Days before Diwali, an announcement by the Maharashtra jail administration gave convicts in state prison a reason to cheer. In prisons across the state, the convicts’ daily wages are going to be hiked by 10 per cent, as per an order issued by Prison Department head Bhushankumar Upadhyay.
Currently, Maharashtra has nine central prisons, 31 district prisons, 13 open jails, one jail colony and two jails for women. These prisons can accommodate about 33,000 inmates; approximately 9,000 of them are convicts, the rest are undertrials. The convicts are employed in various trade units like carpentry, metal work, leather work, soap-making and bakery. Some of the prisons also have handlooms, powerlooms and paper bag-making units.
The convicts, or pakka kaidis as they are called, are classified as skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers. Till now, they used to get paid Rs 55, 50 and 40 for a day’s work respectively. As per the revised wages, they will be paid Rs 61, 55 and 45 per day. The wages of inmates from open jails have been raised from Rs 70 per day to Rs 77.
The wage, deposited in the account of every convict, is used by some of them to buy items from the jail canteen, while others send it home.
Explaining the process behind the wage hike, a prison official said, “In 2014, the then Prison Department head Meeran Borwankar had set up a committee to revise the wages of inmates. The committee also comprised representatives from the Labour Department. The committee had not only revised the convicts’ wages after a gap of eight years, it had also suggested that the wages should be revised every three years. Wages for skilled workers were raised from Rs 40 to Rs 55, and for semi-skilled workers from Rs 35 to Rs 50, while unskilled workers started getting Rs 40 instead of Rs 25. For inmates who are from a financially weak background, the money is very useful… it can also help significantly at the time of the convict’s release…”.
The officer acknowledged, “We understand that these are not ideal wages, and it is not possible to raise the wages up to the level of workers outside… in one go… Currently, wages in Maharashtra jails are a little lower than those in some other states. But regular hikes will make these wages more relevant.”