The morning of Saturday, the 5th of November, 2011, was when the above-mentioned booklet was launched in Jail Number 4 of the Tihar Jail Complex, in the august presence of Hon’ble Mr. Justice A.K. Sikri, Acting Chief Justice, Delhi High Court, Hon’ble Ms. Justice Mukta Gupta, Judge, Delhi High Court, Mr. Neeraj Kumar, Director General, Prisons. The initiative was a result of the collaboration of International Bridges to Justice (IBJ), India and Delhi Prisons. IBJ was represented by its Indian Fellow, Mr. Ajay Verma. The event commenced with the opening ceremony at the Mini-Stadium of Jail Number 4, with the lighting of the ceremonial lamp and an ode to the Indian Goddess of Knowledge, through Sarasvati Vandana, which was beautifully sung by a team of convicts.
Thereafter, the welcome address was delivered by Mr. Neeraj Kumar, DG(P). He outlined for the dignitaries and the audience, the various initiatives undertaken by the prison authorities to ameliorate the condition of the inmates, as well as to empower them by providing them with the tools and skills they would require to make their lives outside of prison productive and gainful. Noteworthy among these initiatives were, the literacy campaign launched this year, entitled, “Padho aur Padhao”, provision of music rooms in every Ward of the prison, in collaboration with an N.G.O that provides the authorities with music teachers. The literacy campaign has been a resounding success, drastically increasing the literacy rate among inmates, which is now pegged at 80%! With such dramatic improvement, and continuous efforts, Tihar Jail may just acquire the distinction of being the first Central Jail in the country to have a cent-percent literacy rate. Another initiative that must find mention was the Placement Drive, held by the jail authorities, in order to find the inmates, who have completed their terms, appropriate employment. The DG(P) mentioned that the drive was a success, and that buoyed by it, they intend to hold the third installment of the drive in mid-November. He also mentioned, that, the prison authorities have sent a proposal to the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, to establish semi-open prisons, whereby the inmates may be permitted to leave the jail premises during the day, and find employment outside, and return at a designated time in the evening.
The booklet itself covers important topics, such as, the food that should be served, clothes that should be provided, visitation rights, health check-ups, compilation of prohibited items, information pertaining to education, financial assistance and lastly, legal aid. The legal aid information includes details of bail, parole, furlough and release.
Hon’ble Mr. Justice A.K. Sikri, in his address, compared a jail sentence to Lord Ram’s vanvas (exile), and said that the prison term can be constructively utilized by the inmates to reform themselves. He struck an emotional chord with prisoners, when he mentioned that many of them might feel that they have been wrongly imprisoned, or that they have not committed a crime, or have been given a sentence that they feel is disproportionate to their crime; he advised them to treat it as their kismet, and to move forward and not become bitter individuals, and that they should take every opportunity that is available to them, and come out stronger and better individuals. He lavished praise on the jail authorities for the commendable job that they were doing in the upkeep of the prison and their laudable initiatives. He ended on a practical note, highlighting the need to start a practice of issuing a character certificate to the inmates, in order to help them in finding gainful employment once their terms end. Lastly, paintings made by the prisoners were gifted to the Dignitaries. The ceremony concluded by the delivery of the Vote of Thanks by the DIG(Prisons), and was followed by High Tea.