Within a short span of 3 months, Jaipur’s jail boutique, aptly called ‘Aashayein’, is surely making waves. Dexterously designed colourful durries, exquisitely crafted paintings, innovative wooden furniture of the boutique are fast becoming a rage among the people of Jaipur. Increasingly more and more people are making a beeline for the Ghat gate located jail outlet outside the Central Jail. The products here are manufactured by the convicted inmates of the jail. However, some under trial prisoners have also evinced interest in the process of product making.
Inaugurated by Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje in January this year, the first-of-its-kind in the country Jail boutique has even started receiving bulk orders as well. The prices, incidentally, are hugely competitive especially since the State Government has exempted the products from VAT.
The Director General (Prisons), Mr. Ajit Singh informs that earlier the convicts were punished for their crimes and one could find them in chains working on the roads as PWD labour. However, now the reformative approach is applied to the prisoners where they can involve themselves in creative work which then can stand them in good stead when they finish their prison terms. This helps them to re-integrate in the society, he says.
What makes the Jaipur Jail Shop stand out from other such similar shops in the country is that leading art and design experts have been roped in to train the jail inmates about the crafts.
It is a gratifying experience, says Singh, to watch criminals trying their hands at creative pursuits and doing a commendable job of it. The durries were always made in Jails all over the country – but in ‘Aashayein’. by taking help of the established designers, the product has huge value addition, he adds. Among the experts who have taught the inmates are Rakesh Thakore, Prasad Bidapa and Nathdwara-style painter Yashwant Srivastava. They have also recently tied up with the Jaipur-based Indian Institute of Crafts and Design (IICD) for further design inputs.
Apart from durries and furniture on sale are pickles, hand pounded spices, bed covers, cushions, bags, candles and incense sticks.
While inaugurating the outlet, Raje praised the details of designs as well as the quality and finesse of the products. The Police Department itself is a regular buyer of durries manufactured in the jail. However, now several other departments have also started purchasing durries. The revenue generated is ploughed back to the Prisoners’ Welfare Fund for purchase of more raw material. Each inmate gets a per day wage of Rs. 209.
Organic farming is yet another area in which the prisoners have shown their mettle. Last year they produced 130 quintal of organic vegetables. These vegetables are being taken into use by the jail mess.
Indeed, a great step! Other cities should also follow suit.
PHOTO CREDITS: Arjun Sangwan