After court rebuke, Odisha proposes to increase wages of convicted prisoners

Odisha’s directorate of prisons and correctional services has proposed to hike incentives of convict prisoners by four folds after the High Court expressed concern over low wages.

If the proposals of the directorate were accepted, unskilled convicts will get ₹234 against ₹50 per day. Semi-skilled and skilled convicts may be paid ₹274 and 324 against ₹60 and ₹70 per day respectively.

A division bench of the Orissa High Court comprising Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Judge A. K. Mohapatra is hearing a petition filed by a convict who highlighted issues afflicting the functioning of jails in the State.

One of the issues highlighted was the wages. The practice, the Court was told, is that while convicts are engaged in carpentry, farming and other activities, it is voluntary when it comes to undertrials.

“The court finds that the rate of wages offered to prisoners, when compared to the best practices elsewhere in the country, is abysmally low. The court was shown a copy of a circular dated May 25, 2021 issued under the Minimum Wages Act by the Labour Commissioner of Odisha fixing the minimum wages for unskilled category at ₹311 per day, ₹351 for semi-skilled, ₹401 skilled and ₹461 for highly skilled per day,” said the division bench.

“In comparison, the ‘revised’ wages paid to prisoners for their labour in terms of a recent circular dated June 18, 2021 of the Home Department was ₹50 per day for ‘unskilled’, ₹60 per day for semi-skilled and ₹70 per day for skilled work. This is a pittance,” the bench said.

The HC directed the State to adopt the best practices in Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Telangana and Chhattisgarh and bring out a fresh circular not later than March 1.

The government was also asked to increase the number of activities by setting up a Prison Development Board that can contribute to the welfare of prisoners.

The division bench has passed a number of directions from over-crowding in jails to welfare of children of prisoners.

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Printable version | May 25, 2022 6:26:09 am |