Education top priority for Tihar inmates

Harish C Menon

New Delhi, January 16:

An MBA in marketing, a double BA graduate and a prospective Indian Administrative Service officer. They have one thing in common - they are all inmates of Delhi’s Tihar Jail. Akhlaque Ahmed Khan, 32, finished his MBA in 2002 from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), which has its study centre in the jail, specialising in marketing.

A native of Kolkata, Akhlaque used to run a travel agency there and has been an under-trial for six years now. He was charged with aiding a convict’s escape abroad by making arrangements for his air ticket. “I did my MBA as I didn’t want to waste my time here. Moreover, I still have hope and will start my life afresh after I leave the prison, which I definitely will,” Khan said.

Till date, 26,640 prisoners have enrolled for various courses of IGNOU from the high security and overcrowded prison. “Our idea is to equip the inmates to start life afresh after they leave the prisons. We have made education of prisoners mandatory,” said RP Singh, director general of prisons, Delhi. It has been observed that lack of education and crime are closely related, prison officials said. According to officials, out of the 12,580 inmates of Delhi’s eight prisons, close to 74 per cent have studied not beyond Class 10. “The administration is trying its best within the limitations to help us out. What we need is more support from NGOs,” Akhlaque said.

Vishnu Prasad Sharma, 27, too, voices similar sentiments while talking about his education. Sharma, who is fluent in English, has completed his BA in political science and is now pursuing his second BA in home sciences from IGNOU. “I am here for no fault of mine. But I have no guilt feelings and that is the strength that carries me through and motivates me to study more,” Sharma said.

The prison, which boasts of well-furnished classrooms for teaching through conventional as well as audio-visual modes, gives special attention to inmates appearing for various competitive exams. “We ensure that by the time inmates complete their first week inside the prison they are at least able to read and write their names,” Singh said. “Regular classes are held from morning to evening by well-trained in-house faculty as well as those from NGOs,” he said.

One of the prisoners - Ashok Rai - is preparing to appear for the Indian civil service examination. In fact Rai had cleared the preliminary exam from Uttar Pradesh but could not clear the main exams as he got embroiled in a criminal case.