18 Tihar inmates back after 14-day ‘transformation tour’

Snehal Tripathi, New Delhi: For eight years, Ashok has been lodged in Tihar jail on charges of rape. None of his

relatives or friends visited him. His ageing father, who visited him in his initial years in the prison, stopped coming after some time. Ashok had forgotten how life outside the jail walls was. But two weeks ago, he got the opportunity to visit Haridwar with other jail inmates.
“It was a life-changing experience for me. I, along with 17 more convicts, visited ghats, temples and local markets in Haridwar. No jail authorities accompanied us. We were free. I did some shopping and bought a bracelet, two set of clothes and a bag for myself. I even went to a restaurant. It was great,” said Ashok.
For the first time, 18 convicts of Tihar were sent to Haridwar on furlough. According to Delhi Prisons Act, 2000, furlough is a leave granted as a reward to a convicted prisoner who has been sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for five years or more and has undergone three years of it.
Before leaving for Haridwar in a bus, each convict was given Rs 1,000 as pocket-money by jail authorities. Some convicts carried the money they had earned while working in carpentry and bakery units in jail.
“This initiative was called Roopantran Yatra. The idea came up three months ago. There were some convicts in the age group of 35-64 years who were in jail since the last 12-14 years and had never met their families. I thought that prisoners with good conduct should be given every possible opportunity to reform themselves,” said Sudhir Yadav, director general of Tihar Jail.
Out of 25 applicants, 18 were found eligible for grant of furlough. These 18 prisoners, who had showed good conduct in the last three years, were sent to Chetan Jyoti Ashram in Haridwar on September 21.
The convicts visited spiritual places around Haridwar, took a bath in Ganga daily and participated in 3-hour yoga and meditation classes. They went to markets for shopping in the evenings. They returned to Tihar jail on Tuesday.
“This tour has changed our lives forever. I found my inner self at Haridwar. I realised that life is very precious and we should live it in peace,” said Raj Kumar, who is in jail on murder charges since the last 12 years.