As many as 72 inmates of the Cuddalore Central Prison, all convicts serving long jail term, underwent a training programme in mushroom cultivation at the prison on Wednesday.
Jail Superintendent A.Murugesan told The Hindu , “It is their concern that after their release, the stigma attached to their jail life will make it difficult for them to find gainful employment. Therefore, they are keen on taking up self-help ventures and mushroom cultivation will provide them the necessary revenue.”
Resource persons from the Vriddhachalam Regional Research Station of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University initiated the inmates into mushroom cultivation skills. They also taught them how to prepare the base for mushroom cultivation, raise quality mushroom, its nutritional value, market demand, etc.
The inmates were taken through stages of mushroom cultivation through a slide projector and also given hands-on training.
According to Mr. Murugesan, the response to the programme was overwhelming. Though it was earlier decided to take a batch of 40 inmates for the programme, as many as 72 persons opted for it.
Asked why he had chosen training in mushroom cultivation, Mr. Murugesan said that besides its nutritive value, it fetched good price in the market. During normal time a kg of mushroom would fetch Rs 200. However, during marriage season, the price would touch Rs. 600 a kg.
“Considering the interest shown by the inmates, it has been decided to start a mushroom cultivation wing on the prison complex. An old building has already been identified for the purpose and it is being readied,” Mr Murugesan said. The experiment would even turn into commercial venture as mushroom to be grown on the prison campus would be sold. “If the trade becomes successful, the inmates involved in mushroom cultivation will be given daily wages as per government norms as follows: skilled labour – Rs. 100, semi-skilled Rs. 80 and unskilled – Rs. 60.
Such earnings would be credited into individual accounts of the inmates (but actual realisation would be deposited in the bank account run in the name of the Jail Superintendent) and at the time of their release, the accumulated cash would be handed over to them.