The ‘Colours of Change' project gives a new hue of life to Tihar Jail this Holi season

For six prisoners of Tihar Central Jail, this Holi has a special meaning -- the festival of colours has added shades of happiness in their lives like never before. Having learnt the art of making herbal colours during their incarceration, these former inmates – released about a fortnight ago -- are now making a living by selling them in the markets.

And these colours of Holi are finding great acceptance not only within India but also abroad. “We have now also got export orders from the United States and the United Kingdom. Seventeen multinational corporate houses have also placed their orders with us,” said Swami Vishalananda of Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan, the organisation that has been running the training programme in Tihar Jail.

The project was started by DJJS in 2010 with an experimental production of just about 500 kg of herbal colours. In view of the exponential growth in demand for such colours, which was boosted by the Delhi Government campaign to avoid chemicals in 2011, the production went up 12 times to touch 6000 kg. This year, it is slated to rise further and touch the 14000 kg mark.

But more than the volumes, it is the training of the inmates in this art which is of prime concern to those running the programme. “We call them `the colours of change' for the training and the manufacturing of these colours is part of a comprehensive programme to help the jail inmates meditate and learn skills for improving their lives,'' said Vishalananda.

So all the inmates who are part of the programme get up at 4am, meditate by doing ‘dhyaan' for about three to four hours in a day and put in eight hours in making colours.

About 50 inmates have directly benefited from this herbal colour making project so far. They all work in the Livelihood Generation Unit of DJJS in the jail premises and the proceeds from the sales are utilised in training programmes in 27 jails across India.

Apart from skill development and spiritual empowerment, the inmates are also being helped through positive engagement programmes like training in music, cricket, painting, or performing arts. They are also into developing herbal gardens and working in the area of drug abuse prevention and treatment.

As for the herbal colours, they are made of maize starch, edible grade colours, herbal essences and fragrances. The colours are completely ‘handmade' and inmates wear face masks, gloves and head and foot covers while manufacturing and packaging them in 120 gram packs, which sell for Rs 65 each.

At present the Tihar Jail is manufacturing herbal colours in seven radiant shades and “stress busting seven herbal aromas”. The names given to the aromas are equally attractive -- red is ‘Fresh Rose', orange ‘Kesar- Haldi', pink is called ‘Lilly of Valley', green ‘Lemon Grass', sky blue is christened ‘Fresh Mint', yellow ‘Lal Chandan' and magenta ‘Lavender'.

To reach out to the masses, these colours are also being sold at Ambience Mall and MGF Mall in Gurgaon, which have provided free of cost space under their corporate social responsibility initiative to promote both the product and the cause.

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