Patna, Jan 30: Delhi’s Tihar Jail set the trend more than a decade and a half ago. Now, jute products, soft toys and decorative candles made by the women inmates of a Bihar jail are in great demand in the country’s big markets and abroad, particularly in the Gulf countries, says the NGO behind the effort.
The experiment is being replicated in many other jails across the state.
Mili Singh, Juhi and Deepmala Devi, three of 75 inmates of Bhagalpur’s Shaheed Jubba Sahani Central Jail, 150 km from here, are happy that they are earning money – many make Rs.3,000-plus a month – by fabricating different jute products and other items and saving enough for the future.
“The products made by them are in high demand in posh markets in Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Dehradun and Patna, among other cities, as also in the Gulf, particularly in Dubai, in Egypt and Yemen,” Shabana Dawood, secretary of NGO Fateh Help Society that helps them make the products and markets them in the country and abroad, told IANS over the telephone from Bhagalpur.
“We first provided skill training to all inmates and encouraged them to make innovative products. They have the talent and the will to make a difference,” she added.
Among the jute products being made are bags, purses, conference kitbags, water bottle covers, purses for mobile phones and soft toys, apart from decorative candles and chocolate.
Dawood said that most of the women inmates have accounts with the nationalised Bank of India.
“Thanks to the high demand for their products and regular orders, each woman inmate is earning Rs,3,000 per month and some even more,” she said, adding: “The demand for the products is increasing day by day as they are reasonably priced and durable.”
A website was launched last year for marketing purposes and the products are also made available online.
The jail authorities are now planning to engage male inmates in similar tasks.
“We have prepared a detail project to also engage male inmates like the women are,” jail superintendent Kailashpat Pingua said.
Thirty-two of the women inmates are lifers and are “fruitfully engaged in tasks that have changed their lives inside the jail”, Pingua told IANS, adding: “It is a big and positive development as the women inmates would not have to worry about their livelihood after serving their terms.”
Inmates in other jails across Bihar are also engaged spinning, weaving (powerlooms/ handlooms), carpentry and other tasks.
A garden umbrella and swing produced at Buxar jail are not made in any other jail in the country.
The rope used for hanging death-row convicts across the country is also produced by the inmates of Buxar jail.
Women inmates of Muzaffarpur jail make ‘Kabuli chappals’ and other leather goods like shoes, sandals and belts for policemen.
The inmates of Gaya jail are known for skills in pottery-making and sculpting terracotta figurines and other art objects.
There are 56 jails, including eight central prisons, in Bihar.
(Imran Khan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)