Where there’s will, there’s a way. Among those to interpret and embrace the proverb in the most meaningful manner is Ashok Ray, a rape accused awaiting court verdict in the Tihar Jail. Ashok has cleared the Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission (UPPSC) examination to qualify for the state administrative service, though what lies ahead for him will solely depend on the court verdict.
And this is not true of Ashok alone. Hundreds of prisoners, dressed in white uniforms and lodged in 11 major jails of the India, are looking forward to brighter times ahead, thanks to the vocational courses being run by Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). The majority of these jail inmates are going for Bachelor and Master degree programmes, and the preferred ones are professional courses like BMA, MCA and Communication.
The university is conducting semester examinations these days. Therefore, these students are all eyes to their books – unusual but a soul-soothing sight. Dr. Srikant Mohapatra, IGNOU Registrar (Examination), informs: “About 250 jail inmates of 11 jails across the country are pursuing courses under IGNOU. All of them are appearing the semester, which will continue up to December 28.” IGNOU is running study centres in jails of Jammu, Srinagar, Shillong, Bangalore, Sabermati, Delhi, Aizawl, Tirchi, Patiala and two jails in Vellore.
According to jail officials, in all about 95 inmates have got themselves enrolled in the IGNOU courses, out of which three are serving life-term, 12 others convicts and 80 are undertrials. “All the students are participating in the classes for about four hours a day. Then they are doing their own preparation,” said Sunil Kumar, the PRO of Tihar Jail. Asked about Ashok, he said that he can join the UP civil service only after acquittal by the court.
Kumar further informed that the university started a study centre on the jail premises way back in 1994. This proved to be of immense use, and to date, it has already produced over a 1000 graduates. “The university is offering 15 courses. But the professional courses are much in demand,” Kumar said. While the drive to study has to come from within, a major incentive for the inmates comes from the jail administration, which pays for the fees of these students. Besides, they are also exempted from the daily works inside the prison, Kumar informed.
Now, that is something called setting an example. If today the number of those graduating from behind the bars is 1000, it won’t take long for many more to follow the illumined path.
Read More: Looking ahead from behind bars