Turning Tihar into a profit centre?

Jail Break

They are turning India’s largest prison into a business centre. Murderers, kidnappers, extortionists  and other criminals whether - under-trials or convicts housed in Tihar Jail are gainfully em­p­l­­o­yed in creative activities and getting paid for them too.
The sprawling 400 acre.

Tihar, which is home to over 12,000 prisoners, is a totally different world in its own, where inm­ates are encouraged to take up an activity
of their choice.

One of these is puppet making, started by a group of five inmates who make pupp­ets and muppets of all kinds. Once the prisoners learn how to make these puppets, their products are also retailed from TJ’s Initiative – Tihar’s own shop located just outside the prison.

These five prisoners are busy leading a life of repentance by making puppets. Not only they are doing it very well, but also doing great business. Their puppets have even been absolute sellouts at SelectCity Walk in Saket.

The money that is earned through these sales is kept aside and is handed over to prisoners upon release.

Sandeep Kumar Singh came to Tihar when he was 23. After five years, he is a ward manager and has been given managerial responsibilities related to puppet-making. “It is a group work. We have a five-member team and the work is divided amongst all of them.

One does cutting, the other stitching and the third one fills the stuffing and others do the finishing part.” The inmates are taught puppetry by a teacher from NCERT.

The prisoners get financial help from Prisoners Welfare Fund (PWF) to start this business. They are now repaying with their monthly income from the puppet making venture.

“When we displayed our collection at the mall, the puppets were sold instantly and we got orders of 500 more after that. People think that if they buy our puppets, they can indirectly help the inmates monetarily,” says Sandeep. These puppets were priced between Rs 50-500. 

The jail authorities are working in collaboration with Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) through which prisoners are studying MBA, computer courses,
finance courses, B.A, etc. The arrangement also gives the prisoners a platform to prove themselves academically also.

One of the prisoners,  Shankar Shroff, who has been living in the jail for the past three years, is pursuing BA through the distance learning programme of IGNOU and also loves making puppets. He says, “This activity is timepass for us. We indulge in this as we want to relax and ease our tensions.” Lalit Ratwal, another inmate, pursuing BA seconds Shankar and says, “Earlier, I would worry about a lot of things but now I are tension free. Ab jo hoga dekha jayega. We have something to do ther than sitting idle or
sleeping.”

Even though they live with the taint of being termed as criminals, the jail authorities do not judge them by the intensity of the crimes they have committed. Lokesh Chandra Danics, Superintendent, Tihar Jail, says, “We don’t distinguish them on the basis of the crimes. We want them to be reformed and leave the crime world forever. That is why we are helping them with educational courses and vocational training.”

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