`Even many prison officials unaware of them'
80 per cent of the former convicts are poor Funds allocated for many schemes have lapsed
BANGALORE: The Department of Prisons has embarked on an ambitious programme to rehabilitate the former convicts.
The department has coordinated with other State Government organisations and agencies in providing financial aid to former convicts and helped them avail scores of welfare schemes.
It has involved the Departments of Women and Child Welfare, Minorities, Backward Classes and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (SC and ST) and even the Department for Mass Education.
The idea of providing economical and financial succour took shape when the department conducted a survey on social and economic status of the former convicts.
The survey found that at least 80 per cent of the former convicts released from jails recently were from the economically and socially backward strata of society.
Additional Director-General of Police (Prisons) S.T. Ramesh told The Hindu that of the 309 prisoners released on the occasion of Independence Day, 251 belonged to weaker sections of society.
He said a new programme to rehabilitate these former convicts was taken up and the department coordinated with the Backward Classes Development Corporation, SC and ST Development Corporation, Minorities Development Corporation and the Women and Child Development Department in helping these former convicts settle down in life.
Mr. Ramesh said not only the prisoners even the prison officials and others were not aware of the several welfare schemes and incentives offered by the Government for prisoners. The scheme on providing educational allowance and assistance to children of prisoners was not at all utilised and funds allocated for that purpose in the budget lapsed every year.
He said even the Health Department had been made aware of its responsibilities to prisoners and was asked to regularly depute doctors.
The prisoners, he said, were aware of the scheme and were encouraged to take the benefits.
A one-day intra-departmental seminar, organised in Bangalore, on "Correction, reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners" highlighted the schemes and sensitised the prison officials and others on the need to help prisoners make use of them.
The seminar and such link ups with other departments appeared to have had an impact on the higher rung officials of the department.
This was borne out by the response of the Bellary jail authorities, who wanted to conduct awareness programme for prisoners.
In Mangalore, the jail authorities sought extension of a mass literacy programme conducted by the Department of Mass Education.