Thursday, June 11, 2009

Prisoners offer a lesson in self-help on water crisis

This story was planned when one day I was visiting the jail during the annual Raksha Bandahan that I saw two dozen hardened criminals being paraded in a line and taken by walk to the other side of the jail premises, so I asked the Jailer on their movements and he just brushed it aside and told me to call him later in the day after the other media members have left the jail premises. I did so that evening and he explained me the whole story, and asked me to visit if I want to the next day. I did so and landed up with another story to my credit.

The convicts residing with in the four walls of the Central Jail are set to teach a lesson or two to their compatriots on the outside. The jail inmates have their own solution to the current water crisis and accordingly plan to construct their own stop-dam at the Gandhi Nagar area of Bhopal, opposite the jail premises.
Till recently, illegal occupants had a free run of the place setting shops and houses on the Central Jail land. Thanks to the efforts of Jail Superintendent Purshotam Somkuwar the encroachments were removed. It was Somkuwar’s idea to set up a stop-dam and a farm in the area.
“When I saw the Bhoj Wet Land people breaking up the hills close by and dumping boulders in our grounds, I decided to make use of them by constructing a stop dam. The dam would make available potable water for the 2,500-odd inmates, 1,500-odd staffers and residents in a four KM radius. The 50 by 8 meter stop dam would span an area of 600 meters and run 1.5 meters deep. The entire construction would be undertaken by the Bhopal Central Jail inmates.
Somkuwar says the project would enable the Police Department to save Rs 5,000 per day in water expenditure for the jail.

He adds the rain water running down adjoining hills and flooding the area would be the main source of water.
“I have requested the BMC to give us digger machines to remove the silt. There has been no response so far, so I have decided to approach private organizations for their support,” he says. While the dam promises to solve the summer water shortage in the jail, for life convict Kanahiya Lal, it also promises a taste of freedom. Kanahiya Lal says it feels great to work outside the four walls without the chains – a staple scene in innumerable Hindi films. And while the hardened criminals confront the pressing problem head-on, it is high time the BMC and public in general learn a lesson and start thinking of the fate of the 15 odd lakes in the City. Hopefully, they have to approach the Central Jail inmates for potable water.

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