A Ray of Hope: prison children of Jharkhand

On a usually relaxed March morning at the Ranchi Zoo the visitors suddenly got to see an unusually enthusiastic crowd of juveniles, cheering at every animal, and more unusually, at even the most ordinary of snacks, like peanuts and corns. They did not look like the normal excursion teams from schools. Neither did they look like destitute orphans from remote homes. They looked like as if from some different world…

Thy actually were children from a different world. A mundane, melancholy world that survives in absolute seclusion. They were children of the inmates imprisoned in the jails of Jharkhand. These children have been refused refuge everywhere else, and have no other option but to live in the jails with either of their parents, or both. Some of them were even born inside the jails, and have been spending their childhood ever since in a way most of us would be terrified even to imagine about ourselves, or our own children.

But, as a matter of fact, the only difference between them and our children is that any one or both of their parents have been accused for criminal charges under the Indian Penal Code, and have been imprisoned. It is a life of penance and remorse they have been endowed with ass inheritance, for some wrong deeds of their parents. Such a life of abandonment it is, that these children, out on their excursion tour of Ranchi, were overwhelmed to see street dogs and ice creams, because they had never seen them before. All they had seen and had been with are hardcore criminals, their abusive languages and outrageous behaviours. That was all they had seen before they were out on the tour.

Doesn’t that above statement have a faint ray of hope in it? It certainly does, because it carries what could be the best possible message for these unfortunate kids from the Jharkhand Government. It has recently taken up a project for rehabilitating them. It is more of reconciliation than rehabilitation, because they were never really taken to wrong doings by their own choice, but are helpless victims of circumstances. According to the project, they would be taken out on fortnightly excursions to accustom them with the outer world, so that they are not left bewildered and confused when they are returned back there. These children, very commonly, receive profuse mistreatment on their return, as they are not able to cope with the surroundings easily. There are innumerable instances of such devastated youths in Jharkhand, who were never accepted back the way they should have been, with a little more patience and care.

Not just excursions, but a much larger project has been adopted by the government of Jharkhand to give them a future of hopes and scopes. The Ministry of Prisons has planned to build a separate enclosure for them, which would provide them with education and accommodation. The primary intention is to segregate them from the obnoxious environment of the prison wards, where they grow up with an undeserved guilt complex that puts a premature end to their innocence, and snatches something very, very vital away from them – their childhood.

The government hopes that the infrastructure would also provide the kids with the opportunities to realize their individual potentials, and make it to a successful life in the future. With an initial sanction of 2.2 crores for the project, the Ministry of Prisons of Jharkhand promises to site an example before the rest of the country, where situations are quite similar. If the goal is achieved, it would be a landmark accomplishment for a nascent state like Jharkhand, and a pathfinder for the whole country.


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