December 2018

Wellness Program for Arthur Road Jail Inmates

Overcrowding is a hard reality we all face every day in India. And especially so in a megacity like Mumbai. But when it comes to overcrowding in our prisons, not much thought is given to it by the common masses. However, it is pertinent to have a look at how bad the situation really is.

Till the end of June 2017, the state of Maharashtra had the capacity to hold 23,942 prisoners as against the actual prison population of 31,417, which suggests jails are 31.22% above capacity. In the prisons of Mumbai and adjoining areas, the situation is even worse. The inmate population is 102% over capacity!

According to the 1979 Maharashtra Prison Manual, an undertrial inmate is guaranteed about 3.71 sq. mts. of sleeping space per prisoner, 15.83 cubic metre of air space, one western closet for every 6 prisoners in the day and one for 10 in the night. It mandates nearly 135 litres of water for every prisoner, every day. The reality is far worse than even the limitedly humane conditions laid down by the law. Over 50 inmates line up in front of a single toilet and many can barely access any water at all. These rules are so far away from the ground realities of prison life that the hunt for your own individual space is one of the major causes of prison fights.

At Arthur Road jail, the prisoner holding capacity is for about 800 people. However, close to 3200 people occupy the premises. Being one of India’s most crowded prisons, former inmates remember being in a cell that was barely 3 feet x 7 feet and had six to eight people inside. This extreme overcrowding brought constant issues of fights over space, food and water.

With a view to improve the dire conditions of Arthur Road Jail, Mr. Harshad Ahirrao, Superintendent – Mumbai Central Jail, met with Mrs. Amruta Fadnavis, Advisor of the Divyaj Foundation, to discuss welfare programs and betterment of the jail inmates. This ground-breaking proposal includes extending the prison’s premises to accommodate more inmates and provide more humane living conditions. It has been accepted and would be implemented soon!

With regards to the welfare programs, the first of this was conducted by Divyaj Foundation in association with the Maharashtra Prison Department on 7th December 2018. Organised for over 200 undertrial male jail inmates between the ages of 18 to 21, it aimed at providing a meaningful and transformative living experience as these inmates are likely to get released within 6 months to 1 year.

Mrs. Amruta Fadnavis presided over the program and shared success stories of ex-convicts who unleashed their true potential, settled down successfully and not only transformed their lives but the lives of people around them and the society at large. She made an important announcement about vocational training called the ‘Second Chance’ initiative for the jail inmates which would be extended by Mr. Amit Tekchandani and his team. Mr. Harshad Ahirrao was present at the program and was accompanied by Mr. Sandip Bhutekar – Senior Jailor, Central Jail.

Holistic Health Guru Dr. Mickey Mehta and his team conducted a yoga session for the inmates. Divyaj Foundation Core member Mrs. Rajalakshmi Iyer conducted a relaxing meditation session followed by an immensely inspiring talk by Mrs. Manju Lodha – Chairperson of the Lodha Foundation, writer, poet and social worker. Mrs. Pallavi Shrivastava – Trustee, announced the distribution of inspirational books to all the attending inmates. Also, present from the Foundation were Mr. Kavin Shah – State Secretary, BJP.

Divyaj Foundation 2018

The ‘Second Chance’ initiative will aim for effective rehabilitation of these undertrial inmates and to provide them with a new outlook and a different perspective on life. A ‘second chance’ to hone their skills and provide them with enough training that they could pursue a new vocation after their prison stint. This was the first of many such effective programs to uplift the current situation.