Thirty four Indian convicts in a Sri Lankan jail are hoping that the joint delegation of Members of Parliament will make a difference to their lives.
Despite the Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners between India and Sri Lanka signed in 2010, and efforts by the Indian High Commission in Colombo, the prisoners see no hope of their getting out at an early date.
This is because their fate is caught up in procedure in New Delhi.
Most of the formalities here have been completed. But since prisons is a State subject in India, the consent of State governments has to be sought before the convicts can be transferred. This is where red-tape and “government procedural delays” have kicked in.
Governments of Kerala and Tamil Nadu — where all the 34 hail from — are aware of the problem. In fact, the Tamil prisoners had appealed to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. But both governments have not taken any proactive steps.
“Will the MPs meet us?” asked a convicted prisoner over phone from the Welikada prison, where all the 34 have been lodged. “There are 5 MPs from Tamil Nadu. Will they not highlight our problem?” Of the 34 convicts, 27 belong to Tamil Nadu and the remaining to Kerala. Four of them are women.
“We have waited with hope for so long. It has been two years since the agreement was signed. Some of us have been here for over a decade,” another prisoner lamented. “Some of us need help even to move from one place to another. We are tired, and broken.”
The prisoners pointed out that some of their fellow foreign prisoners, notably from Pakistan, could head home soon.