Varaaha Series by B S Ranganath
An article by Sri.Hemanth Kashyap on prisoners life in Parappana Agrahara Central Jail, Bengaluru, published in Bangalore Mirror sometime back, has been thought provoking and speculative.
Santhosh Vas, founder and chair person of Janodaya, an organization helping prisoners who want to mend their ways, came across a prisoner who said gambling is not an offense in the jail. “Getting marijuana or mobile phones is also not a big problem”, he continued to claim. The interviewer also came to know that the prisoners involved in illegal activities give protection money, to jail staff.
A minimum of ten money orders are sent from jail every month. A prisoner’s income is only Rs1200/- per month. But a sum of Rs 5000/- is sent to his kin. Where does the huge money come from?
Gambling is the favorite pastime of the inmates. For some of them it is a route to make quick money. The inmates play cards everyday. Some prisoners win and some lose. The winners send money to their families. The inmates use drugs and mobile phones. The prison staff is silenced, with a share of 30 percent.
Associates and relatives outside the prison help the prisoners in money matters, drugs and mobile phones, when the prisoners attend court hearing.
Artwork by late T R Varaaha Murthy, M.A.
Santhosh Vas spoke to the DGP, to find a remedy to this situation. Janodaya counsels at least 25 inmates, including women every month. The NGO helps poor prisoners to get bail or come out on parole, helping them to talk to their families, thereby encouraging criminals to mend their ways. The NGO not only looks after their families and education of their children, but also helps the released prisoners to find jobs and join the main stream.
All the great work done by this selfless organization is demolished by the corrupt jail authorities, who receive 30 percent share from the gambling prisoners.
The cause for this problem may be that, the old prisoners and new ones are kept in separate barracks. The newcomers consist of rowdies, and hardcore criminals.
I remember Seshu Iyer, who was the superintendent of Mysore jail, during Quit India Movement. I was one of the many young people kept under detention. We named our room as ‘Viveka Nilaya’. I drew the picture of Swamy Vivekananda on the wall. It was against the jail rule to draw or write anything on the walls, inside the jail. The superintendent did not think of punishing me. He only ordered to whitewash the drawing. All the students under detention opposed the order. The convicts, under trials, and almost all the other prisoners joined our peaceful majestic demonstration. The order was withdrawn. This success made the students talk to the convicts. The jail superintendent permitted us to conduct Prabhath Pheri (Morning March) inside the walls of the jail. All the inmates of the jail joined us in Prabhat Pheri and sang patriotic songs with us. We enjoyed folk dances together. I do not know why the Inspector General ordered a lathi charge, against the detainees. Our innocent friend Shankarappa was killed by the brutal police beatings, inside the jail.
There was a TV Report on World’s most dangerous prisons. The prison turns into a battle ground when prisoners attack, and defiance takes over. Violence becomes a part of every day life. Prisoners use home made weapons, and a prison becomes a war zone within walls.
A court of justice has to examine in detail the case filed against an accused, before announcing its decree. This process takes a long time, during which the accused makes a lot of self assessment. Imprisonment is a separation of a criminal from the main stream of life. This separation may help a prisoner to improve his knowledge, by studying for open university examinations. They can improve their body and mind by Yoga or Art of Living. These activities can be taken up without breaking jail norms.
The novel idea of C N Gopinath Reddy, former Director General of Prisons, Andhra Pradesh, aims at making use of the skills of prisoners, to establish a profitable institution within the walls of a prison. The state prisons department’s first ever BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) has already grabbed some data compilation projects. The department is in talks with some banking firms in Canada to grab its first international project. All the BPO workers are convicted prison inmates.
B Ramalinga Raju holds a master degree in Business Administration. He founded Satyam Computer Services, and developed it into a top Indian IT Services Company. He received many awards from various popular institutions. But his dishonest schemes pulled him down, and he was imprisoned.
Satyam Computer Services Ltd founder B. Ramalinga Raju
Gopinath Reddy intended to pull this chained giant, to improve the infrastructure of the prison BPO. His remained confident till he retired, that Ramalinga Raju will help Police, on how best the available manpower can be utilized. He recommended Ramalinga Raju for the post of CEO, prison BPO.
Undoubtedly it is a gigantic step forward, in the field of prison reforms to convert the skills of jail birds into rewarding vocations and make the inmates of a prison work together.
Mysore jail has ushered a university in to the prison. Antahkarana, an organization working for the welfare of prisoners and the authorities of Karnataka State Open University, spoke to the jail authorities. A study center was opened in Mysore jail. University examinations are conducted in the jail itself. Old custom of taking the student inmates to the examination hall hand -cuffed, is put an end to.
Condemned criminals return home after their jail term as highly reformed, educated and useful humble servants of society. The jail authorities, oragnisations like Janodaya, Antahkarana and the great Karnataka State Open University have all brought about a miraculous jail reform. Society is highly thankful to them.