Prisoners are encouraged to pursue education in this jail

Prisoners are encouraged to pursue education in this jail

While Bihar connotes different things to different people, it has certainly progressed in jail reforms considering the initiatives taken there. This is evident from the fact that three prisonsers  lodged in the high-security Beur jail of Patna  have passed their first graduate level examination.
Those who cleared the BA part-I examination opted for History honours. The examination was held at the Beur study centre in April. Now sample this: 29  examinees out of   31 have passed  the certificate-level computer education course at the prison for which two inmates having B.Tech and MCA degree volunteered to act as faculty members.

The jail reform process was initiated last year when the then IG (Prisons) Sandeep Paundrik asked one of the inmates Ajay Kumar Jha, who was techno-savvy, to impart computer education to his fellow prisoners.

The proposal initially evoked a lukewarm response but after the jail administration installed four computers and provided a separate room where the interested prisoners could pick up the technical skills, 29 inmates became computer savvy and cleared the examination conducted by  the conducted by the Nalanda Open University (NOU). 

Free education

The free-of-cost education linked with university’s degree within the jail premises has proved to be a boon for those with impoverished background. The NOU has not only offered them an opportunity to utilize their days behind bars usefully but also hone their skills to be equipped for the world outside.

After many of the jail inmates sought introduction of market-savvy courses, which would help them find a job after   release, the NOU has decided to introduce a new job-oriented course – Desktop publishing – incorporating computer education with printing technology.

“Since there is no examination fee for the jail inmates, more and more prisoners are now evincing interest,” said a senior official of the NOU, refusing to be identified.
The Beur Jail  also has a rich collection of about 1,500 books in its library. When former District Magistrate of Patna Dr Gautam Goswami was lodged there for his involvement in the flood relief scam, he tried to find solace in religious books after the court rejected his bail petitions .

Before becoming friendly with other jail inmates, Goswami spent his time in the jail library browsing books on religion and spiritualism.

During his incarceration, he read Swami Vivekanand’s  Laws of Life; How to overcome mental tension and  Rabindranath Tagore’s  Kaun Kisi Ka, Geetanjali, The Vision and The Victory. As the District Magistrate of Patna, Goswami had mooted the idea to start a yoga camp for the Beur jail inmates, but fate took such a turn that the man who lorded over Patna as its DM became one of its inmates.

But then, Goswami is not the only VVIP to have served there as a prisoner. While inaugurating the Beur Jail on August 11, 1994, the then Chief Minister Lalu Prasad would have never thought in his wildest dreams that within three years he would be one its  inmates.

Lalu was put behind bars in 1997 for his alleged role in the fodder scam. Other ‘high and mighty’ inmates of Beur include Md Shahabuddin, Pappu Yadav (now released on bail) and Anand Mohan (all former MPs charged with murder).

Notwithstanding this, Beur Jail is today writing a new chapter in its ‘chequered’ history and, through its literacy programme, may soon become a role model for other jails.