THE Maharashtra government spends as less as Rs 34.22 per day on a single prisoner to provide him or her three square meals, much lower than the national average of Rs 52.42 per day per prisoner.
With the Bombay High Court recently asking the state government to improve the standards in which prisoners are kept in jails, the government on Tuesday decided to appoint a three-member committee in each district to monitor the condition of prison food in the state’s jails.
The district-wise committees will comprise a nutritionist, and a male and female social worker, who will visit prisons at least once a month and monitor the quality and quantity of food provided to prisoners. The committee will give its feedback to the government, which will then make changes based on the recommendations.
The state government took the decision to appoint these private members in the backdrop of directives from the High Court in March this year. The High Court issued the directives while hearing a public interest litigation filed by NGO Jan Adalat — Centre of Para-Legal Services and Legal Aid on the issue of jail conditions in the state.
Data shows the Indian state spends Rs 52.42 for every prisoner per day in arranging the three meals that are prescribed in prison manuals. States such as Delhi, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat spend the least on prison food, spending Rs 31.31, Rs 32.83, Rs 34.22 and Rs 35.38 respectively per prisoner per day for arranging breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The state that spends the highest on prisoners’ food is Nagaland, which spends almost double the national average. It spends Rs 139.22 per prisoner per day. It is closely followed by Jammu and Kashmir, which provides Rs 110.33 per prisoner per day for food, data shows.
The Model Prison Manual drafted by the home ministry prescribes that a male prisoner should have a calorie intake between 2,320 and 2,730 kcal/day. For female prisoners, it is stipulated to be between 1,900 and 2,830 kcal/day.
Because prison administration is a federal subject, every state has the right to decide on its food menu provided it adheres to the nutritional requirements laid down by the model prison manual. While prison manuals specify the exact weightage of pulses and vegetables a prisoner should get, the quality of food served leaves a lot to be desired.
The Maharashtra government spends a total of Rs 84.76 crore per year on the upkeep of prisoners. Of this, Rs 37.04 crore, which is 43.70 per cent of the total money, is spent on prisoners’ food. This also makes it one of the major expense heads, which is susceptible when officials decide to cut corners.
The only way prisoners can have access to decent food is from the jail canteen. Every prisoner is allowed to receive a sum of Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,200 per month from family members, which he or she can spend in the jail canteen. Certain states sell non-vegetarian food on specific days of the year, including festivals. Certain prisoners also have access to home-cooked food in line with court orders.
While earlier, under the provisions of home-cooked food, huge food containers would be slipped in by rich inmates to feed dozens of fellow inmates, certain jails have laid down rules that say an individual can’t get more than 850 gm of home-cooked food per day inside the prison.