While the All India Industrial Exhibition has had some upheavals this year, one thing remains unchanged — the prisoners’ stall. This year, there is a stall from Rajamundry jail as well. Every year, the jail department sets up a stall, and only few prisoners are selected to participate. This year, based on good behaviour, four prisoners have been selected from Cherlapally and Chanchalguda jails. “We select prisoners based on their overall behaviour and hard work they put into making the products. There are nearly 400 inmates in the jail, but only four have been selected and brought here,” said Laxmaiyaa, the jailer from Cherlapally Jail.
In addition to the prisoners, many staffers from the jail department also pitch in to sell products. Tomariah, 35, is one of the prisoners manning a herbal products stall. “I was a rag picker, but the lust for money landed me in illegal work. My life has changed since 2005; living in a jail is not that easy. I feel guilty for what I did and I deserve this punishment. Money has ruined my life. I miss my wife and children. I know my children must be hating me, but I am sure that once I am out, they will accept me.”
He adds, “Once I am out, I will start a small business and earn honestly. I have learnt making agarbattis, candles and soaps in jail. I wish my family could see the change in me. I pray to god to send them to the exhibition so I get a chance to see them. We are not allowed to meet our family, but I will be happy if I get a chance to at least see them.” The AP prison department’s stall is among the most visited at the exhibition. There are a range of products, from textiles, art and craft to herbal products, on offer. The products are sold under the brand name ‘Sudhar’. “The main aim of the stall is to give publicity to the products manufactured by the jail inmates. All the products come at flat factory rate with no addition tax. The women cell prisoners have displayed hand bags, clothes and embroidery. Workshops are held daily and the main aim is to provide training to the prisoners in various skills so that they can start their own business and live a honest and happy life when released,” added Laxmaiyaa. The prisoners are overwhelmed with the response. “When first my jailer told that I was selected this year to participate in the exhibition, I was not ready. I did not want to face the world; I was scared that the public might see me with hatred, but I was wrong. Every day, the rush is going on increasing. There is so much demand for our products and people have praised our hard work. When I landed in jail, I was scared that I will be tortured as it is shown in movies, but the atmosphere in Cherlapally jail is totally different. The work experience we gain will help many of us earn money while in the jail, and get a job when we are released,” said, Narendar Kumar, a prisoner who was busy selling vegetables. Undoubtedly, the state prison department deserves special kudos and appreciation for the initiative taken in highlighting the prisoners’ creations and giving them a new aim in their life.