Solar energy to replace firewood to reduce carbon footprint

In a bid to reduce its carbon footprint, the Central Prison at Poojappura will soon harness solar power to meet its energy needs. Additional Director-General of Prisons Alexander Jacob said the Central Prison here, like most of the other 51 jails in the State, relied overwhelmingly on scarce fire-wood to cook food for its inmates. The Prison Department's annual energy bill, including cooking gas and power tariffs, was estimated to be Rs.60 lakh. Mr. Jacob said the high walls and closed nature of prison buildings often prevented the quick escape of smoke to the atmosphere. He said respiratory problems were common among prisoners and staff. The Centre had sanctioned Rs.24 crore to mount solar panels on roofs of select prisons to generate electricity. The department had roped in the services of Keltron and the Agency for Non-conventional Energy and Rural Technology (ANERT) to execute the projects. The Central Prison here would also get a solar-powered steam kitchen. The technology was expected to bring down the cooking time of meals from one hour to 15 minutes. The department had proposed to the government to alter the diet of prisoners to include beef and chicken. It was likely to start bread-making units in prisons. The department had recently allowed inmates to wear civilian clothes while meeting their children in prison. Special rooms had been set apart for them to receive their families in relative privacy. Children of inmates studying in colleges and schools were given a monthly allowance of Rs.1,000 and Rs.5,00 respectively. The mobile phone jammers installed in certain jails were found to be ineffective because they were ‘uni-directional' and cellular service providers often switched frequencies. The smuggling of marijuana into prison cells, often in body cavities of prisoners or their visitors, still posed a problem. Jail wardens often found packets of ganja, possibly lobbed over the high walls at night, during their early morning rounds of the precincts. The department had proposed setting up body scanners in all jails to prevent the smuggling of narcotics. The department had launched a programme to ensure 100 per cent Malayalam, English, and computer literacy among convicts.

It had roped in the Indira Gandhi National Open University to educate the inmates. More than 124 prisoners had completed various degree courses offered by the varsity. At least three inmates had earned master's degree in business management and one a doctoral degree while serving their term. Close to 153 acres of land at the Nettukaltheri open prison would be converted into a rubber plantation. National award-winning director Cheran and actor Muktha, who were shooting for a film in the prison's seventh block, on Monday, inaugurated the automated chappathi-making unit.

The unit was capable of producing chappathis on a commercial scale. Customers would have to place orders at least two days in advance. Each chappathi, weighing 30 gm, was priced at Rs 2.

Jail Superintendent Pradeepkumar was present.