The employees at Vijay Kumar Kunchum’s carpentry business comprise those whom most people would shy away from employing — inmates of the Cherlapally Central Prison.
Following up on a newspaper article issued by the DGP of Prisons and Correctional Services, inviting agencies to help in the skill development of jail inmates, Vijay decided to take up this initiative and teach them carpentry and wood polishing.
That was a year ago. Today, these inmates have almost mastered the craft, both modern and traditional forms. Vijay says, “From the start, prisoners were very eager to learn. While some of them had a basic idea, my work included teaching them the finer nuances of carpentry and how to execute it to perfection.”
The main idea behind this initiative was to make it a self-sustainable venture. He says, “It’s easy to teach them a skill and stop there, which is what happens in most cases anyway. The downside of this is that the benefits of the skills are left unused due to lack of proper opportunities. We wanted to bridge that gap.”
The roles were well defined. While Vijay would train, acquire business and execute the project, the jail would provide power, infrastructure along with the material required, and the inmates would produce the work.
“The initial plan was to train them for six months and then take up commercial projects. I can say things are going as per the plan as the first commercial project is almost complete,” says the 58-year-old.
“When I tell people that I train prisoners and that they execute projects, the encouragement and support I receive is tremendous,” he says, while adding,“People have a wrong perception towards jail inmates. Unlike how they show in movies, there are no gang wars nor is the jailer a villain.”
The only principle he worked with was to not ask them personal questions. “It worked like magic as they opened up to me easily and with a lot of warmth,” he adds. Vijay who has currently trained eight prisoners proudly says, “They will now train others.”...