By: Pritha Banerjee, INN Kolkata, @mepritha2012;
Stories of success and courage took the floor when author Shobha De inaugurated an exclusive counter at the Oxford Bookstore, Park Street recently. The counter will display cushion covers, table mats, portfolio bags, file covers and more made by inmates of Dum Dum Central Correctional Home for sale.
Jute Story Beyond Bars is an initiative by humanitarian and social entrepreneur Chaitali Das of Rakshak Foundation. Maina Bhagat, Director of Oxford Bookstore and Debashis Chakraborty, Superintendent, Dum Dum Correctional Home and Lovely Adhikari, a former inmate and now supervisor of Jute Story Beyond Bars were also present at the event.
Talking about this year-old initiative, Chaitali said, “The inmates of the correctional homes create the jute products which is now getting a voice in mainstream society. It is our responsibility as human beings to support and uplift the inmates of our society and make them economically stronger for a better future.”
The fund generated by this initiative was used for sustaining the project, harnessing creativity, engaging the artisans and empowering lives while conserving the environment. The initiative comes under the Vatavaran Rakshak Project in collaboration with the Directorate of Correctional Services, Government of West Bengal India. Inmates of prisons have had skill development training by expert trainers with the National Jute Board and are creatively engaged in the crafting of artisanal products from jute.
“Jute Story Beyond Bars started in early 2017 and currently there are 40 inmates, of which 20 are working actively with us on the project. The project mostly includes men. The items have been exhibited at the SAARC Summit in Sri Lanka held last year, India International Mega Trade Fair in Science city, ICCR, Netaji Indoor Stadium and other exhibitions in the city,” said Chaitali.
Whereas on the other hand, Shobha De said, “While we know the life in a prison is gloomy, this initiative helps to channelise the energy of the inmates in the most positive way. The products should definitely be exported too. I wish them all the success.”
Maina Bhagat was happy to collaborate and to sustain and encourage the local handicraft.
Debashis Chakraborty, rather emotional about behind bars, said, “Living in a prison can be like living in a dungeon but Jute Story Beyond Bars provides them with hope and gives them a sense of freedom.”