Coir Board to help rehabilitate Tihar inmates

Thiruvanathanpuram, Dec 1: Kerala’s age-old coir making skills will now be used to help rehabilitate inmates of Delhi’s Tihar jail.

The Alappuzha-based Central Coir Research Institute (CCRI) is assisting with Tihar’s famed reform programme designed to enable inmates to rejoin mainstream society and earn a living once they complete their prison terms.

CCRI, the R&D wing of Coir Board, is shipping the necessary machinery and sending experts to train the inmates in three areas of coir production: spinning coir yarn, weaving geo-textiles and making furniture out of coir wood.

“The machines for the proposed project are on their way to Delhi. We hope to start the exercise in a couple of months,” said Coir Board Chairman Prof G Balachandran.

Coir Board, which functions under the Union Ministry for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, is marking its diamond jubilee this year and had organised a World Coir Fair in Delhi last week as part of the celebrations.

The rehabilitation programme at Tihar — South Asia’s largest prison, which spreads over 400 acres and currently houses more than 12,000 inmates — is widely known for helping the prisoners, both men and women, conduct themselves in a way that can give them a better life after their release.

Mr M Kumaraswamy Pillai, Officer on Special Duty with Coir Board, recalled that the plan was conceived last year after a visit to Kerala by Ms Vimla Mehra, Director-General (Prisons), Tihar Jail.

“She was very impressed with our recent diversification of products and had ordered certain items to beautify her office. We reciprocated by visiting the official in Delhi,” he said. “It was that meeting which led us to think of taking part in the rehabilitation programme for the Tihar inmates.”

Psychologist A Radhakrishnan, who is an assistant director with CCRI, said Coir Board’s programme had the potential to provide inmates a chance to earn between Rs 5,000 and Rs 30,000 a month once they walk free and uses the skills learned from the training.

He noted that there is a lot of coconut husk left discarded in markets and outside temples in Delhi. “If we devise a system that would ensure their judicious use, Tihar inmates can manufacture lots of items from coir.”

The inmates will also be given training in making handicrafts and gift articles besides typical coir products such as doormats, mattresses and carpets, Mr Radhakrishnan said.

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