In the ninth year of his 10-year term in Tihar,25-year-old Anil is savouring a taste of what life might soon be for him. Between 11 am and 6 pm,Anil is free free to roam around the 450-acre prison complex and work at Tihar Haat,to enter which he actually steps out of the prison gate.
Anil is one of two prisoners made a part of Tihars semi-open jail (SOJ) initiative
. The other prisoner is Sukesh,who like Anil,was convicted for attempt to murder,and is currently out on a months parole. Once Sukesh returns,Anil will be able to avail the two-week furlough granted to him by the director general of the prison for his good conduct.
It was their conduct in fact,that bought the two prisoners their bits of freedom. It is intended that the SOJ should involve around 50 convicts by the year-end,but stringent eligibility criteria has ensured only two convicts have been selected so far.
It feels good to face the outside world after so many years. This is the last year of my jail term. I was charged under Section 302 of the IPC for murder initially,but later convicted under section 304 (culpable homicide), Anil said. The crime was committed inadvertently when Anil was 18,and a student of Class 12.
While in jail,Anil has become a good artist. A painting he made was presented to Home Minister P Chidambaram when he visited the jail complex. I am a good painter now and even plan to take it up professionally when I get out of jail next year. But lets see how life turns out once I get out, Anil said.
During their free hours both Anil and Sukesh work at the outlet selling products of the jails TJs brand. Warder Mukesh Kumar accompanies them to Tihar Haat in the morning and takes them back in the evening. They can be allowed to come and go by themselves if they furnish some security amount, said Tihar warder Jagmohan,who is also in charge of Tihar Haat.
Its a relief,a freedom, said Anil. Their families can meet them more freely now,and they get to eat the food cooked at home that other workers bring. Both earn the minimum daily wages of skilled labour,Rs 99.
To be eligible for SOJ,prisoners conduct must be excellent over the entire period of their sentence,they must have availed of either three paroles or furloughs and nothing adverse noticed during their temporary release from the prison,they must have no pending cases in any court,and must have been sentenced to terms of over five years but less than 10 years,with less than two years of their sentence remaining.
For the other convicts our priority would be to get them jobs with the PWD or gardening jobs with the Horticulture department. This initiative is bringing a positive attitude among prisoners as it comes as a reward for good behaviour, Tihar spokesperson Sunil Gupta said.
The SOJ initiative aims to enhance reformative influence on inmates by reposing trust; to recognise their worth and dignity as human beings; to shield them from the psychological pressure of confinement within jail walls; to utilise their skills and productive potential; and to infuse proclivity for honest living.