Gone in five minutes: Vinayaka idols made by convicts a hit as Puducherry rings in prison reforms


Express News Service

PUDUCHERRY: Vinayaka Chaturthi has come as a blessing for convicts in the Puducherry Central Jail at Kalapet who made 51 beautiful Vinayaka idols that sold out in minutes, as part of a major prison reform programme. The reforms started rolling since July to make Puducherry Central Jail a model prison in association with Sri Aurobindo Society, Inspector General of Prisons Ravideep Singh Chahar told The New Indian Express.

Idol making is one of the activities introduced along with weaving and yoga to keep the prisoners occupied and give them something to look forward to in life, said Chahar. The prisoners performed yoga during the Independence Day celebrations. Those who volunteered to learn were given training following which they made the idols of different sizes and designs with the assistance of the trainer, said Chahar. “It became a huge success with all being sold in five minutes and demands for more coming up,” he said. The prison officially launched the products under the slogan ‘The second chance, live life with dignity’, he said.   

The prison proposes to set up organic farming, a bakery unit, canteen and goshala (rearing of cows) not only to keep prisoners engaged but also impart life skills so that once they walk out, they can earn a livelihood, he said. Also, it is proposed to set up a library in the prison premises.

To improve the mental health of the prisoners, psychological counselling has also been started in association with Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), while dental camps are being conducted in association with a charitable trust.  

As part of dealing with stress among prisoners, music and dance therapy has been introduced. Aloka Nanda, who have achieved success in prisons in West Bengal has started dance and music therapy, which has therapeutic effect on the inmates. Those showing interest will be trained in performing arts and become artists, which can be used for performing and earning a livelihood, he said.

The focus is on engaging them in as many activities as possible based on their liking (as it is on a voluntary basis), improving mental health, reducing stress and teaching them life skills to bring a change in their mindset, said Chahar.

On the administrative front also, various reforms have been brought in, starting with an eight-hour shift for prison staff, instead of round the clock duty. A total of 25 wardens have been recruited  to address paucity of staff and CCTV cameras and cell phone tower blockers have been installed. A superintendent of jail was caught on CCTV camera, functioning in contravention to rules, following which he was placed under suspension, while the cell phone tower blockers, (monitored four times a day) have prevented inmates making calls outside for crimes or other reasons. The non-functioning scanners are working now and inflow of contraband substances like cannabis (ganja) has stopped, he said. A complete SOP has been prepared based on which the prison is functioning, he said.

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