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In Tihar, prisoners are turning in-house reformers
September 04, 2005 17:25 IST
The concept of reforming prisoners in Asia's largest jail Tihar seems to have come a full circle with the task now being taken up by those who themselves were earlier incarcerated in the dingy cells.
Tihar, with its hard-to-manage prison population, had always posed a formidable challenge to authorities until a ray of hope was sighted while Kiran Bedi was at the helm of affairs.
She started several prisoner-oriented programmes and the focus soon shifted from punishing inmates for their indifferent past to actually reforming them for giving them a better future.
Now all these efforts seem to have borne fruit as many prisoners, who underwent reformation while they were behind bars, now being actively engaged in showing their former mates a new path which would help them join the social mainstream.
Under the aegis of Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan, a non-governmental organisation, which works in the field of prisoner reformation, many former inmates of Tihar are now spearheading a programme to help effect a mental transformation in prisoners.
They are organising spiritual counseling, delivering motivational lectures, conducting yoga classes and encouraging prisoners to take part in cultural as well as vocational programmes.
"The reformed are turning into reformers now and since the prisoners can relate to them, it is a relatively easier task. They are working among drug-addicts, hardened prisoners and others who have committed heinous crimes to transform them for leading a normal life," Swami Vishalananda of the Sansthan said.
While cultural activities include imparting training in dance, music, painting, art and craft, vocational programmes teach the inmates pottery, weaving, bread-making and several other skills.
And leading the charge were former inmates like Karmveer, a national level athlete and former vice president of Shyam Lal College Students Union, who ended up in Tihar in a kidnapping case and Varun Kumar, a former municipal councilor and a registered medical practitioner, Vishalananda said.
The Sansthan opened its first centre in Tihar in 1998 and subsequently two more spiritual units started functioning inside the prison, which has an average population exceeding 13,5000 against the sanctioned capacity of 3,637, he said.
The organisation claims that thousands of prisoners have undergone "total transformation" through spiritual counseling and yoga classes have helped them soothe their nerves in the prison atmosphere.
Even die-hard drug addicts have been rehabilitated through the de-addiction programme and the success rate was more than 90 per cent, he claimed.
Though the concept of prisoner reformation is yet to gain ground in other jails in India, Tihar seems to have marched way ahead.