How Golden Fibre became a Silver lining to the inmates of West Bengal
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How Golden Fibre became a Silver lining to the inmates of West Bengal

By auther pic. Deepa M

April 26, 2019

How Golden Fibre became a Silver lining to the inmates of West Bengal

Inauguration of the first ‘Jute Story Beyond Bars’ unit of Rakshak Foundation at Dum Dum Central Correctional Home, in association with the Directorate of Correctional Services Govt. of West Bengal

“We feel deeply about inclusivity. We believe that we are all human beings, as a society we should all live in solidarity. Behind the tall walls of confinement, the inmates not only weave unique products out of jute but they also weave their existence with each product which we would like to take across the Globe and weave the world in unity.”- says Ms. Chaitali Das, Managing Trustee, Rakshak Foundation.

 

While at Alipore Correctional Home, Ms. Lovely Adhikari met Ms. Chaitali Das, her spoken English teacher. Just two sittings with Ms. Das and her life changed for the better. She became part of a beautiful woven story of Rakshak Foundation - ‘Jute Story Beyond Bars’. Ms. Lovely Adhikari now works as Supervisor of the project that gave a new meaning to her life, the project ‘Jute Story Beyond Bars.’

 

Jute Story Beyond Bars, a project started in January 2017in the Dum Dum Central Correctional Home-the largest Correctional Home in West Bengal having over 3,500 inmatesand later at the Presidency Correctional Home, is a collaborative initiative between the Directorate of Correctional Services, Government of West Bengal and Rakshak Foundation to provide livelihood skill options for the inmates.

 

Initially the Directorate of Correctional Services, Government of West Bengal along with National Jute Board imparted a basic training to 20 inmates in making jute products for a period of 45 days. Rakshak Foundation took over the unit and continued providing further training to the artisans involved in the project by the experts empanelled with the National Jute Board. Rakshak Foundation took over with 20 genuinely interested prisoner artisans, before long, advanced to 50 inmates who are now engaged in creating exquisite designs in jute artifacts, utility and home decor items, jute bags and handicrafts.Till date Jute Story Beyond Bars have impacted a total of 200 inmates including the short-term servers through its project. The production capacity started with just 50 jute utility products per day like jute shopping, table mats, cushion covers and progressed to a spectacular500 utility products per day such as folders, laptop bags, runners, ladies’ bags, stylish shopping bags, portfolio bags etc. Till date Jute Story Beyond Bars have accomplished the feat of manufacturing 45,000 products.

First batch of Jute Utility Products produced by the inmate artisans after Rakshak Foundation took over the unit- Shri Nabin Kr. Saha, Superintendent of Dum Dum Central Correctional Home with Smt. Bichitra Bhattacharya, IG Correctional Services, Chaitali Das, Managing Trustee of Rakshak Foundation and the inmates.

 

Empowering the lives of inmates through skill development training wasn’t a new endeavor for Rakshak Foundation as it has been imparting them life skills training such as stitching, spoken English, making leather goods,etc. However, roadblocks in the form of accessibility to the workforce, the mindset of the society, and working on reviving the dying industry of jute did occur in their journey. Today, Jute Story Beyond Bars is not only fostering creativity to the inmates and creating livelihood options for them to ensure a smooth reintegration in the society, it also safeguards environment throughthe use of environment friendly jute. These in turn helps supplement the income of jute farmers in a small and modest manner and enhance the production of low-cost shopping and carry bags as an eco-friendly substitute to non-biodegradable bags and emphasises on the need and the versatility of Jute Fibre and equating its status at par with Linen and Khadi.

 

Since the inception of the project, Jute Story Beyond Bars, Rakshak Foundation has made a total investment of Rs. 2887,823. Jute Story Beyond Bars now intends to go beyond the boundaries, reaching all the correctional homes pan India and showcase these innovative products to international market across the globe.

 

Shri. Moloy Chandan Chakrabortty, Jute Commissioner of India and Shri. Arvind Kumar, Secretary & CEO of National Jute Board, visiting Jute Story Beyond Bars unit in Dum Dum Central Correctional Homeand meeting Shri. Debashis Chakraborty, Superintendent, Dum Dum Central Correctional Home and Rakshak Foundation Team.

 

The inmates before becoming a part of ‘Jute Story Beyond Bars’ worked for their daily wages and to stay out of trouble! Jute Story Beyond Bars has been able to change their outlook, instill a sense of purpose and pride, and create a bond beyond bars. Now inmates like an enthusiastic and driven Indrajit Pal and a middle-aged, partially hearing-impaired Parul Patel have found a hope for survival and redemption.

 

Setting an example by rehabilitating and mentoring a former under-trial by making her the project supervisor; showcasing the Jute Handicrafts produced by the inmates in various International exhibitions such as BIMSTEC, SAARC, National Exhibitions such as IITF Delhi, IIMTF Kolkata, Leather and Textile Fair and several exhibitions organized by the Directorate of Correctional Services Govt. of West Bengal; gaining display rights for products in high end stores like TOILE Mumbai and Kolkata, Oxford Bookstore, Kolkata and Good Companion Kolkata. Jute Story Beyond Bars is making life of these inmates reformed and dignified and concurrently addressing the persistent issue of plastic pollution and global warming. Jute Story Beyond Bars is weaving an ‘Inclusive World Beyond Stigma, Beyond Bars.’

 

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Author

A banker turned educator, Deepa had been a Teach For India Fellow. She is currently working as a Consultant and Freelancer.

 

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