Winds of change sweep through
an Indian jail
By Radhika Nagrath
(Uttarakhand), Oct 19 (IANS) Convicted murderers, drug dealers,
burglars along with accused inmates - all clad in white prison
uniform - sit row upon row, working on sewing machines. Their
hands move efficiently and their feet control the pedals.
They are busy stitching orange-coloured medicine handbags
for an ayurvedic institution here.
another area, a young boy is weaving a rug on a handloom.
to the Haridwar District Jail. Once infamous for its isolation
and neglect, it now runs diverse rehabilitation projects,
earns revenue from them and even helps other state prisons.
by putting a culprit in jail, the duty is not over. He does
not get automatically reformed. He must be given an environment
to evolve. Environment plays an important role in transforming
the psyche of a convict," says Rakesh Verma, a deputy
a big tailoring unit, a handloom project under the Uttarakhand
Khadi Evam Gramudyog, a medicinal plant garden and educational
courses, the jail with about 950 prisoners - of whom about
400 are life term convicts and about 250 are being held for
petty crimes - seems to be on a mission to reform.
Singh, the chief jailer, says the aim behind the projects
is to improve the human rights standard inside penal institutions
like the Haridwar District Jail.
much of the credit for the change that has swept through the
jail, especially in the past year, goes to District Magistrate
(DM) Anand Vardhan and Inspector General (Prisons) Bhaskaranand.
the DM took over its administration, Haridwar Jail was a disturbed
jail. No one could go beyond the main gate. With the idea
of an open jail in mind, the DM along with his team has led
to transformation of the jail," Verma told IANS.
jail grows medicinal plants like Ashwagandha. The side space
of the barracks is utilised for growing Aloe Vera. The herbal
garden grows Stevia, which is 300 times sweeter than the normal
sugar, on a large scale. Lemon-scented Eucalyptus Citriodora
is another useful plant grown in the premises.
hard work of the prisoners has helped the jail authorities
earn a revenue of Rs.1.3 million since November 2003 from
its plantation project," says Pawan Kothari, another
old convict, Khushal Singh, serving a life term is the supervisor
of the garden. His silent deep looks and philosophical utterances
show his spiritual bent of mind.
ka prakash hamesha khush rakhta hai, jis haal mein bhi rahna
padey (Awakening in your soul always keeps you happy, whatever
your situation). It's my sadguru's teaching," says the
district magistrate has opened a National Institute of Open
School (NIOS) centre in the jail under the human resources
development ministry. Now prisoners can utilise their time
studying high school and intermediate courses.
the academic session 2008-09, 24 prisoners filled up application
forms for high school and two for intermediate levels. On
the DM's appeal, the Rotary Club donated Rs.26,300 as the
fee of prisoner students. Classes commenced this month.
study centre for the Indira Gandhi National Open University
(IGNOU) has been established in the jail and 124 inmates have
registered. Ten computers have been donated for the project
by the Gujarat Ambuja Foundation.
Chorakoti, a life term convict who lives in the isolation
cell, was one of the inmates who has enrolled for IGNOU's
six-month computer course. He is a science graduate from Haldwani,
a staunch Maoist and was reading an English newspaper sitting
on his concrete bed on the floor when this reporter saw him.
wished all the best for the course, he reciprocated with a
also find solace in creative work.
Janmashtami festival has special craze for the inmates as
Lord Krishna, whose birthday is celebrated on that day, was
born behind bars. On that day, prisoners engage in making
decorations depicting Krishna's birth.
sculpture, that of Lord Shiva, greets one in the jail - the
beautiful creation has been carved out with the help of a
spoon by a prisoner, Pushkar Singh.
are all symbolic of reform in the jail.