KOCHI: Outside the prison walls, they were a menace to society. Inside, they are turning out to be a huge liability. To the government, that is. Burning a deep hole in the state government's pockets, the expenditure at the prisons has been shooting up every year with food eating into most of it. Kerala comes second in the spending - on food, clothes, medicine and education for prisoners.
In 2016-17, Kerala's annual expenditure for an inmate was Rs 16,042. It was Rs 31,991 and Rs 14,316 in in Goa and Sikkim respectively.The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) data shows of the total Rs 29.59 crore annual expenditure for 8,450 inmates, food cost the most (Rs 21.79 crore) followed by welfare activities (Rs 4.61 crore), miscellaneous (Rs 1.10 crore), medical (Rs 84 lakh), education (Rs 72 lakh) and clothing (Rs 52 lakh).State Director General of Prisons and Correctional Services R Sreelekha said the expense on food was increasing every year. We can't compromise on the quantity of the food, she said.
A comparison of data in the last three years reveals the annual expenditure went up to Rs 29.59 crore in 2016-17 from Rs 27.16 crore for 7,325 inmates in 2015-16 and Rs 24.41 crore for 7,078 in 2014-15.Officers said variation in expenditure compared to other states was mainly due to different density of population in prisons, nature of welfare schemes and different diets.
The MHA has circulated the Model Prison Manual 2016 to all states to ensure uniformity in rules and regulations, and management of prisoners.Food waste piling upThe amount of food being wasted in each prison has been rising over the past few years. Though the Prisons Department has apprised the state government of it, no concrete action has been initiated so far.
DGP (Prisons) R Sreelekha said the department had highlighted the need to introduce age-specific menu for prisoners. All prisoners, irrespective of their age, are given equal quantity of food right now, resulting in large quantity of food waste being wasted, she said. A 70-year-old won't be able to consume food like a 25-year-old. We've prisoners from the age of 20 to 80. It's high time we brought a change in the menu focusing not on quantity, but nutrition. We're waiting for government's approval, she said.