Inside the sprawling campus of the open jail in Jaipur’s Sanganer, 31-year-old Ramnarayan Meena expertly picks up a label and wraps it around a bottle of a hand sanitiser.
“This work is important. We have been hearing about the coronavirus here as well… It’s a very tough time…We are glad that we could help,” says Meena, serving a life term for murder. He then picks up the bottle, checks that it is sealed and moves on to another one.
Meena, who is serving a sentence of life imprisonment for murder, is part of a group of more than 60 prisoners who, since Friday, are helping in the packaging of hand sanitiser being manufactured at a facility in the jail. While representatives of a private company make the solution at the factory, the convicts label and package the product.
“Due to the lockdown, the inmates of the open jail couldn’t go out for work and were left without an income. That was when we came into contact with a private company which manufactures hand sanitiser. We tied up with them and offered them space to manufacture sanitiser, provided they give employment to the inmates and pay them wages. Right now, this unit is providing income to 60-65 inmates everyday,” Director General, Jails, NRK Reddy told The Indian Express.
A representative of the company making the sanitiser said the convicts helped label and pack around 20,000 bottles of hand sanitiser on the first day.
Inmates of the open jail are allowed to live with their families inside the jail campus and also to go out for earning. However, they have to report back at a fixed time in the evening each day. Jail officials say that most of the inmates who used to work as daily wage labourers or other jobs are out of work following the lockdown.
Reddy added that the jail authorities had communicated the idea to the state health department, which requested them to immediately start production in light of high demand.
“At present, there is high demand of sanitiser bottles in the market and the supply is relatively low. A bottle of 100 ml of hand sanitiser is manufactured at the jail is sold only at Rs 50. The fact that convicts are helping manufacture it is also fulfilling our objective of reforming people… in some way benefiting society. The prisoners of both the open jail and Jaipur central jail have also made around 40,000 masks which are being sold for just Rs 8 each per piece,” said Deputy Inspector General of Police, Jails, Vikas Kumar.
“We have been trained and taught by the company representatives to exercise caution in order to ensure that all health norms are followed while packing the bottles. We are also earning Rs 200 for a four-hour shift. But rather than earning money, our intention is to serve the world at this time of difficulty,” says 28-year-old Kanaram Prajapat, who is also currently serving a life sentence for murder.
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