The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Behind bars, bars of music

Burdwan, Nov. 17: “If music be the food of love, play on” — that appears to be the guiding spirit in the jails department.

Music is played for inmates of the six central jails and, according to officials, all 53 jails across the state will soon wake up listening to the maestros.

Ustad Bismillah Khan’s shehnai, sarod by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Pandit Ravi Shankar’s sitar are on the list of music prescribed by Writers’ for the prisoners.

Tagore songs by stalwarts like Subinoy Roy and Suchitra Mitra, too, feature on the list. That is not all. Film hits, albeit from yesteryears, will very much be part of the fare. Hindi numbers will be played as well, considering that a sizeable number of the inmates is non-Bengali. But the mornings would be essentially classical, said an official.

The jail administration in Burdwan is gearing up to add music to the prison confines to “elevate the mood of inmates”. Jailer Debashish Chakraborty said talks are on with several NGOs to arrange cassettes, compact discs and players to implement the programme. “We are also buying cassettes and CDs prescribed by the jail department from the market,” said the man in charge of the district jail.

Inspector-general, prisons, Joydeb Chakraborty said: “Music, besides being a source of entertainment, is a therapy to soothe nerves. It works as a tonic. We adopted the scheme after consultations with eminent psychiatrists and doctors.”

Regular music, particularly classical, has proved “very effective” for inmates who suffer from depression, said officials. Deputy inspector-general, prisons, Anup Tripathi said: “Jails are correctional homes these days and the music helps.”

“This is a kind of entertainment for those who spend years in captivity with no links with the world outside,” he added, also stressing the need for regular yoga to fight the gloom of seclusion.

There are 350 inmates in the Burdwan jail. The jailer was happy something was being done for the good of the prisoners. “Listening to good music is very good. The habit should refresh them and bring a change in their mental state,” he said.

Jailer Debashish Chakraborty said once the system is introduced in the district jail, it will be extended to the jails in Katoa, Durgapur and Asansol.

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