Hyderabad:India’s biggest prison nursery sprawling over 8 acres of land at the Warangal Central Prison in Telangana is contributing in its own way to a greener planet as over four dozen or so inmates toil diligently every day to raise hundreds of plant saplings of different species.
The 40-50 inmates of the open-air jail who work at the nursery have raised around 14 lakh saplings of 60 varieties during the past one year, a senior jail official said.
The nursery contributed to ‘Haritha Haaram’, a state government flagship programme to increase the green cover in Telengana, providing 6.5 lakh saplings during the 5th phase of the programme last year.
The prison is already known for many innovative initiatives like operating petrol pumps, an ayurvedic wellness centre and, more recently, the manufacture of face masks to provide employment to its inmates.
Jail Superintendent N. Murali Babu told IANS over phone that no other jail in the country has such a large nursery. “Usually nurseries are set up on the city outskirts but we have this nursery within the jail premises in the heart of the town,” he said.
He recalled that it was during a meeting called by Warangal Urban District Collector over ‘Haritha Haaram’ last year that he offered to develop the nursery in the prison premises.
“I requested him to give us an opportunity as the jail has vast land at its disposal and also the requisite manpower for raising a plant nursery. Mr Prashant Jeevan Patil, who was then the Collector, accepted the proposal,” he said.
Every jail inmate who works in the nursery is paid Rs 100 per day. “They do all the work like planting of seedlings, soil-mixing and watering,” he said.
The nursery has 60 varieties of saplings, including fruit- and flower-bearing trees and plants, crotons, wild plants, avenue and medicinal plants.
The Kakatiya Urban Development Authority (KUDA) last year purchased 6.5 lakh saplings from the prison nursery at the rate of Rs 5 per sapling. It currently has 7.5 lakh saplings and will be providing them for the ‘Haritha Haaram’ programme, whose 6th phase was launched on Thursday.
Set up in 1886, the jail is spread over 65 acres of land, including closed prison area and quarters.
Murali Babu pointed out that the nursery is one of the several initiatives launched by the prison.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the authorities to launch a new initiative in March — setting up two units to make two-layered face masks. Fifty prisoners, including 35 female prisoners, work in these units and have so far produced 2.5 lakh masks. They are paid Rs 2 for stitching every mask.
These masks are supplied to police, health, municipal and other government departments.
The masks are also sold at Rs 20 per piece at the stall set up at the jail premises. “These are quality masks made of pure cotton. The demand is so huge that we are unable to fulfil it,” the Jail Superintendent said.
The jail is running two petrol pumps, including one on the jail premises. While inmates work at the petrol pump located within the jail premises, released prisoners work at the other fuel station.
The jail authorities also run an ayurvedic wellness centre on the premises to cater to outsiders. “This initiative started in March 2018 has been quite successful. We appointed doctors, retired professors and hired the services of Kerala therapists for the centre,” Murali Babu said.
The centre also provides training to jail inmates in ‘Panchakarma’ ayurvedic treatment.