Inmate wary as release day nears

Selected for the programme, Devi Lal remains anxious to avoid last-minute botch-up

Semi-open jail facility provides freedom and lets me socialise, but it also scares me,” says a 45-year-old Tihar Jail inmate availing the programme.

Devi Lal, a property dealer, has been serving seven years rigorous imprisonment over an attempt to murder charge. Lodged at jail number two, he is one of only two prisoners selected by jail authorities following strict rules and regulations.

As part of the facility, he is allowed to leave his cell at 9 am and work as a sales representative at Tihar Haat, which serves as a shopping window for jail products. About his experience so far, Devi Lal tells Deccan Herald that he has mixed views about the programme.

“Though I am happy for being provided the opportunity of enjoying freedom, I am also scared. I roam within the jail complex and the thought that somebody may complain leaves me scared,” says Devi Lal. He believes a complaint while working at Tihar Haat may malign his image, and may hamper his release scheduled on February 20.

But he did emphasises that he has been able to meet his family members and friends regularly due to the freedom. “They visit Tihar Haat and we spend hours chatting, but with most of my sentence being over I don’t want anything bad happening to me anymore,” he says.

Being a property dealer, Devi Lal says he has knowledge of accounting, which he used to handle prisoner’s personnel accounts at the jail. At Tihar Haat, he has been interacting with customers who visit the cafe-cum-emporium displaying a whole range of craft work and confectionery items manufactured by Tihar inmates.

“I have been here since February 2012, and the journey so far has been smooth. Initially, another prisoner also used to work with me, but he was sent back due to differences with jail authorities,” Devi Lal adds.

He says the emporium exhibits carpets, garments, paper products and paintings, among others, while the cafe on the emporium premises offers TJ’s special confectionery products as part of its menu. “Tihar Haat remains open till 11 pm, but I have orders to leave and return to my cell before 7 pm,” he says.

Devi Lal says he keeps track of all products brought from jail factories and sold at Tihar Haat. “We get the products on loan and pay back through sales. We have been able to sell products worth Rs 15,000 to Rs 16,000, and the business has been good,” he adds.

About his background, Devi Lal says he used to live with family members at south-east Delhi’s Zamrudpur when an attempt to murder allegation was levelled against him in 1994. It was alleged that he and his family members had shot at a tenant over unpaid rent.

But Devi claims he was not among the attackers, and says he was made a scapegoat by his family members. “Charges levelled against many of my family members were dropped after they paid Rs 10 lakh to police officers. I was blamed, as someone had to face police action,” Devi says.

He has been visiting police stations and courts for the past 19 years, and claims that he was labelled a ‘bad character’ by Greater Kailash police station for refusing to pay bribe. Devi Lal is now hopeful that with his sentence being almost over, he will be able to live a life of respect.

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