Seen as ‘blood money’, Tihar’s welfare fund shunned by families
This welfare fund has found few takers in eight years.
Of the Rs 13.5 crore earmarked for the victims of crimes committed by convicted prisoners, only around 5% of the money has been disbursed so far. Tihar Jail officials have built this corpus by deducting 25% of daily wages earned by all convicts. While jail officials continue to deduct the money from the prisoners’ wages every day, they have given out only around Rs 64 lakh(4.74%) till date.
The problem, jail officials say, is finding victims or their families. And if they find victims, it is difficult to convince them to take the money because most families the officials approach refuse to take the compensation because they see it as “blood money”.
The idea was born in 2010. The plan was to award a sort of compensation to rape survivors, families who have lost bread earners to murder and other such cases. The money is saved in the account of a jail superintendent.
A convict, working as a skilled worker such as carpenter, tailor or painter, earns a maximum of Rs 321 every day. There are at least 2,800 convicts of the 15,000 prisoners in Tihar.
Director general (prisons), Ajay Kashyap, said the prison authorities have written to the government to change some parameters to ensure that officials can get to more victims. “We have suggested that a DIG (deputy inspector general) rank jail officer be authorised to identify the victims. Currently, this is done by a deputy commissioner, who is not posted in prison. Such a prison official is best placed to track down the families because he or she has closely interacted with the convict.”
The prisons chief said that he had suggested the fund be merged with the money that is given by the Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA) under the aegis of the Delhi government. “They are well versed with each case. In cases when trial takes years, the DLSA can decide on interim compensation so that the victim’s family gets immediate relief.”
According to prison rules, each family is entitled to a maximum of Rs 1 lakh from the Tihar corpus. “In the past, there have been cases when we approached rape survivors or families of those who were killed but they have refused the money. They believe it is ill-gotten wealth. Last time, we contacted five families, but they all refused. Only around seven claims were disbursed last year,” said a jail officer.
Out of the Rs 64 lakh disbursed till date, most claims were made in cases in which the crimes were committed by relatives or where the family’s bread earner was killed. “Most cases are those in which a man murdered his wife. The kids needed the money. Their relatives approached us and we disbursed the money. This was supposed to be a good initiative, but the fund is yet to benefit the victims like it should have.”
Supreme Court advocate Gaurav Agarwal, who is assisting the apex court in examining rehabilitation of women prisoners issues and other prison reforms, said the money could be best utilised on children in prison.
“A lot can be done with the fund for children who are lodged in prison with their mothers. Till the age of 6, a child is allowed to live in prison. In some cases, where both the parents are in prison, kids stay longer. They suffer for no fault of theirs. Unlike other state jails, Tihar still has a creche. The fund could be used to build facilities such as a play school.”