Over 70 prisoners lodged in an open jail in Bihar are eagerly waiting to celebrate the festival of lights with their families inside prison, a unique move by the state which has attracted universal praise.
The families of these prisoners, three of whom facing death sentence and many others lifer, have started arriving in the jail for the celebrations. A total of 74 prisoners, selected from across the jails in the state on the basis of good conduct, are presently lodged in the open jail in Buxar. Aimed at giving an opportunity to bring them into the mainstream, the inmates are given a flat to live with their families in the jail compound.
The concept, a brainchild of chief minister Nitish Kumar inaugurated on May 23, has attracted praise from foreign countries.
Ten year-old Pinki has reached Buxar from Nalanda to celebrate Diwali with her maternal uncle Manoj Paswan, lodged in the jail for last 12 years.
An overjoyed Paswan said, "Sometimes I feel I am not in jail."
Twelve year-old Golu has travelled all the way from Gopalganj to celebrate the festival of lights with his grandfather Sabir Ansari, facing death sentence.
"Golu will return home after Chhath festival when the school will reopen," a beaming Ansari said.
An elderly woman Saroj Devi sitting with a group of women said she had never imagined that just in 10 years she would be able to live with her husband.
Balmukund Rastogi and Manrega Sao, lodged in the jail, are waiting for their near ones to arrive for the festival.
The concept was discussed at length at the Asian Pacific Correction Administrative Conference held at Brunei last month, Inspector General of Police (Prisons) Anand Kishore, who had attended the October 6-12 function, said.
Representatives from countries like Japan, Singapore and Brunei evinced interest in paying a visit, Kishore said.
Unlike normal prisons which have 14-18 feet boundary walls, the open jail has 4 feet high walls surrounding it. Inmates, all males, are selected by a committee under the IGP (Prison) from different jails of Bihar after being monitored for good behaviour. They usually comprise those who have served half of their sentence.
Those serving long terms can venture out of the jail for 13-hours in a day from 6am to 7pm for doing jobs. Many of them have been given work under MNREGA and paid Rs120 a day.