The city-based Central Bee Training and Research Institute (CBRTI) recently conducted a five-day training programme for inmates of open jails as well as prison officials. As many as 26 persons, including inmates, agriculture officers, havildars and jailers from Pune, Nashik, Kolhapur, Buldhana, Vusapur, Chandrapur, Paithan, Bhandara, Wardha, Ratnagiri and Atpadi completed the training.
"This unique activity is aimed at empowering inmates who are involved in carrying out agriculture-based activities in jails. This skill can become a mode of self-employment for the inmates," said one of the training instructors at CBRTI.
Similar to mushroom cultivation, which was introduced alongside traditional farming in prisons, bee-keeping is being promoted among the inmates as an alternate mode for self-employment.
"This initiative will also help these inmates cope with the outside world, once they are released. It is hard for such people, who have served time, to procure employment as society does not accept them readily," said Assistant Director of CBRTI, Laxmi Rao.
However, visiting prisons located across the state, to conduct training for the inmates, turned out to be a major challenge for the trainers. "That's when we decided to ask officials from open prisons to send inmates to the institute," said another training co-ordinator.
Last year, 10 bee boxes were presented to the Yerwada Central Prison, and honey collection from these boxes will take place over the next few months. Currently, 30 inmates from the prison work at the Agriculture College Farm in the city and earn about Rs 201 per day.
Over 25 prisons in Maharashtra carry out agricultural activities across 341.44 hectares of land. Major food cultivation is carried out in prisons in Pune, Kolhapur, Visapur, Atpadi, Nashik Road, Paithan, Nagpur, Akola and Morshi, each of which have over 10 hectares of land under cultivation. About 900 inmates are employed in cultivating food crops, pulses, oilseeds, vegetables and fruits. Most of the farm produce is utilised in preparing food for the inmates.
Currently, there are 36,002 inmates lodged across nine central prisons, 31 district prisons and 19 open prisons in Maharashtra. These inmates are involved in over 11 trades related to either industry or agriculture. Together, they produce and sell more than 200 products.
Importantly, there has been a steady increase in the cultivation undertaken inside the prisons, as the prison agriculture production jumped from Rs 171.67 lakh during 2010 – 2011 to Rs 386.31 lakh in 2017- 2018.