For the first time in the history of the century-old Bellary central prison, infamous for its harsh punishments during the British era, 10 of its prisoners have enrolled for UG and Masters degree courses in the Karnataka State Open University, Mysore, for the current academic year. Some of the prisoners are convicted for murder.
Motivation by the senior jail officials and a passion for learning led seven of the prisoners to opt for BA and three others to go for Post Graduate diploma courses in Ambedkar studies, rural development and nutrition and dietetics.
Prisoner Vishwa Sagar, who has a Masters in social work, has now opted for a PG diploma in Ambedkar studies. He also teaches English and History to those who have opted for BA.
Another prisoner, Chandrashekar, who has done his Masters in Arts, teaches the Indian Constitution and human rights-related subjects, while Chetan Shetty, an engineering graduate, teaches English to those who have opted for UG courses.
With examinations approaching, the convicts gather during the day at the Gymkhana a wing in the jail premises, which has become a classroom for combined studies. They clarify doubts with each other and seek the help of the prisoners doing PG courses as well.
A prison official has provided stationery to these prisoners. He encourages them in their studies, and hopes they all pass.
A letter was sent to ADGP and IG (Prison) K V Gagandeep seeking permission to allow the prisoners to attend coaching classes at a private institution here. “Once the permission is granted, they will be allowed to attend the classes,” jail superintendent P V Anand Reddy said.