Telangana jail FM airs prisoners’ ‘mann ki baat’

Sangareddy district jail's main entrance, Telangana.

The day begins at 6 am with devotional songs followed by announcements, music, educational programmes, motivational speeches, lectures by guests and ends at 9 pm, but not before playing some popular Telugu and Hindi chartbusters. No, this is not the daily schedule of one of the many FM radios operational in Hyderabad. These are the programmes aired on FM radio facility launched at Sangareddy district jail in Telangana recently.

Aptly named ‘Antarvani’ (inner voice), the FM is offering a platform to the prisoners to explore their creativity by turning Radio Jockeys (RJs), share their thoughts and also entertain and educate their fellow prisoners.

Launched as part of the jail reforms initiated in the state, the radio station is aimed at helping the prisoners fight depression by providing them some entertainment and an opportunity to participate in various programmes to keep them in good humour.

To begin with, the jail authorities selected five prisoners and trained them to become RJs. The RJs including two life convicts are running the show through the day with a wide range of programmes interspersed with music, folk songs, and patriotic songs.

The prisoners are also sharing with other inmates their experiences and how they and their families are suffering because of the crimes committed by them. Talking to The Federal, Nawab Shiva Kumar Goud, Jail Superintendent said, “Three of the RJs are habitual offenders, who have been coming to jail for the past 10 years. By giving them the opportunity to turn RJs, we want to divert their attention and show that they can use their creativity for a better cause.”

The jail superintendent is using the medium to make important announcements for the inmates. Unlike in the past, when the officials used to make the prisoners gather at one place to make such an announcement, the officials are now conveying the messages on the radio.

The announcements including those about the daily time table, menu for the breakfast and physical training can be heard on loudspeakers in all 13 barracks, housing 240 inmates.

Entertainment to overcome depression

The RJs can show their creative talent like singing and beating drums with music playing in the background. They also share thoughts on various subjects and read out newspapers to keep their fellow prisoners informed about the happenings in the outside world.

For the convenience of the inmates, the announcements about ‘mulaqaat’ or the meeting with the family members or other visitors will also be made on the radio. A loudspeaker has also been installed in the visitors’ room so that they can also listen to radio programmes. The inmates including 50 convicted and 190 remand prisoners, including 11 female inmates, can also request the RJs to play their favourite film songs.

A prisoner working as Radio Jockey.

Goud pointed out that out of all prisoners, only 10 per cent are criminals and deserve to be behind bars but 90 per cent is in prison due to petty cases related to family matters, politics etc. “They are here because of their bad times and they are most depressed. The FM is the best tool to help them overcome the depression,” he added.

While RJs run the programmes from 6 am to 6 pm, the jail officials take over once the inmates are locked in the barracks at 6 pm. The songs are played till 9 pm. “Any prisoner can make a request for playing a particular devotional, patriotic, folk or film song and we play it. For this, there is one-hour slot during day time and also from 6 pm to 9 pm,” Goud said.

The convicts and undertrials are also being motivated to reform themselves by organising guest lectures on morality. The jail authorities plan to invite personalities who can deliver the talk on morality and other subjects

VK Singh, Director General (Prisons and Correctional Services), the official behind many prison reforms in the state, is of the opinion that FM can engage the prisoners in some creative activity and help them overcome depression, which otherwise could drive them to suicide. He plans to replicate the experience in all district jails in the state to bring some change in the prisoners’ life.

“This will go a long way in creating a good atmosphere in jails so that the inmates get the motivation to reform and rehabilitate themselves after they are released. Their training to reform will start in jail,” he said. The officials added that they want to ensure that prisoners going out of jail are transformed and they don’t come back to the prison by committing any crime.

Currently, the programmes on Sangareddy jail FM radio are being aired in Telugu but the authorities plan to introduce one-hour Hindi programme after identifying the right talent among the inmates. Many inmates are showing interest in becoming RJs. The second group of five inmates is currently being trained in handling the radio equipment and become RJs.

Jail with salon, supermarket

Showing the way to others, Sangareddy jail has taken many innovative measures. It is helping the illiterate inmates read and write and turning them into entrepreneurs through furniture making and managing nurseries. A salon, a supermarket and a petrol pump managed and run by the inmates are among the many firsts at this jail.

The recently opened salon is run by some of the trained inmates, for the inmates. It offers services like haircuts, shaving, and even facials and face packs. Though the services are chargeable, the superintendent said the salon was not part of their revenue-making activity. “This has been opened to give a sense of dignity to the lives of the prisoners,” he said.

Prisoners shopping at shopping mall in the jail.

The jail is already making and selling over 120 products like soaps, notebooks, phenyl and mats under the brand ‘My Nation’. To rehabilitate the former prisoners and to restrict the repeat offenders, the authorities are ready to help them set up stores in their respective villages by lending them goods worth ₹1 lakh to ₹3 lakh. The jail is already running a petrol bunk and plans to open another soon. Goud is keen to make the prison self-reliant.

With various activities including in-house manufacturing facility, petrol bunk, nursery, and shopping mall it is already earning ₹60-80 lakh per annum. He has set a target of ₹2 crore next year. The government is currently spending ₹2 crore to ₹2.5 crore every year on running this jail. The jail also has a spacious library with 8,000 books. Fifty people can use the facility at any time. The nursery run by the prisoners now has around 80,000 to one lakh saplings.

Salon in the jail.

Open gym

The superintendent is planning to set up an open gym on the jail’s premises as part of the efforts to focus on the physical fitness of the inmates. He believes that regular workouts will also keep the prisoners out of depression. “I learnt about a jail in Haryana opening a gym and mooted a similar proposal for our jail and the same was approved by our DG,” he said.

As purchasing various items for the gym from outside will be a costly affair, the jail superintendent said they would make these items in-house at the manufacturing facility by sourcing the raw-material.

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