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Columns

Success behind bars – Part 1

P GOVINDARAJAN

The green big mango tree gives room for a lot of people who sit under it and speak about mundane matters. Though the cool breeze is enjoyable, they are waiting for someone to come with the morning good news. The foliage of the tree, which is home to many birds and squirrels, is so thick that even in the midday scorching sun it is cool underneath it.

All attention turns towards two persons – one in uniform with a small notebook titled “Release Diary” and the other in white uniform (symbolising a convict prisoner) carrying a mega-size ledger with “Convict register” written in a wavy pattern in black. The convict placed the notebook on the table and called out the names of the inmates to be released that day in his peculiar voice, “Sivam…. Sivam…. Sivam.” When there was no response, the remission warder became furious, “Where is he? Before Ayya (Jailor) comes, I have to prepare a lot of things and hand over all the belongings to the released prisoners.”

A short, lean man among the group stood up and responded. “Sir, he has gone to the jail school even today.” It is a routine morning procedure for the remission warder to prepare the release list after many intricate calculations, giving weightage to the inmates’ good behaviour during incarceration in the form of remission, that is reducing the total sentence per prison rules. Inmates always speak well to remission warders because good news is delivered through them at the fag end of their prison term. But sometimes prisoners call them names when their wish for earlier release is not accepted; the warder cannot act according to the whims and fancies of prisoners, but has to follow remission rules. Any deviation would be viewed seriously during the annual I.G. audit.
At this juncture, a man running towards the remission warder holding a snack in his hand pleaded with him, “Sir, can I get some remission for this or that.” Seeing this suddenly the remission warder was taken aback and with a shiver in his voice said, “First you go to the ration store, get a gunny sack and put your prize catch in it and give it to the main gate warder.”

Many times prison inmates safely rescue rare visitors to the prison to be handed over to the VOC Park. Every inmate who has served a little time in prison knows how to get an SR. SR or Special Remission is awarded for exceptional occasions like assisting prison officers in preventing escapes, outbreaks or riots. It is also given for good work and success in teaching handicrafts or acquiring academic qualifications.

A peculiar among them is “Economy in wearing clothes.” Before letting one’s imagination go wild, it simply means “wear clothing in good condition more than the prescribed duration.”

Today’s release prisoner Sivam is a notable person, but he is neither a politician nor a wealthy big shot who committed white collar crimes to the tune of crores, but a simple rural lad who landed in prison accidentally.

A handful of inmates came towards the group, Sivam amidst them. “Sorry sir, they are going to write the final year examinations tomorrow and needed some tips for the preparations.” The remission warder responded, “Ok, ok, place your thumb impression… oh no, sign in the release register and sit in the released group.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own

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