Enhanced Technology Benefits Production from 'Prison Agriculture'
'Prison Agriculture' in Maharashtra has gone very successful. As compared to Rs 2.54 crore two years ago, the prison agricultural production across 29 prisons in the state has grown leaps and bounds and stands at almost Rs 4 crore in 2016.
Across the 588 hectares of agricultural land held by the prisons department, the last year saw new technologies, more suitable crops and implementation of schemes in coordination with government departments, the Agriculture University and NGOs. The profits from production has also increased by 15-20 percent. Every year, over 800 prisoners are engaged in agricultural activities and avail remissions based on the number of days they work on a farm.
“Farming is the most sought-after activity among prisoners. It gives them remissions. Besides, they are not working within four walls. Remissions and exemptions are given to those that are serving life imprisonment and depending on the number of days he works in the field and his conduct, he will avail remissions. The more he works, the less days he spends in the jail.” said Sanjay Phadtare, Technical Officer, Agriculture, Prisons (Maharashtra)
Last year, a total of Rs 83.29 lakh in wages were paid to prisoners engaged in farming, steep rise compared to previous years. The prisoners receive wages anywhere between Rs 40 and Rs 55 per day.
“We have about 800 hectares of land available, of which over 500 are agricultural land, 57 per cent of which is under irrigation and rest are rain-fed. While the farming programme was started as a rehabilitation activity, it has gained a lot of momentum with a variety of produces, plantation and allied activities being undertaken by us,” said B K Upadhyay, Additional DG and IG, Prisons (Maharashtra).
Most prisons have now started producing fenugreek, spinach, Rajgira, tomato, potato, onion, ginger and pumpkin from the traditional cereal cultivation like rice and wheat.
A large area is dedicated to banana tissue culture and mushroom production in Pune’s Yerawada jail, besides citrus plantation in Morshi prison and even mulberry plantation in Visapur jail. In a few prisons including Yerawada and Nashik, Sandalwood plantation is also being undertaken.
Bamboo, mango, teak, jamun and bean are also being planted in the available forest area. Also undertaken on a large scale are goat farming, poultry, horticulture, dairy and fisheries.
Phadtare said, “From 2014-2016, we received a funding of about Rs 1.44 crore from the government and we have been using it to enhance technology and increase wages.”
Apart from improving the quality of seeds and fertilisers, the department, has invested in drip irrigation, over 20 tractors, farm equipment, electric motors and pumps, new crops and seed production, new irrigation methods and even organic farming such as vermi-compost and also biogas plants. With the help of fertilisers that resulted in enhanced production, a soil analysis was also undertaken.
Upadhyay said, “Currently, of the 55 jails, 29 have land for farming, most of which are open prisons. We are also planning to manufacture agricultural equipment also within the prison premises to make us more self-sufficient.” According to the department, more funds have been sought from the government.