Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee

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Where are we heading to?

The brutal murder of Gouri Lankesh, journalist and Editor has rattled the the nation. Gouri was gunned down at the doorstep of her house. She took five bullets on her chest. One bullet hit her forehead.

As she lay sprawled, blood draining out of her body the murderers made way.

Why was she murdered? Was her voice becoming too loud for some? Was she becoming too inconvenient for some? Was she about to write something that could have seriously inconvenienced some? We do not yet, as all these theories are in circulation  .

But what we do know is her murder is a signal. When journalists are killed in a country, it is a signal. In India as per the CPJ (Committee to protect Journalists) report as many as 27 journalists have been murdered since 1992 for their work related issues.
India ranks 13th on CPJ’s latest Impunity Index, a measure of countries worldwide where journalist are killed and the murderers go free.

Murder of journalists and intellectuals signal some deeper malady than it meets the eyes. It is a signal that the worse is yet to come. It is a signal to brace yourself and take a stand. For freedom to speak.

Cartoon by Mrityunjay

Gainfully engage the Jail Inmates

In the last few years the number of jail inmates is fast increasing across the country and it is posing serious challenges before the jail administrators. Perception of prison being a place of confinement has been gradually changing to a place having correctional or improvement facilities. As on 31.12.2015, in 91 jails of Odisha, there were 15965 inmates, of which 3381 were convicted while 12584 were undertrials. 5 of these jails are Central (circle) jails and have rehabilitation facilities.
Some of these jails are having huge area with large size ponds within their campus, which are not being gainfully utilised. Some of the jail administrators sincerely want to utilise the same, for which capital and expertise are needed.

My former banker friend Saral Das suggests: State Government should involve agriculture, horticulture, pisciculture, animal husbandry and other related departments to prepare a concrete plan (jail wise) as to how the available agricultural land can be put to best use and the area can be converted into a model farm. Even Krishi Vigyan Kendra can be roped in to provide training on modern agriculture. Since most of the inmates are from rural areas pursuing agriculture, they will be immensely benefited by this training and exposure which they will carry with them for the rest of their life. Further, the inmates doing non farm sector activities, may be encouraged to do only those type of works which they can carry on in their individual capacity when they are freed. At times a particular type of work is done in a group, each one contributing only a portion of the work. Since the inmates are from different places and their jail term varies, it is not possible to get a similar group outside and as a consequence the learnt skill is never pursued. Odisha Skill Development Authority should step in to facilitate skill transfer.
Pricing of the products produced by inmates is an issue which deserves serious attention. Now it is linked to the labour and wage involved in producing the product, besides the material cost. Wage of prison inmates is much less than the minimum wage of labourers outside. For example in Odisha the wage of prisoners is Rs 150 per day w.e.f. September 2015 (earlier just Rs40 per day). Since the labour component is reduced by almost half, the price of the product, as decided by authorities, also gets substantially reduced. Some 5 years back, the cost of a ‘Sabaigrass sofa set’ produced by inmates was less than Rs4000 even, But if you take the real wage into account it should not have been less than Rs8000. That means for the customer it is highly subsidised and for such specialised products one can easily guess as to who are these privileged customers. As such ‘Sabai Sofa Set’ is not produced anywhere outside in the same district, because they can’t compete pricewise. The freed inmates knowing the skill are also unable to pursue the activity. The pricing should be revised upward keeping in tune with the market requirement and the profit so earned may be utilised for the welfare of the prisoners.

Although prison is a State subject, the situation may be similar in other states and hence the suggestions can be considered for implementation everywhere.

Tailpiece: Wife Tale

Wife: Where are you?

Husband: Met with an accident. Fell down from the scooter.

Wife: Dhyan rakhna, tiffin teda nah o jaye, warna daal gir jayega. (Be careful about the tiffin box. It should not tilt, otherwise the daal will spill.)

(Courtesy: Social Media Post)

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A journalist turned media academician Mrinal Chatterjee lives in Dhenkanal, a Central Odisha hilly town. He also writes fiction. [email protected]

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