Ants in oil, stones in rice, insects in dal. If they complained, they were beaten up. Inmates asked to pay in turns to have their toilets cleaned

Committee that studies conditions in Byculla jail, where a prisoner was allegedly beaten to death last year, recommends independent manual for women’s prisons

Women’s prisons across the country should have their own jail manual and must be better equipped to cater to the needs of its inmates, a committee constituted to study the conditions of women’s jails has recommended.

 

The committee headed by member of Parliament Vandana Chavan was asked to carry out the study in the light of the death of Manjula Shetye in Byculla jail in Mumbai last year. Shetye was allegedly beaten to death by the jail staff. Six members of the jail staff were arrested in connection with Shetye’s death. The committee was set up after a team headed by Chavan visited the Byculla jail and revealed its horrifying living conditions in a report to Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi. The report said that not only were the inmates not allowed to meet their family members, in most cases they had no idea about the charges against them or the stage at which their trial was.

The report also said the women were provided only six sanitary napkins and if a seventh pad was found in the ration bag, they would get beaten up. “There are ants in the oil, stones in the rice and insects in their dal and if they complained about this they were beaten up or reprimanded. They are also asked to pay in turns to have the toilets cleaned,” the report said.

In response to the report, the minister asked Chavan to constitute a larger group of experts, expand the scope of its study to women’s jails across the country, and come up with recommendations to overhaul the existing system of governance based largely on intimidation and extortion.

The committee – comprising of experts from law colleges and NGOs – has recommended that the new manual must clearly define the jail superintendent’s duty, make video links between jails and courts mandatory, and improve recreational facilities.

The committee has also recommended that provisions for enabling more jails to be run by only female staff should be made and that prison staff should be made accountable for grievance redressal within a specified time.

The committee’s other recommendations are: ** Separate mother-and-baby unit in every women’s jail.

** Express mention for the minimum time allowed to a prisoner to spend outside the cell.

** Difference in the rights for serious and non-serious offenders ** Voting rights to non-serious offenders.

** Adequate CCTV camera coverage.

Talking to Mumbai Mirror on Friday, Chavan said the Shetye case was an eye-opener.

“I have submitted the report to the minister with the committee’s recommendations. She is likely to take it up in the next Parliament session,” she said.

Inmates of the Byculla jail rioted in June last year after Manjula Shetye, one of the prisoners, died after she was allegedly beaten up by the jail officials

A file photo of Manjula Shetye

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