RAISING THE issue of the huge number of undertrial prisoners across the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday underlined that most of them are “poor or from ordinary families”, and appealed to states to release them on bail wherever possible. According to the latest available data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2020, about 76% of all prison inmates in the country were undertrials, of which about 68% were either illiterate or school dropouts.
Of the total 4,88,511 prison inmates, 3,71,848 were found to be undertrials. Among the undertrials, about 20% were Muslims, while about 73% were Dalits, tribals or OBCs. Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) were found to have the highest ratio of undertrials in jails at 91%, followed by Bihar and Punjab at 85%, and Odisha at 83% (see chart). About 27% of all undertrials were found to be illiterate, and 41% had dropped out before Class X. While Muslims form 14% of India’s population, they accounted for about 20% of the total undertrials and 17% of all convicts.