When village Tihar was acquired by the Government to construct a Prison Complex, the Gramadevata (the village deity) must have shed tears! That vast area of her lush green fields is going to be the abode of the criminals! Much water has flown in the Ganges since then! Spiritual vibrations of Vedic Chanting zoom in and around the prison area which has been re-christened as Tihar Ashram.
Spiritual discourses and cultural activities are a daily feature in prisons in the complex.
Tihar Prison was inaugurated in the year 1958 when it was shifted from Delhi Gate Area of Delhi. The only prison then had a lodging capacity of 1273. With the increase in the number of prisons and prisoners, a full-fledged post Inspector General of Police was created in the year 1986, to administer the Prisons. The prison complex is spread over an area of 400 acres.
With the increase in the prison population, new Jails were constructed at regular intervals, the last ones, Jail Nos. 8 & 9 were commissioned in the year 2005. As on date Tihar Prison Complex has 9 Jails, and the additional District Jail in Rohini, Delhi, also falls under its jurisdiction. This particular Jail has a capacity to lodge 1050 prisoners. Thus, Tihar Central Jail, is one of the largest prison complexes in the world. The total prison population is about 12000. One hundred percent overcrowding exists in all these prisons as the total sanctioned strength is just 6250. The sanctioned strength of staff for Delhi Prisons as on 31/08/2008 was 1746.
A new Jail at Mandoli, Delhi is under construction since May 2008, and it is expected to be completed by the end of 2010. Its lodging capacity is around 3500 prisoners. This jail will be provided with all the modern amenities like CCTV, solar heating system, and provision for rain water harvesting etc. With the opening of this prison, the process of de-congestion on the prisons will accelerate.
Finding it difficult to get admission in educational institutions? Come to Tihar Prison (God forbid!) Sterling educational facilities are provided by the Tihar Administration. Study Centers of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) operate within the Prison.
Other facilities are:
- Computer courses up to Degree level.
- Hindi/English typing classes.
- A Gandhi Centre for spreading Gandhian Philosophy.
Many prisoners appear for competitive examinations. Last year, 5 students were pursuing the MBA courses. Fees for the course are borne by the Government. Stationery is also provided free of cost. The Model of Tihar as for reformation and rehabilitation of the prisoners is appreciated and being adopted by other Prisons. High dignitaries like the Chief Minister, Ministers, Judges, Human Rights Commission Chairman and officials, visit the Prison regularly.
Prisoners are encouraged to participate in welfare activities and self-management. Their psyche needs constant positive feedings and they must be inculcated with a sense of responsibility. Upon release, the main issue before them is social integration. The purpose of constitution of the body called Panchayat is to help the all-round development of the prisoners and provide them education, legal counseling, vocational training etc. In the annual meeting of Mahapanchayat, presided over by the Director General (Prisons) and held in the presence of electronic and print media (to provide transparency) opportunity is given to the Prisoners to tender the grievances before the Prison Administration. Quick remedial measures are initiated, so that the hidden grudge of the prisoners should not lead to violent reactions.
Open invitation to the NGOs
Yoga and Meditation are encouraged in the prison and some important NGOs have been rendering sterling services in this area. In the year 1994, a Vipasana Meditation camp was arranged for the first time, in which more than 1000 prisoners took part.
Mrs. Kiran Bedi, IPS, the then Director General of Prisons had taken the initiative. She won the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia’s Nobel Prize, in 1994 for her efforts.
Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan, another NGO, has been provided space, in the form of a spacious hall to conduct regular spiritual discourses in Jail No.3, and thousands of prisoners have been blessed with Brahm Gyan by the benign grace of their Perfect Master Shri Ashutosh Maharaj Ji.
The Sansthan has created history in transforming even the hardcore criminals, who have given up the path of crimes forever. Reformed themselves, they are now reforming their fellow-prisoners.
Conversation overhead: “I don’t mind coming to prison again. Here they are treating me like the son-in-law!”