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Preparing to make a living outside

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Handloom section: A jail official displaying towels made by the prisoners
Handloom section: A jail official displaying towels made by the prisoners

Pradeepkumar Kadkol

The inmates of Bijapur prison are taught various skills

Bijapur: Though the Government has introduced several schemes to reform prisoners and teach them skills to make a living, many prisons in north Karnataka have failed to implement them. But Bijapur is an exception, and despite scarcity of staff, the prison authorities have introduced several training schemes, such as handloom, carpentry, gardening, cooking and tailoring.

Prajapita Brahmakumari Ishwariya Vishwavidyalaya and the Art of Living Foundation conduct yoga and meditation classes.

Articles made by the prisoners are in great demand in the region. They are also displayed at the exhibition held during the Mysore Dasara festival.

The handloom section of the prison makes the popular ‘Panja’ carpets, 15 ft long and 10 ft wide, which are used in churches, mosques and other prayer halls. Since it takes a lot of time and labour, the carpets are made only after receiving orders. Many government offices use these carpets. Towels and bed sheets are also made, and each month the section makes Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 70,000.

Some of the prisoners have been trained to make agarbathis. An agarbathi company provides the raw material, and 15 prisoners make more than 50,000 sticks a month.

A carpenter has taught inmates to make chairs, tables and cots. The jail authorities have purchased equipment to increase productivity. The wood required for the purpose is purchased from the Forest Department. Unskilled workers in this section are assigned the task of repairing chairs and tables brought from government offices.

The tailoring section has 10 sophisticated machines and 15 skilled workers. They not only stitch uniforms for the inmates of the Bijapur prison but also supply uniforms to prisons in Bangalore, Bellary and Gulbarga. The jail authorities pay wages to the prisoners from the money received from sales.

Sources said that though the capacity of the prison is 300, there are 487 inmates and not enough staff.

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