Inmates vote for own panchayat

In the model jail in Lucknow, the inmates cast their votes on Sunday, to elect a ‘Prisoner Panchayat’, comprising a ‘sarpanch’ (head) and five ‘panchs’ (members).

There are 14 candidates (all prisoners) in the fray for six seats. While the battle for the post of ‘sarpanch’ witnesses a direct fight between Girish Patel and Babua Pandey, as many as 12 candidates are fighting for the five seats of ‘panchs’ (members).

The candidates, just like those in the elections for the Lok Sabha and Assemblies, did their best to woo the 270 voters. “The campaigning continued till late on Saturday night”, jail officials said.

The candidates resorted to personal contact, group meetings and also made tall promises to get the support of the voters. The candidates have also been allotted symbols. “The past few days were very hectic for the candidates...they used every trick to garner support of the voters”, the officials added.

The prisoner’s panchayat is very powerful, having the responsibility of looking after the welfare of the inmates, they said. “Only the prisoners, who are first offenders and whose conduct is good and who have been sentenced to life imprisonment are housed in the Lucknow model jail....these prisoners are selected from the different jails in the state”, the officials said.

The new prisoners are kept in the ‘Swagat Bhavan’ (welcome home) for the first six months after which they are transferred to Jamuna Bhavan. Their conduct is closely watched here and if it is found to be good, they are transferred to Ganga Bhavan.

“Only those who live in Ganga Bhavan are entitled to take part in the voting”, senior jail superintendent V K Jain says. The prisoner panchayat’s tenure is five years and it has been given wide powers, he said.

“The panchayat takes decisions regarding sending an inmate out of the jail for rehabilitation, keeping them in open barracks, their welfare and also recommends home leave”, Jain said.

The recommendations of the prisoner’s panchayat are not rejected normally, he added.

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