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Parliamentary panel bats for GST exemption for prison products, hi-tech jammers in jails

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Products made by jail inmates should be exempted from GST, as this will give them a competitive edge over similar products made by big business houses, besides improving their sales and profitability, a high-level Parliamentary panel said. This was suggested by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in its report presented in both Houses of the Parliament on Thursday, noting that by giving GST exemption to prison-made products and by making them available online will not only create awareness among people about the work done by prisoners, but will also bring about a positive outcome for their reforms.

The Parliamentary panel in its report on Prison Reforms, Conditions and Infrastructure, further suggested that to prevent drugs, arms and especially mobile phones from being smuggled into prisons, technologically upgraded jammers that are capable of blocking all signals, from 2G to 5G, should be installed in all prisons.

As of now, jammers capable of blocking only 2G and 3G network signals are available in Indian prisons. In fact, in many prisons, no jammers are installed at all.

“The Home Ministry should set benchmark frisking standards to curb entry of contraband articles to prevent gang wars... Further, drones should be used in prisons for aerial surveillance of the prison premises,” the report said. In addition to this, the committee also noted that the status of young offenders is not clear across states. “In view of this, the committee recommends that a clear definition of ‘young offenders’ should be given by the Home Ministry along with a common guideline to all states, describing the procedure to govern them,” the panel suggested.

The Parliamentary panel also said that transgender prisoners should be provided with same standards of healthcare, which is available to other prisoners, and they should have access to necessary healthcare services without discrimination on the grounds of their gender identity. It also suggested that a doctor of their choice, rather than that of prison officials, should examine transgender prisoners before lodging them in appropriate prisons, so that they may not be “misgendered”.


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