Bankura district correctional home holds Puja for inmates
The Bankura district correctional home authorities are organising its first Durga Puja on the premises to give its inmates a feel of the festivities and help several of them surmount depression that has affected a sizeable section of the prisoners since the outbreak of Covid-19.
Officials said the move was taken after they felt the need of recreation for prisoners as many of those were suffering from Covid-induced depression.
“The Puja is being organised with active participation of inmates of the correctional home. They are organising and managing the festival themselves. It was required to improve the mental health of the inmates as many of them developed multiple symptoms of depression during the pandemic,” said Shyamal Talukdar, the superintendent of the correctional home.
There are 400 inmates at the correctional home in Bankura and 50 of them have been serving long-term punishment.
The prisoners as well as jail officials are bearing the cost of the Puja. They prepared menus, which consist of traditional Bengali dishes usually served at puja pandals, for four days.
“On the day of Ashtami, all of us had luchi, matar paneer, vegetable curry and ice cream with different dishes for dinner. Today, on the day of Navami (Tuesday), we had rice, pulses and mutton for lunch. Tomorrow is a fish meal for dinner with multiple fries,” said a jail official.
District legal service authorities in Bankura had supplied cosmetics to the women at the correctional home. “All men and women are dressed up in ethnic styles. It was really a joytime for all inmates,” the official added.
According to Talukdar, during the Covid period, many people had been jailed for committing crimes triggered by the frustration of losing jobs during the lockdown. Many old prisoners stopped having food after they came to know about the crisis afflicted by the pandemic in their families.
“There are at least 20 prisoners who need to take anti-depressants regularly. Durga Puja means they get a taste of festivities for a month, including its preparation. We asked the inmates to contribute as they don’t feel it is arranged for them. We are witnessing how all are enjoying Durga Puja, “ he said
Apart from Puja, the inmates of the jail are also taking part in several cultural programmes organised in the evening.
“The district administration and district legal services authorities helped a lot to organise such a festival,” an official said.
It is not that Durga Puja has been organised for the first time at any correctional home.
Durga Puja is organised by correctional home authorities in Birbhum’s Suri and Nadia’s Krishnagar.
Sources at these jails said authorities in districts and state correctional home officials had taken up multiple measures to address prisoners’ mental issues that deteriorated during Covid. “As family members stopped visiting jails during the two years of the pandemic, it has left many inmates mentally depressed. We are trying to address their mental issues,” a jail official said in Bankura.
The sources at the correctional homes said multiple cases of depression were reported from several jails across the state during the Covid period.
Several measures are being taken at correctional homes to keep inmates in good spirits. The authorities are organising cultural programmes, games and festivals and Durga Puja is part of that process, said the jail official.
He added that district administration had to take permission of the state government to organise Puja at the correctional home.