Updated: January 23, 2021 8:45:30 pm
The Maharashtra government is starting “jail tourism” in the state, beginning with Pune’s 150-year-old Yerwada jail in the first phase, from Republic Day on January 26.
Addressing a press conference here on Saturday, State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said, “The famous Yerwada jail has cells where many stalwarts of the Indian freedom struggle were imprisoned. They include Mahatma Gandhi, Lokmanya Tilak, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Sarojini Naidu and Motilal Nehru among others. It also has a tree below which the Poona Pact was signed by Mahatma Gandhi and Babasaheb Ambedkar. Similarly, this is the jail where (revolutionaries) the Chaphekar brothers were hanged to death. Also to hang here were Sukha and Jinda, killers of General VK Vaidya and (Pakistani terrorist) Ajmal Kasab. The state government has decided to start jail tourism from Yerwada jail on January 26 with the view to let people see the place.” “Maharashtra is the first state in the country to do so,” he added.
Deshmukh also said, “It will also be useful for researchers and students of history.” Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will inaugurate the facility. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar will attend the event too.
Deshmukh said Maharashtra has 45 jails, and the government will eventually extend similar facilities to other jails in Nashik and Thane as well.
As per a government notification, issued on Saturday by Additional Director General of Prisons Sunil Ramanand, a standard operating procedure (SOP) has been laid down for the initiative.
According to the SOP, students and teachers of schools, colleges and universities, members of educational institutes and registered social organisations are eligible to visit the jails as tourists. Jail superintendents and superior officers in the prison department will grant permission to those visiting the jails as tourists.
Those who wish to visit the jails as tourists should submit their applications to the jail superintendents seven days prior to their visit which would be allowed between noon and 3pm. The date of visit will be decided by the jail superintendents. Also, a maximum of 50 persons would be allowed to go inside jail on a day for tourism.
Charges, to be taken from tourists for visiting the jails, would be decided in due course of time. Till then, tourists would be allowed to enter the prisons free of cost. During the jail visit, organisations should submit a list with the names of its students, teachers or members on its letterhead to the prison officials. Also, the tourists will have to carry their identity cards or documents like PAN cards, Aadhaar cards for verification before entering the prison. Tourists would not be allowed to carry their cell phones, cameras and food items inside the prison.
The government has asked the prison department to appoint officers or personnel as tourist guides. At least one jail officer and three guards should be appointed to keep a watch on the tourists.
Tourists would not be allowed to interact with any jail inmates or prisoners. Staff, appointed by the jail officials, will take photographs and videos of the tourists only at the historic places where visits would be allowed. Photographs and videos would be provided to the tourists free of cost. Boards giving information about the historic spots inside the jails would be displayed for the tourists.
The oldest existing prison in the state is Byculla District Prison, which was built in 1840. First of the Central Prisons were Nagpur and Yerwada, which started in 1864 and 1866, respectively.
On the issue of news anchor Arnab Goswami’s Whatsapp chat, Deshmukh said the Centre should disclose how Goswami received information three days prior to the Balakot strike.
“The BJP had agitated in his support on the streets when we had arrested him (in TRP case). Now it should also answer how he was privy to the sensitive military operation in advance, something which only the Prime Minister, defence minister, home minister and defense forces’ chiefs are in the know of,” he added.
The minister said, “We are seeking legal advice if it involved violation of the Official Secrets Act, 1923, to see whether we can go ahead with further action in the matter.”
On the Centre giving its own security to Opposition leaders after the state withdrew it, Deshmukh said: “There is a state-level committee that takes stock of the situation on the basis of threat prescription. If the Centre has given security to leaders like Chandrakant Patil and Narayan Rane, it’s actually a mending in the jurisdiction of the state government and they shouldn’t have done it.”
Asked when an FIR would be lodged in the Bhandara hospital fire case, Deshmukh said, “It will be decided on the basis of forensic report the government is scheduled to get today.”
Refuting the BJP’s allegation that the rape complaint against senior NCP leader and Cabinet Minister Dhananjay Munde was withdrawn under duress, Deshmukh said, “The complainant has given an affidavit that she had filed the complaint under political pressure. She was forced to file the complaint by some people for political reasons.”
On the arrest of one Parvez Khan by the Narcotics Bureau in Mumbai, the minister said, “We are investigating if the drug money was being used to fund terrorism.”
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