrowding in the prison.
- Overcrowding results in restlessness, tension, inefficiency and general breakdown in the normal administration. Recently, the Supreme Court of India took exception to the unduly long detention of a large number of under trial prisoners and the Central and State governments have now started taking vigorous steps to remedy this situation.
- There is need to secure the rights of prisoners. A sentence of life imprisonment deprives a person from his right to liberty. Imprisonment affects the prisoner and also his family living in poverty. When an income generating member of the family is imprisoned the whole family has to suffer and adjust to the loss of income.
- Quite a large number of under trial prisoners are detained in jails for long periods as they are unable to afford fees of lawyers to defend them. In recent years the government has given some attention to this problem and efforts are being made to give free legal aid to the poor.
- If this facility is extended to a large number of poor persons, it would not only in the long run result in the shortening of the period of detention of under trials but might in some cases result in acquittal also.
- Mahatma Gandhi has rightly said that, Prisons should be changed into hospitals to give treatment to offenders, to bring them on the correct line. Officers of the jail should be changed into a doctor. The offenders shall feel that officers of the jail are their friends.
- To ensure good discipline and administration, an initial classification must be made to separate male from females, the young from the adults, convicted from the unconvinced prisoners, civil from criminal prisoners and from casual from habitual prisoners.
- In seeking to improve prison conditions, we have to first address the low personnel-population ratio compared to countries that have more effective justice delivery systems. We need to create departments of correctional services, instead of just renaming prisons as correctional homes. We need to give financial and infrastructure support to voluntary organizations working on the rights, welfare and rehabilitation of custodialised populations.
Question– Securing prisoner’s right is first step towards protecting human rights. Comment?
2.Railways’ new ‘Give it Up’ campaign (The Business standard)
Synoptic line: It throws light on Indian Railways’ new ‘Give it up’ campaign. (GS paper III)
- Indian Railways is the fifth biggest rail network in the world with around 1.3 million employees and it is a massive task to streamline its operations. Indian Railways faces chronic financial problems. There are several reasons of deterioration of the financial health of the Railways. These include, a high operating ratio, cross subsidization, social service obligations, salaries not a function of commercial viability and competition with roads.
- Taking a cue from the petroleum ministry, the Indian Railways is set to launch a ‘Give-It-Up’ campaign that will give travelers the option to forgo the subsidy on their train tickets. The campaign is likely to be implemented in August. The idea came when a passenger sent back a cheque in the name of IRCTC for the differential amount of the actual fare and the subsidy.
- The Indian Railways is now mulling to launch ‘Give-It-Up’ campaign in which senior citizens will have the option to give up their concession on train tickets. It will be voluntary in which the traveler will have the option either to avail full concession, to avail 50 per cent concession or not to avail any concession on the railway ticket.
Problems faced by railways
- The national transporter recovers only close to 57 per cent of the cost of travel on each ticket, while on suburban tickets it comes to around 40 per cent. This has led to a huge subsidy burden of more than Rs 30,000crore on an annual basis for the railways.
- The Railways had posted its worst operating ratio in 16 years at 96.9 per cent in 2016-17. This was mainly due to the impact of social burden and the seventh pay commission. According to estimates, the subsidy for senior citizens, sports persons, and women alone comes to the tune of Rs 2,000crore.
- Faced with the huge subsidy burden on the passenger segment, the railways has introduced dynamic fared in elite trains like Rajdhani and Shatabdi.
About the campaign
- As of now, the state-run transporter bears 43% of the cost of all rail fares even as it incurs a loss of about Rs 30,000crore every year in subsidizing passenger fares. The ‘Give-It-Up’ option will be available for tickets booked online or bought from counters.
- It will be launched in August and will be introduced for all trains in a “phased manner”.
- In order to make passengers aware of the subsidy burden on the fare, the railways had started printing “Indian Railways recovers only 57% of cost of travel on an average” on computerized tickets although the current accounting system does not give the exact cost.
- The Railways is already in talks with two financial institutions, including the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, to devise ways to reduce its subsidy burden. This is part of the government’s strategy to run the Railways with a more corporate mode of approach, based on a report submitted by the Bibek Debroy Committee in 2015.
- With regard to foregoing of LPG subsidy, the government has met with decent success so far, with over 1crore households giving up their cooking gas subsidy. Of the 20crore households benefiting from the LPG subsidy, 1crore households have voluntarily opted to buy cooking gas cylinders at the market price. This has helped the government to directly transfer the subsidy amount to beneficiaries’ bank accounts.
- According to the survey the GiveItUp Campaign not only encouraged the rich to participate, but it also inspires those from the rural and middle class to take part in the movement wholeheartedly.
- Individuals and households see and feel the difference they are able to make, which is an important factor that makes the campaign a huge success. It is what drives the ambitions of consumers to want to give up their subsidies so willingly. Additionally, the subsidies saved by the government in the long run can be used for developmental activities, thereby benefiting all citizens.
- The GiveItUp Campaign aims for developmental improvement in the country, where resources saved by the government from can be used for developmental activities, ensuring all citizens improvement for the future of their country.
Question– How Give-it up campaign in railways will significantly improve fiscal position of government?