The Sikkim government has decided to throw open the gates of its prison at Rongyek in East Sikkim for visiting tourists for three hours on Sundays.

The domestic tourists will be soon able to visit Rongyek jail from 11 am to 2 pm on Sundays, a prison official Yap Tshering Bhutia said on Monday, quoting a Home Department notification issued on November 19, 2009.

The Tourism Information Centre (TIC) will be the nodal office for registration of tourists for Rongyek Jail, he said. Keeping in view the security arrangements at the jail, the TIC officer concerned must affix his authorised signature on the travel papers of the visitors, he added.

Similarly, the number of tourists visiting the jail should not exceed 10 at a time, Mr. Bhutia said, adding the visitors will be escorted by a prison staff and allowed to visit only identified areas inside the jail.

The tourists will be allowed to take still photographs barring the barracks lodging the inmates, the jail official said. Visitors can only interact with prisoners after being permitted by the Jail Superintendent, but they will have to shell out Rs 10 per head for the purpose.

Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker K.T.N. Gyatsen on Monday supported the State government’s decision to open the prison for tourists and said it would help bridge the divide between the inmates and the public by exposing them to each other on regular basis.

“The prison tourism will serve a purpose of moving tourism to jail and expose it to the outsiders,” he said while presiding over a meeting of various line departments and tourism stakeholders to deliberate on the viability of opening of the state prison for tourists.

The Speaker directed the authorities to put in place adequate infrastructure at the jail and surrounding areas for successful implementation of prison tourism.

As part of infrastructure development, the forest department has been entrusted with the task of planting ornamental plants in and around the jail, while the Horticulture and Cash Crop department will provide flower seed and impart training to the workforce on floriculture, horticulture and plantation of citrus plants.