Content:

  1. Being tethered to bars during a pandemic
  2. Mining in India equals selling the family gold

Editorial: Being tethered to bars during a pandemic

Context:

  • Issues related to prisoners during Covid19.

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 2: Article 21, Right to life and liberty

Mains Questions:

  1. In India, COVID-19 must lead to an immediate review of the vulnerability of those in jail and the issue of decongestion. Discuss. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Why is the need for Prison Reforms?
  • Important Reform Measures taken so far in India
  • Reform measures suggested by Various Committees, Law Commissions and the Judiciary
  • Conclusion

Why is the need for Prison Reforms?

  • The Supreme Court, in Ramamurthy v. State of Karnataka has identified various problems which need immediate attention for implementing prison reforms.
  • Rampant Overcrowding: “Prison Statistics India”, brought out by National Crime Records Bureau stated that in 2015, there were nearly 4.2 lakh inmates in 1,401 facilities against the sanctioned strength of 3.83 lakh, with an average occupancy rate of 114% in most.
    • Due to overcrowding the segregation of serious criminals and minor offenders has turned out to be difficult, which can, in turn, cause bad influence over minor offenders.
    • Overcrowding results in restlessness, tension, inefficiency and general breakdown in the normal administration.
  • Delay in Trials: In 2016, 67% of the people in Indian jails are under trials which is extremely high by international standards like it is 11% in UK, 20% in US and 29% in France.
  • Torture and ill -treatment: The prisoners including the undertrials are forced to do severe labour without any remuneration and treated with utmost torture. There has been a continuous rise in the custodial deaths due to torture and ill-treatment. Women prisoners are more vulnerable to abuse.
  • Severe staff crunch: 33% of the aggregate prerequisite of jail authorities still lies vacant, whereas, the ratio between the prison staff and the prison population in India is approximately 1:7.
  • Inadequate prison infrastructure: Most Indian prisons were built in the colonial era, are in constant need of repair and part of them are uninhabitable for long periods.
  • Neglect of Health, Hygiene, food etc: The prisoners in India suffer from severe unhygienic conditions, lack of proper medical facilities and consistent risk of torment and misuse. The kitchens are congested and unhygienic and the diet has remained unchanged for years now.
  • Issue of women prisoners: Though not exclusively looking after female prisoners, there are just 9.6 % women across all levels of the prison administration in comparison to the 33 per cent suggested in policy documents.
  • Deficiency in Communication: The prisoners are left to live in isolation without any contact with the outside world, their family members and relatives.

Important Reform Measures taken so far in India

  • The modern prison system was conceptualized by TB Macaulay in 1835.
  • Prison Discipline Committee, 1836, recommended increased rigorousness of treatment while rejecting all humanitarian needs and reforms for the prisoners.
  • Prison Act, 1894, enacted to bring uniformity in the working of the prisoners in India. The Act provided for classification of prisoners.
  • All India Jails Manual Committee 1957-59 to prepare a model prison manual. o The committee was asked to examine the problems of prison administration and to make suggestions for improvements.
  • All India Committee on Jail Reforms 1980-83 under Justice A N Mulla, suggested setting up of a National Prison Commission as a continuing body to bring about modernization of prisons in India. o Also, After-care, rehabilitation and probation as an integral part of prison service.
  • In 1987, the GoI appointed the Justice Krishna Iyer Committee to undertake a study on the situation of women prisoners in India. o It has recommended induction of more women in the police force in view of their special role in tackling women and child offenders.

Reform measures suggested by Various Committees, Law Commissions and the Judiciary

  • All India Prison Service: The All India Committee on Jail Reforms (1980– 1983), under Justice A N Mulla recommended to develop an All India Prison Service as a professional career service with appropriate job requirements, sound training and proper promotional avenues.
  • Adherence of Model Prison Manual 2016 by all the States and UTs.
  • Uniformity of standards: Central Government along with NGO’s and prison administration should take adequate steps for effective centralization of prisons and a uniform jail manual should be drafted throughout the country.
  • Training & correctional activities:
    • Training to staff in using the latest technology, vocational training courses in cloth making, electrification etc for the inmates, facilities for recreational activities such as games and competitions for inmates and staff etc.
  • Infrastructure:
    • Technological up-gradations such as biometric identification facilities, prisoner information system, provision of CCTVs, video conferencing facilities, etc are needed.
    • Up-gradation of hospital infrastructure such as beds, equipment, testing facilities, vehicle during medical emergency, facilities for pregnant women etc are needed.
  • Staff: All vacant staff positions should need to be reassessed. Recruitment of additional staff including medical, guarding, correctional staff, clerical, etc
  • Fund flow: Mechanism to monitor fund flow from the State treasury department to the implementing agency.
  • Strengthening the open prison system, which has come as a very modern and effective alternative to the system of closed imprisonment.
  • Strengthening PLVs: In 2009, National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) brought out a scheme called the Para-Legal Volunteers Scheme which aimed at imparting legal training to volunteers to act as intermediaries between the common people and the Legal Services Institutions to remove impediments in access to justice ensure legal aid reaching all sections of people.
  • Increase the availability of justice services––and infrastructure in courts, police stations, legal aid clinics—in rural areas so as to reduce the present disparity in accessing justice that exists between rural and urban populations.

Conclusion

Indeed, prisons in India make for a massive social organization. Part and parcel of the larger criminal justice system, they make an invaluable contribution to upholding up the rule of law and, thereby, to the maintenance of law and order, peace and tranquility, in society.


Editorial: Mining in India equals selling the family gold

Context:

  • Issues related to coal mining in India

Relevance:

  • Gs Paper 3:  Infrastructure (energy, ports, roads, airports, railways); Investment models

Mains Questions:

  1. Treating mineral sale proceeds as revenue or income hides the real transaction — the sale of inherited wealth. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Status of Coal production in India.
  • Commercial coal mining in India:
  • Significance of commercial coal mining
  • Challenges related to commercial coal mining
  • Way forward

Status of Coal production in India.

  • Overall production of raw coal in India during the year 2018-19 was 730.4 million tonnes (MT) growing at 8.1 percent. This was accompanied by large imports of coal was imported during April 2019 to September 2019 (~126 MT).
  • India’s oil production is one of the lowest among the major economies of the world and has been declining over a period of time.
  • This reduction in production can be attributed to natural decline in ageing and matured fields and no major discoveries. Domestic production of natural gas has been increasing since 2017-18 and is estimated to be 31.8 billion cubic metres (BCM) in 2019-20.

Commercial coal mining in India:

  • India has the world’s fourth largest coal reserve and is second largest producer after China, still India stands as second largest coal importer.
  • To ensure energy security through assured coal supply, address poor working conditions etc., coal mining was nationalized in 1973 by Coal Mines (Nationalization) Act, 1973. So, private sector firms were only allowed to mine coal for use in their captive (own) use, e.g. cement, steel, power and aluminum plants etc.
  • However, in 2014, Supreme Court cancelled 204 coal mines/blocks which were allocated between 1993- 2014, on the grounds of C&AG report, alleging loss of 1.85 lakh crore to Government.
  • Later the government brought in the Coal Mines (Special provisions) (CMSP) Act of 2015 to allocate coal blocks through auction.
  • Prior to the enactment CMSP Act, coal mines were never given out through bidding. Companies used to apply for coal blocks and rights were given to them after scrutiny by an inter-ministerial committee.
  • Recently, government came with the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Act, 2020 which amends the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act) and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015, under which current auction process is launched.

Significance of commercial coal mining

  • Economic gains: Proposed auction of 41 coal blocks for commercial mining will create more than 2.8 lakh jobs and attract capital investment worth 33,000 crore. Allowing FDI in coal mining industry will facilitate adoption of new technology.
  • Reduction in imports: Involvement of private players and investment by them will help meet domestic coal requirement and save forex reserve by reducing imports. The 41 mines proposed for auction are expected to hit peak production of 225 million tonne (mt) and expected to account for around 15% of India’s total coal production in 2025-26.
  • Reduced cost to customer: Higher production and surplus availability of coal, may reduce the cost of electricity, as currently coal-fired plants generate about 70 per cent of India’s electricity.
  • Revenue to the Government: It is expected that commercial coal mining will add ₹20,000 crore annually to the state governments’ revenue.
  • Development of the coal bearing regions: Revenue generated through coal production will raise contribution to District Mineral Foundation Fund (setup under MMDR Amendment Act 2015) and could be spent on welfare schemes for locals and tribal in surrounding area.

Challenges related to commercial coal mining

  • Cost of power production through renewable energy is increasingly getting lower, hence private players also shifting investment in renewable energy sources rather than conventional sources like coal.
  • Central Electricity Authority (CEA) expected that coal-based thermal power plant’s capacity utilization will fall to 48% by 2022, as additional nonthermal electricity generation capacities rise. This might further discourage investors.
  • CIL estimated that only about 21 billion tonnes (BT) could be extracted technically and economically. Thus, India may run out of easily extractable coal down to the depth of 300 meters in the next few years. This will mean that companies will need to mine deeper, which would require increased mechanization with an increase in the cost of production.
  • Some states are raising concerns that disregarding powers of state governments and Gram Sabha to recognize mines allocation is against cooperative federalism and leads to loss of revenue to States/villages.
  • There are socio-economic concerns like acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement of people affected and risk of environmental degradation.

Way forward

  • Setting up of an independent regulatory body for the coal sector to carve out coal blocks, oversee investments and also carry out valuation. Coal Regulatory Authority Bill, 2013 was introduced for this purpose, but was lapsed.
  • There should be fine balance between short-term cost savings and long-term environmental impact by promoting sustainable coal consumption and reducing waste discharge, through combining smaller mining areas to develop into one single mine of large capacities.
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