The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Three lifers get a licence to ride

Behrampore, Dec. 2: Three persons serving life sentences at the Lalgola “open prison” in Murshidabad will now get to drive away to a few hours of freedom.

The jail administration has helped Lal Mohan, Ashraf Ali and Sanatan Langal, who were found guilty of murder, secure loans from the United Bank of India (UBI) to buy Ambassador cars, which they can also rent out to repay the loan.

The loans have been sanctioned, but the convicts are waiting for a guarantor so that the bank can release the money.

The state government will bear a quarter of the cost of the cars and the rest will be borrowed from the bank, said Murshidabad district magistrate Manoj Panth. “We will use the cars and pay the drivers the market rate from which they can save for the future as well as repay the loan,” he added.

“This is an experiment to try and help the convicts merge with the mainstream of society… if their conduct is found to be good by the administration,” Panth said.

“Since this is a completely new decision, some procedural pitfalls have cropped up in securing a guarantor for the loans. I have informed Writers’ Buildings. It will either be the jail department or the state government itself will have to be the guarantor. This will be sorted out soon,” the district magistrate said.

The prisoners have been issued driving licences after undergoing a year’s training along with 11 other convicts at Don Bosco’s vocational training centre in Behrampore.

Every morning, they would be allowed to leave the prison unescorted. They would take the 9 o’clock train to Behrampore, where they were taught drive and repair electrical gadgets, and return by 5 pm.

Father Scariya of Don Bosco said that as far as he knew, this was the first time that lifers were being allowed to drive their own cars outside prison. “They will earn as much as other car owners do. We have trained these prisoners without any charge and this was possible due to the positive response of the district administration,” Father Scariya said.

“When we completed our course, we were told that we would be made self-reliant. Now we have been sanctioned the loans, but as there is some problem with guarantors, the process is getting delayed,” said Langal.

UBI’s Behrampore regional manager Tapan Das said the loans were ready for disbursement. “But there are certain procedures we will have to follow to sanction loans to prisoners. We want the government to stand as guarantor. Once that is through, we will release the funds immediately,” Das said.

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