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Sunday , December 5 , 2010
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For ‘reformed’ rebels to feel at home
- Hazaribagh prison with 30 cottages ready to host ex-Naxalites once police freeze on norms

Ranchi, Dec. 4: A clutch of 30 cottages spread over two acres is now being secured with a boundary wall in picturesque Hazaribagh in what will be Jharkhand’s first open jail to house surrendered Maoists and their families, adding yet another feature to the existing bouquet of incentives on offer to lure rebels to join the mainstream.

Each cottage will have two rooms and a kitchen so that rebels, who give up arms and those who have already served 75 per cent of their jail terms, can lead a near-normal life with their families within the premises.

Slated to become functional from March 2011, the open jail can house around 100 prisoners. According to Vijay Kumar Singh, IG prisons, they are now formulating operational guidelines, a copy of which has already been sent to the Union home ministry.

“Once we finalise the dos and donts, we will begin selecting inmates and shifting them to the open jail,” he added.

Jharkhand has already formulated an attractive surrender policy for Maoists. Anyone who walks out of the group, has been promised a rehabilitation package of Rs 2.5 lakh, 4 decimal land to build a home and an additional Rs 50,000 to begin construction.

This apart, a rebel who surrenders is also offered money commensurate with the kind of arms he hands over — from Rs 1 lakh for a rocket launcher to Rs 2,000 per kg of explosives.

As of now, DGP Neyaz Ahmad said Maoists have been lodged in jails at the place of their surrender. Like in general prisons, the surrendered Maoists will be provided with vocational training according to their choice.

He said all efforts would be taken to make them comfortable. For instance, prisoners would be allowed to keep their own television set in the cottage if they so desired.

But, he clarified that if anyone was found taking undue advantage of the facilities on offer, he/she would be sent back to the earlier prison.

The concept of open jails has its roots in the west where it is now fairly prevalent. It is meant to house prisoners displaying good conduct, and act as a halfway house for those whose release was due soon.

“Our attempt will be to reintroduce a surrendered Maoist back in society. Those who are serving life terms, are well-behaved and boast of a good jail record will also be shifted to the open jail,” Singh explained.

There are 27 open jails across India, including a few in Rajasthan and Maharashtra. And although they are a fairly new concept, these jails have thrown up several success stories.

“If you allow prisoners to live with families, children, friends and lead a normal life they will automatically learn to lead the same life after serving their term. That is why we have also decided to launch the open jail here,” Singh said.

In Jharkhand, the authorities are also planning to set up various small-scale industries within the jail premises to help the prisoners earn a livelihood.

“We are planning to start a few employment generating opportunities like, say, a soap making factory and carpet weaving centres, through public-private partnerships,” Singh said.

Last month, the IG prisons held talks with Sreeleathers to set up a small-scale factory inside the prison facility where inmates could learn shoe making. In return, the company was assured of cheap, captive labour.

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