As if I was walking in a dark tunnel. I would draw lines on the blank walls of prison, struggling to count the days .Since I got a brush in hand and was trained to paint these walls with colours and ideas, I see some light,” said 23 year old Satinder Singh, serving a life sentence in Kaithu jail for past four years.
“It feels good,” said Maggar Singh, 29, another life convict as he explained the paintings on the walls of jail, which ranged from the sparkling bird Monal to abstract art on confused mind and the way out or the sand watch showing that the time passes off.
Several prisoners in Himachal jails have been trained in wall painting recently. They are now being given tips on creativity by noted artists, Ghanshyam (a Himachali) and Renu Kashyap, voluntarily.
The duo, based in Delhi, has done exhibitions in different countries, but said this exercise has attached more meaning to their art.
“The idea is to reform by engaging the prisoners in positive work. They learn with much interest as it helps them shun depression,” Director General of Prisons, Himachal Pradesh, Somesh Goel told The Statesman.
Goel said the wall painting by inmates would be taken up in all the 14 prisons in Himachal Pradesh one by one.
The state has over 2200 prisoners, including 80 women. More than half the inmates are undertrials.
Quite a number of prisoners have been involved in creative activities like poetry writing, script writing and one act plays all these years, with jail authorities helping them with required material.
Besides, most of them are involved in commercial work. They are running a bakery, food canteen and weaving woollens, meeting the market standards.
They have, however, been selling the products on their own through different outlets in the state. The government departments have shown little interest to promote the sale of products made by jail inmates in Himachal so far.
The trainings and initiative taken up pro-actively over the last year has given jail inmates the avenues of employment apart from the routine work they do in jails.
“The jail inmates engaged in different works in the state have been distributed Rs.75 lakh wages in the current year,” said the DGP.
He revealed that the enthusiasm in the inmates could be gauged from the fact that some of them have tripled their earnings by working in a double shift at the weaving factory. “They are now sending money to their families regularly.”
Goel shared that the prisons department would soon have a web portal to boost sales of the products made by inmates.
For this, a life convict, 30 year old former undergraduate student of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee at Kanda central jail near Shimla is already on the job of designing.